Armed and Indifferent

Justin paused just inside the door and surveyed his surroundings. He’d never been in a gun shop before - nor had he felt the desire to seek one out - but somehow it was exactly like he imagined it would be. Maybe he’d been watching too many crime dramas on TV.

The lighting was poor, everything was behind locked Plexiglass, and the whole place reeked of stale sweat and old cigarettes. Assault rifles lined the wall to his left, while handguns of all shapes and sizes observed him from the right. He had no idea there was so much variety.

As he made his way to the counter his cell phone began vibrating again. He didn’t bother taking it out; instead he placed his briefcase on the counter and waited for Hank or whoever to show up. He glanced at the surveillance camera hanging from the ceiling and did his best to look like someone who had no intention of robbing a bank.

After a few minutes had passed, a man joined him from the back storage room. An unkempt, graying beard hung from his cheeks, his eyes were nearly obscured by thick wrinkles, most of his hair had migrated to the back of his head, and he smelled like he’d spent the day rubbing cigarettes all over his clothes. Justin began to second-guess his decision to take up the habit.

“What can I do for ya?” the man asked before turning his head slightly and spitting a thick, greenish-black substance on the floor. He examined it for a moment before returning his gaze to Justin.

“I’d like to buy a gun,” he replied. “Or two.”

“Well then, I suspect you’ve come to the right place. Care to narrow that down a bit? ‘Gun’ is a bit vague, unless you plan on spending a week perusing my entire selection.”

“No,” Justin said quickly. “What do you suggest in the way of a reliable handgun for a beginner. Doesn’t need to be fancy, but I’d like it to look intimidating.”

“Girlfriend trouble, huh? I know the type. Waving a gun around tends to straighten them right up, heh heh. All of a sudden they’re looking at ya with those big eyes, willing to do whatever their big man wants, ready to -”

“What about that one?” Justin cut in, pointing to a weapon that had caught his eye on the way to the counter.

“Good choice, that.” The man paused to spit again before coming around the counter. Justin tried to give him some space without actually taking a step back. “That, young man, is a Mark VII Desert Eagle. Here, let me get the .357 out for ya. You’re gonna love how it feels in your hand.”

“It’s heavier than I thought it would be,” Justin said, turning the gun this way and that. He tried to imagine pointing it at someone, demanding they get on the floor. Sweat began to collect in his armpits.

“Just a smidge under four pounds,” the man said with a smile that revealed yellowed teeth. “I’ve got some targets in the basement if ya wanna fire off a couple rounds.”

“That won’t be necessary. I’ll take two. And some ammo.”

“You got a permit to carry concealed weapons?” the man asked over his shoulder as he retrieved a second gun.

“No. How much will that cost me?”

“Hundred bucks, but I don’t sell ‘em. You’ll have to run down to the police station and get one. But I don’t mind holding these babies for ya.”

“How about I just buy it from you,” Justin said as he opened his briefcase.

“Like I said, I don’t sell ‘em.” The man watched as Justin placed thirty twenty-dollar bills in a pile on the counter, one at a time. “I don’t think ya understand.” Another five hundred dollars appeared next to the first pile. “Listen, man.” Another five hundred. His tongue ran over his cracked lips. “Maybe I’ve got one in the back. Let me go take a look.”

As it turned out, he did in fact have one. Justin ignored the sound of a photocopier at work and the black outlines around where his name and other information were to be entered and placed the guns, permit, and bullets into his briefcase. The man gave him a Desert Eagle owner’s manual to peruse at his leisure and he added this too before snapping it closed.

“Good luck with the little lady,” the man called after him as Justin left the store.

Back outside, Justin took in the relatively fresh air and tried to decide what his next move was. He knew he should have felt outrage or sadness or something at how easy that had been. Maybe a thought or two about the power of money or the state of humanity. But he felt nothing and didn’t spare it a thought.

Before he could choose a direction, his cell phone went off again. He answered it without looking at the display.

“Justy! I’ve been trying to get a hold of you all morning! You had me worried sick.”

“Hi Kelly.” Justin swallowed with some difficulty. “I’ve been busy.”

“So how did your appointment go? Did the test results show anything?”

“Listen,” he said as he began walking. “This isn’t working. It hasn’t been working for a while now and we both know it.” Is that true? “I think it’s time we go our separate ways.”

“What are you talking about, Justy? I -”

“Please don’t call me that.”

“But I’ve been calling you that for more than a year!”

“And I’ve hated it the whole time.” That is definitely true. “We’re done, okay?”

“Oh god, it’s the results, isn’t it?” A sob chased her words down the line to his ear.

“It was good while it lasted,” Justin said, his voice flat.

“Oh no… it’s cancer, isn’t it?”

“Good-bye, Kelly.”

Justin snapped the phone shut and turned it off. He was tempted to just throw it away but decided to hold on to it for a little longer. It would come in handy when he decided to call the office and tell them he was quitting. Or maybe he would just show up and do that in person.

With or without the guns?

His thoughts returned to his girlfriend of nearly two years. Former girlfriend, he reminded himself. He pulled out his wallet and found the picture of her he had carried around for the last few months. Kelly was smiling seductively, a glass of wine in one hand, her dark hair lit by candlelight. That picture used to make his heart stop.

But now? Nothing.

He flicked the picture away and continued walking, not bothering to look back as it fluttered down to land between an abandoned sneaker and an empty beer can. If the conversation had not caused any emotions to bubble to the surface, at least it had provided him with a destination.

He was going to need somewhere to spend the night.

The End

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