Sunday, January 16, 2011

Heroes and Villians

A tall man pulled back the bolt ejecting the empty shell and thrust the next into position. He hoisted his rifle to his exposed shoulder, looked past the brim of his hat and lined gun's sight up with the target's Adam's apple below his black beard. Pete Gunsgallow gently pulled the trigger proving that his life is not graceless. His muscular arms lined with gray and black wartime tattoos don't buckle under the rifle's recoil.

After the direct hit, he slammed the butt of the gun on the ground like a walking stick. During his second tour of duty, an explosion coordinated by Iraqi insurgents had mutilated his leg. The limp in his stride is now barely noticeable but sometimes the pain returns. The doctors were able to remove all the shards and fortunately no bones were broken but they can't identify the cause of his intermittent pain. Bits of shrapnel had torn apart his left thigh and removed him from his God-given right to fight. At least he had no regrets. Before his injury sent him home on disability, he killed fourteen of those brown-skinned terrorists.

The only colored tattoo on his body is the American bald eagle soaring against the backdrop of a fluttering American flag. The eagle can be seen flying across his left ribs towards his navel through the opened front of his sleeveless jean jacket. He opened a can of Bud “full fucking taste” Weiser and half emptied it in a gulp. Beer numbs his pain. He wiped off the foam from his manicured mustache and scratched his bushy side burns.

Gunsgallow struck a match along the splintered table in his backyard to light a Marlboro Red that he pulled from a crushed soft pack. Despite the direct hit to the target's vulnerable throat, Osama Bin Laden's portrait remained pinned to the bald cypress seemingly alive and well. The bastard still held his omniscient gaze and never broke his eye contact which seemed to say, “you are forgiven.”

“Fuck you!” Gunsgallow exploded with a hot cloud of smoke bursting from his mouth. Biting the Red between his teeth, he grabbed his 9 mm semiautomatic from the table and loaded in the extended magazine clip. Gunsgallow did not conserve his bullets. The shots echoed through the bayou along with his war cry, “yeeee haw!” He replaced the blacks of Bin Laden's eyes with bullets.

“Howdy. Business as usual?”

“Oh same as always, reckoned you'd make it today.”

“Always make it on 5 cents off Monday. Can't pass up the bargain,” Jim Goodman hands the clerk a twenty dollar bill for his gas. “You know, why don't you give me two good pieces of that jerky your wife's been making. I hear she's got it better than before.” Goodman stands across the clerk and places his leather wallet on the counter. He rolls up the sleeves of his blue shirt and leans on his elbow.

The clerk picks up a pair of orange plastic tongs and opens the plastic case that holds several strips of lean jerky. He finds one of the most appealing and picks up a bag to put it in.

“No bag. Them's for you and me right here and now. What do ya say?”
“Thanks partner.”

As they're finishing up their salty snacks, a man walks into the gas station and quickly slips around to the back refrigerator section. The clerk was busy telling Jim about how he had shot the steer and cleaned it up himself and how his wife's been making the dried meat snacks. Neither man paid any notice to the stranger assuming he just wanted a cold drink.

“Hands up. Empty your drawers.”

Both men look back at the man who'd previously came in unnoticed. He holds a gun and switches his aim between the two at the counter. A black ski mask disguises his face revealing only his eyes and white teeth. With his left hand, he throws a pillow case at the clerk. “Fill it.”

The clerk opens his register and starts to move the cash into the bag. All six eyes are on the transaction. The robber dances his body's weight from foot to foot and holds his gun's aim on the clerk. He keeps turning his head towards the door to make sure they're all alone.

While the crook is focused on the money, Goodman punches the crook in the face. He follows the momentum of his punch in towards the robber, and Jim skillfully twists the gunman's wrist and wrenches the handgun away. He kicks the robber to his knees and aims the gun's barrel between the crook's eyes.

Pete Gunsgallow walked towards the pin up of Bin Laden and counted 28 hits out of the 30 shots from his handgun's clip. He snubbed the cigarette butt with his finger and thumb and flicked it into the swampy grass of his yard beyond the trees. Gunsgallow took long slow strides back towards the table with his thumbs latched into his belt loops. His leather work boots clunked against the soft ground. He chugged the rest of the open Bud, crushed it and tossed it into a pile of others. He reached for another inside the open fridge pack on the table.

“Fuckin' empty,” he said. He swung his fist, dented the cardboard box and sent it flying. Since it was still light out, he decided to go to the gas station for some more beer. He loaded the handgun and put it in his dirty jeans' back pocket. He never went anywhere without it. He climbed into his rusted Ford pick-up truck and saluted the photograph of his dead army companions that he had clipped on his sun-visor. Then he turned the ignition and put the truck into drive. The tires crushed the empty Bud box on the driveway as Gunsgallow left.

After Goodman had subdued the robber, the clerk puts the pillow case by his feet, closes the register and immediately calls the police on the phone. The robber's immaculately snow-white teeth are clenched together. He has his hands on his head and watches intently for a mistake. But Jim knows how to handle a gun, and he holds the crook's pistol steady and ready for any unexpected moves.

“Fuckin' asshole,” the clerk says. “You won't be messin' with any 'Bama men again soon. The deputy's on's way and'll be locking you up.”

“Take off the fuckin' mask,” Goodman says waving the gun upwards. The crook's confident blue eyes are locked on the black man's face. He doesn't make an effort to follow the order. Instead, he silently lifts his lips in a crooked smile.

“Take it off,” Jim says with forced emphasis, but the crook doesn't seem threatened by Jim and the gun in his hand. The robber bets that Goodman will not shoot out of anger but only out of necessity. So he decides to wait for a moment of weakness to reassert his position of power. But Goodman doesn't give the robber a chance, because he grabs the top of the mask and pulls it up.

Pete Gunsgallow probably hit a squirrel on his drive to the gas station or a cat if he was lucky. At least no one else was in the other lane when he swerved into it. He didn't bother counting how many beers he drank anymore and only noticed when there were none left. He wasn't even sure if the pain was still in his leg because he didn't bother to get sober enough to find out. He pulled his truck into the station and stepped out onto the pavement. He lit a fresh cigarette and walked up to the door leaving the truck running and the door agape.

As Jim Goodman lifts up the mask, Gunsgallow opens the glass door. He sees the black man holding a pistol to the submitted white man's head. Gunsgallow does not hesitate. He grabs his American made 9 mm semiautomatic handgun from his back pocket and aims. Hollow point bullets tear apart Jim Goodman's chest and skull eating away his life. Goodman's body is thrown left and right with each impact slamming him into the glass counter. With the cigarette gripped at the edge of his mouth, Gunsgallow shouts “yeeee haw” as the shots ring out.

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