Pictures And Paintballs

“Have you seen Joey’s garage?”

I shook my head. “Nope.”

Shy shook her head, “I still can’t believe what’s in it.”

“OK. You’ve got me curious. Tell me what’s in it.”

“He’s set up a target practice range in his garage.”

Yeah, that would be Joey. “And this is a surprise?”

She laughed, because she knew him having a target practice range in his garage was not a surprise. “No, that’s not the surprise.”

“What? He uses real bullets? Like a shooting range?”

I liked it when she laughed, it made me feel better. And I never felt good, so her laughter was important to me. “No, silly.” She waved her hand. “Not that at all.”

“Then what’s he done that so strange?”

“You know he hates politics, right?”

“Yeah, man. Does he ever.” Joey always change channels on his TV when a political ad came on. Even if ads were on 37 consecutive channels. Hell, he’d watch a program on how to use makeup to make smokey eyes on a guy before he’d watch those damn ads. “He always says they should shoot everybody.”

Shy grinned, “He means it.”

“What? Why?”

She laughed some more. “You’re gonna love this.”

Shy swung her arm in a big arch. “Joey’s printed pictures of all the people running for President.”

“Why would he do that?”

“He hung them in a line on his garage wall.”

“Oh, shit! You’re kidding me! Tell me you’re kidding me.”

She shook her head, “The bastard spends time each night reviewing the headlines for stupid things the candidates said, and he shoots that candidate’s picture with a paint ball every time they say something stupid.”

I laughed so hard I couldn’t breath, and my ribs ached, and I had a headache.

Shy patted me on the back, “Breathe, honey. Breathe.”

“God, damn. That’s funny!”

She nodded, “He said he’s had to print several copies of Trump, Cruz, and Bush, ‘cause they keep getting covered in paint.”

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard as I did that night.

Shy laughed plenty too. “I’m telling you, either Joey’s a crazy son-of-a-bitch, or he’s a genius.”

When I could breathe I answered her, “He’s both.”

That night, we watched the news before bed, and wondered how many times Joey had to shoot his paintball gun, which pictures he’d had to shoot at, and how he could afford that many paint balls.

#MWBB 35 : I Am Going To The West

I closed my eyes, and listened to her song, and felt once more those first words touch my heart, and stir my memories.

In this fair land, I’ll stay no more
Here labor is in vain
I’ll seek the mountains far away
And leave the fertile plain

It’s what I’d done. I’d left the land I’d lived in for nearly 30 years. I’d abandoned it. Because it was a dead-end. That land of work I used to live in. Where nothing ever changed. No matter what I did. No matter how hard I worked. No matter what I tried. Nothing ever changed.

I didn’t have the words then, to explain what was happening. How do you explain to everyone you know that you’re trapped? Stuck in place. In a cage. That’s what work had become. A trap. A cage. Where nothing would ever change. Where I faced the same day, the same problems, the same expectations every day. Where there was only one way to behave. Only one way you could be.

I remembered the words I’d been told a thousand times, across a thousand days. “You should be more like him.” I used to wonder how I could. “How can I be like someone else? Someone I’m not?” Until I found myself asking, “What would he do? How would he react? What would he say?”

And I lost me. Somewhere.

Do you want to know if you’re trapped? Look in the mirror. Into your eyes. And ask what the person you see in the mirror wants. What that person feels. If you don’t know. If you can’t answer. You’re trapped.

And I listened to her words as she sang them. I know they weren’t meant for me. But it felt like they were.

Where waves of grass in oceans roll
Into infinity
I stand ready on the shore
To cross the inland sea
I am going to the West

Her words echoed in my memory. For 3 years now, I’d been on a journey. Across an inland sea. A sea within me. A sea I had to cross. To find my heart. To find my soul. To breathe life into me. I remembered standing alone. Straining my eyes, my mind, my heart, to see the future, what was ahead of me.

I couldn’t. No one can. If they tell you otherwise, they lie. Don’t listen to them.

“What are you going to do when you grow up?”

“What are you going to do to earn a living?”

“How are you going to pay the bills?”

“Where are you going to live?”

Yet, no one ever asked the questions that mattered. And it was those questions that ate away at me.

“Who am I?”

“What do I want?”

“What do I believe?”

“Are my dreams still alive?”

“Am I still alive?”

I remembered everyone thinking I’d gone crazy. Telling me to pull my boots up, and get tough. “They’re watching you. If you don’t straighten out, they’ll get rid of you. If you don’t behave, they’ll get rid of you.”

They did. And it hurt like hell. And it scared me stupid. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t sleep. I swear there were times I couldn’t breathe.

But with time, that changed. I figured it out. I’d done what I had to do. To save me. I’d escaped.

You say you will not go with me
You turn your eyes away
You say you will not follow me
No matter what I say
I am going to the West
I am going to the West

It cost me everything. Every friend I had. Every person I knew. To escape. To take those first steps into that inland sea. To begin to ask those questions.

“Who am I?”

“What do I want to do?”

No one followed. That was what scared me the most. What kept me there in the first place. What kept me trapped. What kept me lost. The fear everyone would say what they’d said all my life.

“I will not follow you.”

“You can’t live that way.”

“You can’t be that way.”

“You’ll always be alone.”

If only they knew.

If only they knew.

693 Words
@LurchMunster

NOTE : The song lyrics used are from the song I Am Going To The West, from the CD The Border of Heaven, by Connie Dover © Taylor Park Music/Connie Dover


This is my entry for week 35 of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other entries in the challenge.