Author’s Note: I’ve been writing all of my life. This short story I wrote over 30 years ago; late 80s, I believe. Or maybe ’90 or ’91. I was in college at the time and still living at home. School shootings and other mass killings were not as common. But something must have made me sit down and write “Minister Bob and Other Influences.” A few years later, after I had already become a teacher, I made a run for state representative in Illinois. My platform: tax bullets and use the money to fund anti-violence initiatives and create programs in school to help kids de-escalate situations. I didn’t win. I didn’t even make it on the ballot due to a lawsuit. But “Minister Bob” was always in the back of my head. Seeing the NRA convention held in Texas after the Uvalde School Massacre, I again thought about this story, which imagines a violent country in which the NRA has tons of power. I found a paper copy in a file folder and offer it here — unedited — as it was in 1989 or so. What stood out to me as I read this blast from my past self was how little things have changed.
I remember the exact moment when I began to dislike people.
It was on Good Friday fifteen years ago; the day that Christians believe Jesus Christ was crucified. Or, as I should say, allegedly crucified. Just think, the last few thousand years of Western Civilization could be based on an event that never occurred, but an event that has nevertheless been transcribed by who-knows-who and translated and retranslated numerous more times until it had pleased the ruling power of the time. Remember King James? Yes sir, millions of people have died over the words in that little black, dusty book that sits on my bookshelf. Or I think it sits on my bookshelf, it was there the last time I looked. But that was before the earthquake.
Not that I have anything against religion or God or even Jesus Christ. Quite the contrary. I had planned at one time to even become a minister. That’s right, a good old Baptist minister — the fire and brimstone, hallelujah, dunk your head in water, you are saved — type minister. I carried the Bible with me. I highlighted important quotes and repeated those quotes to people who probably didn’t want to hear them in the first place. I lived to serve Jesus and God and Minister Bob. Although his name was Robert Baker, everybody knew him simply as Minister Bob. He was my personal hero next to Jesus and God. This did not change even when he was caught with his hand in the offering plate, so to speak. He apologized and asked for forgiveness, cried before the parish and before the whole world. His television show Minister Bob’s Resurrection and Forgiveness Hour was broadcasted by satellite to twenty-four different countries. People all over the world sent him money. And people all over the world forgave him. Including myself.
How could I not forgive him? He was human. Humans make mistakes. Humans aren’t perfect. Besides, I was a Minister Bob Acolyte. I lit the candles during the Minister Bob Show. I got to see the Minister close up and even once shook his hand. He smiled at me, the rings and jewelry he wore reflected the stage lights almost angelic-like. I even thought I saw a faint halo around his head, but that may just have been the lights or the incense which was making me somewhat dizzy.
“How you doin’, son?” he said to me before a show. And all I could do was smile. He was the closest thing to God that I have ever touched, the closest thing to perfection and he talked to me and me alone.
Minister Bob was forgiven for his first publicly noticed indiscretion. But when he was caught at the Crazy 8 Motel just outside of Nashville with five young male prostitutes, my loyalty wavered. Wavered may be just too kind of word. My loyalty reeled, tottered, hemmed and hawed and staggered. It helps to have a thesaurus. But even a thesaurus can’t describe what happened to me that bright February morning when I turned on the Minister Bob Show and he admitted his sins and again cried and asked for forgiveness. Much of the world probably forgave Minister Bob that day. But not me. I placed my Bible on the shelf. I removed my Minister Bob pins and buttons and threw them in the trash can. I felt conned. I felt used. I felt ashamed. I started to distrust people. Especially people who supposedly talked to God on a regular basis. I also felt confused. Where was I to go now? What was I to do? I no longer wished to be a minister and I even renounced my membership in the Minister Bob Young Disciple Program. I wanted nothing to do with God, or Jesus or organized religion. What was left? I had no skills, no direction.
Finally, I decided to go to college.
After four years of pointless, monotonous work, the University of Texas awarded me a degree in plastic engineering. Into the real world I came and landed a job as a carpenter. I hated plastic engineering; I wished to work with my hands, make things that people could benefit from. So, as a carpenter, I started building coffins at the A. Schlesinger Coffin Company. “Be Buried in the Best” is our motto, which perhaps you have seen on our late night TV commercials.
For twenty years now I have been building coffins at the A. Schlesinger Coffin Company. We custom build “corpse containers,” as we say in the business. Last year, I was contracted to build a guitar-shaped coffin for a member of some notorious rock and roll band who had predicted his death. He was very accurate in his prediction. He committed suicide on that exact day and was buried in my custom built guitar-shaped coffin. The picture of my creation even appeared in the National Enquirer. Or was it The Star? I don’t remember.
