It was completely by accident that The Gun Experiment began. Before that initial therapy session, he had never even thought about trying to get hold of a weapon, it was only when the therapist asked slowly “Have you tried to buy a gun?” that he thought about trying to buy a gun.
Of course, the idea did not arrive fully formed, far from it. He merely met his compadres for drinks in the evening and having won five games of pool straight and the bourbon beginning to make his head spin nicely, David asked him how his session went. David was the only one who knew this side of him, the only one that would understand some of the stuff that had been going on recently. The only one he talked straight to. “She asked me if I’d thought about buying a gun!” David squinted as Springsteen echoed loudly around the crowded bar. “She asked you if you wanted some gum?”, he had completely misheard and the session suddenly seemed more ridiculous. He high-fived his friend, shouted to the rest and made his way out into the New York night, the bustle calming him as the neon speeded past like memories illuminated, then mutilated by the driving rain.
Arriving home, the flat was as quiet as death, only the cat briefly stretching and then flaying out again showed any sign of life. “Hey buddy. Shall we?” He went to the fridge, put the food down for Oscar, grabbed himself a beer and looked out at the city, miserable and cold, like an open casket. After the fifth beer, the buzz began to kick in and the idea sprang into his mind to test the idea. Naturally the Internet was the first place to start, come on judging by the one thousand spam messages he received a day, you could get anything you wanted on the Internet, from a Russian bride to instant happiness, for half the price! One day only! You’re the instant winner! Click here! Click now! One time! Countdown is running out!
Ignoring the marriage offers from women he didn’t know, who it seemed had CC’ed ten other fellas in case their pleas fell on dead ears (Is that how relationships work these days? No wonder he was still single), he hit the auction sites, surely as good a place to start as any. Now what? Do you type in a particular make, he only knew about the ones Dirty Harry used and at that moment even their names escaped him. At that point he considered giving up and switching on ‘The Dead Pool’ for the hundredth time, but the neon flicker brought him back to reality and he simply entered ‘GUN’ and hit the enter key.
You have found 11,235 items.
These items ranged from toy cap guns, to Guns N Roses bootlegs to old western VHSs that no one had ever bothered to watch. Maybe this was a pointless exercise. Then the real thing began to appear on the screen. ‘THIS IS NOT A TOY OR REPLICA. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN’. A colourful parade of pistols was right there, one click away, everything must go. Of course, they had been ‘made safe’ and were merely for ‘ornamental purposes’ (presumably to hang over the pool table in the lounge, or in his case the signed Jonah Hill ‘Superbad’ poster in the lounge). But there they were. Wow, the modern world, right there.
By now, the beer and bourbon was kicking in and he had found a second wind and a new sense of urgency. Sure he could have a gun in three days through the magic of express delivery, but could he get one right here right now? Tonight? Now? Oscar looked up at his owner as if he understood the madness spinning through his head and then went back to licking his paws as the door closed.
He made his way down to Archies, the darkest pub he knew in all senses of the word. Basically whatever you wanted, people said you could get it in Archies. But first you had to become a regular. It wasn’t the most welcoming place if you were just stepping off the street and going there after a hard day battling the stock market was probably the stupidest idea any of those city boys could ever have. He had been welcomed into the bosom of the beast, due to his extended sessions in there for the six months after his wife died. That fuzzy period where sleep and reality become one, the world flickers in black and white and your brain doesn’t know who, where or why it is. One night he just stumbled into Archies, half hoping that someone would take out their frustrations on him, save him the trouble. Instead, the locals nodded their heads as he played The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers and by the end of the first week they were clapping and whooping as he and the bargirl were dancing on the pool tables to mariachi tunes.
Tonight it was all the regular faces. He imagined that they all had two completely different lives and the guy he knew as Jeff, the one with the impressive Harley, was probably really a Vince, married with two point four children and a new puppy. Randall was probably really a Steve, hen pecked 22 hours a day aside from the two when he gets to slide out to Archies and tell all about his ‘bitches’.
He took his regular seat, caught the eye of the bar guy and soon had his usual Bud and Jack combination lined up and ready to go. The jukebox was playing some old Mariachi tunes and it seemed like we were already hitting the dancing or fighting hour. “Hey buddy! Come on! Mariachi!” – old Rodger was spinning in his wheelchair and shouting “HEY!” in all the wrong places, seemingly having the time of his life. If Rodger who had lived through Nam and cancer could still find a smile and a dance, then why couldn’t he? He didn’t focus on this for long, enjoying the caressing sting of the bourbon and the coolness of the beer as he signalled to Randall and the old timer made his way through the leathered and tattooed masses.
“Hey guy, what’s happening? Looking pretty beat up there, everything okay?” He merely nodded, this wasn’t a night for small talk, it was a night for action. “I need a gun, Randall.” There he had said it, it came out so easy, rolled off the tongue, what were they now, in a bad episode of Columbo? Before he could adjust to the ridiculousness of it all, Randall nodded. “Hundred. I’ll leave it in a shoe box for you outside” and he disappeared of into the crowd, giving Rodger a spin as he passed him. So was it really that easy? Of course not he thought, he imagined the moment he left the bar, a cacophony of noise would spring up as the bikers and beered up all shared a joke at his expense. Nothing to do now but forget about love, forget about life and just get bitchingly drunk. It didn’t prove too difficult – Mariachi leads to tequila, which leads to oblivion and god knows he had spent enough time there to know what it felt like. He left a twenty-dollar bill on the deck (he wasn’t being flash, it was just, well, he wasn’t gonna need it if Randall’s little gift was for real), nodded to the boys, got a final “HEY!” from the Vet and headed out into the darkness.
He looked around, suddenly it was like a comic book, the steam coming off the grates, the raised voices that you could hear coming from people you couldn’t see, any second he expected Batman to come swooping down. He was still thinking about this as he picked up the shoebox and hurried home without giving it a second look. All through the hurried walk, he imagined getting back to the apartment and tipping out a sodden pair of stinking old trainers onto the desk. He almost didn’t make it back to the apartment though, as his thoughts made him almost miss a taxi swinging down the street. The driver yelled something. He wasn’t sure of the language abut he was pretty sure it wasn’t an invitation to Sunday lunch. The rest of the walk was again lost in thought, a world he’d spent a lot of time in, certainly more time than he’d spent in the hideous repulsion of the real world. He closed the apartment door and Oscar stretched. A pretty enthusiastic welcome from the little fella but as soon as he tried to make a fuss of him, Oscar turned and walked away, just like people did. Just like people did.
He placed the shoebox on the table and for the first time in an age, he felt a flicker of excitement. Still expecting to see a decaying Nike, he opened Randall’s package and was greeted with exactly what he had ordered. Shiny, metallic, deadly. Of course, he still didn’t know what type it was, although he recognised it from some Steven Seagal movie he had watched once and just for a second, he wished he had a ponytail, looking like an all action hero, albeit it one in slacks and a jumper as he posed in front of the mirror. It felt good in his hands, cold but welcoming. He must have spent half an hour just shadow playing old movie scenes in front of the mirror; even Oscar came out to see what the hell was going on. Then he caught his eyes in the mirror. There was something there he had not seen for years: hunger. Desire. A reason. Feeling. He could feel his breath getting heavier as he flicked the CD player on and after a few seconds miming along to Dylan, it was in his mouth and with no last thought, the trigger was pulled and this whole hideous charade called life was over.
Bob sang Maggie’s Farm and Oscar began to carefully lick the blood off his paws.