Ten days later, after the mandatory
state waiting period, I pick up my gun.
The dealer gives me shit, says I didn’t bring
the right kind of second i.d. “A gas bill,”
he says, as if I’m stupid, “an electric bill,”
or a “house cable bill. Nothing else.
Repeat it.” I repeat it like a jackass.
My wife emails me the cable bill and he
still won’t accept it. Ambles to the back
to ask the owner. At this point, I know
he has it in for me. Something he doesn’t
like—I’d bet it was my wife having to
help me. I sniffed the misogyny on him.
Finally, his boss says it’s a go and he
halfheartedly slides the sword-silver box
to me, my dummy rounds, my box of ammo.
I’m thinking people like the gun dealer
are the reason I’m walking out of the store
with my new gun, a Beretta PX4 Storm,
people, who for no reason gave me shit.
People who just knew they could and so
they did. But it’s mine now, and more,
my gun-hating wife helped me buy it.
I place the bag, as if it were groceries,
in my trunk, merge into traffic, relieved.
I never shoot on weekends, always on weekday afternoons.
It’s too busy on Saturdays, and busy at the range means
danger—at least to me: the slim, pretty girl on a date
who has the “shakes,” the worker warning her, “I can’t let you shoot
unless you calm down, okay?” She says she’s okay, looks back
at me because I’m staring. I am staring because I’m evaluating.
She can’t stop laughing. Her date is a clueless hipster
who had asked the worker earlier if he could he plug in his cellphone.
The worker said no. The hipster was lucky he hadn’t asked
one of the meaner workers; “lucky bastard” I think. I’ve
faced down the mean ones before, who made you feel stupid
for asking something basic about guns. But this guy was young
and cool and his girl was hot, so I guess he can get away
with appearing detached. His date continues to laugh.
She’d laugh even in the range; I’d later hear her through
my earmuffs. But until then, I wait and watch the large
Filipino family come in and take a lane. I hear them plan
a pig-hunting trip and a visit to Arizona to buy more guns.
They’d also laugh really hard inside the range. I look at the boy
with his father, a blonde boy, like my own son. No more than
ten; the youngest they allow. I’m thinking of bringing my
own son in. So I watch the boy who seems very relaxed.
I want my son to stop playing video games. I don’t want him
to turn into a man who loves video games, a man who can’t
tell the difference between the screen and real life, a man
who needs to ask where he can plug his cellphone in
at a gun range. At last, I get my lane: #9. I shoot three
boxes of ammo. My hands feel unsteady. I am nervous around
so many flaky people, but if shooting teaches you one thing
it’s how to ignore the world, how to violently separate
yourself from others—not in the literal sense of course,
but in a spiritual plane. Number nine is my lane.
Novices go hunting
in the lining of true pockets,
the airplanes that breathe air
like human beings, if you know
enough, the copier flies American,
instinctually like a big bear
in the sky. Imagine that. Silently,
the stars make acquaintances;
they’re also new to the job.
And I do remember 1980
as a child, a young child.
The smell of my aunt’s Gremlin,
that hot, plastic scent of the
interior and the exhaust,
the thin palm trees that swayed.
Even then, always ruminating.
The smallish plot already
developing. And why should
it bother me? The inch-like
presence? No moon-landing
for me. No moon-lander. I guess
with every gun there’s an assault.
But this isn’t turning violent,
I have my dog with me
tonight, the kids gone, so why
write about that? The people
down the street have good
skulls, the people further
down the street have ugly
hearts. You can sense that
type of thing. Maybe it’s their
big ass house with no one in it.
Maybe it’s the fact I once
saw two tie-wearing men
playing b-ball in their front yard.
That type of thing doesn’t
make for close neighbors.