Bits of grass fall to the pavement from the green streaks on his calf high socks. He’s shaking his head and flicking his wrist in the air beside him, complaining about the emergency vehicles in the alley. Third time this year, he tells me. At least there wasn’t a child this time. I crane my neck above his shoulder to see more of the bustle behind his house through the open fence gate. Some college kid, he says. You remember the mother and her kids a couple of months ago, he reminds me. They’re buying it in the neighborhood, I tell him. He concurs and stamps his foot then he surveys the block like he might catch a glimpse of the crime. He grumbles that if he knew where they were, he’d have to deal with it himself. Something about duty and righteousness. I want to remind him how old he is and maybe give him a few examples of how he could get hurt but why really? He never leaves this yard if he’s not locked in his truck, headed to a buffet somewhere. He’ll bark and fume over OD’s in his alley but he won’t do anything about it. He’s no better off than that dead kid back there. Hell, statistically, they both voted for Tump.
He said it because he is weak and vain. His gamble gave instant reward, attentive faces, yearning postures. All eyes leveled on him. He told them the outlandish story was true. He said he was there when it happened and the questions began. I could see the embellishments flocking in his eyes. I saw fingers of fire rush through his audience. Some of them ran off to tell others and soon others arrived. By this time their speaker had grown integral to the tale. The pregnancy of the extraordinary moment bade me to cling to him, counsel him on this sort of power.
There are dogs on the trail. I count their prints while waiting for her to change clothes. I suggest the hike can wait until after lunch but she insists. I gesture to the silt on the path. She stands for moment with her head aslant. I can’t see her face. With an abrupt sling of her wrist she tells me she’ll be fine. She says it’s time to move on. The very words her brother told her a month ago. We stride on our heels in descent of the soft rail drawn in a seine wave across the face of the cliff. The beams of the young sun burn opaque and appear supported in space by the spear tip shapes of the pines. She is ahead of me. I’ve spent much of the hike focused on her ass in the denim shorts but also checking her composure. There’s no trembling. No skittishness. Until the bark. It echoes through the cathedral of the ravine as if uttered from something supernatural. She freezes. An ocean tide of air moves the trees then fades into a silence as still as her pose. Another bark. She turns to me, the wig out of place just enough to be noticeable, and she shakes her tears at me as if she fears she will never be able to move again.
I notice the stars. It’s not normal to see stars here. I've waited on the corner for the three blondes and the hairdresser for too long. When they arrive, drunker than I had left them, the gay fellow runs his hand front to back over the Mohawk he shaved on my head back in their hotel room. The girls grab me and cut a path through the crowd sloshing between the barricades, all the while complaining about a thirty block power outage due south. That explains the stars and I point them out but they didn’t seem to care. As I had predicted to myself hours ago, we're in a hip-hop club where the girls' presence causes immediate conflict. An angry woman smashes a bottle into a man’s head just for talking to one of them. Not long after this, a guy approaches me and says he sincerely thought I was Chuck Liddell. I cannot look like Chuck Liddell. Not in here. Not right now.
Stoneman Douglas High School. Another disgusting attack on defenseless people, children. Another deranged individual living in a reality he felt compelled to share with the rest of us. It’s a shameful waste. The victims of these crimes inhabit my thoughts. I sympathize with them, empathize with them… I all the –ize with them but no more than I do with the thousands of people who die annually by handguns in this country. Over 2,000 children under the age of 12 died by guns, in general, between 2014 and 2017, according to The Week. All of it is tragic and horrifying and senseless and nearly unforgivable.
We have allowed this to continue far too long without addressing the actual problem. I am sorry to report to some of you that an “assault rifle” is not the actual problem. School shootings are not the actual problem. Delusional individuals are not the actual problem. Delusional political organizations are not the actual problem. I argue that the weapon—the GUN—is not quite the actual problem. These are miniscule strata compared to the actual problem. The bullets. The bullet is the physical menace and the only challenger up to the task (now that “thoughts and prayers” has finally suffered what I hope is the end of its fifteen minutes) is science.
Laws—legislation, decrees, commandments—are in fact overrated deterrents. No law ever stopped murder. No law ever stopped rape. No law ever stopped thievery or swindling. As much as I love and trust Steven Pinker, laws bully the stats but they never summon enough strength to stop any crime of any kind. Maybe if legislators gave the innate futility of law a little more thought, they could use a little more common sense—but that’s neither here nor there. Within the borders of the USA, we have passed the event horizon with the amount of weapons and munitions. There is no legislating them out of public existence. They are here to stay and we ignore their ubiquity at our peril. This is an arms race the bullet has been winning for hundreds of years. Our creeping retreat to acquiescence is almost complete.
One wonders if by some whipcrack in the fabric of time my grandfather’s generation—the Greatest Generation (minus all the steady-as-she-goes racism and misogyny)—faced this particular shift in American culture instead of us, could things be different? Raised amidst the demands of the Great Depression, they seemed capable of thinking through the most difficult problems with subdued glee. They won WWII by splitting an atom. They kick started NASA and the moon shots of the 60’s and 70’s. All of it by either outwitting their opponent or embracing some angular ingenuity. I suspect the folks of that generation would see the actual problem, weaponize the available technology, and find a way to beat the bullet.
Maybe… I don’t know…
What I do know is we should be thinking our way out of the problem. We have young, innovative tech available to us that if given the proper focus could make the bullet’s job exponentially more difficult. Graphene is shows promise. Engineered graphene could easily become a part of every article of clothing on the planet. There are other technologies. There are out of the box ideas yet to come. Comics and science fiction have been dreaming of ways to stop bullets since the first ball shot from a blunderbuss. There are ideas and technology out there ripe for weaponization. I find ultra-rich weirdoes like Elon Musk fascinating but compared to the bullet problem commercializing space travel is a piece of piss. Save some lives. Change this world before we go find another one.
