In my senior year of high school, a phrase that no doubt signals the reader to the coming pretentiousness of the blog that follows, my English teacher handed me a dog eared paperback book with a red cover and plastic peeling off the corners. The pages were yellowed and smelled musty from several sweating hands pawing over it, the text inside probably drowning in discarded skin cells from the fingertips of people whom I’d never met.
There was a yellow post it note, hanging by a thread, words written in a looping cursive that read, “You write like this author.”
It was Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.
Quite a compliment. I was unaware how great of a compliment until I thumbed it open.
Vonnegut has always held a special place in my heart. I don’t know why it took me so long to read Slaughterhouse Five, likely because I was so busy in my twenties doing nothing. That’s what people do in their twenties, I guess. You spend most of your days before your twenties confused, searching rooms with wide eyes, hoping that whatever authoritarian sword of Damocles doesn’t drop on your head in whatever square inch of real estate your pre-twenties body occupies at that moment. You spend the first twenty years nervous, but sometime around your second decade in existence you decide you’ve got it figured out. You get busy building the walls and floor of what will be your likely success, holding a hand out to brush away the naysayers, the critics and bitches who be tawkin’ s---. You dig deep into the foundation with a diamond shovel because there can be no mistakes, moving with a confidence that is both a good thing and bad thing at the same time. You cut twice, measure once. You make mistakes that you will spend a long time smoothing over. It’s sad in your twenties, you’re so busy making mistakes that you forget to read Slaughterhouse Five.
I read it last year. This post isn’t about Slaughterhouse Five.
Breakfast of Champions is, in a way, the best of Vonnegut. In the preface, he warns you that he doesn’t give a hoot about the pages you’re about to imbibe. He says that what follows is merely a list of things he’s tired of having in his mind. He sounds more resigned than he did in Slaughterhouse, more depressed and defeated. He describes, throughout the novel, human beings as machines, not at all the optimistic alien race from previous work. What emerges is more human, but not at all empathetic. It’s the kind of book where, when you put it down, it looms so much larger than it did when you were reading it. You feel its power vibrate even after you left the house, even almost a month later as I write this.
The title is not from the breakfast cereal, you’ll be reminded. It’s from the small town cocktail waitress, who whenever someone orders a martini, she sets it down in front of the person and says, “Breakfast of Champions” with a smile. She does it every time, not giving it a second thought until someone calls her out on it and after that she just admits that it’s something that she thought was funny once and she kept saying it after for reasons that she can’t come up with and she will stop saying it immediately from that day forward. For reasons I can’t describe, that description was devastating to me. I have yards of empathy for the person who says something every day because they think it will make someone feel better. When she’s forced to justify it, her world comes to pieces.
It’s hard for me to recommend this book, as depressed as I was after reading it, but I do anyway. Wholehearted, with full throat.
So this is a book review of a book that came out in 1981. Whatever. I hadn't read it up until recently so I suppose I might as well do it now.
Its given me an existential dilemma: It's one of the best books I've ever read. It's easily in my top five books of all time. The premise is easy: Serial killer on the loose, a brilliant man with a checkered past, attempting to collar him. The book written in succinct yet lurid prose, far better than Thomas Harris' other published works like Hannibal and Black Sunday. It's actually rather instructive to read both of those, Black Sunday and Red Dragon, back to back. Never before have I seen an artist evolve that quickly. Black Sunday is a good book, but it doesn't hit nearly the heights where Red Dragon routinely cruises.
It's easily among the best books I've ever read. I have no idea where to slide it into my top five. My five are as follows:
1. The Stand
2. Blood Meridian
3. Infinite Jest
4. Slaughterhouse Five
5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
I stand by every single one in the five, but I don't know what can go. It's a problem I've been gator wrestling lately (love Swamplandia!).
Either way, read Red Dragon even if you don't like books. It's unbelievable.