Anyway, this brings us now to Good Friday fifteen years past. I was in the local Piggy Wiggly store buying the usuals: deodorant, toothpaste, foot powder. I was actually in a good mood that day. I even whistled to the music playing over the speakers within the grocery store. Some old Neil Diamond tune, if I remember correctly.
I had just completed my tour of the toiletry isle and was about to make my way down the canned foods isle when a large man raced around the corner and ran right into me with his cart. My already weak knees gave out on the impact and I soon found myself lying on my back staring at the florescent lights on the ceiling.
Lifting my head slightly, I looked at my assailant. The first thing I noticed were the words U.S. ARMY which were printed in large yellow letters on the front of his disheveled and faded Genuine Issue jacket. His long, uncombed, and probably unwashed hair, touched the army jacket at the shoulders.
I slowly stood, my knees throbbing with subtle pain. “You better watch where you’re goin’,” he said.
I was now at eye level with the man. He was young, about twenty-five. His unshaven and acne-pocked face showed several scars. One right below the left eye formed a reverse S which ended at the corner of his mouth. His eyes were dark and intense. And he stared at me, making me quite uncomfortable. And nervous.
A slight smile grew underneath the growth of the whiskers above his lip. “Do you have a problem?” he asked.
I felt the sweat bead on my forehead. “No,” I answered softly. I was never good in confrontational situations.
“Good,” he said. He took a step towards me and placed his face close to mine.
His breath smelled of stale Jack Daniels. “I’ve got a problem.”
If that was just a general statement, I didn’t know how to respond. I was silent. “And my problem, Mister,” he said, “is you.”
The words is you echoed loudly in my head. This man was now singling me out for whatever problem he had with the world. And I had a feeling I would be the one who received the full brunt of that frustration and anger. My heart picked up its pace as the kid slowly licked his lips, like a lion would before a kill.
“I don’t think I like you,” he said in a coarse, almost inaudible whisper.
“I’m sorry,” I said. How does one respond to that statement?
There was a slight pause as we stared at each other. The whole store was silent. He showed no emotion, however. I was as nervous as hell and wasn’t prepared for what happened next. With a small sigh, he turned slightly as if to leave. But leave he did not. I was caught off-guard as the man quickly shoved the cart once again into my already bruised body. This time it was much harder and the impact sent me flying into the display for Campbell’s Chunky Soup. Cans of soup toppled around me. One struck me on the top of my head and I soon felt a small stream of blood run down my face, the droplets fell from my nose and onto my lap. I was covered with cans of Chunky Beef Vegetable. The kind with lima beans. I hate lima beans.
“Don’t ever get in my way again,” he said, now standing at my feet. This man looked extremely tall and intimidating from my level. And he seemed to be enjoying himself. His eyes were wider than before. His mouth formed a huge grin.
And he laughed. Not just any laugh, but an almost indefinable laugh. It was a high-pitched “he he he” type laugh; a laugh I have heard many times in different variations on Saturday morning cartoons when I was a kid. This was definitely weird.
With a kick of a can and another cartoon laugh, he turned and ran out of the store. Although at this time several spectators had gathered around, no one attempted to stop him. No one even attempted to help me free myself from my mountain of soup or ask if I had been hurt. No one even seemed to notice the sticky line of blood on my face.
As I slowly gained my feet, an old lady who had been standing near the incident looked at me and said, “Glad it wasn’t me.”
I almost responded that I wished it had been her. Instead, I handed her a can of Chunky Soup with lima beans.
My wound was superficial. But, nonetheless, it had caused an enormous headache. My whole head throbbed in pain. Even with the continuous throbbing, I couldn’t seem to remove from my mind and my ears that hideous laugh. The laugh would plague me in my dreams.
That night, as I slept, I was chased by the man in the faded army jacket. He kept shouting at me, “I don’t like you! I don’t like you!” I was in an arena. The crowd voiced its displeasure with the show and hurled cans at me. As each can struck its mark, my pace was slowed and eventually I collapsed on the sandy floor of the arena. Turning onto my back I watched as the man in the faded army jacket withdrew a rather large handgun from his belt. With that hideous laugh, he pointed it directly at my head.
“I told you not to get in my way,” he said with a cocked smile. The barrel of the gun seemed large and endless.
