I’ve been especially stymied in writing by a series of unfortunate events that would make Lemony Snickets wince in sympathetic ball-pain. Some of this is good pressure, others is bad pressure. No matter, it all must be borne and overcome. Most of it is professional, and most of it I can’t really talk about. One thing is only partially private, and I can talk about it if I want to .
So, let’s see if I can buy off my laziness of the last few months on this blog by letting you in on some juicy mental damage.
The Story of how I became BATMAN. Or: Pinched nerves on $0 a day!
I work at a sporting goods retailer, normally spelled G-U-N S-T-O-R-E to most people in America. Don’t be surprised. Quite a few entertainers are gun enthusiasts, both living and dead. That being said, I actually sell firearms, and manage a gun range in Cincinnati, Oh.
A few days ago, I get a frantic call from a woman I’ll call Beth. Beth called in breathlessly, saying Clyde was coming in, Clyde had made threats against her and himself. He was armed, and was planning to shoot himself on the range.
We get this call once or twice a year. Never does the guy ever show. So I had no problem telling her that we would do all that we could, but that was very little. She needed to CALL THE POLICE. The police, after all, are the professionals. They are trained and paid to handle this kind of feces next to this particular brand of oscillating ventilator. I warned my coworkers and… yep, dude shows up.
I check the load in my 1911 just in case things get super hairy, make sure the safety is engaged – twice – and holster it with the firm knowledge that even a .45 is in no way a bullet proof vest. But all was for naught. I get up front and Clyde is… normal. Very normal. End of a long work day normal. As I explain that I can’t let him go out on the range, he is upset, but not unreasonably so, and he’s angry, but not anywhere near out of control, or at me. You see I have a fair bit of experience with abusive relationships. Abusers blame the person in front of them, begin crossing lines in an attempt to bully people into submission, and transfer responsibility for transgressions to the victim. This guy did none of this.
He just looked at me wryly and asked, “Do you have an ex-wife?”
It was then I was sure I had been hosed. The facility where I worked had a contract with this guy. He had paid a tidy sum to be able to come in and shoot. He had self defense equipment he wanted to test. And he was a firefighter.
If you have read this blog a long, long time, you know I have a soft spot for firefighters. It takes a special kind of crazy to enter an inferno looking to pull people that can only be described as dead or deader on any kind of Schrödinger scale, cat or no. This was a guy that did the job of my Father. I kinda had to help if I could.
So I offered to go out on the range with him. In the interest of safety I would be there and in that way I could… well, I didn’t really think it that far ahead. So there we were, out on the range. He had a Glock 19, a black polymer pistol in a hybrid inside the waistband holster on one hip. He put his target out at seven yards – pretty far for emergency self defense practice, really – and started his routine of: Draw. Aim. Shoot. Shoot. Check. Holster.
Again and again, Draw. Aim. Shoot. Shoot. Check. Holster. Draw. Aim. Shoot. Shoot. Check. Holster. Draw-Aim-Shoot-Shoot-Check-Holster. Draw-Aim-Shoot-Shoot-Check-Holster. Draw-Aim-Shoot-Shoot-Check-Holster. Every time, I watch two empty pieces of brass arc out of the weapon, spent. All this time, I am not watching his target. I am not watching the holes appear. I am watching the gun.
And every tendon in my body is thrumming as if conducting 10,000 volts.
Because from the very first moment, I realize that the motion that brings a gun out of the holster and snaps it onto target needs so little modification to put it into a mouth, or under a chin. Or even point it backwards to lame the chubby little manager behind him so that he can continue to Valhalla unimpeded.
Faster than a set of flash-bumper scenes out of a cheesy action movie, I had begun gaming the situation. How to grab the gun, where to wrestle it, how to disable it, where in the hell I would point it!
Before his second set of shots I realized that I had judged the man, then allowed him entry onto an active range with dozens of men, women, and children who were all merrily practicing the shooting sports, no idea why the fat guy on lane two was staring so intently, sweat pouring off of him.
Then a call from the range counter over the industrial strength P.A.
DID THESE GUYS NOT KNOW THAT I WAS ON THE FREAKING LANE WITH A GUY WHO MIGHT AT ANY TIME KILL HIMSELF OR OTHERS?!