I realized, at some point today, that i haven't updated the ol' reliable Tumbrel in almost a year. I try to do this as often as I remember. The ironic thing is that I started this website as an excuse to write more. A little over a year ago, I started writing a s---load. 2000 words a day, to be exact. Too bad that among those words and phrases, scattered amongst those many different places, none of those symbols or sobriquets ever stumbled onto the Tumbrel. Ironic, yes, but also a massive waste of money seeing as how Typepad takes it out of my shorts if I write something on this or not.
First things first: The fictions. There are two other manuscripts done, so there. The first is a lousy manuscript that I am currently trying to fix, with the patient help of my girlfriend. It's been a depressing last couple of weeks, reading that manuscript with a feeling of revulsion that my fingers could hammer out something so weak. The manuscript will be fixed, but it's been a slow going slog filled with distractions I would rather forget. Hell, I think DRT is a stronger book than Citizens and that thing was capital "A" awful when I first started editing it. The second manuscript is pretty fine. As far as releasing the two new fictions, I don't know. I would like to send those to actual publishers, as I don't think I have the patience or the strength to do two new self pubs this year. Besides, I think it hurt my overall sales releasing two books within weeks of each other. I released two books last year and many of you haven't read those two yet so I think you will have to be satiated by those. If you are a publisher or a literary agent whom is interested in representing me, please check out the contact section of this here website. You will be likely
DRT is gonna get a massive promotional push tomorrow. Perhaps it's happening by the time you read this. It's going to be free on Amazon for the next 48 hours, if you are reading this on Saturday you are S-O-L. If you are reading this when the book is free, have at it. I need them thar rankings to get big if I want to sell some books in the coming weeks. I need to come up with a health insurance payment this month and I'm going to have to dig deep as it is. Trust me, I don't like begging like this. Maybe someday I might not have to.
I'm 34 years old, hopefully wiser than I was when I started this website. Made a lot of mistakes. I continue to make a lot of mistakes. Trying every day to make things a little less shaky. Maybe, now that I've had a certain degree of fun writing this, I will devote more time to Tumbrel related posts in the following year. Not just throw stuff on here when I randomly think about it. It gets some decent hits every day, for some reason, I really should use this platform more often. I'm not making that promise. I seem to always find a way to break it so I'm not going to start now.
I'm tired of how the site looks tho. I'm going to start changing it as soon as I hit send.
So I guess I'm reviewing books now. Why not? I've developed odd coping skills over the years, so I suppose this is the latest. I'm gonna write about books for a few days until i start getting tired of it.
This post is about Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; a book of amazing power, wit and creativity wrapped in the skin of a drippy chick thriller exercise. I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would.
When I review books, in a rule that I made up seconds ago because I felt like it, I'm not going to discuss the plot. When I hear a book is good, I do whatever I can to avoid plot descriptions because I don't care about the plot. It doesn't matter. Plot is merely the guts of a book, the piecemeal thing that moves the pages along.
A word on that. The plot of a book means very little in the back and forth details. The writer only has control over the page in front of him or her. It's their job to throw the reader a bone as often as possible. If you ever feel like you're reading, eyes sweeping over symbols on a page, the writer needs to pick it up. I always hate when authors talk about "the boring part" because there shouldn't be any boring parts. Boring parts are a waste of the reader's time, and writers should have more empathy for the people they've invited into the parlor to hear a story.
As far as Gone Girl, there aren't any boring parts. Its a polyphonic novel, told from the perspective of a couple whose marriage has become a downward spiral. Flynn dynamically plays with point of view, both characters speak directly to you and both take advantage of the literary concept of the "unreliable narrator" made popular by Faulkner and others. As far as contemporary fiction, you don't see genuine innovation like this often.
I just realized that I'm reviewing books and I've never ever written about any of the books in my top five! Now I just realized that no one cares.
I swear to God, this would be the greatest subject for a book. Oh wait, it kind of was already. I swear I'm not making this up.
Right-wing television host Glenn Beck last week revealed a personal goal that he hopes to achieve: building his very own self-sustaining community that he will name “Independence, USA”.
