Gun control, a wannabe writer looking for a career change in tougue-in-cheek adventure.
|NOTE: This work is a spliced together pile of practice writings. My rule is to never toss something I wrote. It may come in handy someday.
“Guns that were common and widely used at the time of the Bill of Rights ratification will be the only firearms deemed as protected by the Second Amendment. All other firearms will be considered as discretionary items that are under the control of the federal government.”
Senator Hardgrove looked at the petite, very precise handwriting on the slip of paper. He couldn’t believe what they were spelling out. He read it again. Same reaction. He then looked at the woman sitting on the other side of the table. The woman that had just handed him that napkin. The first thing he noted was the tiny smirk on Senator Cassandra Johnson’s face. It wasn’t a pleasant smirk. He glanced back down at the words in blue ink. They hadn’t changed and he still couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The words, all of them, had the unrelenting creepiness of the opening chapter of a horror novel. Only they were worse. For a moment, he wondered if his eyes were going to burst into flames just for reading them. The reactions he was feeling were mainly due to the fact that it was painfully obvious that the woman sitting across from him meant every single crisply written word. The Senator from Oregon could only shake his head as he looked back at Senator Johnson.
“You try to push this on the American people and you’ll have a civil war on your hands.”
The California Senator’s voice had that hint of smugness she was well known for as she stated, “I’m fully aware of that.”
“So, why?” Senator Hardgrove was confused. “With all the trouble that is taking place these days, it can’t be a good idea to tick off the people and you can add to that, a number of the states. I’m sure they’re going to piss and moan very loudly when we start trampling all over their sovereignty.”
“Come on Rick, you know that it needs to be done.” The use of first names was another of her habits. It was intended to make her sound friendly, down to earth and more approachable. However, with that California blue-blood voice of hers, it only managed to come off as patronizing. “We have thousands of red-neck hillbillies, gangsters, drug dependant lunatics and out-right psychopaths getting their hands on guns every single day. It needs to be stopped Rick. You know it and I know it, and quite frankly, I’ve been trying to circumvent that damn Second, frigging, Amendment for years. As far as I can see, this is the only chance we have to civilize this country.”
Civilize... My ass! This wasn’t a very professional way to think. It lacked any intellectual edge. Hell, Senator Hargrove thought it anyway. Do you think the American people are just going to accept being told they can only use Kentucky long rifles and wear coonskin caps? There is going to be a lot of pissed off people looking to scalp those responsible for taking away their guns.
He was about to state a more or less toned down version of his thoughts, but the arrival of their meals briefly stopped him. Waiters have ears and in DC they seem to be equipped with extra sensitive hearing. That, and they seem to have near prefect memories when it came to recalling the minuet facts of everything they have overheard. Those recollections have burned many a political figure. The advantage of this brief lull was that it would give him a few moments to frame his next words carefully. Word consideration was always the intelligent thing to do when dealing with Senator Johnson. Many Senators learned that early. Those that didn’t, regretted it just as fast. When the waiter moved on to another table the first words out of his mouth were, “what about the NRA?”
“The Neanderthal Retards Association will not be much of an issue in a couple of days.”
The hairs on the back of Senator Hardgrove’s neck bristled at the woman’s disrespect of the NRA. He knew many members of the organization. Hell, He wasn’t 100% sure, but there were at least five members of his family that were life members. Every single one of them was good, honest and hardworking. In addition, there was not one beer drinking, tobacco chewing, anti-government, hate-mongering idiot amongst them. Senator Johnson had no business slamming them like that. She may despise guns, she may hate gun owners and she may think she knows best, but, as a senator, she was elected to serve the American people. Not criticize them with crappy little acronyms. Hardgrove knew this. He has been known to get rather vocal when other Senators degrade the citizens of the United States. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make that kind of stand at that moment. He knew better than to position himself against Johnson in a public place. Too bad. Had he said something maybe the hairs on the back of his neck would have served a more useful purpose: as in a warning.
“And just how do you figure that?” Senator Hardgrove was confident that, unless that NRA fell off the planet, it would continue to build up its membership and be a roadblock to gun control.
Senator Johnson didn’t answer his question. Instead, she went into the task of prepping her sandwich for consumption. That silence made the Senator worry. He had first hand knowledge on just how conniving and manipulative the Senator from California could be. She was a consummate politician. To put it concisely; a game player. She was also a power hungry bitch. Yes, he thought it. Cassandra Johnson was a bitch and Senator Hardgrove would be the first to admit it. At least safely in depths of his own mind. To vocalize such an observation was a sure way to have one’s life totally screwed up.
With her sandwich ready, she finally asked, “you think I’m crazy?”
Hardgrove would rather chew on the barrel of a twelve-gauge shotgun than answer that question truthfully. “No, but the sheer scope of the legal battles this would cause is a concern I have and, to be honest, I don’t know if it can even be done. I would have to have some of the details.”
