Flash Fiction #65

Ostrich

PHOTO PROMPT © David Stewart

OSTRICH

Fourteen years ago, old Mr. Miller closed that gate, went in the house, and no-one’s seen him since.

He had a well drilled, and a hand water-pump installed. The power and phone companies cut him off. The County has tried to evict him for taxes, but he ignores the notices they leave on the gate.

The bank transfers his pension money to the grocery store. He leaves lists, and they deliver boxes of food which disappear overnight.

Twin Towers

He’s got no radio, TV, cell phone, internet or social media. Doesn’t he know about all the great things there are out here.

Terrorist

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

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Gun Safety vs. Gun Control

 

Colt 1911

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr. Government;

Please roll me up in bubble-wrap, and put me in a big box full of non-toxic packing-foam peanuts, so that nothing – not even a bad word – can hurt me.

***

Recently, some Idiot (a woman, as it turns out – just to disprove female claims that all Idiots are male.), managed to get herself shot to death in an American Wal-Mart, when her 2-year-old son reached into her purse, beside him in the shopping cart.

She was described in local papers as “an atomic scientist.”  She was a chemical technician who worked at a power plant.  This is not Big Bang Theory!  She was an ‘atomic scientist’ in the same way a homeless panhandler is a “Charitable Donations Canvasser.”  Still….

In an outpouring of telling others how to run their country and their lives, a Toronto area man sent the following letter to the Toronto Sun, titled More Gun Control:

I just read about the tragic death of a 29-year-old mother in a U.S. Walmart.  She was shot by her two-year-old after the youngster pulled a gun out of his mom’s purse.

I can’t think of any reason why it would be necessary to bring a loaded gun to go shopping.  What a waste of life, not to mention the emotional scars this child is going to have to deal with the rest of his life.

The NRA and its lobbyists need to be muzzled and better gun controls in the U.S. are long overdue.  There’s been too many of these senseless events for far too long.

I agree that it was a sad and preventable occurrence, but this writer leads a far too protected life, and uses way too many hysterical mistakes and lies to justify it.  Even the term “loaded gun” is a loaded term.  Can he think of a reason to bring an ‘unloaded gun’ shopping?  The title is another flag to show his bias.  He doesn’t advocate ‘Greater Gun Safety’.  He demands ‘More Gun Control.’

Through lack of forethought and research, I recently spent a weekend in a dangerous part of Detroit.  This was near Eight Mile, where the white rapper Eminem got street cred by growing up in a tough Negro area.

My motel had an armed security guard patrolling after dark.  My place was quiet, but the downscale motel directly across the street was well known for gunshots and police and ambulance calls.  The pizza shop on Eight Mile had floor-to-ceiling, half-inch thick, bullet-resistant Plexiglas.

The ‘Trade Center’ (more like a cheap flea market) that we went to on Sunday, had signs on the doors which read, “All hoods must be removed on entering”, and “We will provide a security escort to your vehicle, but we will not carry merchandise.”

As an unarmed Canadian tourist, I was very careful where I went, and when.  I can understand and sympathise with local residents who feel the need to carry firearms to protect themselves from gangbangers and drug dealers.

If even the Trade Center management feels the need to provide protective escorts, there must be a good chance that there might actually be someone in the parking lot to protect from.  I might not need a handgun while I’m shopping, but if there’s someone out there who wants to rob/rape/kill me before I get to my car, then I might need the gun when I leave the store.

Just what further “gun control” does this conservative Canadian feel Americans need?  The woman in question underwent a background check, and endured the 10-day waiting period.  She paid for, and enrolled in, a concealed weapon carry permit training session.  She was psychologically stable, and the weapon was duly registered.

Sadly, stupidity still carries the death penalty, and she’s posthumously (there’s no other way) enrolled in the Darwin Award hall of shame.  While she might have been intelligent enough to work at a nuclear generating plant, neither training nor legislation can instill common sense.

To have a loaded gun is one thing.  To have a loaded gun with several children around, including a busy, curious two-year-old, is something else entirely.  The story does not say if the purse was open, but even if it was closed, she was not paying sufficient attention to the child and the gun, sitting side by side.  The gun was not merely loaded, but almost surely must have been cocked, and the safety off.  Little two-year-old hands can’t do these things.

Just what ‘senseless events’ is he referring to, the accidental shooting death of a mother by a young child?  I don’t ever remember hearing of another!  Perhaps he could worry less about the NRA’s somewhat overzealous desire to preserve the legal right to possess firearms, and vent his indignation on gangs and druggies and other criminals who make carrying them seem like a good idea.

And that’s a view on Gun Control vs. Gun Safety from a grumpy, old, unarmed Canadian, north of the border.