“I’m sorry,” I said. And he pulled the trigger.
I have heard it said that if you die in your dream, then don’t plan on waking up again. This is not true, because the man with the faded army jacket planted a bullet in my skull that night in my dream. I saw myself lying in the sand, my blood seeping slowly between the grains. Around me were scattered a dozen or so cans of chunky soup. With lima beans. And I distinctly remember hearing the crowd cheer.
That was when I woke up.
I would never forget that dream.
Although the following night I did not dream at all — or at least I don’t remember dreaming, the man with the faded jacket was not forgotten. On Easter Sunday I was brought into full contact again with my fears and with my memory, for I made the unfortunate mistake of looking at the newspaper.
There, on the front page of the Sunday Edition of the Nashville Chronicle was the man with the faded army jacket. His eyes and his smile resurrected the dream from the previous night. I was staring into the acne-pocked face of my nightmare, complete with the S-shaped scar.
The headline boldly proclaimed:
ROBBERY GONE MAD
8 DEAD IN STORE SHOOTING
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Apparently, Cain McCallister — that’s the man with the faded army jacket’s real name — came into the very grocery store where we had met earlier and was touched off by the man at the liquor counter. According to those witnesses that had survived the barrage of bullets, he had robbed one of the cashiers. After the cashier had given him all the money in the register, Cain McCallister turned to leave. But leave he did not. One witness heard him say, “I wasn’t planning on killing anyone today, but I changed my mind.” And with that, the cashier’s brain became wall decorations.
After several minutes of indiscriminate shooting, seven innocent people lay dead before Cain turned the gun on himself.
The Chronicle even carried a tasteless color photo of the scene. Seven rumpled bodies littered the floor of the Piggy Wiggly. Blood stained the tile.
And in the background I noticed the Campbell’s Chunky Soup display.
As I held the paper in my hands, which trembled slightly, all I kept thinking was that one of those rumpled bodies in the photo could have been my rumpled body. That blood on the tile could have been my blood.
And there are many Cain McCallisters in the world. How do you protect yourself from people like that?
Although Minister Bob caused me to distrust people, it was Cain McCallister who caused me to dislike people. Distrust mixed with dislike produces a sour combination.
That was fifteen years ago. The world has changed much since then and hasn’t given me any reason to change my mind. In fact, my conclusions have become more solid as I have watched over the last fifteen years this country and this world become an angry and violent place.
Or, as I should say, an angrier and a more violent place.
Since the day Cain McCallister blew away eight people including himself, this country has witnessed some dramatic events: three rather large earthquakes in California and one recently in the midwest, a major oil spill in the Great Lakes, a two year sweep of the World Series by the Chicago Cubs and the reign of seven presidents. Two of those presidents had been assassinated and one tragically died at a state dinner with a chicken bone lodged in his throat.
And Minister Bob is currently Senator Bob and is in the process of running for president.
This country has sent brave young men and women overseas on three occasions in the last fifteen years with the sole purpose of killing people. These wars did not last long, however, because our superior, multi-trillion dollar weapons systems were no match for the outdated armies of those third world countries who had so rudely stepped on our toes. President Duke was himself extremely proud of the fact that the new and improved Stealth bomber was able to wipe out whole African villages in one sortie during the so-called Mineral War, or Operation Dark Continent as was the code name.
That was a popular war.
Wars have also occurred on the homefront. A major gang war occurred three years ago in Los Angeles complete with tanks and artillery. After the U.S. Army was called in, over two thousand people were dead on the street. Last year the Statue of Liberty was obliterated by some domestic terrorist group. Not many people cared, however, for the statue had fallen into ill-repair and nobody went for that “Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” stuff anymore. But for the nostalgic, Liberty’s big toe was salvaged and is on display at the Smithsonian.
Due to the dramatic increase in violent crime in this country, law enforcement agencies have since resorted to that old Vietnam tactic of documenting success against the enemy: the bodycount. “Shoot first and ask questions later” is the motto all across the country and as the number of bodies piles up, somebody counts them all and plasters the numbers on billboards and television. A very large sign outside the Nashville police department reads:
REMOVED FROM THE STREETS THIS YEAR: 832 CRIMINALS
Each day the number of criminals “removed” from the streets increases by one or two, possibly more if the local S.W.A.T. force has invaded an opium den or something. The American people love numbers.
As for me, business has slowed, but I still partake in the coffin-making business. Seems nowadays, since choice cemetery lots are getting harder to find, more people choose cremation over burial. Sign of the times.
