Page 72 - WTP VOl. VIII #7
P. 72

The Color Surge (continued from page 48)
” A breath. “My burn? It’s not hidden. Okay? Just so
you know.”
“I understand. And I’ll bring my old rifle. Hasn’t been fired in ages, but probably still works.”
“You still have that thing? Sure, bring it tomorrow and I’ll check it out.”
It drizzles all morning, more of a mist than an actual rain. I’d planned to wait until 5:00, but I find myself fussing all day and on edge, so I finally decide to go early instead and catch a word with Mindi before she starts shooting.
Manny’s Best is just a cinderblock bunker set in a mud field. I maneuver my Honda Civic into the park- ing lot, a muddy obstacle course filled with rainwater lakes, and pull in between a black Ford pick-up and a rusting Chevy sedan. With a pop of the trunk I re- move my rifle, which I’ve wrapped in a black, plastic trash bag for protection.
The entrance to Manny’s Best is about as welcoming as an outhouse. Inside, the floor is dirt, the roof is cor- rugated tin, and a bank of rough wooden stalls line up like confessionals.
The fourth wall opens to the shooting range—a field of mud exposed to the sky and rain. Down one side of the field runs a tube-like canopy of clear plastic that ripples in the wind. At the far side of the field a low brick wall sports three targets protected from the rain by an overhang of clear plastic. One of the targets is a traditional bull’s eye, the other two are silhouettes of a man’s head and torso. A female figure stands beside one of the targets.
A young guy with stringy, blonde hair watches me from behind a counter. He sits perched on a stool be- side an ornate cash register that looks left over from a Wild West saloon. His hair hangs over the shoulders of a tee-shirt that features beer labels framed like di- plomas and the words, “My College Degrees” written beneath them.
He sticks a thumb in his paperback and nods. “Help you?”
“I’m here to meet someone named Mindi?” I point across the field. “That might be her.”
His lopsided grin looks more like a snarl. 65
“Might be. You her date?”
“I guess word travels.” I extend a hand. “It’s Dale.”
“Ron,” he replies, but doesn’t take my hand. “She’s refreshing her objective.”
I have to guess at the meaning of those words.
“Will she be long?”
He nods in the direction of the targets. The distant fig- ure, small and dressed in jeans and a red tee-shirt, still has her back turned. She finishes up, then ducks inside the plastic tube. Her blurred figure flows toward the bunker as though through a worm’s intestines.
“Wait over there,” Ron points me toward a folding chair by the entrance.
I lift the rifle. “Do you, by any chance, have bullets for this thing?”
“You mean shells.”
He leans under the counter and emerges with a small box that he hands to me.
“And you’ll need...” With his thumb still sandwiched in the folds of his paperback he reaches back under the counter and retrieves two fluorescent yellow pel- lets. I stare without comprehension.
“Earplugs,” he explains, then goes back to reading.
I perch on the edge of the chair and watch Mindi ap- proach. The afternoon light gives an odd lumines- cence to the shimmer of water in the air. Only her legs are visible, scissoring beneath the plastic. She disappears from view, then reappears behind the counter, her back to me, and chats a moment with Ron. Her hair is dusty blonde, pulled back in a pony tail that sweeps across her shoulders. Her body is tiny, but appears strong and lithe from behind. Ron nods in my direction, and Mindi turns to face me.
I wish I’d been better prepared. I might have hidden my shock better.
Nearly half of Mindi’s head is scar tissue—gray, mis- shapen, and lifeless. The burn obliterates her fea- tures like melted plastic or pounded clay. It sweeps from behind a stunted ear and across her disfigured face, warping one eye and demolishing most of her nose as it goes. On that side her lips are mostly gone, her teeth exposed like the Grim Reaper’s.

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