Winter Vacation – Part II

We each got a couple of hours nap Friday afternoon, but both our sleep schedules were F..ouled up.  Son wants to hit the hay at 11 PM – I still want to read a newspaper and do a crossword.  Can’t do that in the room, so I take my stuff and go over to sit in the lobby, only to find it locked.  I eventually located a second vending machine room with only an ice machine…and a nice little bench, ta-da!

Afternoon clerk Stephanie was white. Now I get to meet and speak with Miss Annie, an impressive, older Negro lady.  Even older than me, she’s 72.  The clerk at the Taylor motel has been there 27 years.  Miss Annie has been here over 30, and finally plans to retire near the end of this year.  Nice lady, but she don’t take no shit.  I also met and talked with Mark, the armed Negro security guard.  Tough neighborhood, remember?

While we were conversating, a young man walked in, and said, “I want a room for the night.”  I’m sorry sir, we’re all full.  But I have a reservation.  What’s your name sir?  Xxx Yyy!  I’m sorry sir; I can’t find a reservation in that name.  He pulled out a tiny scrap of paper, and said, “Here’s my confirmation number.”  Well, ya coulda led off with that, and your name, instead of just asking for a room.

I print the entire page and present it to the clerks, because it gives every last iota of needed information.  I’m sorry sir; I can’t find a reservation here under that number; are you sure it’s correct?  I’m very sure; check again.  She tapped away for a few seconds, and finally told him, Yes sir, you do have a reservation – at the Plymouth Red Roof, 25 miles from here.  And he was sober – maybe just a brain freeze.

I spent a few dollars extra to get a room with a microwave and fridge.  After boring myself sleepy, I returned to the room – and bed, only to find that the fridge has a loud annoying buzz when it runs.  Woke us up two or three times during the night.  The second night I unplugged it, and we both slept much better.

Up at 8, we both had toast and juice, and I made myself a hot chocolate to take with me in a thermos, to the show.  I went over to the office to add some of their coffee, to make a mocha, and met Aletha, another young Negro gal.  Never met a stranger.  The only clerk we missed was Brian, because he doesn’t work weekends.

I-696 to the show venue ran right behind the motel.  Getting on was almost as easy as falling out of the parking lot.  I remembered to take the camera.  Signs on the front doors insisted, “No outside food or drink!”  I slipped the hot chocolate into my inside jacket pocket, and didn’t sip till I was way back at the back, where no officials could see.

I was irked by the fact that every second vendor had a Dunkin Donuts coffee, or Starbucks, or hotel coffee in a thermos.  I saw one guy making a roast beef and cheese sandwich, but I can’t bring in food or drink?  The WTF factor is going up.

Last year I could access my blog from computers in the entryway, but this year they were locked out, to access only the Center’s site.  After paying, and entering the display hall, I was faced with a sign that said, “No cameras allowed without the permission of the show manager.”  I left mine in my shirt pocket.

Halfway around, I met a woman waving her cell phone camera.  Some of the dealers threw a little impromptu birthday party for a compatriot, and everybody got a picture taken.  I just got the sign….and rising blood pressure again.

One of the knife dealers explained that the anti-gun nuts come to shows and take photos of the plethora of firearms and publish them as “proof” that we’re all going to die in a gigantic shoot-out.  If I had asked the show manager, I would probably have been allowed to take pics, although some gun vendors have table signs which insist, “No Photos!”

There were even fewer hand-made knives, and more “rusty jackknives.”  I took photos of all the interesting knife collections last year, so I didn’t use the camera.  I think we’ve had it with this show.  Unless we can find a show in Zanesville or Cincinnati, I think the wife and I will wait for good weather and just go to Detroit for shopping and a getaway.

It snowed on the way to the venue, and while we were there.  As we were leaving, it was changing to freezing rain.  I’m maybe a bit better at driving in that shit, but the 25 mile trip back was interesting.  One guy just fell off the road and tangled with an overpass support, ripping off his rear bumper, and throwing the back wheel across the freeway.

Since we didn’t want any of the over-priced, captive-audience, crap food at the venue, we stopped at a McDonald’s on the way home.  My bill ended in 43 cents – and I still had that 42 cents left from yesterday.  I picked a penny up off the counter that the previous customer didn’t take, and my pocket was now completely empty.

And then I leaned down and picked a penny off the floor – and went back to the motel and sat on the bed, and picked up a penny beside the other bed.  Later that night, when I went for another walk, I was telling Mark, in the vending room, about keeping my eyes open, and picked a dime off the floor.

The next day, at a Meijer’s store I found a quarter and a penny on a self-checkout bagging platform, and later used my knife to pry a nickel out of a 25 cent gumball machine.  The reason it was there may have been because it was Canadian, but the pocket’s getting heavy again.  Somewhere I picked up a brass game token.  I wonder if the son remembers where.  I don’t.