The affect Cain Mccallister had over me was phenomenal. Even though the incident at Piggy Wiggly occurred over fifteen years ago, I still dream about him on occasion; I still sometimes hear that cartoonish laugh in the middle of the night, especially when I am awakened by gunfire. The sound of the ambulance sirens sometimes reminds my of that laugh.
The day after Cain McCallister turned the Piggy Wiggly into a shooting gallery, I went to the local True Value hardware store and purchased more locks for my doors. I have recently installed bars on the outside windows and an electronic security system complete with infrared video cameras.
My neighbor calls my house Alcatraz.
If this is Alcatraz, then I am its inmate and warden. And I am safe. Especially now that I carry a handgun.
The handgun is an incredible invention. It makes one feel powerful. Safe.
Whenever I feel threatened, all I have to do is touch the cold metal in my pocket and suddenly the feeling of threat melts away.
Not that any of this is uncommon. No. Everybody carries at least one gun. Go down to the Piggy Wiggly where Cain McCallister wiped out those innocent people and you will see people there with guns. In their belts, boots, bags. I kept mine in my coat pocket during the winter; in a holster under baggy clothes during the summer.
It would only be a matter of time before I would use it. That I knew. You buy a gun, you must be prepared to use it. And I was prepared.
Wasn’t it the Beatles that sang about happiness being a warm gun?
One night last week I was working late on a large order. Since we had a contract with the city, we sometimes needed to supply the municipality with temporary coffins, especially in the occurrence of a disaster or something. A bridge had collapsed, sending the local YMCA swim team to their deaths in the Cumberland River. The bridge had been on the list of municipal repairs for many years, but the lack of funds prevented any quick action and, unfortunately, five young people had to die and we were short two coffins.
After arming the security system I had convinced A. Schlesinger, Jr. to install at the company, I left work at about 11:30 that Monday evening. I felt good as I stepped out into the chilly April air.
And as usual, I placed my hand conveniently on the gun in my front coat pocket. Not that I was expecting anything to happen, it was simply habit.
As I turned toward my car, a sound caught my attention. It came from the parking lot. A soft metal clang, as if a tool of some sort was dropped, followed by an inaudible whisper.
My hand tensed around the gun as I quickly dislodged the safety with my thumb. I knew how to use the gun and was a good shot. After purchasing the weapon, I took free lessons at the local National Rifle Association Gun Club and two years ago I was awarded the prestigious Black Hat. A Black Hat is the NRA equivalent to a blackbelt in karate.
Withdrawing the gun from my pocket, I carefully peered around the corner of the building into the parking lot. There was my car, the only one in the lot. Although the lights above the lot were out for some reason, I saw three, possibly four shadows moving about.
They were trying to get into my car.
I smiled. I spent a tremendous amount of money burglar-proofing the car. It was nice to see that my money was well-spent.
I knelt down into the “Sniper Stance” that I learned at those free NRA classes. “When you point the barrel at another person, be willing to kill ‘em,” my instructor had once told the class. “And when you do,” he added with a sinister smile, “it will be the best feeling of your life. Remember, a gun is your best and most reliable friend.” On that chilly November evening I was more than willing to use my friend and kill someone, and it made it a whole lot easier to know that I was going to kill some dirty thief who was trying to break into my car.
I aimed the barrel of the gun at one of the shadows while bracing my arm to hold it steady.
My finger tensed. I squinted and held by breath, taking special care that I would not accidentally hit my car, even though my car had been bullet-proofed. I aimed at a shadow that appeared to be kneeling next to the rear wheel.
Fire and smoke erupted from the handgun.
In order to avoid possible return fire, I quickly dove down onto the ground and performed a rather acrobatic combat roll, and aimed the gun once again towards my car.
The parking lot was empty. The shadows had melted away into the night.
Everything was quiet, except for the beating of my heart.
It was a few moments before I heard the taunting laughter in the distance of what was probably those little thieves, an indication that I had been inaccurate and missed my target.
“Damn,” I muttered as I slowly stood. With the darkness and the distance, any Black Hat could have missed. But at least I scared the little assholes away. And I still had my car.
I cautiously walked towards my vehicle, keeping a constant eye on the shadows surrounding the lot. Even though I hadn’t killed any of those bastards, I felt good; exhilarated. A gun can do that.
