Page 73 - WTP VOl. VIII #7
P. 73

 The other half of her face, however, is untouched, and the beauty of that half makes the horror of the other even greater.
Of course I knew about the fire. And of course I’d imagined scars. But for whatever reason, I’d assumed burns on her arms, perhaps, maybe her legs and back. But her face? No.
I try to force a smile, but it probably looks more like a grimace.
“Mindi, I presume?”
She approaches with an outstretched hand. I grasp it and shake—too hard perhaps, but I’m distracted by the sight of her other hand, held tight by her side and as scarred as her face.
“Welcome to the hell hole.” She laughs, but it’s forced —unlike the easy chuckle I know from the phone.
“Your life can feel so totally ordinary and
insignificant. But then one day something happens and everything changes...”
I withdraw my hand and try to laugh in return. Too loud, I’m afraid, but in that moment everything is too loud. Too intense. Too focused. Too macabre. I am swept up in an urgent desire to run and escape this whole Grand Guignol.
I turn away and point toward the targets. “How’s the shooting going?”
“Finer’n frog hair, as my daddy used to say. These are my favorite conditions, shootin’ in the rain.”
She points at the plastic-wrapped rifle at my feet. “May I?”
I hand her the package, keeping my eyes away from her face. I’m having difficulty breathing, as though drowning in the oversaturated air. I don’t know where to look, and am acutely aware of my eyes roaming in every direction but hers.
She unwraps the rifle, holds it lightly in both hands, turns it a few times. She raises it to her shoulder and sights down its length.
“Feels fine. Nicely balanced. You can do something with this. Want to see mine?”
“Your gun?” “Guns. Plural.”
I let Mindi lead me into one of the shooting booths where I stand on her good side and peer over her shoulder. The low shelf sports an awesome array of weaponry.
“This here’s a Yugoslavian-made SKS semiautomatic. This is a Savage bolt-action that fires a .300 Win- chester Magnum. This is a Beretta Storm nine-milli- meter carbine. This here’s a Walther P22 semiauto- matic. And this is another Beretta, the 92FS—a sweet, little nine-millimeter. Manny’s range is really too short for most of these, but it’s what I’ve got.”
“Jesus,” I say. “You could arm a small insurgency here.”
“How do you know I don’t?” She gives me what is prob- ably meant as a wink, but it looks gruesome instead.
I turn away, too quickly, and point across the range. “So how’d you do?”
“Not too bad.” I hear the hurt in her voice. “Go ahead and load up. I’ll shoot a bit more, then you can take over.”
I am grateful for a task to occupy me. I try to regain composure, fumble with the box of shells, and struggle to remember the steps to loading my rifle. I drop one shell on the ground and, unsure what to do, place a foot over it and press it into the dirt to make it disappear.
Ron’s voice comes over the loud speaker in a scratchy monotone: “The line is live in thirty.”
I straighten and stand self-consciously with my rifle pointed at the ground, unsure what to do next.
Ron’s voice announces, “The line is live in ten.”
Mindi has donned ear guards and goggles and stands rigid, her SKS rifle aimed and her body primed like a drawn bow. I insert my ear plugs. Finally, Ron gives the signal, his voice dulled and distant.
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