Cusp of Change
I, too, once stood upon the cusp of change. A young woman I wanted badly invited me to attend a midnight mass on a Christmas Eve so long ago. Even now, the memory of those elegant tendrils of light brown hair brushing that too perfect cheek inflames me. Standing between us was her hatred of the symbols of my violent past.
She wanted the man who traveled wilderness to look at rare orchids, not the man who could make a double action revolver talk.
Could I do this? Yes. I could go into that church with her on my arm. I could take that first step. Just as I tightened the four-in-hand in the blood-red silk of my tie, the mirror caught the hurt in my long dead grandmother’s eyes from the portrait across the room. I hadn’t meant to look. She was never the same after she turned away from her little church in the woods. The ladies in the church meant for her to contribute to the coffers to a degree they deemed to commiserate to her wealth and station. She grew up knowing want and refused. They banned her. I slipped a little Colt .25 Auto in my vest pocket. No one need know.
I had a pinstripe jacket laid out across the bed in the master bedroom. To reach it, I passed a bookcase and a copy of Augustine’s Confessions left out on top. One of his proofs of Christianity arose from the misfortune of a Roman officer. If his pagan gods weren’t false, Augustine asked, where were they when the Christians tortured him to death? A flat M frame Colt .380 went under my belt butt forward on the left-hand side.
In what corner did my black wingtips hide? I walked in circles. Running late, I looked in foolish places. If something is not where it’s supposed to be, I look where it can’t be. In panic, I bumped a history of Aristotelian thought into the floor. People remember the Romans feeding the Christians to the lions. They don’t like to recall the newly Christianized Roman’s fascination with crucifying anyone who offended them in those first centuries after the birth of Christ. When I bent for the fallen book, the wingtips appeared under the bed. The heaviness in my pocket reassured me when I dropped the little snub-nosed S&W Model 60 into it.
I could do this, step out the door without a heavy service weapon. Images of old battles flash through my mind at odd moments, this time, the sack of Acre. The sun bore down on defeated men weakened with thirst, and their wounds. The keening of their women as the Crusaders had their way with the city pierced the air. The hell with it. I strapped a 1911 and a pair of spare magazines under my jacket.
After the service, she looked up to me with that special glow only seen in the truly devout. Her face almost shined.
I had her. A lie, and she was mine.
A question poised on those kissable lips.
“I didn’t like it. More Christians than I had ammunition.”
Edd B. Jennings runs beef cattle on the banks of the New River in the mountains of Virginia. Something of a recluse, most of his neighbors would be surprised to learn he can even read without moving his lips, let alone scribble. He has a tendency to disappear alone in the Arctic wilderness for whole seasons, ice out to freeze up. When he finishes a series of books on canoeing in the Arctic and perhaps a novel or so, he’s going back. This time for good. On the advice of his agent in March, he started sending short work to literary magazines. In that time he’s had work either appearing or set to appear in Triggerwarnings, The Scarlet Leaf, Flash Fiction Magazine, Jotters United, 87 Bedford, and Thread. Before that’s he read his story After Cherry Picking for NPR and did a story, West of Hudson Bay for Narrative Magazine. Long before that, he wrote for Guns & Ammo and The American Rifleman. If this writing gig ever begins to pay commiserate with chasing beef animals, he’s thinking of standing for his general education high school equivalency exam. After all, if a publication is willing to run his work, it seems only decent to help add to their prestige by attaining an actual academic credential.