After another nap, we decided to go out for supper.  While we didn’t want to eat there, the wife had requested a blooming onion from Outback, so we started there.  I had researched online maps, and driving instructions, including Google Street-view.  Son fed the address into Miss GPS and got, “Accessing satellites….accessing satellites…. cannot access satellites.”  Oh, yeah.  Snow/rain storm.  We found it the old-fashioned way, by looking.

Tomorrow we’re going to, not one, but two, Trade Centers.  Anybody want to come along?  I’ll buy a hot pretzel, with mustard.

Book Review – #1

I don’t know if my lazy, forgetful ass will get around to doing the occasional book review, but if it does, I’ve started off correctly numbered.  Actually, this blogging thing is cutting into my reading time.  Here it is, the first week of March, and I’ve only read ten books so far this year.  Sparklebumps did a post about some of the books she read last year.  I didn’t keep a list, but I’ve started one for this year.  If the blog and I are still around after New Years, I’ll give you a glimpse of the drivel I read.

With the release of a Jack Reacher movie, I became aware of the series of books.  I decided that I’d like to start with book number one, and work my way up through the character development.  The good Scottish lad could buy one at a bookstore – or just check to see what’s free at the library.  There are several copies available, including a large-print version at the nearest branch.  I put in a reservation for it.  The large print is easier for the old eyes, and there are only 5 people ahead of me in line, instead of 27 for the paperback version.

After a bit over a month, I got notified that I could pick it up.  I waited a day, till I finished a book the son took out, in a different series.  I got the Reacher novel home and flipped to the end.  This thing is a tome, 700 pages!  Then I flipped to the front.  Oh yeah, LARGE PRINT.  Forgot that.  There’s about four words to the page, no wonder I knocked off 165 pages the first evening.  After two days of reading, it occurred to me that I should be thinking about reserving the next in the series.  Another large-print version, but this one has 8 people waiting.  I have a shelf of other books to keep me busy till it shows up.

The Author – Lee Child

The Book – Killing Floor

The Review

This is Child’s first book.  I anticipate the quality will improve as the series develops.  It’s an action/adventure story, mostly for men, quite similar to a couple of other series I’m reading.

The protagonist, Jack Reacher, is the accepted type of anti-hero currently popular.  He’s been in the American Army for 13 years and lists almost that many base postings around the world.  Perhaps he hasn’t fit in.  He has received extra training, and been assigned as Army Policeman, bringing in the drunks and AWOLs and other bad guys.

Financial cuts have redundancy-ed him out of the Army with a severance package large enough to wander the U.S. for six months, seeing the sights and wondering what to do with the rest of his life.

The number of Maguffin coincidences Child uses to get him to the start of the story is considerable.  He travelled down the Midwest, from Chicago to New Orleans.  On a whim he decided to explore some of Florida.  On another whim, he decided to visit Atlanta.  A last-second, spur-of-the-moment decision had him persuade an Express-bus driver to let him out at an interstate exchange, so that he can research some Negro jazz-man, 60 years dead.  He walked 14 miles to the small town, passing within 50 feet of two dead bodies, one of which he is immediately accused of killing, because he’s the stranger in town.

The Deus Ex Machina arrives a little early, when he finds that the stiff is his only brother, who he hasn’t seen or talked to in 7 years.

There’s an immediate love-interest, or is it just sex-interest?  He won’t be staying.  He’s in town two days, and already sleeping with the only female police officer, who gets him an illegal gun and access to restricted files.

Child describes the psychology of violence well, hit early, hit hard, live to hit another day.  The fights are well presented, both physically, and within the social structure inside a prison.

While now emigrated, and safely ensconced in New York City, the author was born and raised in England, a country not known for its experience with, or exposure to firearms.  He sadly fails the gun-nuts among his readers, by having a victim killed by being shot twice in the head by a .22 caliber handgun.  He describes the slugs penetrating the skull, something these underpowered little shells often fail to do, and then graphically but incorrectly describes them “bursting from the other side, in an eruption of bone and brain.”  I wait to see how much he learns about guns in future books.

While no Sherlock Holmes, Jack Reacher is shown to have the deductive ability be able to think through the alternatives, sometimes a little after the fact, but able to regain the initiative.

This is not War And Peace, or A Tale Of Two Cities, but it is a good solid story, capable of holding your interest.  The plot is predictable, but with enough little quirks to lead you forward.  The characters are well described, with their strengths and foibles. Suspension of disbelief is not difficult.  Word usage is good, with very little vernacular.  A few eight-dollar words are thrown in, but easily deciphered from context.

I would recommend this book for anyone with the time and interest in this genre.  I hope that the second, and subsequent books, tighten up and flesh out a bit.  This one is good entertainment without requiring too much deep thinking.  If you put a bit in, and get a little extra out, it’s a bonus.