“Southern Hospitality Gun, Knife & Doll Show” by Jesus Angel Garcia, page 2

        She'd been stonewalling on our mediation meeting, one excuse after another. The latest: she refused to talk until the charges of trespassing and disturbing the peace were resolved. This could take months, my attorney told me, but we were in a weak position to negotiate. He said he would try to work a plea with the D.A. for anger-management classes or short-term community service, something with a limited time commitment, but we would have to fall in line behind any number of other cases and there were no guarantees the prosecutor would cooperate, given what he called my "past transgressions." It didn't matter that until recently I hadn't been in trouble for years. "Your record sticks to ya," he said, "like stink in a hen house."
        Cyrus repositioned my left hand on the slate-blue stock as I hooked my finger on the trigger. I tugged but it wouldn't budge.
        "Ya gotta unlock the safety, JAG."
        "Safety first," Bebe said, smiling at the vendor.
        "That's right, lil girl," he said. "What are ya aimin for, son?"
        "Whitetail for serious, varmints for fun," Cyrus said.
        "The seven mill's kinda overkill for deer. As for the vermin, you'll blast them critters clear into the Carolinas."
        "That's the idea." Cyrus sounded like a no-bones killer. He later told me he was just playing. "Varmint huntin's chicken shit," he said, "like killin for sport. But I got no truck with game huntin to put meat on the grill. Hell, a ten-point buck'll feed a family uh four for half a year."
        "What's the range?" Bebe asked.
        "Y'all could bag a black bear from five hundred yards," the vendor said, as if he'd done so himself.
        "A badass sniper rifle," Cyrus said. "We'll take it."
        I pulled him aside by his shirt collar.
        "Chill, yo." He snatched the gun from my hands. "Three hundred's a steal."
        Bebe wedged between us. "Talk him down to two," she told Cyrus. "I'll front ya the cash," she said to me. "Shootin's a healthy outlet for all that pent-up angst ya got."
        "Huh?" My response, unconvincing even to myself. "What about the background check?" I whispered.
        "Ya got somethin to hide, brotherman?" Cyrus smirked. Bebe went bug-eyed. "Relax. This ole boy's what they call a private seller. Unlicensed. Don't ask, don't tell. Cash 'n' carry, baby." He instructed me to go with Bebe to a portable ATM while he made the deal.
        "Easy as a hand job from a priest," he said when we returned.
        I slugged him in the arm.
        He dug into his own wallet to pay for cartridges. We had a half-hour until closing, more than enough time, he said, for me to get acquainted with my Savage.

        The vanilla shooting range was situated a short distance beyond the far end of the big top on a mild plateau overlooking wasteland. We lucked into an open lane right away. While Bebe raced off to rent an AK on the Extreme Action! front, Cyrus plucked a cartoon deer for us from among the cardboard targets. He gave Bambi to an attendant, who passed her on to a doll, who sited her a football field away. A black flag indicated that the line was cold. We couldn't touch the gun, already placed with its action open on a small plywood table. Cyrus hooked me up with earplugs and goggles that made me feel fishy. With the chaos of the outside world muffled, I could hear my insides roar like raging white water.
        A baby-oiled doll with yellow sunhat, Hollywood shades, silicone breasts and a sunny two-piece soon waved a red flag and squealed into a bullhorn: "Go hot!" This was our cue to lock, load and rip, Cyrus said, giving me a few final pointers. His last hint was to think of the rifle as an extension of my soul.

Page 1 2 3