On “The Glenn Beck Program” last week, the television host said his free market community will ideally produce its own food and entertainment content and live in a city completely cut off from the rest of the world. Beck described his imaginary community as having its own homes, baseball fields, a theme park, small businesses, news, information and technology, and education system.
A great subject for a book, right? Oh wait, it WAS the subject of a VIDEO GAME. Would you kindly watch this video? (Deal with the ubiquitous "kid playing the goddamn game before the video starts)
Apparently they have been reading Ayn Rand in the Orca community.
The killer whales trapped under ice near a remote Quebec village reached safety today after the floes shifted on Hudson Bay, according to the mayor's office in Inukjuak.
Water opened up around the area where the orcas had been coming up for air and the winds seemed to have shifted overnight, creating a passageway to the open water six miles away.
"Two men were sent to check on the whales around 8 a.m., and they found that a passage of water had been created, all of the way to the open sea," Johnny Williams, the town manager, told ABCNews.com. "The wind from the north shifted yesterday.
Steroid-tainted stars Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa have been denied entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame with voters failing to elect any candidates for only the second time in four decades.
I understand that you don't want to give Bonds and Sosa a nod, but how about Jack Morris? The guy was the ace on several World Series teams! Two teams after Detroit traded him away, believing his best years were behind him?
Morris might have been mean to writers (that's the rumor) but you gotta give it to the guy. And he had the one the best mustaches in the game.
The fiscal cliff wasn't solved. These clowns actually made it worse. Now congress is moving closer to cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits, in order to avoid a default on the nation's debt. I think that both left and right are concerned about the size of the national bill, but only House Republicans want to
sell the nation's poor and elderly down the river.
There are plenty of good arguments for trimming the programs, because people are living longer. Medical science, while it has gotten more expensive, has done a lot to increase the number of poeple collecting benefits in the next couple of years. This fight has been going on for dozens of years now and there is no reason to think its ever going to stop.
Can't anyone see that this is just the same class warfare garbage? House Republicans seem intent on turning this country into a Kafka nightmare, but in place of the government there are a few corporations in charge of everything. Health care premiums continue to get more expensive, so we should cut Medicare. There are going to be more seniors, so lets let them twist and die in the wind.
What's the strategy there? Maybe with more seniors on the street they can huddle together for comfort?
Republicans constantly wag their fingers at people engaged in class warfare, but they are the kings of it.
When the cable news orgy that was the 2012 election finished, the collected media rubbed their still sticky hands together and looked for the next story to inflate with hyperbole. The Fiscal Cliff turned out to be exactly what they were looking for, giving them a chance to beat the drum of fear until the next pretty white girl disappears with a suave stranger whom SHE SHOULDN'T HAVE TRUSTED.
Briefly, the Fiscal Cliff is a legislative apparatus that congress invented last year to weasel out of the debt ceiling debate. Apparently our government shops for policy solutions in the ACME catalog, as on January 1st the country’s economy might manage one more blink at the camera for a beat before falling into apocalypse.
As much as the media tries to scare the shit out the public remember they have an agenda. Scaring you is the most effective method they have to keep you glued to the nearest infotainment box. Watching a single episode of (insert cable news show desperate for ratings here) can leave you curled up in the fetal position on your living room floor for hours. It’s enough to make you blow the dust off the Mayan apocalypse safety plan you felt silly filing away only a few weeks ago.
It’s never in the media's best interest to provide context, so bear in mind that the Fiscal Cliff is a theoretical threat that can be moved by swift legislation at any given moment. It’s hard for me to fear anything that can be wiped away by a gang of 12 Senators with cottage cheese ass who threaten filibusters on everything, including their own bills. It’s like my dad always says, “If Ezra Klein is explaining it to you, it’s not fucking dangerous.”
Besides, “Fiscal Cliff” sounds like a clever hook for a lousy accountant in BFE.
ACTUAL Cliffs, on the other hand, are scary as shit. Just standing on the side of a cliff is enough to give you a heart attack, and if the wind blows you will drop to your knees and pray that the cliff doesn't steal your SOUL. There are also people named Cliff and they're often far creepier than anything congress could ever come up with, especially if the Cliff you know has a mustache. Remember, the Fiscal Cliff is theoretical. Your neighbor Cliff is real and probably staring at you right now through the window in your bathroom.
