© 2015 By Bob Litton. All Rights Reserved.
NOTE TO READERS: The gun-pushers in my town are preparing for their annual “Gun and Knife Show” this weekend. The event is similar to a flea market affair where attendees can haggle, swap and sell guns from pistols to rifles and shotguns, as well as various styles of hunting knives and daggers with artistically modelled handles.
This, after all, is “the last frontier” where most of the coffee shop conversations are about cattle, horses, boots, thousand-dollar hats, and guns. This morning, in the coffee shop I most often frequent, the fellows at one table were so excited about the upcoming show that I expected one of them to start handing out cigars, such as new fathers do when their wives deliver.
To help them celebrate, I thought I would write a short-story, which you can read below:
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Mrs. Fopwrangler waited in the foyer of her ranch house for her son to enter from the kitchen, where he was just finishing his cereal.
“Come on now, Jimmy,” she called. “It’s almost time for the school bus, and I want to check out your new school clothes, and I have a surprise for you.”
Jimmy ran to his mother, whom he saw holding a new western belt with a holster latched onto it, and in the holster was a small caliber pistol. It was the gun his father had been teaching him to quick-draw and shoot. He had shot his little sister Elsie in the hand with it a couple of months ago; he hadn’t expected to miss the apple she was holding as his real target. But his parents were more than understanding.
“Don’t give it a second thought, Jimmy,” his father had said. “Doc Leech can fix her up as good as new in no time. Of course, if and when she gets married, she might have to wear her wedding ring on another finger, depending on how effectively Doc Leech reattached the one you hit.”
Today was Jimmy’s first day at school. All the kids were going to be toting their new pistols to school, which the Supreme Court had ruled they have a constitutional right to do. God help the rascal that tries to disarm them.
“But, now, don’t shoot any teachers or the principal, Jimmy,” Mrs. Fopwrangler admonished. “We’ll have to start paying them hazardous duty pay if you kids do that. And they’re already complaining they are underpaid.
“Only shoot armed intruders into the school…or bullies, Jimmy…after you’ve dared them to draw, of course. Gotta be fair, you know. Honestly, not many people are even aware what fair play is anymore! Now here’s your lunch. Get along, cowboy!”
Jimmy stood at the corner for about fifteen minutes. He started to get antsy. Why did he have to go to school, anyway? He figured that everything he needed to know, his pop and mom could teach him…in fact, already had taught him: how to shoot
Finally the bus arrived. The bus driver was some black guy whom Jimmy had never seen before. He was black and he had kept Jimmy waiting fifteen minutes. Jimmy was getting even more irritated; he pressed the palm of his right hand upon the butt of his pistol and gave the driver as steely a blue-eyed glare as any of his cowboy movie heroes had ever mustered.
But the bus driver only smiled and said, “Good morning, Jimmy. Hop in.”
That poured cold water on Jimmy’s heated temper. How did the fellow know Jimmy’s name? What else did he know about him?
After the kids were unloaded at the school, they were arranged in two columns, and little colored ribbons—half of them blue and half red—were pinned to their shirts and blouses. Jimmy got a red ribbon, which pleased him, since in all his six long years he had never liked the color blue. But then the teachers told them that the kids with blue ribbons would be in the “blue bird class” and be called “blue birds”, while those with red ribbons would be called “red birds”. This was to section them off into continuing groups during their first year, one teacher explained, until the teachers could learn their names, and the kids could learn each other’s names.
Jimmy was pleased to see that all the other kids—even the girls—were wearing their holsters, stuffed with pistols; and he was fascinated by the variety of holster designs and presumably calibers of pistols. This looks like it’s going to be a fun day here at school, Jimmy mused. Maybe we’ll have quick-draw competitions. Maybe even some target-shooting.
Well, it did not turn out that way at all. The kids had to sit in stiff-backed chairs with small desks in front of them. They had to memorize numbers and the alphabet. They had to sing songs about America the beautiful and some crazy girl named Clementine who led a bunch of ducks down to a river, tripped on a splinter, fell into the river and drowned. And her boyfriend couldn’t swim, so he didn’t try to save her. This place is loony! thought Jimmy, and he began to get hot under the collar again.
But there was this pretty little red-haired girl sitting across from Jimmy in the next row. He had never seen anything so pretty. Not even his horse. The sight of her sort of made the scene a little less nutsy.
When the bell rang for lunch period, a “blue bird” boy grabbed Jimmy’s lunch sack out of his hand, saying, “I’m bigger than you are, little red bird, and I’m hungrier, too, so I need this lunch more than you do. My dad’s a CEO and we’re one-percenters, so everything we want belongs to us. Got that?”
Jimmy’s eyebrows lowered. His jaw tightened. He was really, really angry. He backed up five paces and held out his right arm.
“Draw!” Jimmy demanded.
The blue bird backed up, too. Even his pistol was bigger. And it had a pearl-inlaid grip.
Both boys fired at the same time. And both missed their intended targets.
The blue bird’s bullet zipped past Jimmy’s ear and hit the vice-principal—who was on his way to prevent the duel—between the eyes.
Jimmy’s bullet also went past his adversary’s ear, ricocheted off a steel fire extinguisher, and hit the red-haired girl in the left side of her chest.
Both boys were taken to the principal’s office, written up with ten detentions each, lectured to about gun-fight protocol, and sent back to their classes.
Meanwhile, all the other students spent the day marveling at what great trick shots those two boys had performed: one right between the vice-principal’s eyes and the other straight into the little red-haired girl’s heart.
Jimmy pondered the situation all day and into the evening. I never got my lunch sack back, he moaned. And I sure am gonna miss that pretty little red-haired girl.
In the darkness of his bedroom, Jimmy quietly sang to himself:
“O my darling, O my darling, O my darling, Clementine!
You are lost and gone forever!
Dreadful sorry, Clementine!”