“Southern Hospitality Gun, Knife & Doll Show” by Jesus Angel Garcia, page 3

        He stepped back as I approached the firing line. I felt alone, despite all the shooting and hollering and the backing of my best friend who was right there behind me. I futzed around for some time, adjusting my shoulders, positioning and repositioning my grip on the smoky stock. I felt weak, good for nothing.
        Staring through the scope at the other targets, I was startled to see pictures of Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. "BYOT," Cyrus later told me. "Bring your own target." Whether you think it's sick or not, you have to admit the other pics I saw down range—of the president's rivals for the oval office—made sense. Politics is blood sport, red-state voters pit bulls. But what could justify blasting holes in the faces of civil rights leaders? Was it the color of their character? Maybe I hadn't been living in the real world, or I'd been blinded by the privilege of passing with little effort for much of my life. Still, in the twenty-first-century Land of the Free, I found it hard to believe such hatred still existed.
        "Yo, beeyatch!" Cyrus shouted. "Yank that trigger, rockstar!"
        I glimpsed what appeared to be a half-torn, blown-up wedding portrait. Some poor sap's ex-spouse. I trained the Savage and fired. The kickback slammed my sensitive shoulder. I hit nothing. I tried again. Nothing but noise and ache. Once more. Sound, fury. With a clear motive in mind now, I could at least feel the power in setting my sight a hundred yards out, aiming for dead meat.
        Cyrus called me over to tell how I wasn't steadying myself, jerking the gun every which way. "You have to be still," he said, "at peace. Breathe into the path of the bullet." He put on the safety gear and showed me what he meant. Bye-bye, Bambi. "This how we do it in da Southlands," he said. "Give it a shot." He laughed out loud at his own lame pun.
        I tried my best but I never hit a damn thing. "Next time," Cyrus said when the black flag went up. "There's a couple decent ranges back home. Before ya know it, you'll be a card-carryin sharp-shooter like me. Then we'll have some fun."

        When we found Bebe, flush from playing soldier girl, she handed each of us a flyer for a Ku Klux Klan jam in our God-blessed city on Fourth of July weekend. "It's gonna be insane," she said.
        I held the notice at arm's length, as if it were contagious, feeling like I'd tumbled into another era. I did not belong here.
        "Chill, brotherman." Cyrus slung his arm around my shoulders. "We flex our First Amendment rights from the sidelines, raggin on the white sheets as they trot by on their lil ponies. It's a time. You'll see. Precursor to Gay Pride—time and a half."
        "So ya know," Bebe said, now up in my face. "I don't believe in violence or the 'Initiative for Peace.'" She was on the tiptoes of her combat boots, poking her punctuation into my skull. "But I get wet like ya wouldn't believe, emptyin a full clip from an automatic weapon."
        While I hate to admit it, I could see the turn-on.


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