So for a little context, here are 7 “cliffs” that are more dangerous than the fiscal cliff.
7. Cliff Carmichael – The Thinker
WHO? This Marvel comic book villain, described as a “Cyber Punk Maniac,” can read your thoughts with his “Thinking Cap.” He was plucked from his normal life as an inmate at an insane asylum and subjected to
6. Tarpein Rock
WHAT? This is a well-known spot in Ancient Rome, mentioned by Plutarch. A nice enough view today, speckled with houses and ancient ruins, it is one of the oldest known landmarks that was used by the Roman Empire.
WHY IT’S SCARIER THAN THE FISCAL CLIFF: Because the Romans used to throw condemned prisoners off
4. Cliffs of Dover by Eric Johnson
WHAT? This four minute instrumental song was released by the guitar virtuoso on his 1990 album “Ah Via Musicom”. Much of the song is performed by using highly skilled techniques such as hybrid picking and other
2. Cliff Claven
1. The cliff from the Lion King.
WHAT? The cliff that overlooks the hyena infested gorge in the Lion King. It serves as the spot for both
My new book, DRT, is coming out this week (hopefully Wednesday). I thought I would write a little bit about the writing process.
Orson Welles once said editing isn’t just one aspect of cinema; it’s the aspect of cinema. I would argue the same is true about writing fiction. Writing a blog about editing is akin to writing a blog about eating your peas, but I submit to you that the drafting process, even though it’s tedious, is what separates good writing from bad. Most people don’t make it through their first draft. I’m sure that since you’ve written a book, you bump into countless hundreds who are ‘thinking about’ doing the same. Most people don’t make it past the first draft. The act of writing itself is lonely business. We often do it when our spouse or whoever is in bed. Maybe you write in the morning if you work nights, maybe at night if you work mornings. Whatever your method, you are probably doing it in a room with nothing to comfort you but a blank screen and a blinking cursor. Your motivation to turn that into a page full of ideas is what separates you from people who simply ‘think about’ it.
When you finish the first draft, it’s a near religious experience only available to those who walk the mile. You want to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and achieve certain states of undress because you are filled with the kind of accomplishment that most people only dream about. Through the smoke drink and nakedness, there is a shouting voice that we all know well: “I never ever ever ever want to see that story ever again.”
It’s normal. You have spent months swinging a sledgehammer at a story, building the railroad by inches. If you’re like me, you probably got lost in the middle, which created sleepless nights and punched walls. When you finally find your way out, and make it to the end, you have a feeling of relief usually reserved for liberated Parisians in 1944. You want to throw your work at a copy editor and have he or she can figure it out. Cross the letters that need crossing and dot the letters that require a dot, make it sound like English and lets get this baby into a .mobi file. Call the cover designer.
I am arguing that you should sit on it a while. You never know what’s going to happen. There are plenty of authors who get trapped in this process, writing and revising the guts out of a project until it is stripped of protein and seems like a shell of its former shadow. I have done that to some of my work. In my first book, “Fall of the Citizens,” I rewrote one scene so many times that I felt it lost the emotion of the first draft. In every other case, my rewrites were always better. In fact, most of the book was written five months after I finished the first draft. I’m pretty sure that only the last chapter, the strongest in the book by a mile, is the only thing that survived from the first draft.
In my latest book, DRT, the editing saved it. I wrote the story in between drafts of “Fall of the Citizens,” giving myself something to do so that I could leave Citizens alone in my closet for a while. The story I wrote was just a simple A to B to C story, about a lonely traffic reporter in Washington DC that is haunted by the ghost of a terrible car crash. After I edited and published Citizens, I went back to DRT, and found a very flawed story waiting for me. The world that Greg Harris lives in was far too limited, and most of the story happened inside his head. This made for a very boring reading experience. I would have chucked it, but I loved where the story went. The journey is worth the destination, so I needed a boost.
