Zachary Moll resides in Ohio with his son where he writes coffee on massive poetry buzzes, oftentimes causing him to misplace words completely....read more He's recently confronted the fact that wisdom comes with time, making him a dunce for years to come. Nonetheless, he writes poem after poem to silence the monkey on his back.
CHRIS LAY IN HIS ROOM eyeing the paper man with his thumb cocked and his forefinger ready to blow. “Any last words?” he asked, but the target made no reply. He had seen the likes of Chris probably a hundred times since the first, and every time that boy sent a round whistling right through his forehead. This time was no exception.
Chris smiled grimly in celebration, pretending to dodge the smoke as he took the final hit off a fictional cigarette and tossed the butt behind him, as his dad always did. He’d practiced it a lot when no one was around, it was like the punctuation to a definitive sentence. If God came down to give the meaning of life, Kyle was sure he’d be flicking a cigarette.
He ejected the cartridge from his knuckle and pointed the business end back to the target on the wall- the first target he’d ever hit at the firing range, and a constant source of manly pride. “Let that be a lesson to ya,” he said exhaling a fake cloud, “nobody messes with the Fulton men.”
His door swung open and he dropped his hand to the side, his dad Ben filled the doorway with his ample frame and dark eyes suddenly bright, looking at him as he only did on Saturdays. “You ‘bout ready boy?” he said nodding down at Chris.
“Who you calling boy, boy?” he said with his fingers drawn, his tough guy look collapsing into boyish excitement.
“Oh I’m sorry, I forgot this is Rambo’s room. Well if you see Chris tell him I’m going to the shooting range with or without him, so he better hurry his ass…” he said making his way downstairs.
“Hold on!” Chris yelled, rushing about his room to collect his favorite Ruger hat and change for the vending machines.
Ben was a cold and quiet man who talked like the son of an abusive alcoholic, all firm and clipped tones that looked to put everything to rest. He spoke only for communication sake and didn’t see any point in wasting words. As a child, Ben had only seen his dad on the weekends- time which his dad had always reserved for hunting. So it was hunt, or be without a father. Ben learned to love guns.
He waited in the truck, all the guns loaded in the back including Chris’ 9mm and 4-10. He’d gotten the 9mm for his eighth birthday; the 4-10 for the following Christmas, Ben had big plans for Chris’ ninth birthday, coming up sometime in June. He was far from sentimental, but it always warmed his heart to see Chris decked out in the ear and eye protection, squinting down the barrel of a gun as big as him. It was like seeing a little girl with curlers in her hair - a fleeting glimpse of things to come.
Chris climbed into the truck bed, grinning wide with excitement.
“’Bout damn time, Chris” his dad said, shifting the truck into drive.
“Chris couldn’t make it, he said Rambo should go instead!” he cried, nearly giggling like his younger sister.
“Oh yeah?” Ben said blankly, driving out of their long driveway and halfway down Cline before adding “Make sure you drop that Rambo crap when we get there. Men don’t have to pretend.”
“OK” said Chris, watching closely as his dad puffed down a Marlboro.
They had a standing appointment at the local shooting range every Saturday. Booth eight was always waiting for them at four o’clock, along with the parade of familiars nodding at Ben and giving high fives to Chris, saying things like “there he goes!” and “lil sharpshooter!”. Though he tried to mimic his dad’s indifferent expression on his war-like march to the booth, he loved hearing all the excitement centered on him and couldn’t help but smile. He often found himself looking forward to these warm greetings more than the shooting itself.
Ben took the lead as always, drilling round after round of .45 shells into the hanging man until the paper ripped in two, sending the torso portion floating to the ground. Chris always liked to pretend the target was some bad guy, a burglar or Al-Qaeda terrorist trying to steal his TV or freedom. It made the victory that much sweeter.
The target was replaced and Ben fired his last remaining round dead center into the targets head, leaving a gaping, smoky hole.
“You blew his head off!” Chris exclaimed, “He almost got me too, good thing you got him first!”
“Knock it off” he said, gazing around to see if anyone else was listening. He hit the target return button and set up another, “Your turn.”
Chris picked the 9mm first, it gave way less of a kick and his shots were always better. In fact that’s how he nailed his first paper man (an evil wizard posing as his babysitter). He drew his bead methodically with his eyes lowered to the sights and his lips curled inward tightly. He squeezed the trigger, then again until his clip was empty and the paper man floated over on angel wings saying, “Oooohhhhh, you got me! I’m a goner!” There were two holes in the neck, one near the cheek and another two floating up and leading off the paper. He was proud.