Johnson would have loved to give him the details. Telling him how there were plans in the works to decapitate the NRA by taking out the leadership with tax issues and a number of false charges that would keep them busy for months. Then there was using the anger over the newly passed health care bill. That could be used to good effect. A random shot here, a random shot there. The tea partiers and firearms would blend into a prefect cocktail of violence that will feed the people’s desire to seek tighter gun control. And last but not least, there is the pressure from the United Nations. Violence in the United States means violence in the world, or so they will say and that should just about do it. Yes, she’d be happy to tell him it all. However, this was all need-to-know information at this point, and until he committed himself to it, he could just stay a little mushroom.
“Details you will have, but first I need to know where you will stand on this.”
About as far away from it as I can, Hargrove thought before saying, “It’s true that I’m for tighter gun control. However, without those details I have to honestly say that I can’t commit to any plan or action just yet.”
“Fair enough.” She said. “Would it help to know that I’m not alone in this? I have supporters in the House and in the Senate, as well as the Oval Office.”
By mentioning the President, she was laying out a power move. Upping the ante. It had a lot in common with bringing the queen out in a chess game. It was also a statement with a two-point purpose. First, it showed that the upcoming battle had strong support and, second, it was the Senator Johnson’s way of establishing herself as a force to contend with in Washington. Hardgrove found, despite her ego, Johnson was, indeed, setting up something impressive. It showed that maybe there was some power behind Senator Johnson’s plan. However, Senator Hardgrove was still not impressed enough to look forward to a battle on the scale of the one she was proposing. He had seen too many battles lost in his fifteen years in the Senate. Some that nearly took him out of office. No, if he was going to commit to this, he would need to know a lot more. Even the President can bring only so much power to the playing field.
“It would and it does,” Hardgrove replied. “However, can you give me just a little more than that.”
“Later,” Senator Johnson said as she picked up her sandwich. “There are more things that need to be worked out and besides; there are too many ears around here.”
As the woman took a bite of her pastrami on rye Hardgrove found his eyes looking at the cleavage exposed by her V-necked blouse. Between her breasts hung a crucifix. The Senator noted the tiny gold figure of Jesus and couldn’t help but think how Senator Johnson would have been more than happy to drive the first nail in. That is, if it would have enhanced her career.
“Salvation or sin?”
Hardgrove looked up. There was that damn smirk again. It was right under a set of hazel eyes that were looking right into his. He knew he had been caught with his eyes in the wrong damn place and at the wrong damn time. Senator Johnson looked like a shark that was enthusiastically looking forward to lunch. He felt the urge, but he knew that he couldn’t run. All that was left for him to do was to play stupid. “Say again.”
“Salvation or sin?” She repeated in a bemused voice before clarifying it. “Were you looking at my jewelry or at my tits?”
Blunt inquiries from Senator Cassandra Johnson meant only one thing; you had better tell the truth. This was the third thing Cassandra Johnson was known for and the most infamous of them all. She loved to throw people off balance. By knocking any equilibrium they may have had out the window, she hoped to increase her control over them. It usually worked. The halls of Congress were littered with victims of her viciously timed questions. That was the core reason people would strive to be on the opposite side of any building she happened to be in. The bliss they felt by being out of range of her vocal assaults was next to a religious experience.
Senator Hardgrove was about to reply when a tall, unshaven man in a loosely fitting leather jacket pulled up a chair and sat down at the table. It was an stunningly quick maneuver and is was also unbelievably rude. Hardgrove was taken aback. However, he did manage to notice that Senator Johnson looked as if she was about to turn into a werewolf and bite the guy’s face off. The whole situation grew instantly tense and Hardgrove wondered what was going to happen next.
“What the hell is this?” Hardgrove figured that Senator Johnson deciding to talk was a hell of a lot better than using her mouth carnivorous attack.
The man said nothing. He just looked at the two Senators. First at Hardgrove and then at Johnson. His expression during this was blank. There was no sign of emotion. No humor, no anger, no sorrow, no pity. The leather jacketed man had more in common with a wax figure than a living being.
“Okay.” Senator Johnson’s voice was not very feminine at this point. “Let’s try this again…What the hell do you want?”
In response the man reached into his jacket. For a split second the thought of a handgun flashed into Hardgrove’s head. Then the man extracted a folded piece of paper. At that point Senator Hardgrove was glad. There are a lot of nut jobs in DC and one never knows what a man will pull out of a jacket. He watched as the intruder handed the paper to the woman.
“Read it,” was all the man told her as he stood up.
As Cassandra Johnson unfolded the paper, Hardgrove kept his eyes on the rugged looking man as he walked out of the restaurant.
There must not have been very much written on the paper. When Hardgrave turned back to Senator Johnson, the woman was already folding the note into the neat and tightly folded square she had received it as.
“What was that all about?” Hardgrove was understandably curious.
“Oh, nothing Earth shattering Rick,” was the reply. “I do think that they could find a more professional looking courier though.”
“Someone with manners.”
“Exactly.” The ultra-thin smile on her face was not making Hardgrove comfortable. It was colder that usual. Almost as if it had been chiseled out of the same iceberg that sank the Titanic.
Whatever the information that was in that note may not have been Earth shattering, but it was important, he thought. Important and, based on the recipient, not necessarily good.
