Best Worst Year: Episode 84 (Or, Lost Horizons)

He never completed his intake evaluation; instead he went to a pawn shop, bought a .38 and went back to his apartment. Gone before Sunday morning. No romance, no dimming of lights on Mill Avenue, no dramatic marker of time ending and resuming. Airwaves like a postscript, an afterthought diminishing from the point of transmission. Doug Hopkins wrote “Hey Jealousy,” but couldn’t stay sober in the studio. Your high school girlfriend carried New Miserable Experience in a Case Logic binder along with a Beatles compilation, R.E.M. Out of Time, some show tunes, and a Replacements CD that would outlast your relationship. You still have a soft spot for power pop and its multitude of casualties.

unstrung six strings
paperbag
bottle lunches

Your neighbor walks South Franklin Street with a revolver tucked into his jeans, safety off. Last summer an elderly lady was murdered in her apartment above the hot dog shop. This block isn’t safe anymore. The walnut stock tucked above the belt buckle, covered by a hoodie. The pronoun game makes you uncomfortable–even more so than the pistol. You think about Saturday afternoons watching westerns with your dad. The trusty peacekeeper, the swinging doors and jangle of spurs. When your father was a kid, he nearly hung himself playing Lone Ranger in the backyard. Later, you walk to the A Plus mini-mart. The clerk is behind a bullet-proof cage reading People Magazine.

hollow points
leaving house keys
on the nightstand

You involuntarily curl your copy of Carver’s Cathedral in your lap, listening to their stories. Deployments. Redeployments. Rotating in and out of the world. They speak their own language, a code underscored with nods or thumbnails digging into styrofoam cups. You are there to facilitate a book discussion with V. A. therapist. Someone drops change out of their pocket. Silence. Dimes and quarters rattle to a crescendoed stop. He resumes talking about pulling his gun for the first time as a cop. You think of the handful of weekends in the VFW with your dad, sitting near a pool table while he listened more than spoke to the old timers. In college, you drank at American Legion bars because your roommate knew the bartender and you could have a cheap night out. You always talked too much for your own good.

shell casings gardening gloves on a dashboard

You are like everyone else on Facebook–nearly numbed to death by constant political debates about gun control and violence from both sides of the aisles. The YouTube shares, Fox News links, MSNBC commentary, perhaps a USA Today infographic using a bullet-shaped pie chart. You wade into the sea of white noise and let yourself be tossed by the waves, words crashing into one another. A clatter of clicks. Blue thumbs. Why does it bother you today? Is there a space for violence to stand out in your newsfeed? Is there another outrage to bring the armchair pundits to pull in a HuffPo blog or a profile picture notification with a friend on a firing range? All your violence is in third person–standing safely outside a mosh pit, watching the WWE Network, neighbors arguing in the apartment above you. The Gin Blossoms come on satellite radio during your morning commute. You have never been to Tempe.

wind chill advisory
a mercury topaz
backfires

______________________________
Jim Warner is the Managing Editor of Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public Radio Program at Benedictine University and the author of two poetry collections Too Bad It’s Poetry and Social Studies (Paper Kite Press). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including The North American Review, [PANK] Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, and The Minnesota Review. Follow him on twitter @whoismisterjim.

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