“You got a little sloppy toward the end there, keep your arms tight.” Ben said crumpling the target and handing it to Chris. He eyed the balled up bad guy in his hands and threw him away, remembering the first target he’d hit and how his dad had swept him up and hugged him with a smile he’d never seen before, ‘Alright you did it!’ he was saying, everyone there forgetting their guns for a moment and smiling wide at him. It hadn’t happened since, but he knew soon he’d fire six shots through the same hole, or draw a frowning face through the paper man with his expert fire, and once again his dad would smile like that. Ice cream might even be involved.
He unloaded another clip at another target, landing three squarely in the chest. Ben told him if he got all six shots in the black on this next one he’d let him shoot something new. He smiled with nervous excitement, knowing the importance of these next shots and wondering what the new gun would be. He hoped it wasn’t another shot gun. His father gave him a twelve gauge to shoot once telling him “it might kick a little so hold it tight”. Well, it kicked a lot. It left a huge bruise on his little shoulder and Chris could barley lift his right arm for a week. None of the pellets even hit the target. Ben just laughed and laughed.
Chris took the next shots slowly, aiming only for the middle of the chest and realigning each new shot carefully. Five shots had all stayed on the black; the sixth gave way to nerves and landed just outside its shoulder. Chris removed his safety glasses saying “Oh, man!” Ben smiled slightly saying, “Pretty good. Wait here for a minute; don’t fire till I get back.”
Chris hit the return button and looked at his fallen enemy. Five square shots in the chest and that one little bugger outside the shoulder- laughing at him. He crumpled the paper and threw it away. So close to all six, so close to-.
Ben returned with a large black case. He plopped it in front of Chris and popped the hatches with a certain sparkle in his eye. He opened the lid looking only at Chris, searching him for a response. He just looked back with wide eyes.
“You know what this is?” his dad asked
“Um… a Yuzi?” Chris said after some thought.
“An Uzi.” Ben corrected, “I’ll show you how to do it.”
Ben proceeded to check, clean and load the automatic weapon, telling Chris to stand back and watch his stance carefully. He lined up his shot and in a second it was over, twenty shots fired in the blink of an eye, leaving a burst of confetti floating to the ground. Chris watched wide-eyed as Ben turned and inserted another clip, handing it to Chris with a satisfied smile. The eight year old was nervous and almost said ‘no thanks’ but he couldn’t resist that smile on his dad, that spark in his eye that not only said everything is fine, but that it’s better, that it’s normal and fun. He picked the heavy Uzi up with noticeable effort and waddled up the booth.
“That’s right, raise her up there. Higher now- don’t be a girl - show some muscle. There you go. Keep your arms tight…”
Chris’ arms were already tired from holding it up, and shaking from equal amounts of nervousness and weakness. He turned his head to his dad and began to speak, trying to say “I can’t do it, I guess I’m just a girl”, but when he turned, he saw Ben hunched over in excitement, a radiant look in his eye that couldn’t wait to see the outcome.
Chris turned back to the paper man, this one was holding his family hostage and it was up to Chris to save them. He grunted, straightening out the gun, lining up his bead and thinking, any last words?
John Mercer had a stomach of steel, fifteen years as a paramedic and greasy fast food had made sure of that. He sat with his favorite ride along partner Kyle asking lofty hypothetical questions like if you were stranded on a desert island with any two people or if you had only five hours to live what would you do. The job only had two modes: awful sad or awful boring. And since one never felt right hoping to see some action and break the boredom, the jokes made the job a hell of a lot easier to swallow.
“Alright I got one,” John spoke around hunks of beef “if you were flying through space and you could only bring five-” but he was interrupted by the radio.
Unit twenty four, unit twenty four, do you copy?
John reached for the radio, maneuvering the mess of sandwich to his cheek. “This is twenty-four, go ahead”
We have a situation at Long Shot Firing range. Victim is a male, age 8, who is believed to have received an automatic round to the head. No sirens needed, just lights. Over.
“Copy that,” he replied, letting the receiver drop and dangle from its cord and pulling out of the Easy Stop parking lot. John Mercer had a stomach of steel, but he couldn’t bring himself to swallow that last bite.
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