Eyes forward through the window, his shadow travelling more of the room than his feet. The enormous weight of calculation translated through posture and tilt, fingers thrumming the desk. The traffic sounded canned, arriving by pipe, maybe. Soon, his voice stirred betwixt his lips. A round dollop of sound at first until it became a vicious bark. Don’t I live in the future? Shouldn’t things I need materialize right before my eyes at my whim? It’s because it’s controlled by the government, you idiot, he scolded himself. They don’t make it easy. These things are precious. Probably made of the finest materials the You-Ass Government can procure. I hear the paper is a parchment from the original Declaration of Independence, marked with the blood of Civil War soldiers and dipped in the sweat of actual Grenada invaders. Grenada invaders have that real champion perspiration, right? The purest of all the veterans, I would imagine. The excretions of real winners.
“Ever think about it? Suicide?”
“Why do people ask that question? The answer is always yes. Like every time. The whole planet by age 10 answers yes. ”
“That’s not a no.”
“Tower, I am not currently considering taking my life.”
“Okay. I believe you. I just worry about you.”
“I believe you. And I worry about you.”
“Do I seem depressed?"
“Do you have to be depressed? I mean, you think there are some really happy people with everything going for them who just think, this it, I might as well jump?”
“Pretty sure that’s a Van Halen song.”
“Fuck those guys.”
“They’ve lived too long.”
“Let’s kill one of them.”
“But who do you choose? It’s impossible.”
“Easy. All of them except the bass player.”
“Michael Anthony lives. Seriously, though, I’ve thought about it. I had my nihilistic moments out there when I was a baby. The one thing I always boiled it down to was the fact that regardless of all the variables and the chaos, something is going to happen in the next moment and then something else is going to happen in the very next moment. Even when the world is kicking me in the teeth, there’s always a certain gallows humor in challenging the chaos to throw something even more fucked up at me. ”
“You are making me want to kill myself.”
Quick post from the mobile. Forgive the lack of initial editing.
There’s almost no reason to describe it. We’ve all seen it in shaky phone video or the view from the belly of a helicopter. With a weapon or sometimes unarmed, disturbed people charge police in what we call “suicide by cop.” Even though we’ve all seen it, it is fairly rare. I don’t have stats but it’s certainly not something most cities experience daily. “Suicide by cop” cannot compete with the bloody realities of traffic stops or domestic disputes. That said, the demographic of such events is all over the map, a little heavy on the 35 to 50 crowd, but still diverse. Donald Trump wants to sow firearms among a group of people who are notorious for their underdeveloped frontal lobes. Teenagers.
Cops tread like ocean water the stress that comes with carrying a deadly weapon. Technology may advance in this field but as of today a weapon still belongs to whomever wields it. Imagine how stressful this fact in an environment where half the people you process will take the opportunity to relieve you of said weapon. Add to this the laughable amount of training in US law enforcement and the stress weighs still more. Yet, stress is a relative experience. I have worked for public schools. I spent 7 years immersed in the types of stress that cling to teaching like barnacles. Even with police training, teaching combined with the responsibility of a carrying a firearm seems too much to ask. Especially of a profession not known for Rambo-esque personalities. Donald Trump wants to mix all of this together in a structure inhabited by hundreds of people for whom the American Academy of Pediatrics just this week suggested sweeping new guidelines on detecting depression.
Donald Trump lives in a fantasy world propped up by assholes like the Republicans and the NRA.
Alot of people are probably going to die.
PS. ...working on another blog over the whole gun debate again... I think it’s a tech issue. I think science can make guns (bullets) useless. Until then...
There’s a place in the cove, a place with a view of the rocks that sit like unused material in the abandoned construction of the coarse cliff side. Sheltered from the sun by the overhung jungle, the crabs stagger this stone field, much of the surface a blanket of surgical edges. Old folks tell of a pirate movie filmed here in the forties. The stones made filming delicate and dangerous for the mermaids. The waves lap here at low tide, keeping time. The planetary chronograph. The sun sets between the towering stones during certain months. As things have gone, I find it impossible not to think of it. I am ruined by it. The red sea, breathing under the lust of the sun’s blinding egg yolk. Dolphin fins cut tracks on the surface. The salt breeze. It is all I see. No matter how much effort I waste to change it.
White gleam oppressed the sky, forcing one eye shut while the other surveyed the rock wall ahead of him. Five hundred feet of scrub and cactus curved the talus to the three hundred feet of jagged wall. He knew the fastest ascent. He knew the location of the hidden crack where very few before him had climbed the natural steps to the top, shortening the trek to town by a day. By now, his pursuers moved at a far greater speed behind him, somewhere in the valley. Probably on the old mining road. One of their three choices. Not the fastest choice but the easiest. Confident they had him out flanked. He imagined the dust they must have kicked up near the flatland breaks by the river. He imagined the children from the state home in awe of their numbers, their uniforms, their weapons. He hadn’t yet calculated his move a full fledged hoodwink but if they were to mistake his absence on the other side of the mountain tomorrow as anything but their own mistake, his strategy will have reaped a reward he had not considered until now.
Buy Skitz O'Fuel's novel That Night Filled Mountain
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River of Blood, a novel about anarchism, atheism, racism, violence, family, and corruption.
Short stories like Finding Romulus' Rome, The Blood, & The Weapon are FREE in the Books section.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.