“I have to go,” Senator Johnson said in a matter of fact voice that was a prefect match to her smile. “Duty calls.”
She got up from the table.
“How about your lunch?”
“You can pick up the check for me Rick,” was her way of blowing off his question. “That’s a good man.”
Senator Hardgrove wanted to snap back a sharp retort to her assumption that he was just her “good man.” He even played out a couple of options in his head. At least one of them evolved a four letter word or two. Thing was, he was not able to say a word before she turned and headed away from the table. She was moving with a sense of purpose. He just could not understand why. The least she could do was acknowledge him with a brief goodbye or see you later.
Once out of the restaurant, Senator Johnson glanced at the noted one last time. It only had one word on it. It was a simple, one syllable word. “Now.”
She looked back at the restaurant and thought, like it or not Rick; you just became the first act of a grand play. Sorry.
It was amazing. Even the word, “sorry,” as it played inside her head sounded counterfeit and totally without feeling. What else would one expect from her? Goals that were set in that self-righteous head of hers were goals that needed to be accomplished. Collateral damage be damned.
She headed back to her office as if it was just an ordinary day.
Hardgrove was fishing out his government credit card when he took a moment to look up at the restaurant’s entrance. A man was walking in. The guy looked to be in his forties and was dressed in blue jeans and a plaid flannel shirt. He looked normal in every sense of the word. Maybe just a little under dressed for a DC restaurant, but, all in all, he appeared to be just an everyday Joe. Hardgrove thought nothing of the man. That is, until the man headed directly over to his table.
“I know who you are.” The statement was presented in a flat, monotone voice. The voice of a man who really didn’t give damn about speaking at all.
Hardgrove was confused. “Excuse me?”
“I said, I know who you are Senator.” The voice hadn’t changed a bit.
“So,” Hardgrove asked, “how can I help you?”
A sarcastic looking smile filtered its way across the man’s lips. This was the first sign of life Hardgrove had seen on the man’s face. It wasn’t a good omen either. The smile had an evil glint to it and its presence did not bring a whole lot of comfort to the Oregon Senator.
“You can die quickly.”
Senator Hardgrove saw the gun come out.
“Take my guns from me, will ya?” was all the man said. This time with the loud boisterous voice and vocalized passion of a man who wanted to get his point across. He wanted to let everyone in that restaurant know exactly what he was doing and why he was doing it.
Hardgrove was too stunned to speak. It didn’t matter though. He wouldn’t have had time to formulate a coherent sentence before the first of four slugs plowed into his chest.
The shooter wasted no time. The restaurant was awash with screams and the patrons, waitresses and one overweight busboy were scrambling to get out or hit the floor. It was chaos. He had to get out of there. Using the pistol to point his way out, the shooter turned to head for the door.
Serene Valley Lake had only one motel next to its shore. As I drove up to it I could see why. The Lakeside Motel had a lot in common with the two-story temporary barracks that were built during World War 2. The main differences were the facts that it had only eight rooms and to get to the second floor you had to use the stairs and walkway that stretched across the front of the building. Basically, it was a step above a dive, but just barely. It didn’t matter though. It could have been be the worse dump in the State of Oregon and it wouldn’t have mattered. What mattered was that it was tucked away in the woods. It was quiet. It was secluded and it was just the place I needed to be. So what if the roof looked like it was ready to cave in. So what if the paint was from the Reagan years. For at least a couple of days I would be willing to call it home.
As the desk clerk turned the ledger towards me he asked, “So, Is this a vacation for you?”
The man, who was dressed in baggy jeans and a sickly green plaid shirt, looked as if he hadn’t touched a razor in a week, brushed his teeth since 1998 and avoided doing anything with the rope length hairs that were hanging out of his ears. He could have used a comb more often too. In other words, the gray haired old man needed to spend a little more time grooming himself. There appeared to be a reason for this however. All of this was probably due to the cans of cheap beer and greasy burgers that kept his hands busy on a daily basis. This lack of hygiene reflected poorly on the motel and was only aided by the fact that he really needed to put that ugly shirt in a paper shredder. I just hoped he wasn’t in charge of cleaning the rooms.
“Sort of,” I replied as I took up the pen.
“Sort of?” I could smell the beer as he spoke. “You planning on doing some work way out here?”
“I’m writing a book.” I figure I might as well get use to saying that.
“You’re a writer?” Wow, he is quick. “Anything I may have read?”
Sorry, Jack and Jill went up the hill was written a long time before I was born. “This is my first book.”
“So what did you do before?”
“I was an exterminator.” Hell, it was almost the truth.
“Like cockroaches and rats?”
“You could say that.” You could also say that the clerk asked a lot of questions.
“Well, you don’t look like a pest control guy.”
“And what should I look like?” So sue me. I had to know.
“Well, the kid that comes here looks like you could park a Cadillac in the pits on his face.”
