Saturday, April 29, 2006

Bryan and the Mystery of the Disappearing Playboys

When I moved to Utah, I felt like I was as out of place as a kid could get. That was last year. I’m 14 now so things aren’t that bad anymore.

I guess.

I moved here from California because my parents thought I would have to join a gang or something to get along in school. That was crazy. I’m white and I’m a nerd. Guys in gangs at my old school were tough Hispanic kids. I got offered weed one time, but that’s not like joining a gang. (It was on the playground when I was in fifth grade. I said no.) So, the summer between my last year of elementary school and my first year of junior high, we moved to Utah.

The adjustment to the people was the weirdest part. I’m not Mormon and everyone around here seems to be. I talked to some missionaries, but I really don’t care about going to church. (I’d rather role play at my friends house on Sunday than hear about God. I had plenty of that when I was in Catechism in California.) But it’s not just the religion thing, everyone around here seemed a little bit less like they were living. None of my new friends had even seen a Playboy until I moved in.

I wasn’t some porn-fiend or anything and Playboy isn’t exactly hard-core, but my Dad had had a collection of them going back to before I was born. He still had a subscription that would arrive like clockwork every month in a black plastic bag. The new issue would rest above the toilet in his bathroom while the last months issue would be put in the locked crates in the garage. That’s where he kept his collection.

It wasn’t so hard to get into the locked crates. My hands were small enough to pry open the doors of the crates with one hand and squeeze my other hand in and take out a magazine. When I first moved in to the neighborhood, I had no idea how rare Playboy’s were in the area.
My new friends had only heard about them, they were that scarce. They didn’t faze me anymore, I’d been around them as long as I could remember. In fact, they didn’t even really do anything for me.

But that wasn’t the point. I wanted to show my friends the magazines just so they could have that experience. I felt obligated to.

This story appears as part of the collection "The Cruel Kids: Four Short Stories".  You can get it for the Kindle or the Nook.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Badge and a Gun

This is but a sample of this story.  The complete version is available in my print collection Man Against the Future.  From there, you can order signed copies, or buy it for the Kindle or the Nook.

It was Timmy Johnson’s eighth birthday today and his badge and gun would be arriving by mail some time this afternoon. Everyone received a license to detain or kill evil-doers on their eighth birthday. Eight years old is what they called “an age of responsibility.” It was supposed to keep everyone honest. That’s what they said anyway. When they passed the legislation, those in favor of it asked their constituents, “Who in their right mind would commit a crime if they knew that every citizen around them over the age of eight was carrying a loaded firearm and duly obligated to dispense justice?”

To their credit, the majority of Americans held it in their hearts that this was both foolish and stupid. Sadly though, the majority of their elected officials were in support of the Mandatory Firearms Protection Act of 2081. The majority of Congressmen received money from their campaigns from the National Rifle Association. The National Rifle Association was a group of people, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of them, who got together as often as they could to shoot guns and talk about how great it was to shoot guns and to talk about how sorry they would make anyone who wanted them to stop shooting guns or take them away.

They were gun-crazy.

So, because of this minority of gun-crazed individuals with deep pockets, little Timmy Johnson would be receiving his badge and gun that very day.

Timmy couldn’t wait. Although he couldn’t wait, his mother, Helen, could. She wasn’t very enthusiastic about all of this. She was one of those Americans that thought it was both stupid and foolish to give anyone a gun, let alone an eight-year-old child. She didn’t like guns at all, even hers. She hid her pistol in her nightstand drawer, unloaded and in its holster, as often as she could. She did this despite the fact it was illegal.

Not carrying your Government Issue firearm and badge was an offense punishable by a one thousand dollar fine and up to ten years in jail.

Displaying a reckless disregard for the law, Helen cooked a large, hot breakfast for her family without the aid and comfort of her gun. As her husband arrived at the table with his morning paper she was laying out this feast of pancakes and eggs and hash browns and bacon and French toast and milk and orange juice and coffee. Fred Johnson had stopped arguing with his wife about the bad example she set, vis-à-vis her gun. He’d given up threatening to report her a long time ago.

Sitting down with a sigh, he folded his newspaper around to the third page. “War, war, war. That’s all they seem to print these days and I’m tired of reading about it…”

“Well, you know dear,” Helen offered after she set down a skillet of crispy bacon, “that’s what’s going on in the world.”

“Mm-hmm…” He ignored her and continued reading between bites of breakfast and gulps of coffee.

The next to sit down at the table was Billy, Timmy’s older brother. Both he and his father were wearing their pistols in leather shoulder holsters. Billy had received his gun in the mail four years prior on his eighth birthday. He still had four more years until he could get behind the wheel of an automobile.

“Morning, Mom. Morning, Pop.”

“Good morning, Billy,” his mother echoed.

Fred merely nodded, then added, “Hmmm…”

“Billy, be sure to say Happy Birthday to your brother. He’s terrified you’ll forget.”

Exasperated, Billy rolled his eyes. “Mo-o-o-m… How could I forget? It’s all he’s been jawin’ about for the last three months.”

“I know, I know. But I’m your mother, dear. I worry about things like that. And I worry sometimes that you aren’t good enough to your brother.”

“He’s lucky I ain’t shot ‘im.”

Helen dropped a bowl of pancake batter on the floor, her face instantly streaming tears of appalled shock. These words out of her eldest sons mouth cut her deeply. “William Leroy Johnson, don’t you dare say something like that. You promised me you’d never say such things.”

“But, I got a right to, if’n…”

Fred interceded, cutting Billy off, “William. Listen to your mother. I’ve had plenty of reasons to shoot you, but have I?”

Red with shame and staring at his plate of hash browns, Billy allowed only two words to squeak out: “No, Dad.”

“That’s right. It’s because I’m your father and I love you. And you should love your brother the same way.”

“I know, I know…”

“I don’t want to hear anymore about shooting your brother again. How can I enjoy my paper if you keep scaring your mother half to death?”

The complete version is available in my print collection Man Against the Future.  From there, you can order signed copies, or buy it for the Kindle or the Nook.

It can also be read in the book God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut. It is available digitally and in print.