So I took a couple of extra weeks, and added a ton of different things. I shifted the story from a third person omnipotent narrator to a first person story, and added tons of touches to fill out Greg’s world. In the process, I had a lot of fun. I could stick whatever I wanted in there, because the opaqueness of Greg’s existence meant the possibilities were endless. I also, in the process, added a lot of instances of foreshadowing that made the story resonate. Now, instead of putting out a sub-par ghost story, I have what I think is a really fun book. The only reason that book is as good as it is now, is the editing.
Now, it helps that I have a good editor. She and I work closely, and she makes me defend nearly every aspect of the story. She is honest with me when I am boring her to death, with DRT she came right out and said, “I have no idea why I care.” Harsh, but it works. She hates it when she spends two hours editing something and I go back and rewrite it, but she understands that I am going to make it better.
Much ink is spilled about grammatical mistakes by self-published authors. I was accused of editing mistakes in “Citizens” when the reviewer didn’t understand the words I was using. I kept getting cited for using the word “hove,” a nautical term which is the past tense for “heave.” People thought I meant, “shoved.” The words written about the grammatical challenges of self-published authors creates a lot of navel gazing among us, and we wind up forgetting about the editing that actually affects the flow and tone of the story. It’s the editing that only the author themselves can do, because you are adding scenes into a story that you have already completed. You’ve finished your story, and now you can add light touches to it. Make it interesting. Hide little pieces of symbolism that only you know about. Remember: the coolest trick you have in your bag is that you know how it ends.
If the 1000 words you write today suck, don’t throw them out. You can fix them later. If you are good enough to write one draft of one book, you’re good enough to fix that paragraph that doesn’t work later. We have to set deadlines for ourselves because we all need that motivation, but don’t forget the editing. Spend at least a couple of weeks daydreaming after you finish your first draft. Keep notes on said daydreaming.
If you like your story, make it better! Take a little extra time to flesh out that world you created. Your characters and readers will thank you in the end.
My book is going Kindle exclusive next week. If you are an iTunes (iPad or iPhone) or Nook owner, you are going to want to buy the book this week, before it gets pulled.
Amazon offers a KDP service that helps indie authors, and I am going to take advantage of it. Still trying to afford that computer, and my sales have been BRUTAL in September.
Make sure you get it this week. Its still just $3.99, and it will be January before you can pick it up through those retailers.
I did an interview on the Bookcast, a really cool website. Please follow the link to check it out!
Here is an excerpt (not available on the site previews) from my book, "Fall of the Citizens"
The moon hung enormous in thick blue twilight. The humid air heavy, as evidence of the rain that had passed. A lazy breeze blew and bent the long brown grass. It was still waking up from the winter spent under the suffocating blanket of snow.
A large, white, unmarked truck drove east. Its sides stretched high in the air, dwarfing the bubble cab in the front. The driver drove fast and in the middle of the night to avoid any attention paid to the precious cargo. Russell held his arm out the open window as he drove, drinking in the clean night air while the headlights burned a yellow halo into the murky darkness.
Russell wore a smile, the open road ahead welcomed him. Not a soul in sight. He was in his element and couldn’t believe his luck. He was hired to drive this truck only a few weeks before. It was the best Russell could hope for considering his education. He hadn’t graduated high school until he was old enough to buy beer.
Russell had always been a proud man, a self-sufficient man. But last year Russell was among the many in Michigan who had been swallowed by the wave of recession. Russell swept floors at a warehouse in Brighton for fifteen years. His boss had let him go when he found a company that would do it cheaper.
The shame of collecting unemployment didn’t sit well with him. Every time he filed for a another week it announced some silent defeat.
Russell’s parents were disappointed. They were always disappointed but this was worse. His father called him a leech and his mother called him a loser. Each visit was a fresh reminder of this. His father wondered aloud why anyone would have a job when you can just take welfare from working people. Russell hung his head. He tried to explain that no one was hiring. He would have stopped visiting but needed the groceries.