There was a touch of irony in what he said. The choice of vehicles to use for his strange observation really didn’t matter. It could have been a Lincoln Towncar, a Hummer, or something as lackluster as a ’67 VW Beatle. It really didn’t matter. However, the irony of it was sitting out in the parking lot in the form of the ’92 Coup Deville I had drove up in. That’s not to say that I would go out of my way to park it on some poor pest control guy’s face, but I did find it mildly amusing.
“I like that.” I really did. “Mind if I use it?”
“Feel free,” he replied as he handed me the key. ”And you have a good night.”
The room, Room 22, assaulted me with the smells of pine cleaner and musty linen the moment I walked into it. As I looked around, my eyes were fairing just as bad as my nose. Furniture that were relics from the 60’s cluttered the place and the TV. Now that was history. The massive thing had a wooden cabinet that was battled scared from years of abuse. I wondered if the old RCA was even a color set. I shook my head. The owner of the Lakeview Motel knew how to impress his guest. No matter. I went to the table, took off my trench coat and slipped off Bertha’s shoulder rig so that I could place her on the table. Next came the four sheets of paper from my breast pocket.
Mental note to self: If you are going to be a writer, then go to the store, walk down a couple of aisles and buy a damn notebook.
I put down the paper, pulled out a pencil from the same pocket and sat down.
Words were in my head. I just had to get them to the paper. Lots of words. Very little paper. I began to write. Well, sort of. I had the pencil poised over the paper and my mind had the ideas, but getting the two parts working together was already proving to be difficult. I’m new at the writing thing so I could only assume that this was what writer’s block was all about. I decided to fight through it.
After about an hour of starring at a blank piece of paper I decided to watch the sun go down over the lake. It was easy thing to accomplish. All I needed to do was step out on the tiny balcony that was the one and only benefit room number 22 had. Sure, it was a small balcony, but there was room for one folding chair and a small round table. A table just big enough to accommodate a six-pack of beer, a tin ashtray, and a pack of smokes. This was fine. That’s all I needed to relax.
Jumping out of one’s skin was the trademark of gun shy, momma’s boys. At least I use think that, but this shot was close. It was too damn close. This was the type of gunfire easily within striking distance. Every part of my body reacted. Muscles went tight, ears were alert and my brain was in overdrive. Gunshots and I have never been known to get along. At least when it’s not my finger squeezing the trigger.
So much for a peaceful view of the lake, so much for my great literary work, so much for just plain taking a moment to relax. Serene Valley was no longer living up to its name.
I went to the table where Bertha laid and drew her out of the brown leather holster. As a Colt M1911A1 Bertha had some heft to her, but it was a solid weight and she felt good in my hand. She always felt good: like a partner that would never let you down. I wasted no time ensuring a round in her chamber. If there was going to be any gunplay then Bertha was my girl and she was ready.
Sitting on my ass and letting things work themselves out was never my style. To me, that kind of passive response could lead to your rear getting kicked or worse. I preferred a more aggressive reaction. Facing a problem head-on seemed to always work for me so why change now. Besides, the triggerman would never expect Bertha’s wrath.
The shot came from Room 23. I went to the open door just in time to hear a heavy Bronx accent say, “That’s not him Lou.”
I raised Bertha to eye level.
“Let’s get outta here,” the man stated franticly as he stepped though the doorway, “this is the wrong room.”
“You’ve got that right,” I said a split second before Bertha splattered the back of his skull into the door jam.
I stepped over the corpse and entered the room. There was Lou. He was a big city bozo that looked big apple tough and back street ugly. Wearing a four hundred dollar trench coat and holding a snub nose .38 throw away. Lou was the classic tough guy. However, he was a tough guy with a severe problem. At that moment, he couldn’t decide whether he should raise the gun, scream like a little girl or soil his underwear. Bertha helped him with his problem. Two hollow points to the chest. Problem solved. Now he was just like his buddy in the doorway.
I went farther into the room. There was a body in the bed. I looked down and saw the face of an old man. Thin, weathered and wrinkled, he had a hole in his temple. I knew what I would find, but I did it anyway. I checked for a pulse. There was none. His killer had done the job well. It was too bad. His was a useless death.
On the way out of the room, I paused at the door. Tapping the number 23, I gave Lou and his buddy a brief math lesson. “This is the number 23…I’m in Room 22.”
I doubt they heard me. Hell doesn’t allow phone calls.
There was nothing more for me to do there and only a truly certifiable idiot would think that the police haven’t been alerted to the gunfire. Since I’m sure the call went out and since the law and I have had a shaky past, I decided that it was the right time to check out. I went back to my room, gathered what little belongings had I brought in and headed for ’92 Cadillac sitting in the parking lot.
“What the hell is going on?” The Motel manager could have at least covered up that beer keg he called a belly before coming out to investigate. I didn’t what to see his flabby gut. I wasn’t in the mood for that kind of spectacle and to make it worse, I didn’t want to hear what he said next. “You better not be shooting up my room.”
“Try twenty-three,” was all that I said.
