Fire and Aim

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


The biennial convocation of the United Defenders of Free Global Peace and Religious Enterprise, blessed by hordes of true believers fronting for multitudes sweltering on the surface of many ginormous continents, convened at the Boogaloo Lodge on the placid shore of the Punch River near lovely Poonch, Kashmir. Coincidentally, though none were burdened by superstitious nonsense like coincidence, the main event occurred on the hallowed eve known to backward Christian blasphemers as Halloween. There were Himalayan mountains in the backdrop as well as scenic streams and associated valleys to provide depth perception. Shelves containing gilded books in archaic languages no one was able to read were solemn as decoration in breakfast nooks and dark hallways. Spooked delegates afraid of ethereal heights preferred the certifiable three star Star Hotel downtown. Despite ritualistic beefs pursued for centuries, and though no beef was served in grudging deference to untouchable Hindus manning the buffet, it turned into one hell of a rousing good time for scads of badged attendees. Colors of skins in panoramic group photos saturated a spectral range from ebony to ivory. A pleasant day trip enjoyed by authorized delegates featured a catered visit on a soot smeared train to the coal mines of the Pir Panjal Range. The faux bento box included large orders of curly fries, chicken feet, and pickled kumquats. Seconds were available a la carte at wholesale prices. Tipping was prohibited by law. In the prelims, there were social climbing Zoroastrians getting on with swinging Sufis, Maronites high fiving Ethiopians, Moonies digging wacky Bahais to the max. Though Shias and Sunnis refused to rub up next to skins of infidels, holier than thou Ibadis stepped in to offer hugs and noogies all around.

 

One topic on which unanimity was not difficult to reach came in the official proclamation excoriating the damnable Jews as the sole cause of all war, famines, pestilence, and disease. Like, duh. Who else? Though that did not prevent the heaviest hitters once prayers for vengeance were adjourned from lining up in front of the trade show booth featuring the hostess with the mostest, Griselda, where business got right down to the real nitty gritty, guaranteed, sort of. Izzy's Like New Used Uzis was always a hot spot among those in the know. As an appeal to all comers, the booth was modeled after a gauzy Bedouin tent. Griselda knew her way in and out of the many secret compartments, Izzy was well known to deliver reliable quality at a fair price. He often picked up the tab at the Boogaloo Lounge of the Boogaloo Lodge. He understood without asking who knew what and what they wanted. Can't beat a Jew like that with a lickin' stick.

 

Izzy, during a lull, was shooting the shit in English with a vendor he'd met at the previous historic convocation on Komodo Island in Indonesia, a mellow dude repping a high end line of 100% silk vestments with gold embroidery and braid, very high quality goods, small minimums, hand made in China by ethnic woman with tiny hands. What kind of ethnic, you might ask? Who knows? Ethnic is ethnic to the majority Han. China is full of them.

 

Gabriel, the only one of the man's several intertwined names that Izzy could attempt to pronounce, was a moonlighting Priest of the Syriac Orthodox Church of San Jose, Priestly salaries are just so-so, and at times a real test of faith, but he made out. He'd invested years ago with his brother-in-law in a rented parcel to grow plums and garlic near Gilroy and a cold storage warehouse in Watsonville. He added a duplex in Alum Rock on his own. It needed some work but had easy access to both 101 and 680. Then real estate in the Bay Area went sky high. His sister did the often complicated books for tax purposes. Being a priest helped in that area.

 

He and Izzy were discussing connections to Silicon Valley, a grandson of Izzy who was an engineer at Google, but disgruntled, and the grandchildren of Gabriel, a firefighter who lived in San Leandro but worked in Milpitas, a pharmacist in Morgan Hill, a high school math teacher in Alameda, and an insurance agent in Pleasanton, all proclaimed atheists. Izzy could not pronounce any of their names. The firefighter was looking for a new job. He too was disgruntled. The constant smell in Milpitas was getting to him. The mayor claimed the city staff was trying hard every day but can't figure it out. Is it the dump referred to as a landfill? Is it the sewer plant referred to as a wastewater facility? Or is it the other dump referred to as a recycling plant right next door?

 

"They don't understand hardship."

 

"We gave them too much."

 

"Now, they take it for granted."

 

"Not like what we knew growing up."

 

"Take us for granted."

 

"That's where we went wrong."

 

Gabriel's brother-in-law, Manny, owned a small trucking company in Watsonville, four semis, all paid off, with steady customers shipping produce to Southern California all year round. He used the refrigerated warehouse to store seasonal apples, artichokes, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, before shipping. Manny's wife, Rose, devout sister of the priest, kept a separate set of books as clean and pure as virgin oil. She kept no less a spotless home. She was a regular at her brother's church each Sunday. Manny? Not so much. Or more accurately, not ever. Each week, she tried. She prayed for the intercession of Mor Gregorious Bava, the illustrious father of Malankara. Manny liked to joke he was only good for pounding nails and digging holes in the garden. He teased her about it. But, she was never going to give up on him, or the holes in his immortal soul.