Those days were over. Russell worked for Wellco. It’s the largest company in the world now, Russell told his buddies. They showed their congratulations at a party in a bar, clinking bottles and glasses. They lifted containers and sipped in his honor. Russell’s friends were happy to see him get something, they had discussed their worries behind his back for months. Now they celebrated just as much as he did.
Russell’s boss at Wellco told him he had been hired with high hopes. Russell loved hearing that. He was already making more money than he had ever made sweeping floors at the factory. This was a real job and a real wage for Russell, it even had real responsibility.
The job had a real gun.
He fell in love with the gun the first time he saw it at training. He lowered it into the holster on his hip and it felt like home. He loved the matte black finish and its weight in his hand. He felt the power when he pulled the trigger. It was like holding thunder. Russell always thought about having a gun but never had the money to get one. Now that he had one, Russell wondered how he ever existed without one.
When Russell got home the day he got his gun he immediately went to the mirror and found a new man looking back. He was a powerful man, a respected man. He pointed the gun at himself in the mirror and said threatening things. It turned out that all he needed was a gun to complete himself and that gun was in his hand. The gun slept on his nightstand. Russell slept on his side so that he could look at it. The next night, the gun slept on the pillow next to him.
Something this amazing should not lay around, it was meant for greatness. This gun was meant to be a peacemaker. Russell’s gun was meant to exact justice, not punch holes in a paper target. This gun was meant to kill bad people.
He drove down the highway, his hand found the gun in its holster. He stroked the grip and ran his finger to the hammer and tapped it gently. He pushed the flat part of his finger down across the sight. It felt awesome. Like wildfire in your pocket.
“Russ?” said Craig. “You haven’t said anything for a while. You okay?”
“Russell. Right. Are you okay? You haven’t said anything for a while.”
“No. I mean, yes. I was just driving. Thinking,” Russell shrugged with each syllable. He turned to Craig. “You haven’t said anything either.”
Craig swallowed. “I guess I haven’t. Fair enough,” Craig was new to the company, just like Russell. He had mentioned something about being a former police officer. Russell couldn’t remember where. Craig was a distracted man, with a tendency to drift off when other people were talking.
Russell saw flashing signs warning drivers of overnight construction. Orange reflective barrels narrowed the road to one lane. Russell drove in the construction zone for a couple of miles until he came to a truck stopped in the lane. He pressed the brake to slow, then stop.
“Ah hell,” said Russell, his body jerked forward from the final brake press. “This always happens.”
Russell turned to Craig and noticed beads of sweat on Craig’s forehead. It wasn’t hot.
“I’m sorry,” Craig said.
Russell heard a click behind him. He turned around and noticed a pistol pointed straight at his head.
“Step out of the truck, please. Let me see those hands.”
Russell was struck dumb. He watched out the windshield as the stopped truck opened. The men and women inside jumped down to the pavement. One man carried a chainsaw.
“Come on,” said the man with the pistol. He pulled up the lock through the rolled down window and popped the door open from outside. Craig opened his own door and stepped out of the truck.
A blond woman dressed in black met Craig by his door and she waved her pistol to motion both of the Wellco employees to the front of the truck. “Get to your knees,” She said.
The men and women assembled around the Wellco men. Russell didn’t count them, his eyes were clouded with confusion. A man in a green baseball hat fumbled a yellow walkie-talkie from his coat and nodded to the blond woman in black. “Theresa, get the tires. Matt, secure the firearms. Everybody else, start working on the contents of the truck.”
Russell watched in horror while the stocky man with a military jaw line named Matt took his gun from the holster and tossed it to the dirt. It bounced gently before coming to a rest. Russell shuddered.
“Hey!” Matt said to Russell. “You with us?” Russell didn’t understand.
“No, I am,” said Craig.
Russell’s confusion started to clear. The thought slithered like sludge and ate like poison. Russell’s face felt hot, betrayed.
The man with the green hat looked down at a creased piece of paper he held with shaking hands. “Okay, so that makes you...Craig?” Craig nodded. “Nice work. If everything goes all right you leave with us. Just sit tight while we work all this out.”