The heavyset man moved pretty darn quick as he sprinted up the stairs. I found myself impressed. I didn’t think that guy like that would have the energy. Hell, it had to take a lot more than beer too get all that flab moving at any pace that could be remotely considered swift. I was also impressed when he let out a yelp when he saw the gunman’s corpse sprawled out in the doorway. It sounded like a cross between an opera singer and hillbilly that had just gotten his manhood rearranged by a garden hoe.
“What Happened?...Oh my God!...What happened?...Oh My God!” He was dancing around in a blind panic.
“Hey.” I said it loud enough to get his attention and he turned to look at me.
“Why did you do this?”
I decided to be blunt. “They killed the old man in there.”
“What?” He looked as if he was going to freak out even more.
I waited for him as he ran into the room and I continued to wait for him until he came back out. It wasn’t a long wait. About a minute. When he walked out he was white as a ghost, to use the cliché. He seemed calmer too, but I think it was just his way of resigning himself to the fact that something really shitty had just taken place.
“What was his name?”
“Ben Willows,” he replied in a voice nearly choked in emotion. “A really nice old man. Liked to go fishing a lot.”
“Ben Willows,” I repeated the name to burn it into my memory. He was just another of a long list of innocent bystanders I have seen. One of many, but it still did not sit well with me. None of them did. All of them were one too many in my book. This time I knew it was going to be different. It had to be. There was going to have to be an accounting for this and that meant I had a lot of work to do.
So much for writing.
I got into the Deville, fired it up and wheeled it out of the parking lot. The manager was watching me the whole time. I could see he wanted to tell me to wait for the cops. He probably wanted to say something like it was the right thing to do. He didn’t however. My guess is that he figured Lou and his buddy were enough evidence to prove that I was in a bad mood and not one to be messed with. He just silently let me drive off into the twilight.
"The whirlwind assault on gun ownership is a textbook example of a big brother government at its very best. I can see it. Hell, everyone can see it. Congress and the President are not even trying to hide it. The problem is, there is the fact that while a large part of the country demands their right to gun ownership to remain intact there is an equally large collection of self important, know-it-all, sissy, tree-hugging, make-peace-not-war liberal wet blankets that think a gun free population is the cat’s meow. It’s these idiots the mainstream media listen to, report on and fawn over. Night after night there are stories of illegal activities within the NRA, gun violence, the border war. Of course, there is also the assassination of Senator Richard Hardgrove. His death continues to be the rallying cry of the anti-gun crowd. Damn, it’s been four months. I figured it would have died down by now. But nope, the winds of change are nearing hurricane force and it’s turning red flag ugly for the United States of America."
Jenny Selken took a few moments to read what she had just cranked out on the well-worn keyboard of her work computer. She thought it read ok. Not bad for something that had just popped into her head. The only negative thing she could see was that she wished she could throw in an extra line or two that would really bash the anti-gun activist right in the face. Maybe that wouldn’t be politically correct. Maybe it wouldn’t be nice. It may be said that it could lead to her being called a “hater” by those groups. That last bit would not stress her out in any way. She had written worse: a hell of a lot worse, and as a result she has received anti-fan mail by the truckloads. Nothing new. It was part of the business. There was a glimmer of a sarcastic smile on her face as she read it again.
Jenny was a bit of an oddball at the Portland Register. Young, blond, attractive, single and very, very much a conservative were just some of the qualities she had. The young and attractive parts were never an issue, at least not for the men, but her conservative point of view was very much at odds with the liberal leaning staff majority. Like a big thorn in their butts. It was so much of an issue that some inner office political debates have lasted well past quitting time and ended up in the parking lot. However, Jenny wouldn’t have it any other way. If it wasn’t for her voice, the Portland Register might as well be print on blue paper. That was one reason for her staying. Even though she sometimes felt like she was surrounded by lunatics, someone had to keep them in line.
As she got ready to add some more fire to her article, she felt the presence of someone standing behind her. She knew immediately who it was. It was Mr. Thomas. As the assistant editor for the Portland Register, William Thomas made it a point to look over the shoulders of paper’s staff of reporters. It wasn’t an act of belligerence or harassment. He just figured that it was his job to take a peek now and then. That way he could head off any problems early. Most of the other reporters hated it. It was an intrusion on their space: micro-management at its worse. However, Jenny wasn’t bothered by it at all. Her only issue with it came in the summer months. That’s when her blouses tended to have a lower cut at the neckline. Then it could be argued about whether he was evaluating what was on the computer monitor or beneath her garments.
“Don’t you think that ‘sissy’ is a bit harsh?”
She spun around her chair and faced the heavyset man in a wrinkled white shirt, a huge red cup in his right hand and an absolutely hideous, neon blue tie. “How about ass-holes?”
“Did your father teach you to talk like that?” His eyes looked like they were about to pop out the lenses of his glasses the moment his ears processed her reply.
“No, my mother did,” Jenny replied with a smirk on her lips, “when she tossed him out with two suitcases, his car keys and a broken guitar.”
“Nice,” Thomas said as he brought that oversized coffee to his lips. “However, I hope you are not going submit that for print without any changes.”
“Why?” She asked as she watched him down half the cup in an open display of his lifelong caffeine addiction.
