Aside from writing for a living (among other things), I do a lot of writing for other sites. Which is probably why I don’t write enough here. On top of all that, I’ve been given another shot at writing a book. A couple of years ago I wrote a “book” that never got to the publishing phase, but it might get the chance at some point.
Anyhoo – The guy that got me in cahoots with a publisher told e that they were accepting “treatments” for possible book deals. A “treatment” is basically a synopsis of the book you’re planning to write, along with a writing sample from the book. Now considering I haven’t written the book I want to publish yet, I decided to put something together for them and see what they thought. Enjoy:
The whiskey burns as I remind myself that I need to learn to lighten the pour when I am planning on writing. You see, there exists this magical line between having the rust knocked off of your neurons with a thorough dousing of potato juice(vodka) that allows for a beautiful stream of consciousness to flow – and being too fucking drunk to type. It’s a balance I’ve maintained/failed at miserably since I began writing as an adult.
I giggle as I type out a funny line in a story about a sexual encounter. As I was giving myself a proverbial pat on the back, my Pandora app saw it fit to play a song that made my mind change gears faster than a racecar driver approaching a 21-car-pileup.
That’s the funny thing that happens to my brain when it’s lubed up with alcohol. Normally, my brain scampers. Have you ever seen a squirrel dart around your yard in a seemingly endless loop of raw energy and survival instinct? Yeah, feed that squirrel some low-grade meth that’s been soaked in bargain brand energy drinks, and that’s similar to how my thought process works on a good day. But you give me the right drink and the right song – and it homes in like a lonely bridesmaid on an airborne bouquet.
I dig in a drawer for a cigarette. Even before I had the heart surgery that killed me, I’d decided that smoking wasn’t a good idea (only after doing it for 15 years), but there are still times when I need to light up.
I’m surprised with how hard my hands are shaking. Stopping to actually take a second and watch their tremulous dance as I stroke the wheel on my old zippo lighter, I twist my face toward the flame with a cigarette pressed between my lips.
The first drag is harsh. A Stale cigarette for a stale memory.
I exhale as and lean my head in my hand, elbow propped on my desk, smoldering Marlboro tucked between index and ring finger. I can actually feel the heat of the smoke traveling languidly through the filter of the cigarette on my scalp. This seemingly innocuous detail only serves to press the memory hiding in my head to the surface – in bright, vivid 1080p high definition…
The funny thing about nearly getting shot in the head, is that you can actually feel the heat of the bullet. The nearer the miss, the hotter the burn is – as your skin is subjected to the trail of hot gasses following a bullet once a firing pin strikes a primer and a lead projectile is loosed from its brassy confines.
I’m sure there are some interesting physics there, coupled with some fascinating data on thermodynamics. In the heat of the moment (pun intended), all I knew was: judging by the sting of plaster – or whatever the hell this shithole of a dwelling was constructed with spraying the side of my face as I ducked away from the miniature explosions pocking the surface of the wall my back was against, I was probably seconds away from meeting whatever religious deities existed on the other side of the line between being alive and bleeding out from a head wound.
To this day it still amazes me, when your brain is flooded with as much adrenaline as your body can put together in a single production run, how clearly you can actually think. Knowing that the rounds were progressively missing by a smaller margin, instead of diving away from the next shot – I dove toward where the previous round had punched through the wall. I figured (correctly) that the shooter was spraying the length of the wall from his right to left, so with my back to the wall, his next round would be to my left as I scrambled right.
I’d love to sit here and make it sound like my grace and precision of movement would have given a ninja an awkward erection, but the truth is that I pretty much looked like a someone injected a moose with barbiturates and turned it loose on an ice-skating rink. As my hands shot out in pure subconscious objection to face-planting on the floor, my right hand did the one fucking thing it’s not supposed to do in these type of situations – let go of the pistol grip of my rifle.
As my rifle fell away from my hand to be caught by the single-point sling that kept it attached to me, looking down and behind me in the middle of my desperate scramble, I saw from the corner of my eye the black muzzle and front barrel-mounted sight of a rifle poking from the doorway at the far end of the wall behind me.
As it turns out the shooter wasn’t just standing still and blasting away at the wall, he was running and shooting. Well, that’s not handy. It just so happened that he was running one way, while I moose-slid in the other. There was a doorway I could see in front of me, and for a weird second I had this vision of the shooter and I chasing each other in circles around the wall between the two doorways with Benny Hill music playing in the background. As if sensing my thoughts, the shooter fired another round as if to tell my brain to get the fuck back in the game. Besides, the doorway I was headed for was easily 5 steps away and the shooter only had to take one step to clear the door he was coming out of. There would be no comical chase. There WOULD likely be a bullet entering my body, and since I was basically bent at the waste, I silently hoped he didn’t put it directly into my asshole.
I’d prefer to die than live through the recovery of having my digestive system re-arranged via AK-47. That’s not even considering the fact that my buddies would never, ever let me live it down. For the first time in my life, I prayed that my ex was right, and that my head was up my ass – because getting brained seemed a lot better than getting “rectumed”.