Russell didn’t feel Matt’s hands wrapping plastic restraints around his wrists. Craig looked over at him with apologetic eyes. He was saying something. Probably explaining why he would do this but the sound didn’t get through. Russell felt like his ears were filled with foam. He heard his heartbeat and the throbbing lump in his throat.
The green hat guy pressed down the large rubber button in the middle of the walkie-talkie. Chirp. “One eight to Max.”
“Go ahead one eight,” Said the speaker.
Chirp. “Cargo’s secure sir, loading it up right now.”
Russell heard none of this. His chest pounded, his eyes burned.
The gun lay in the dirt just ahead of the grassline on the side of the road. It reflected dull light from the headlights of the trucks. It looked helpless. Russell fixed his vision on the precious gun, rendered powerless without the care it needed. It just laid there in the almost wet dirt, pleading. It called to him. The gun wanted to be back, cradled by its master. Russell stared at the sacred metal on the ground. He listened.
Craig did this. Craig knew all along. He was quiet because he knew he was going to do this. Craig tricked you, Russell. Craig is a liar.
Craig is a bad person.
Russell didn’t need to hear anything else. He lowered his bound wrists beneath him. He lifted his ankles off the ground and pulled his hands forward. I’m coming for you, he thought. The gun was pleased.
In one motion Russell pulled his hands forward past his knees and lunged at the gun. His gun. Craig screamed for help but Russell already had the gun in his hands. It felt good. Russell turned back toward Craig. He pointed.
Russell squeezed the trigger. He saw the muzzle flash bright in the darkness and heard the crack echo toward the horizon. The sound of a chainsaw cranked behind him.
Craig fell backward to his elbows. His blue shirt turned red. Russell grinned with extended arms and watched Craig fall to the side. Evil punished by the peacemaker. The gun and its master were one.
The teeth of the chainsaw swept through Russell’s arms. A spray of blood slapped Russell in the face. It was suddenly hard to blink. He looked down to see the arms still holding the gun collapse to the dirt below. Russell saw what was left of his arms among the torn fabric of his uniform.
He felt cold. The chainsaw stopped. Russell heard the thieves yelling but he was having trouble understanding the words. It was a muffled sound, like they were yelling through a blanket. His vision got blurry and dark spots formed in his eyes.
Theresa’s voice yelled. “You were supposed to be watching him!”
Matt rushed to Craig’s side and was yelling too. Matt sounded desperate now “Craig! Are you hit? What happened?” Craig only answered in pathetic high pitched whimpers. The man in the green hat watched the red color on Craig’s shirt grow darker.
“Of course he’s hit! You should have been paying attention!” said Theresa
Russell looked down in front of him. Where his arms had been was now just hanging meat. Blood fell out of him in galloping gushes, clotting in the dirt and grass below. He was still on his knees. He found it difficult to breathe.
Somewhere in the swirling distance, Russell heard the man in the green hat sputter into the walkie-talkie again. “One eight to Max!” he shouted.
Chirp. “One driver shot, one of ours!”
There was a moment of silence before the speaker crackled back. “Use the saw to cover the bullet hole,” Said the speaker with no sign of panic or distress. “Theresa is in charge for the rest of your operation. No more issues. I am so far disappointed in you.”
Russell heard shouting and activity around him as he continued to stare at the stringy gore that only a second ago held the gun. The dark spots in his eyes were growing and he found it hard to concentrate on anything else. Behind him, the chainsaw started up again. He felt a kick and fell forward, his face bouncing hard off of the dirt.
He smelled gas. He blinked his vision clear and saw his gun. It now sat smoking and satisfied close to his cheek. His fingers were still curled around the trigger. Russell felt peace.
Somewhere on his body the teeth of the chainsaw tore him apart. The oily dark circles in his eyes spread and swirled around him. He stared at his gun, surrounded by a cyclone of black. Just the two of them, Russell and the gun, alone in the world. And then everything was gone.
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