The story so far:
I was no expert on guns – they all look like Rambo to me – but what the hell was she doing with grenades? And was that a rocket launcher? I pitied any poor Jehovah’s Witness who made the drive out here.
She handed me a rifle, which looked far lighter when she was holding it. It slipped in my grip, which earned a scolding glare with the tiniest hint of motherly sympathy. “I’m hungry. Let’s eat.”
Though I wasn’t hungry, I was nervous to reject any offer she presented, even if it was one of the inevitable ten-thousand cans of spam in her bomb shelter.
I was mistaken. Brunch comprised of peanut butter and banana sandwiches and Budweiser. One for me, four for her. I scanned the kitchen in search of a velvet Elvis in full Third Reich regalia, but the best Shooter had to offer was David Hasselhoff crooning “Love Me Tender” on the stereo. Beggars can’t be choosers, and the old lady costume constituted half my wardrobe these days; I knew the math.
She threw the plastic dishes into the sink which was already full of bubbly suds. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” she offered, “so go wash your hands before I teach you how to kill that ****.”
Behind her house was a petting zoo of varmints – a metal cage contained at least two dozen rats, another housed squirrels, a covered bathtub held more frogs than I could count. I noticed the layer of chicken wire inside the chain link fence and prayed the pieces of fuzz and critter weren’t indicators of how I’d spend my afternoon.
“I can’t kill an animal,” I confessed. Senator Hughes was a strong supporter of PETA – one of the things that drew me into his campaign.
“Not yet you can’t, but by sundown? Hoo ****, girl! You want to learn to kill something, you got to start somewhere. I can set up tin cans all day but it ain’t the same thing. ‘Sides, you don’t pull the trigger on some of these, they become chow for Antonio, my boa constrictor.”
I directed the barrel at the squirrels before Shooter slapped it away. “It ain’t fish in a barrel, toots. Hang on.”
Shooter slipped on an armored glove – where she got that (or anything in her house), I’ll never know. She unlatched a panel on the cage, and yanked out an angry squirrel, who ravaged her fingers without breaking the mail. At least, if it did, Shooter showed no sign of pain. She banged the poor creature twice on the side of her brick oven, claimed it was dazed, and tied fishing wire in knots around its mouth, neck, torso, and tail.
I imagined her conducting miniature rodeos, lassoing frogs in her spare time. Was this what happened when you bunkered down and stockpiled enough ammo to prevent a Commie invasion?
“Give it a second to come to,” Shooter instructed. To expedite the process, she found her garden hose and twisted the spigot. The angry critter flailed and flopped, squealing as best as it could with its jaw wrapped shut.
I brushed away sweaty bangs, lifted the weapon. She cackled, stepped behind me, and pushed my shoulder. “Get closer.”
“He’s a politician! Tit for tat! Now you ain’t gonna hit it from here, so get right on top of it and pull that trigger. It can’t bite you, ‘less it finds some way to chew out, so you better do it fast. Imagine it has the senator’s face.”
Kickass control and utter destruction, I thought. I approached the helpless creature, blinked a long time, and aimed despite the trembling.
“You can’t kill that, you ain’t shooting no man.”
I closed my eyes, took several deep breaths, and envisioned the smug bastard holding a bottle of champagne in one hand and an oversized box of Trojans in the other, while his erection pushed at the crotch of his slacks. “Come on, Julie,” he whispered, “We legislators devote our entire lives to screwing people. Let me show you all the benefits of working on my staff.”
The gun was still heavy, but it felt more natural in my hands. One more exhale and I pulled the trigger.
The rifle fell from my hands, close enough for the squirrel to unintentionally tether itself to the butt. Shooter drew a Glock from the back of her waistband and fired once, and I watched the animal explode.
We returned to the living room where I slumped on one of her couches and fought back tears of disappointment. I dug into my pocket and pulled out two crumpled dollar bills. “Keep the change.”