Bang, Bang By Dana C. Kabel

Bob sat in his tattered recliner in front of the TV. There was a worn leather holster in his lap, and a pistol inside the holster.

The man on the TV was droning on about the war in the desert. Bob slid the pistol in and out of the holster without ever completely clearing leather.

He had stopped listening to what the man on TV was talking about some time ago, though the set was plenty loud enough. It had to be loud to drown out Marcia, who was in the other room talking while she got ready for work.

When it came to conversation with Bob, Marcia knew that she was talking to the walls. He had been in a fog since he came back from the war and the hospital…and since they put him on The Meds. But she liked to talk just the same.

Every now and then Bob drew the pistol completely from the holster; he cleared leather. That’s what they said in the old cowboy flicks he used to watch when he was a kid. Back when his thoughts were still…all together.

When Bob cleared leather he would point the pistol at the man on TV and say, “bang, bang,” very softly. Then he would quickly slip the pistol back into the holster before Marcia could see.

She didn’t like it when Bob cleared leather.

“I wish you would put that thing away.” Marcia told him once.

“I was trained to use this. I have the right.” Bob had told her.

He didn’t say very much else since they put him on The Meds.

“So there I am, hustling my ass off to wait tables in three different sections because everyone else is out with the flu…” Marcia was out of the bedroom and standing behind Bob’s chair.

“It’s not right, but you know how cheap that bastard is. He wouldn’t even think of hiring anyone else.” She sat on a chair next to him to put on her orthopedic shoes. Marcia had bad heels from waitressing.

“Who?” Bob asked.

Marcia looked up at her husband, surprised by the notion that he might have actually been listening to her and even more so that he responded with a question. Maybe The Meds were finally starting to “even him out,” like the shrinks said they would.

“Larry…my boss. Larry Lipinski.” Marcia said.

“Oh.” Bob said, and returned to sliding his pistol in and out of the holster.

On the TV they showed the tunnels being rebuilt on the Gaza strip. A young man talked about getting paid $200 a day to dig.

Bob remembered a tunnel in the desert. There had been people inside the tunnel when a grenade was tossed in. He closed his eyes and saw bloody human body parts mixed with sand and wood and rubble like some kind of horrific stew.

“And do you know that prick had his hand out at the end of the night?” Marcia asked.


“For my tips. He said, ‘Did you forget we pool our tips here?’

“I told him I was the only one waiting tables and should get to keep all of them. Then he told me the cook and the busboy still got their cut. Then he counts my money out and hands me back a fourth…same as I get any other night when Suze and Darla are both working. That lousy fucker!”

Bob pressed the pistol into the holster so hard that it felt like it might rip through the other side. He continued to stare straight ahead at the man on TV and the tunnels in the sand.

“Jesus, I thought…you’re not listening to a word I’m saying.” Marcia said.

Bob looked at her blankly with eyes like dark stones. Then he turned his gaze back to the TV and continued to slide the gun in and out of the holster.

It was a toy gun really. Marcia had substituted it for his old .45 when Bob first came home from the mental hospital and insisted on having it.

She bought a pellet gun that looked almost exactly like the real gun that was locked in the bureau drawer. It was about the same weight and size, and without an air cartridge and pellets it was completely harmless unless he decided to bludgeon her with it. And if he wanted to do that he could do it with an ash tray or heavy glass or any number of household items.

The shrink told Marcia that her husband wasn’t a danger to himself or others. She had to believe that was true.
She leaned over Bob and kissed his cheek.

“Remember to take your medicine at nine.” She said.

Of course he couldn’t forget. There was an alarm clock on the side table next to his pills and a bottle of water.

“ Nine o’clock .” Bob said softly.

“I love you.” Marcia said, and she did. She hoped with all of her heart that he would get better. That he would be the man he was before he went off to that goddamned war.

Marcia walked out the door. Bob picked up the remote and turned the volume down. He loved his wife. She took care of him and stood by him through everything.

He didn’t want to drown her out with the TV. but he couldn’t put his thoughts together enough to have a normal conversation. It was just easier to hide behind the noise.

Everything came through to him a few minutes later, like it was filtered through syrup and pulled apart and put back together all fucked up. It was The Meds.

He looked at the bottles on the side table and pushed them all off at once. Then he pulled the gun and cleared leather. He set it down where the pills had been. Then he turned off the alarm clock because he knew that he wouldn’t be there when it went off at nine o’clock .

Bob went into the kitchen and found a screwdriver in the utility drawer. He took it to the other room and used it to force open the locked drawer of the bureau where he saw Marcia hide his gun.

He checked the magazine to make sure there were still bullets in it and then he slid it home into the worn leather holster.

“Larry Lipinski.” Bob said softly. “Bang, bang.”

1 comment:

Paul Brazill said...

just read this. top!