I ran outside. Exwife had called again. Hysterical.
To hell with her.
I was with the guy with a gun.
My orders were simple: She calls the cop and fills out a report like a civilized person or she shuts the f#@k up. They were not to call me again. Get the other manager.
If something happens tell my wife and kids I love them.
“Wait-” You say? “You said he was all sane and some junk? So why so much worry?”
Yes, of course! Yes, he was sane, yes, I thought he was getting screwed by his ex (especially as the minutes dragged on and the police never showed). But sure in the store, and sure where the lead was flying is something entirely different. Reminds me of the old saw about no Atheists in foxholes.
In any case, I went back out there, and groaned inwardly as Linden (I thought his name was Clyde? SHUT UP! NOT IMPORTANT!) The firefighter was pulling four more boxes of ammunition from his plastic bag.
I did engage in a little mental slight of hand. I gave him pointers to getting better shots, bringing them down and back onto the target. Drawing and firing is not as easy as you have ever seen it in the movies, even on a range. He listened, and his groups moved downward and began to shrink. (To non gun fans: this is good.)
Him taking the advice was a good sign. I was making a connection with him, lessening the chance of him plugging me. He was trying, making the idea of him ending it all just now even more remote.
But as the bullets counted down, I was reminded that sometimes it takes time to build up the courage to do something. Especially the last something. If it was going to happen, every bullet made it more inevitable, more immediate, rather. Of course I had a gun, but it wasn’t as if shooting the poor guy was the best way to stop him from shooting himself. Keano Reeves aside, it was a cave man solution without a hint of elegance.
Still, I was there, knees bent, hands relaxed, away from the body, breathing shallow – the smell of burnt gunpowder everywhere as the snap and crack of a dozen guns providing the soundtrack to my heart.
I am certain I have mentioned once or twice that I am an author. This job is basically to come up with worst case scenarios. Of course, right now worse could be pretty damn bad. And then I thought up worse, and worse.
And then, just like that, he was done.
He shook my hand, we chatted for a few minutes. (the man equivalent of: women, what can you do?… which now that I think of it is exactly: women, what can you do?) I went home and had a few stiff drinks, as sore as if I had been wresting with the entire cast of whatever mutated collection of W’s and F’s now represent Hulk Hogan and his ilk.
And then he left. A current search reveals no murder-suicides, no messy car crashes, no arrests, nothing. But the next morning. I was batman.
Nope, no the cool gadgets. No superpowers, megacomputers, or tank like jumping cars. I couldn’t turn my head. My whole torso had to turn to bring my head around without blinding pain. In fact this has just stopped about 5 days later. Still tender. Stress still there.
I realize on some level that I risked a room full of innocent people on my judgment. I’m the manager on duty. Maybe I had that right, maybe I didn’t. I just hated the idea that some faceless (CENSORED) robbing a good guy of what he wanted to do with his evening simply due to a factless, baseless charge is a big part of what’s wrong with societies.
Societies justify. Societies play the numbers. Groups limit the individual based on odds, on rumor, on hearsay. They use nonsense terms like “The greater good”. There is no greater good. There is only good. Only evil. Only personal good and personal evil. Being in a group does not magnify nor spread the blame. Everyone must answer for their own actions.
I believe this with every fiber of my being.
In order to continue believing it, I put myself in harms way.
I would not have let him hurt anyone without action. I would have put myself in the way of the bullets to keep him, to keep everyone around him, safe. That’s a hard thing to admit, because no matter how true, or how humble, it sounds like absolute bullshit in the light of day. It sounds like bragging.
All I can say is its been most of a week, and only now can I move my neck. It doesn’t feel like bragging. It feels like one of the most terrifying hours of my life. It feels like sour sweat and sore muscles.
But today, tonight, tomorrow and for the rest of my life, I know where I stood.
Just like I know that some stupid (CENSORED) will one day answer for calling the fat guy at the gun store, lying to him, and taking years off his life.
I haven’t blogged in weeks. I’m not sure why I tell this, other than it’s the story I have. I have to pass it on.
I’m not sure what that says about me.