I smiled as I noticed the rusty crowbar laying on the damp asphalt. They were trying to pry open my trunk — my reinforced trunk that is virtually impenetrable by ordinary means. Must be amateur thieves, I thought. Next time if any amateur tries to pry open my trunk, I would be waiting — ready to blow the head off his scrawny little neck.
As I quickly glanced over the car for any nicks or scratches caused by my missed shot, another sound stopped me. My pulse quickened and my head cocked in the direction of the sound. Down the street, I noticed a figure approaching through the misty pale light of a distant street lamp. He was tall, dark and his hands were thrust into the deep pockets of a black overcoat.
My hand tensed around the gun in my pocket.
The man’s footsteps echoed softly in the darkness and he stopped half a block away. Turning his head in my direction, he peered into the parking lot and peered at me.
Our eyes met, I think. He was too far away for me to really notice eye contact, but I felt it. And I did not like what I felt.
“What do you want?” I asked. He was silent.
My finger was now resting snugly on the trigger. The words of my NRA instructor rung in my head: A gun is your best friend.
After a brief hesitation, the man took a step in my direction. And another. Perhaps he was one of those who had tried to pry open my trunk. Or, maybe he was responding to the sound of the gunshot that pierced the night like a crack of thunder. Or, perhaps he was planning to perform a mugging on a defenseless citizen. If that was the case, he was in for a hell of a surprise.
“What do you want, Mister?” I asked once more. But the man refused to respond and only quickened his pace. His form eclipsed the dim and distant street lamp, but I could tell he was a large man capable of ripping heads off shoulders.
My heart quickened almost in synchronization with the echoing clicks of his shoes on the pavement. “Don’t come any further,” I warned in a low voice, but knowing full well that he probably could not heed my words. All the better, I thought, but at least he received a warning. Now the killing would be legitimate and in self defense.
As the man moved closer, one of his hands emerged from his pocket and in the shadows I could see a faint reflection of light coming from an object held in his hand. I could wait no more. I quickly pulled my weapon out of its concealment.
With a squint and a smile, I pulled the trigger.
The force of the eruption sent the man sprawling back about ten feet as the bullet entered his forehead. When the echo of the shot subsided, all was quiet except the pounding of my heart. Excellent shot, I said to myself as I walked over to the rumpled body fully prepared to use the weapon again if needed.
He was a rather large black man and his open eyes glistened like two stars as they stared into the sky. He never knew what hit him, I thought to myself proudly. I placed the gun back into my pocket and inhaled deeply the cool night air. I felt invigorated as I lifted a cigarette from a rumpled pack of Lucky Strikes and placed it to my lips. As I flicked the lighter, I glanced at my prey.
The light from the flickering flame shimmered softly on something metallic on the coat of the man. I moved closer. It was a rather large decorative button. I knelt down to read the inscription.
In the dim light of the butane flame, my eyes read the phrase: “Ask Me for a Free Bible — Compliments of the Giddeons.”
I swallowed deeply. As the fire grew hot at my thumb tip, I noticed that clutched in his hand was not a gun or a knife, but a small black book. The gold letters that formed the words Holy Bible reflected eerily the light from my flame.
I stared blankly at those words, not feeling the growing pain from the flame as it slowly burned the tip of my thumb. The Holy fucking Bible, I said to myself in disbelief.
The pain became too much to bear and in a moment of instinct I dropped the lighter and shoved my thumb into my mouth, but never did I remove my eyes from the book held in the hands of the large black man whom I had killed.
What was I to do? I became nervous and paced quickly back and forth while the corpse lay motionless at my feet. I instantly regretted not taking the free NRA seminar entitled, “How to Cover Up Your Mistakes Without Losing Your Gun.” This was serious. How was I going to claim self defense? Yes, Officer, it was self defense. He threatened to hit me on the head with the Bible. And you know just how heavy that book is, I could have received a concussion. I don’t think that would have worked.
I looked down at the man, who now seemed to wear a very mocking expression on his face.
“I don’t want a fucking Bible,” I said and did not realize just how loud I had made that exclamation. Softly, my voice returned, echoing in the night — “fucking Bible.. Bible.. Bible.”
I needed to do something and quick, for in the distance I could hear the sound of approaching sirens. I reached down and checked the man’s coat pockets. After removing two more Bibles, I snatched the button and placed it on my coat and pried the last Bible from his grips. Then, in a moment of blatant ingenuity that would make the folks at the NRA proud, I retrieved the rusty crowbar left by the hoodlums who had tried to break into my car and placed it, menacingly, into the hand of the Bible Man.
