Freedom Firepower. It was Sitwell’s top gun store/shooting range. On any given day, many a Sitwell resident could be found plugging paper cutouts of bad hombres full of red hot lead.
The owner was used to it. He loved the sounds of gunfire and the smell of gunpowder. Although he wore a pair of mirrored aviator sunglasses, a trucker’s cap and a sleeveless T-shirt, he walked with perfect posture. He took a sip of beer, then enjoyed the cool feeling of a frosty can in his hand.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the owner said. “I am Gunnery Sergeant Moses T. Malone, United States Marine Corps, Retired. In my day, I took many a pile of cow shit dropped off on my doorstep by Uncle Sam and turned them into bloodthirsty killing machines. I’m talking trained killers who devour their enemies in one bite and then laugh in the glow of the moonlight as they shit out their bones.”
Moses looked to the clerk standing behind the counter near the door to the gun range. “Felix!”
Felix was half the size of Moses. His hair was brown and bushy, completely untamed. He looked like he hadn’t shaved in months and wore a black patch over his right eye. He was a man of few words. “Hmm?”
“Have you collected the requisite entry fee of eight-hundred and seventy-five dollars from each and every one of these pupils?” Moses asked.
“Affirmative,” Felix replied.
“Excellent!” Moses said. He clasped his hands behind his back and paced back and forth in front of his class.
“You unsavory ass maggots are in the gun range section of my humble establishment,” Moses said. “Here, you will learn how to fire with great precision and acute accuracy, for a true shot is, more often than not, the only thing standing between the protection of your life and the lives of those who love and a gruesome death at the hands of a crack pipe hitting lunatic criminal, the kind of which all those commie pinko hippies will gladly fill the streets with if they get their way. Isn’t that right, Felix?”
Felix nodded. “Mmm hmm.”
“Felix, my hetero, non-gay life mate and I saw a whole heap of shit in the war,” Moses said. “And God knows I’d be lying if I said we didn’t bring some of that pain back with us. I don’t know how Felix deals with his doldrums because he doesn’t talk much and frankly, that’s why we get along.”
Moses took another sip of beer, then drew a pistol from a holster on his belt. He walked over to an empty booth on the range, pointed his weapon at the paper target down range, then fired over and over again until the target’s head was blown completely off. “As for me, I get my kicks taking little sissy fairies like yourselves and turning you into stone cold killers.”
The instructor holstered his women. “Any questions?”
Multiple tiny hands shot up into the air.
“Yes,” Moses said as he pointed to a little girl with pigtails. “What is it,
“My Momma said she’s gonna divorce my Daddy for signing me up for Gun Scouts ‘cuz she says guns are bad,” Chloe said.
Moses laughed. “Young lady, no offense, but your mother sounds like a radical left-wing lesbian who daydreams all day about crawling inside Hillary Clinton’s vagina and taking a nap. If she’s really going to divorce your father for enrolling you in a fine organization like Gun Scouts, then he should thank his lucky stars that he won’t be wasting another day of his precious life with such a contemptible shrew.”
A little boy raised his hand.
“Yes,” Moses said. “Kevin.”
“What was the war like?” Kevin asked.
Moses chuckled. He looked to Felix. “You hear this kid? ‘What was the war like?’”
Felix smiled, then picked up a remote off the counter. He pointed it at the big flat screen TV mounted on the wall to the left of his work area and turned on NN1. Countess Cucamonga coverage, as usual.
Moses put his hand on the little boy’s arm. “Son, if there’s one universal truth of life, it’s this. It is impossible to explain what something ‘is like’ to someone who has never experienced it. An astronaut can’t adequately describe to me what it is like to be shot up into this space because I’ve never been there. Therefore, it stands to reason that I can’t tell you what it’s like to gut a man with a rusty razer blade, then pull his rotting carcass on top of my body in order to hide from a roving enemy patrol. No, young man, I could never explain to you what it was like to stare into the cold, motionless eyes of a dead man for three days while being scared out of my mind that I was about to be just like him. I can’t tell you what sorrow I felt as I stared into that man’s eyes and thought about that man and what he must have once been as a human being – how he once had a family, probably a wife, children, how he had hopes and dreams and with one quick flick of a sharp piece of steel, I took that all away from him and turned him into a human shaped pile of trash for me to burrow under like some kind of two-bit junkyard dog.”
“Oh,” Kevin said. “OK.”
“Any other questions?” Moses asked.
Billy, a chubby lad, raised his hand.
“God damn it,” Moses said. “I’m gonna have to make you do some push ups, boy. What the hell do you want?”
“Mister Moses, sir,” Billy said.
“That’s Sergeant to you, pork rind,” Moses said.
“When do we get to shoot the guns?” Billy asked.