“Well, it sounds too angry, it insults the majority of our readership and it is mean spirited.”
Mean, she thought, that sounds a little too much like kindergarten talk.
He changed the subject before she could fire off a comment. “Be that as it may, I’m not here to talk about your family history or your article. I have something more important to talk to you about. A gig I think you will enjoy. It’s a field job...I have one for you.”
“Field work,” Jenny leaned back in her chair. “I’m impressed. I thought our budget was too anorexic to handle reporters like little ol’ me going out to the field.”
“Normally, but this is a special case.” He explained, “Senator Cassandra Johnson is going to be in Oregon to throw in her support for Wes Linden.”
Wes Linden, he was the Democrat’s favorite to fill Senator Hardgrove’s vacant seat. Jenny didn’t know that much about the man, but if Senator Johnson liked him, she was sure that she would not. It must be the “right” leaning side of her.
“I thought Zack was your political go-to guy?”
“In most cases he is, but,” he paused to refer to her computer monitor before continuing, “as you put it, he thinks she is the ‘cat’s meow’ and I don’t want him fawning all over her.”
Yeah, Jenny thought, Zack would be licking the Senator’s shoes if given half a chance.
“Really?” Jenny was the master of imitation surprise. “I’m shocked.”
“Look, I want her presented with some hard questions: none of the fluff Zack would be asking, and I know that, of all the reporters here, you are the one that can do it.”
“I know you know I can, but do you really want to unleash me on our poor Senator for the great State of California?”
“I may not sleep for the next couple of days, but I know you will be looking at the story with a fair, unbiased eye.”
“That’s a lot of trust on your part.”
“Just don’t make me regret it.”
“I won’t,” Jenny said with her warmest smile, “and thanks for the job Mr. Thomas.”
“Your welcome.” William Thomas always returned a warm smile for a warm smile. It was the pussycat in him. “I’ll have Laura gather up the Senator’s itinerary and get it to you by noon. Okay?”
Thomas turned to walk away, and then stopped. He turned to face Jenny with a deadly serious look on his face. “Oh, and by the way Jenny…Can we try and not to call her an asshole.”
“Whatever you say, boss.”
With the aid of her excellent peripheral vision, Jenny was able to see a pasty, white skinned face off to her left. This face wore square, black framed glasses that sat too low on a pointed nose. It was also surrounded by a tightly curled mass of rusty looking red hair. Jenny knew instantly who it was. She also had a fairly good idea what was coming next.
“Imagine that,” Rose Davis said as she peered around Jenny’s cubical wall, “having a tea bagger like you interviewing an important person like Senator Johnson. It’s almost a crime.”
Jenny let out a sigh before saying, “Rose, retract the claws and go back to banging you keyboard.”
Rose’s face screwed up into a picture of rage. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Fortunately, it didn’t last long. It went back behind the partition, but not before the woman muttered the word, “bitch,” under her breath.
Jenny turned to her computer. There was a mischievous smile on her lips. With quick fingers she went to her e-mail account and began to write.
The word, bitch, as it is utilized to describe a woman, is considered derogatory. However, when the issuer of this offensive word is of a lesser status to the intended victim, the word can be worn as a symbol of pride. So, whisper this word with caution. You never want to give your enemy a reason to smile.
Have a nice day! ;)
She hit the “send” button with the same vigor as someone launching an ICBM counter attack.
A number of staff members will later recall the sounds that came from Rose Davis’ cubicle. They would call it guttural, almost animalistic, and somewhat scary. Jenny, on the other hand, thought it was music to her ears. How often does one get to rile someone up like that and not have to say a word?
Family owned and operated diners have always been a favorite of mine. They offer good food, reasonable prices and are quietly patronized by local regulars who don’t mind the occasional stranger walking in. That’s the way the Sagebrush Diner was. There was nothing special about it. No fancy tables, lighting or plates. It was simply what some people referred to as a “greasy spoon.” It felt comfortable and that is why I made it a point to stop there when I saw the old place sitting almost by itself just on the outskirts of Bend’s city limits. Besides, it was nearly nine a.m. and I hadn’t eaten a thing since I left the lake yesterday evening.
As I sat at my table, I had to read the newspaper article a second time in order to believe it. Yes, it was in English, but what it was telling me was too bizarre to swallow at the first reading.
“Senator Johnson Visits Scene of Gun Crime”
“On July 5th, Senator Cassandra Johnson (D. Ca)will be giving a speech at the Lakeside Motel, located on Serene Valley lake’s west side. It was here that Redmond resident, Ben Willow was shot to death by two intruders. The two men, Lou Waters and Jimmy Greco, who were from the Chicago area, were also shot to death. This time, the shooting was by an unknown assailant who explained to the motel manager that he had killed the men in response to what they had done to Mr. Willow.
Senator Johnson’s visit coincides with the gun control bill that is going up for a vote in the House of Representatives in two days. It is expected that she will use this time to explain the bill and to use the Willow murders as an example of the tragic violence that is sweeping across the country.”