 

The favorite nephew of both Manny and Rose, the firefighter, whose crazy shifts included twenty four hour days on call, along with periods of four days off, was a frequent overnight guest at their comfy home on a knoll in Corralitos. The morning fog spread out below like a pillowy omforter as balm. He relished the slow cooked brisket for lunch at Aptos St. Barbecue after a thrashing by the surf at Pleasure Point. He had no hassles with the territorial locals who were used to him. The man was no pushover like the wussy techno-yups gentrifying the beach shacks on the cliff. He could climb a ladder and carry another man on his back. He could bench press nearly twice his own weight. He liked to spend many evenings at the Corralitos Brewing Company. Manny liked to join him there more often than not.

 

Gabriel was not sure how he came to be asking Izzy for a favor originating from a friend of a friend of his brother-in-law at a brewery he'd never patronized at the behest of his grandson son who would still swear he was no atheist when confronted. Gabriel knew he was lying, and not for the first time, but what can you do? Purer than water, blood washes blood.

 

Izzy surprised him by saying, "No problem at all."

 

Izzy only had to do what he does. Gabriel never had to know any more than nothing. It was a perfect fit, loose like his majestic silk robes. Rose never had to find out. She didn't need aggravation like that. Manny had his tab picked up by party or parties unknown. Cash on the table in a back room as slick as goo. Go figure odds, ends, ways, means. The firefighter too, a much larger tab. What he figured was the deal was pretty sweet. He ordered one for the road. Can't beat that with a lickin' stick. A job closer to the head high waves at Pleasure Point that don't stink would be nearly perfect, he mused. He was sitting on a warm patio overlooking a strawberry field. He enjoyed sitting on the patio in balmy November. He savored the warmth. The strawberries smelled sweet.

 

Figuring and re-figuring again, he re-figured what, where, when, and most importantly why ask why, and ordered another, a Humble Brewing double dry-hopped foggy IPA, birthed on the Westside of Santa Cruz, and not for the road, because he decided to stay another night, fill out a few applications in Santa Cruz County where the air and ocean remained free and clear and perhaps came as a calling to a firefighter anxious to breathe deeply and receive more than what's due.

 

At a table on the patio he was discussing the health of fringe benefits with a pair of local EMT's when distracted by a vision that equaled the aroma.

 

He declared, "Sweet."

 

"You talking to me?"

 

He was unaware he'd been so obvious. The yin twin, Jin, was amused. She was accustomed to habits of the obviously unaware male of the species. She had mastered how to maneuver head to butt to head next to one in the womb. When the bozo is a clown, laughter is the only sensible response. Sharp elbows and a quick mind help, too. It's only fair to point fingers at a baggy pair of pants falling down to expose a fat ass. When she laughed, she showed her straight teeth. Then, with purpose, she walked on.

 

She sat facing a chronically cranky codger, not yet qualified as old, known for protecting his space. He made an exception for her. He might pucker for a sloppy kiss but on principle did not participate in rote, meaningless hugs. Real affection was reserved for his likeness, The First Person Singular. He did not fake it. The mirror did not lie. It required polishing every day. He never in his crotchety existence uttered, "Have a nice day."

 

He said, "You just missed your old man."

 

Because drinking fresh and hoppy ale with a doddering dad does not constitute a peak experience while treading waves between what was, is, and will be, according to standard strung out theory, she avowed, "Good timing for me."

 

"How's business?"

 

"Seriously?"

 

"He says he knows a guy.."

 

"He just can't be stopped from saying the stuff he says."

 

"Who might need plans to be drawn."

 

"My plan is to stay available."

 

Newly licensed as an architect by the State of California, though possessing no known address to hang a shingle, she was willing to stoop to any low level. She had no desire to work for a boss other than the one strategically located atop her shoulders, and suffered for such archaic beliefs. Historically, to tell the yin twin what to do might lead to trouble. Or was that forgotten history prehistoric? Why would a free floating body ask why and why not while adrift?

 

The First Person Singular often asked why not. He heard tunes in his head that kept him up at night and then again the next day on the afternoon blues show. He was no dreamer, though. He did not speak ill of what he could not remember. He blamed the government.

 

"Blood is thicker than mud."

 

"You're scraping the bottom."

 

"You're lucky to have the liberty and the freedom, both."

 

"I hear you say that to all the girls."

 

You might ask how can it be, when delineating with surety between past, present, and future, that time and space are not conditions in which we live, but modes in which we think? Is that what happens to the only species on a formerly green planet that does not know how to act natural?

 

Also suffering for outmoded systems of belief to worship, the neophyte buyers of the second hand Uzis were seeking comfort. Deliverance was late. They were huddled under a pair of queen size fuzzy blankets in the back of a GMC Yukon XL Denali, expecting to sate a future to the gills. These were the same techno-yuppie dweebs permitted at no time on the spacious patio at the Corralitos Brewing Company. Each was wearing a plasticized John Deere cap highlighted in neon green. No brims were turned backwards. All were adjustable. One size does not fit all, not ever. They sat at a table pushed against a wall next to a trough of dirty silverware when permitted at all. Earlier, they were 86'd for gross offenses against aesthetics, a crime against her nature to touchy Diane behind the bar. One strike was enough to be called out.