Moses guffawed. He looked towards his hetero life mate. “You hear this kid?”
Felix smiled. Moses looked at Billy and mimicked the boy’s squeaky voice. “‘When do we get to shoot the guns?’ That’s you. That’s what you sound like.”
“Well,” Billy said. “When?”
“Son, your Momma must have ingested a heaping helping of crystal meth while she was cooking you up in her baby maker because you sound like a meth baby to me,” Moses said. “Are you a meth baby?”
“No sir,” Billy said.
“You think I’d just hand you a gun on your first day, when you don’t know Jack Shit about anything?” Moses asked.
Billy shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah?”
Moses shot the boy a sour look, then smiled. “You’re Goddamn right I would!”
The instructor turned to the clerk. “Felix!”
“Hmm?” Felix asked.
“Take these little patriots out around back to the kids’ gun range,” Moses said. “Give ‘em each a man stopper and show ‘em what to do.”
“Hooray!” the kids shouted in unison. They all swarmed around Felix’s ankles as the quiet man ushered the students out the door.
“You kids listen to Felix, now!” Moses shouted. “I have deputized him with all my powers and authority as a licensed gun safety instructor! Just be sure to stay on the side of his good eye so he knows what the hell all you little shits are up to!”
As soon as his class was gone, Moses smiled. “Aww, kids. They grow up so fast.”
The instructor paced the length of the gun range, critiquing the stance and technique of each customer all the way.
Blam! Blam! Blam! A little old lady pumped multiple rounds into her target’s chest.
“Worst grouping I have ever seen in my life, Ethel,” Moses said.
“I’m trying, Sonny,” Ethel said.
“Yeah,” Moses said. “You know who else is trying? The gangbanger whose soul purpose in life is to break into your house and have his way with every one of your orifices! Are you going to let him get away with that shit?”
Ethel got mad. She pointed at the target and squinted. Blam! She put one right in the target’s head.
“Atta girl, Ethel,” Moses said. “No one’s touching your old lady parts without your say so, that’s for damn sure.”
Moses moved on. A bespectacled geek in a polo shirt was aiming his gun with his hand tilted to the left, gangster style. He squeezed off a few rounds, but his bullets flew past the target.
“Son of a bitch, Clyde!” Moses said. “What in Sam Hill are you doing?”
“I…I don’t know, Moses,” Clyde said.
“Why don’t you just do yourself a favor and go back to your restaurant, take all your money out of the cash register and wave it around in the air and shout, ‘Come and get it, lowlives! I’m a failure as a man and I’m literally powerless to stop you from depriving me of my livelihood!’”
Clyde hanged his head low. “I’m sorry.”
“Shit,” Moses said as he grabbed Clyde’s wrist and turned his hand straight. “Don’t apologize to me. Apologize to yourself. What is this shit you’re doing?”
“It’s gangster style,” Clyde said. “It’s how Tupac and Biggie used to shit.”
Moses scoffed. “Oh, you want to shoot just like Biggie and Tupac?”
“Yeah,” Clyde said.
“Yeah, well, don’t,” Moses said. “Maybe if Biggie and Tupac had held their guns straight they’d of iced the punks who capped them and then they’d still be out there putting out albums today? Ever think of that?”
“No,” Clyde said.
“That’s the problem,” Moses said. “None of you young people ever think at all.”
Moses pointed Clyde’s hand directly at the target. Blam! A hole opened up in the target’s shoulder. Clyde smiled. “I hit it! I actually hit it!”
“That’s a shitty hit,” Moses said. “Your perp could still steal your cash with his other hand and if he were so inclined, could probably still have the strength to push you down and have his way with your man hole but…at least it’s progress. Keep it up kid, and you’re be popping heads like ripe casaba melons in no time.”
Clyde threw his arms around Moses. “Thank you, Moses! Thank you!”
Moses extracted himself from the hug. “Whoa, whoa, hold the phone, Jack. What do you think this is, some kind of homosexual love shack?”
“Huh?” Clyde asked. “No. No, I was just so happy that I…”
Moses walked away. “Keep it in your pants, compadre. The only thing that will ever go near my butt is the colonoscope of a trained medical doctor and even then I’ll have my reservations.”
Blam! Blam! Blam! As Moses reached the last booth on the rang, the “blams!” grew deafeningly loud. “Well holy shit, if it isn’t Cole Walker!”
Cole pulled off his protective ear phones and nodded at Moses.
“I knew I heard the sweet siren song of an Angry Barracuda,” Moses said.
Cole flipped open the chamber and dumped his spent casings all over the counter in his booth. Moses held his hand out. “May I?”
The chief handed over his massive hand cannon. Moses hovered his nostrils over the barrel and sniffed away. “Mmm…mmm…oh how I love the smell of an Angry Barracuda in the morning!”