There was more to the article. A lot of it was about Senator Johnson leading the charge for gun control. Also, it mentioned the assassination of Senator Hardgrove. Lastly, it mentioned how she was expected to announce her support for the Democrat Wes Linden, who was running for Hargrove’s vacant seat. Basically, it was all just page filler to me and I didn’t care. The issue I was interested in was covered right at the beginning. The death of the old man was a tragedy. No one’s life should be ended in such a violent way when it is nothing more than a case of mistaken identity. Mr. Willow deserved more, a hell of a lot more, than a footnote in a politician’s drive to get a bill passed. Especially a bill as screwed up as the gun ban bill.
“So, what do you think?”
I looked up at the person asking the question. It was the Sagebrush Diner’s lone waitress. She was referring to the paper in my hands by slightly tilting the stainless steel coffee carafe just she had just used to refill my cup. I looked at her before responding. She was a blonde with shoulder length hair, extremely cute, with light blue eyes, petit and young. Her nameplate read “Tanya.” I put her age at around twenty and, based on the way her hair, makeup and outfit were all immaculate, I figured that she was a full time college student doing a part-time job. I had to give her kudos for working, but I wasn’t about to give her a truthful answer to her question. College kids equate to strong left leaning opinions and I wanted my bacon and eggs to be warm when I got them.
“It’s interesting,” I replied before adding, “I take it that high-profile people don’t come to Central Oregon that often.”
“Oh, they do, but I’m taking political science right now and our professor is having us follow the gun bill debate.”
Oh, great, I thought with a mental wince. Your professor should have warned you to never discuss politics outside your age group.
She went on to say, “It’s very interesting and to have Senator Johnson giving a speech about it is awesome.”
Awesome? Do kids still use awesome? I had to ask it, even though I really didn’t care. “Are you going to see her speak?”
“I wish,” she told me, “I have to work here.”
“I’m really into following this debate,” she stated with a hint of pride at her dedication. “I think the gun bill will really help end some of the violence we are facing now.”
It sounded like she was quoting the Senator and I didn’t know what to say to that. No, I take that back. I knew exactly what I wanted to say. The only thing stopping me from saying it was the nice guy in me. I didn’t want to hurt a girl’s delicate feelings. So, what could I say? A lie, a half-truth or just keep my mouth shut. Fortunately, the cook saved my ass by announcing, “order up!”
Jenny Selkin had to suppress her urge to shout out in joy as the turbo-prop touched down at the Redmond airport. Her experience in air travel was limited. She had only flown one other time and that was something like twelve years ago. Back then, she traveled with her parents to California and as a kid, she had no idea just how much a pain in the backside air travel can be. Now she knew it all too well. The long check-in lines, the security screening and the half hour delay at the Portland airport had really frazzled her. Adding to the suffering was the twin-engine tin can they had shoehorned her into and the man she was forced to sit beside. This man, who wore a business suit that was at least one size too small for the beer belly he was sporting, spent half the trip reading the Wall Street Journal and the other half looking at everything below the hem of the short black skirt she had mistakenly opted to wear on the trip. Now she felt dirty, tired and more than just a little on edge. She also wondered if she could rent a car to drive back to Portland.
I was finding myself enjoying this little diner. The food was tasty and the setting was relaxing. That is until I finished my bacon and eggs and began to really examine the two men that had been sitting at the counter the entire time I had been there. They were in their mid twenties, average build and wearing grubby looking jeans and baggy, sweat stained t-shirts. Nothing mind boggling there. What set them apart was the fact that they had been nursing their coffees since the moment I walked through the door. Same coffee. No breakfast. Add to that, the fact that I could count on my fingers the number of words they had spoken to each other. It’s true that diners like this one tend to draw all kinds of people, but these two were not acting normal. They were acting as if they had more than coffee on their minds.
“How long have they been here?” I asked Tanya when she came by to top off my coffee.
Tanya didn’t look back at the men. She didn’t need to. They were the only other customers in the diner. “A couple of hours.”
“That’s interesting.” I took a sip of coffee. “Have they bothered to order food?”
She confirmed what I already knew. The two were and had been just sitting there with their coffee. No food was ever ordered.
I asked another question. “Are they regulars here?”
“No. Never seen them before,’ was the reply. I could see in her eyes that her brain was doing some calculating of its own. I could also see that her computations were adding up some unpleasant scenarios.
“Tanya, you’re a nice person, but I think we may have a problem here and I’m about to do something that is really going to piss you off.”
She looked confused and maybe just a little bit frightened by my statement. A look like that never goes well with such a pretty face. That look didn’t last long, however. The moment I grabbed her behind and gave it a robust pinch, she knew exactly what I meant. Confusion and fear were no longer on her face. They had been replaced by a more primal emotion.
“You asshole!” The vocalization of her new mood was immediate. It was also ear splitting.
The men glanced over at us and then at each other. Nothing more and nothing less. Like a couple of zombies with something else on their minds. Something more important that some old man grabbing a girl’s ass.
“You need to get the fuck out of here!”