 

But, it would not matter so much to any of the chosen once the Uzis arrived. A small humiliation was fleeting. Craig, for one, didn't feel a thing. Others felt only slightly otherwise.

 

Keefe wanted to be boss. He was one smoking hot pistol of an engineer who did not have to commute to Cupertino like the rest of these stooges. His big head hummed with electrical engineering. The back seat was a place to start. He yearned to hold and caress the Uzi in his arms. He said, "Listen, because I know the most."

 

Barney was a pediatric podiatrist, moderately well regarded in his narrow field, though not when, as currently, drunk. He had to piss bad. That was important. He provided the conduit to the link to the symbiotic relationship with the Roly-Holy-Poly Church of Faith and Devotion in Immersion. He knew by inter-marriage a high up mucky muck. That had to be worth something.

 

Craig, the only hybrid among them, had fewer emotions to be involved, and was going along to get along. What harm could it do?

 

Craig, of course, on a night like this, would have preferred to enjoy the balm astride his late model John Deere under vaporous outdoor lighting. Hybrids had to expect sacrifices, though. Unless Fred was a hybrid as well. Fred was on alert. He could have fooled anyone. Barney had to climb over him to get out. When a man's gotta, a man's gotta. Fred claimed he shot lots of guns plenty of times, no biggie. The population of hybrids was increasing though who knew how many? No surprise there. Many hybrids seemed to prefer cheapo Toyota Sequoias made in Japan. Top of the Toyota line, but still. Keefe drove a Range Rover, not like a stooge. Craig's late model John Deere S240 was still better than many but Barney's John Deere was a later model, an X330 with 23 mighty stallions under the hood, and an 18 inch cut and sewn seat to pamper his fat ass. The GMC Yukon parked on the cart path adjacent to the lucky seventh hole at Spring Hills Golf Course in which they huddled also belonged to Barney. He also had a big head. His big head was filled with images of tender young ankles stretched out on his padded table. Though filled, there is always room for more. You can take a head like that to the bank. He knew the seventh as one nasty bitch of a par 3. He was careful to avoid the sand trap guarding the dogleg to his right. He did not know why the fuck this hell hole was called lucky.

 

As it turned out, Fred was not fooling. He put his alertness to good use. Not a man huddled in fuzz was not urgently yearning to be set free. Too much togetherness is not conducive to acute mental activity among fidgety men. These men were professionals. Beginning with the headlights in his eyes, now visionary Fred described what he saw coming.

 

"I see a shape. It's dark. It may be black. I can't see."

 

Perhaps those with a functioning aesthetic gene would refer to sleekness. Poetically, none of the unfree had one to share. Handicapped by an imbalance caused by excessive exposure to concentrated dweebery, Fred did not recognize the grumble of a vintage hearse. Somewhere someone was pissed off about some thing and on the prowl. Pairs of flares seared like rockets red glare, ready for blastoff from the sleek fins. Yes there was sleekness. On one flank of the black Caddy a rider on a Harley-Davidson as an escort. He was shaped like a keg of beer. On another flank of the black Caddy a rider on a Harley-Davidson as an escort. He was shaped like a barrel of beer. Flags rippled as they flew. Colors matched. Santa Cruz Charter of the Hells Angels since 2002.

 

The all smiles Reverend Wright Goochy driving the Caddy remained behind the wheel. He represented the wholly united congregation of the Roly-Holy-Poly Church of Faith and Devotion in Immersion. He closed his eyes and leaned back. His hair too was sleek. He was wearing ear pods. There was an irresistible beat. The huge engine smoothly idled. This wasn't going to take long.

 

The rumpled buyers stood in the fairway rough and shivered, trying to shake life into numbed limbs. The Hells Angel shaped like a keg ignored and them and ogled the GMC.

 

"Whose truck?"

 

Barney volunteered,"Mine."

 

"What size catalytic converter?"

 

"I'm not sure. I didn't know there were sizes."

 

"Oh, there are sizes all right. I bet big."

 

He knew where he could get a thousand bucks for the metals in a catalytic converter that size, maybe more if he squeezed hard.

 

"Maybe I'll want to take it for a test ride."

 

"I don't understand."

 

"That's funny."

 

His associate, the barrel of a man, tapped his wrist the size of a spiral baked ham and got down to the real nitty-gritty. He was a doer. He had more to do.

 

"You got the cash?"

 

Each obedient dweeb produced a wad to wave with sheepish pride. Smiles all around. No downers. Keefe counted his out loud. Not even dour Craig. A success. No stopping us now.

 

"Hand it over."

 

"Don't we get to see what we're buying first?"

 

"Seriously? Uhhh..no."

 

"You see? This dweeb is funny."

 

"What do you mean, no?"

 

"You're right. The dweeb is funny."

 

"Only shits for brains don't know what no means."

 

"It's a sad case."

 

"I bet all these dweebs are funny."

 

"No big deal."

 

"Sad case solved."

 

"We got plenty of room in the coffins."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Submitted: December 06, 2021

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