At the time I was popping sleeping tablets because a strange side-effect was aphrodisia. If she asked I would say they were nicotine pills. (I also had a box of smokes in my pocket in case she was into that sort of thing.) I took a pill as soon as I saw her and washed it down with bourbon.
I bought her a
and made the
bartender take it to her table. Small-town girls like anything associated with Manhattan . She was bored, sitting with a couple of friends
who were mashing faces. She looked over at me and I gave her the smile. She
wanted me too. New
“You’re not from around here,” she said when she joined me at the bar.
I told her I was drifting around the country, living off the spoils of my veteran’s pension. I like to let them know early on I’m a war hero, fighting their nightmares.
She said, “So you must love the gun laws here in Hestonville?”
Truth is I knew nothing about Hestonville. I usually feel sorry for small towns since their identities are summarised by a beet museum and the cleanliness of their public toilets. I don’t really keep up with the news so I hadn’t heard about the town where it is illegal not to carry a firearm at all times: shopping, church, work (which, frighteningly for Charity, was a kindergarten).
“So you’re armed right now?” I asked.
Out of her handbag she pulled a pistol. She lay it on the bar mat as if we were in The Deer Hunter.
“Colt M1911 semi-automatic pistol,” she said. Nine round magazine capacity. 45-calabar. Seven round detachable box magazine. Light. Compact. Fast reload. Regarded as the best handgun on the market. I’ve named him Lancelot. And….” And she pulled a second clip from her purse.
“Why do you have a second clip?”
“In case I need it.” She paused. “I haven’t needed it though.”
“So does this mean you’re allowed to shoot people?”
“Oh no, you can only fire in self-defence.”
“Has anyone needed to use their gun?”
“I had a friend who was shot but he’s alright now. He saw someone reaching for their gun at the registers in the liquor store. It turns out the man was only going for his wallet but when he saw my friend reaching for his gun the man pulled out his own gun and shot him. It was in all the papers. People said it was a tragedy but it wasn’t really. He should have been quicker reaching for his gun.” She took a sip of her drink. “I love living here, though. There is no crime, no robberies or assault—or bar fights. I watch crime shows and shout at the television because they just don’t get it.”
How do you chat up a gun nut? It’s really no different to anyone else. They want to be loved too. So I told her about the guns I keep at home in New York (you know, where the Manhattans come from); my Glock, 10 mm, auto, 102 millimetre barrel, named Michael because it’s the name I wanted to give to my child. She ate up my bullshit and drank whatever I put in front of her. As she knocked them back she turned into a giggling, talkative, scatterbrained ditz and I knew I had her.
She gushed the usual crap at me: about her childhood sweetheart named Buddy or Rover or something, who chased a football scholarship to the big city (she wants reassurance that she’s is attractive); that she’s a good teacher but the kids are little shits and her mother—who runs the crèche—turns up almost every day to boss her about and it’s so embarrassing (she wants to be an adult), how her father fucked off when he found out her mother was pregnant (she wants to be loved). I popped another sleeping pill and held her hand. With each anecdote she leaned a little further forward until our lips were touching.
Now here comes the good bit, the reason you’ve read passed the opening line.
I asked her if she’d show me the town and she looked around for her friends but they were long gone. I led her outside and directed her between the
bungalows and prim gardens. She stumbled and giggled and I kept her upright. We
passed a cop car outside the hotel going to God-knows-where. California
The stale air inside the hotel room smelled of the last occupant’s deodorant. I kissed her before it could kill the mood.
“Do you do this often?”
“Never,” I said.
I carry her to the bed and straddled her hips.
“Is that all you’re travelling with?” she asked, looking at my luggage.
“Why do you have duct tape?”
“My areal fell off.”
I slid the dress straps from her shoulders and ran my palms down her arms until I was holding her hands. Gently, I pried her fingers from her handbag.
“No,” she whispered.
She pushed me off her chest and swung the pistol from the bag with the other hand.
“Ok,” I said. I’m sorry. Put the gun down.”
“Lie down on the bed,” she said. I lay down with my arms rigid and awkward by my sides. “And pull down your pants.”
So we all got what we wanted in the end.
When she was gone, I took my phone from my pocket and dialled 9 and 1 and stopped. I considered driving on but I didn’t. Instead I lay on the bed and tried to sleep.