The cook and the dishwasher were out of the kitchen area in a hurry. Tanya’s scream had sent them into a hyper-reactive mode. They were looking to protect their own. Like mother wolfs out to protect their pup. I could see it in their eyes. There was anger there. I had to give the two women credit. They had no idea what was going on, but they were there to back Tanya up, no matter what.
I pushed my chair from table, stood up and headed for the cash register. While I was doing this, Tanya stepped back and was giving me a look that was borderline homicidal.
“What’s going on?” The cook was the oldest of the three women, mid fifties, and may have been the owner of the place. Her voice was quick and hard when she spoke.
“This asshole just grabbed my rear.” Tanya was not holding anything back as she pointed an accusing finger at me. I was just surprised that it wasn’t the middle finger.
The restraint acquired by age kept the cook from launching a four-letter salvo at me, but the tone in her voice contained more than enough venom to make up for the lack of profanity. “You need to pay your bill and get out before we call the police.”
The two men were not even bothering to watch the show.
The women had gone into a barrage of comments that were all directed at me. According to them, I was a perverted, sick old, child-molesting creep that needed to be locked up for a hundred years, if not forever. It was impressive display. A lesser man would have cowered under the withering fire. Me, I had other things on my mind. However, I did make the effort to appease them with a meek, “I’m sorry,” but this was more of a show for the two men than a real apology. I didn’t want them to think I was in control of the whole situation.
I withdrew the battered leather wallet from my trench coat and opened it up wide. It was an over-exaggerated move. That was the way it was meant to be. The men could see the wad of twenties I kept in there. This was the bait for my little fishing trip. All that was needed was for them to take the bait and that didn’t take long at all. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the uglier of the two nod his head my way. That was the signal to move. It was painfully obvious. At the same time, the two got off the stools and went for their weapons.
“Ok, this is- “Ugly went silent the second he saw Bertha aiming at his broad, somewhat crooked nose.
“A stick up?” I said, “Come on guys. That line is older than I am.”
The women were stunned to the point that their mouths were nearly touching their tennis shoes and their eyes had a lot in common with the diner’s plates. This was all happening too fast for them. I couldn’t blame them though. One second they were viciously badgering a deviant old man and the next, they were seeing that same old man getting the drop on two would be armed robbers. That kind of stuff only happens in low budget action flicks, not in their little eatery.
“Just stay there. “ I was talking to the dishwasher. She was trying to side step herself into a position where she could dive back into the kitchen. “Everything is under control.”
Now back to the robbers. “I want you two idiots to slowly pull out your guns and place them on the counter.”
The two silently complied. They pulled the guns out of the waistbands of their ragged jeans and put them on the counter. They were not looking too happy about it either. When they were done, I noted the type of guns they had been carrying. Damn, I thought Lou’s throwaway revolver was a piece of shit. Not when compared to the battered .22 cal revolver and equally beat up .380 Semi-automatic these morons were packing. Compared to these, Lou’s sub-nose .38 looked like a top-of-line masterpiece of firearm engineering.
With the guns safely on the counter, I could only assume that ugly felt it was time to ask a question. “Are you a cop?”
“No, I’m a writer.” Like I said, I’ve been looking for the career change.
“A writer?” He looked like someone just pissed on his shoes.
I didn’t like the tone of his voice. It sounded like he would rather spit in my face than talk to me. “Yeah, what of it?”
I saw his movements. His eyes twitched to look at the guns and his right hand made a subtle move in their direction. My guess was that he figured the he was more than a match for some silly, ass-grabbing pen jockey. Assumptions like that tend to get people hurt.
“Yes, I’m a writer.” My voice was flat, almost bored sounding. Why? Because, quite frankly, I was. “So let me put a literary spin on this. You are five feet from the muzzle of a Colt M1911A1, I have never been known to miss and you are a finger itch away from having your skull turned into a flowerpot. Right now, your best bet is to get your stupid asses out of here.”
It ended up that my attempt wasn’t ready to snag me a Pulitzer, but it seemed that the cobwebs they relied on for cognitive skills had gotten the point. They forgot the guns, did not take time to pay for the coffee and bolted out of the diner in a performance that would put the Keystone Cops to shame. Unfortunately, it appeared that it was going to be up to me to cover their bill.
The women were not amused. I could see that in their faces when I turned to face them. Tanya was especially not amused. She was looking at me with the rock hard eyes of a woman that was ready to rip out my liver. All that I could do to appease them was to pay the bill. Pay it and get out of there before they recovered from shock and resumed their opinion-laced assault of my character.
I handed the older woman a hundred saying, “this should cover the bill for me and those idiots. The rest is a tip for Tanya.”
“What?” Tanya’s voice was a perfect match for her eyes. “Do you think that’s going to make it okay to grab my ass?”
“No, but I know college kids can always use some extra cash.”
I started walking to the door and Tonya fired off a parting shot. “You’re still an asshole!”
“I know.” I keep walking, but when I reached the door I turned back to face her. “Oh, by the way Tanya, you may want to reevaluate your stand on gun control.”
I stepped out of the diner, secure in the thought that maybe she would take my words to heart.
And to think, I didn’t need to shoot anyone this time.