As red and blue lights speckled the trees and walls of the A. Schlesinger Coffin Company, I got down onto my knees and faked a prayer, using many thee’s and thou’s; words that I had heard many times before uttered from Minister Bob. Oh, yes, this was good. And I did not skip a beat as headlights blinded me and a voice on a loudspeaker cut the night: “Don’t Move! Place your hands in the Air!”
“Oh, Lord, forgive this poor, wretched soul!” I bellowed into the night.
Two cops pulled me to my feet while one removed the gun from my pocket. As I was shoved to the backseat of a car, I noticed an officer examining the body. “Nice shot,” I heard him mutter.
In the squad car, I explained what had happened: As I was leaving my job that night, I gathered up my Bibles, locked the door and made my way to the parking lot when the large black man jumped out of the shadows with the rusty crowbar in his hands. I pulled out the gun and gave the man a warning, but he didn’t heed my warning so I had no other choice than to use the weapon.
“You give out Bibles?” asked the rather rotund officer in the front seat while he eyed the button on my jacket. I nodded and handed him one of the little black books through the opening in the screen. “Thanks,” he replied.
Things were going rather smoothly, I thought. As the officer ran a check on my gun permit through the computer, I examined the scene outside the confines of the squad car. Photographers had just finished photographing the body, some joking about the expression on the black man’s face. “As if he didn’t know what hit him,” I heard one say with a laugh. Another officer was outlining the body on the pavement with white paint, which reminded me of the popular children’s game from Mattel called “Chalklines.” I remember seeing a commercial for it on the NRA channel.
“Did you know that man?” the officer turned and asked.
“No,” I replied. “Why?”
“Well, it appears he worked for the Giddeon Bible Company. I assume you, too, have connections with that organization?”
I quickly glanced down at the button I was wearing just to make sure. “Why, yes I do, but only on a part-time basis.”
He mumbled something incoherent and returned to the computer. “The man you killed’s name was Marty Lincoln, a one-time priest in Atlanta. Seems a few years back he was caught stealing from the church and was excommunicated. He went from job to job, I guess and over the last few years has developed a rather impressive rap sheet — from burglary to assault. You were lucky he didn’t wrap that crowbar around your head.”
I watched over the officer’s shoulder as the green words appeared on the screen. He was right, I had killed a priest. Imagine that, a priest. Well, he was a one time-now-led-astray priest, but a priest nonetheless. More impressively, I was getting away with it, I thought to myself with a smile.
After the information was through transmission, the officer turned to the small keyboard. At the prompt, he typed in “deceased” and then followed it by “gunshot wound to the head.” He then typed in some biographical information on me, such as birthdate, employment, height, weight, color. Lastly, he typed in the following phrase, which made my whole body rush over in excitement and relief: “After questioning, suspect released.”
“You’re free to go, Mr. Moody. But, I must remind you not to leave the city and we are going to hold your gun in case an investigation is pursued. I doubt that will happen, however. This is a very cut and dry case. You will get your gun back. There are just some bad people in this world and you have got to protect yourself.”
I thanked the officer and he released the lock on the door. As I stepped out into the cool Nashville air, the officer’s voice stopped me. “By the way, Mr. Moody,” he said with a smile, “Nice shot.”
“Thank you,” I replied.
The next morning, I arose early for the honors. Sitting outside the Nashville police station, I waited below a large billboard that exclaimed: “Bring Righteousness Back to Government-Robert Baker for President.” The good Minister Bob smiled widely on the billboard, as if looking with favor upon the large sign in front of the station. The sun was peaking above the horizon, casting a light orange glow across the sky and illuminating the faint, glittery halo painted above Minister Bob’s head. At about ten to six, a hunchbacked old man appeared from around the station dragging a ladder. As the sun spread its glow over the sign, the man changed the number of criminals removed from the streets from 832 to 836. I couldn’t help but smile.
Like a trophy, one of those numbers was mine.
As the hunchback folded up the ladder, he turned his head toward me and smiled. I returned his smile and, taking one last look at my accomplishment, drove off, feeling good about what I had done. And for the first time in several years, I actually liked the world. A little.
Written by Bruce David Janu, c. 1989. Unpublished. ©2022 Bruce David Janu
My apologies to Piggly Wiggly and Campbell’s soup. I don’t even know if Campbell’s soup has lima beans. This story is not a reflection on the store or the products, but I wanted to root the satire in a real world, familiar to most people.
And to the National Rifle Association: Fuck you.