I cursed my stupid hands for acting on their own and preventing me from falling on my face. At least if I’d fallen on my face with a hand on my rifle I might be able to maneuver for a shot. Having a hand on your gun is a pretty important part of being in a gun fight. The only thing my hand was doing was reaching out toward a small, 3-legged table full of cheap nick-knacks and an ashtray. Not being the type to go down without at least TRYING to fuck up someone’s day, as soon as my right hand touched the leg of the table, I twisted mid-fall and used all 220 pounds of my body to hurl the table at the doorway where the shooter’s hand was now visible.
Now, here again, were some interesting physics. I guess because of the whipping motion I created in mid-fall by twisting my torso to bring my body around to throw the table at the door behind me, the items on the table just hung in mid-air for a second. Like when a magician pulls a table cloth out from underneath a place setting, and nothing moves. Only in my case, I pulled the whole table – and flung the shit out of it.
As the last molecules of wood that made up the leg of the table broke contact with the last molecules of my gloved hand, I prepared to make whatever peace I could make with the universe. I was going to land hard on my back, I knew that. The shooter’s second hand was now visable – along with a booted foot, and my 8-pound wooden missile was probably about as useful as limp dick at a gangbang championship. I sucked in a breath, that I fully I expected to be my last, in preparation to have it knocked back out of me pending my ensuing collision with the floor.
As the shooter finally rounded the rest of the door frame he swung his rifle to the bulky American (me) doing a very uncoordinated back-flop. I expected to make eye contact with the man as he snarled in hatred. His nose scrunching up like a dog, baring teeth…
But unless this guy had googly eyes that didn’t play by the rules, he wasn’t looking at me. He was staring at the little table that was on its way across the room from where I had snagged it. Granted, I’m sure stepping into a room and seeing a table flying at you is a surprising thing, but he easily had time to duck. At least I thought he did? Maybe I was just being hard on the guy for not having faster reflexes. Maybe he just really liked little tables, and couldn’t take his eyes away from them? Maybe he had really shitty depth-perception, so he just stood there wondering why a table was growing in the middle of the room…
Whatever the case was, the table hit him in the face so hard that teeth flew out of his mouth as he spun away from the impact.
As I made my ungraceful impact with the floor, sliding another foot across the dirty floor, “Holy shit” was all my mind could come up with. I’m a poet sometimes. I was absolutely shocked at my table flinging skills, and I couldn’t begin to imaginewhat had to be going through HIS mind as he stepped into a room with murderous intentions only to get battered with a piece of cheap, airborne furniture.
It turns out, not a fucking thing was going through his mind. He was unconscious before he thudded to the floor, rifle clattering away.
Granted, I didn’t know at the time that he was unconscious. I used my feet and one hand to scramble back away from him like a skittering, 3-legged crab – my right hand getting me back in the game by finding the pistol grip of my rifle and twisting it back up to where it was supposed to be. As the gun came to my shoulder my cheek found it’s place on the raised comb of the stock. My left hand shot forward to grab the front of the magazine well to hold the rifle steady. The little red dot in my optic painted the man’s now bleeding head. 3 pounds of the 5.5 pound trigger pull already absorbed by my flexing index finger…
That’s when I had an epiphany of sorts.
As much as it would make me feel better about the situation, I couldn’t kill this man. It wasn’t some moral dilemma, or a sudden aversion to violence. It was a legality. I was in a room I wasn’t supposed to be in, inside of a building I wasn’t supposed to be in, in a town I wasn’t supposed to be in, in a country I was only marginally supposed to be in. This wasn’t supposed to be an assassination, it was supposed to be intelligence gathering – the asshole just happened to be home. He was justified in shooting at me but I wouldn’t be justified shooting him.
That’s the complicated thing about being the sheepdog. Sure, you have teeth like the wolf – but you’re supposed to use them in defense of the herd, not just to bite anything that moves. That’s what separates the sheepdog from the wolf – discretion. I scrambled to my feet and made an exit that probably broke human land speed records at the time. I wouldn’t stoop to the level of sneaking murderer. I was better than that. I held that conviction…
Until I learned that only days after his failed attempt at stopping a flying table with his face, the man I’d let live killed a 6-year old girl with a shovel. In front of her family.
The pain that I felt when I got that news would have made the pain of taking one of his poorly-aimed bullets pale in comparison. I wanted to die. I wanted it to be me in a shallow, duty grave in the hardscrabble ground on the side of some little hill. I’d let him live, and by doing so – cost that girl her life. A girl who I’d seen playing in the streets while we watched the house that I somewhat-intentionally, although poorly-timed ended up in.
The sheepdog failed.
The flock suffered.
Standing on shaky legs, quietly sobbing out whiskey-tinged breaths, I fell to my knees on that hardscrabble dirt, on that little hillside with the small wooden cross where she lay, and I swore to the heavens that never again would I be a sheepdog.
The only thing that can fight a wolf is another WOLF.