Page 74 - WTP VOl. VIII #7
P. 74

The Color Surge (continued from preceding page) “The line is live.”
The air erupts with the blunt staccato of gunfire. Mindi makes her way methodically through her lineup of firearms, emptying each with impressive efficiency. I can’t distinguish from this distance her exact impact on the target, but it must be considerable.
She finishes her rounds and turns to face me. Again I wince. Again I try to hide my revulsion. She pretends not to notice.
“Ready to give it a whirl?” With my earplugs, her voice sounds underwater.
“May as well put the humiliation behind me.”
Mindi hands me a pair of goggles. I fumble with the rifle, unable to get it comfortable on my shoulder.
“Want some help?”
“It’s embarrassing, but do you mind?”
“Not at all. First off, your position’s all wrong.”
Mindi reaches from behind and adjusts my grip. “Re- lax,” she says. “Hold it like you’re caressing it. Let it rest in your arms like this.”
Mindi’s right hand covers mine just the way my grandmother’s used to. It is flawless—smooth, tiny, beautiful. But then her left hand appears, a gray claw that pins my other hand against the rifle barrel.
“Now lean your cheek against the barrel. Good. And sight down its length to your objective. Nice. Now gently, very gently, squeeze.”
The mild kick of the rifle surprises me, pushes me ever so slightly back into Mindi’s arms. I straighten and pull away. My head swirls with the potent scent of sweat and gunpowder.
“It’s been awhile,” I say.
“You’re doing fine. Now you just need to hit some- thing in the vicinity of the target.”
Mindi guides me through several rounds.
“Breathe slow,” she tells me. “Get your heart rate down. When you’re ready, hold your breath and squeeze. Don’t pull, squeeze. And relax. Just enjoy
it and let your thoughts go. That’s what I love about shooting. There’s nothing but you and the target. Nothing, and nobody, else on earth.”
I put down the rifle, remove my goggles and earplugs, and roll my neck, careful to keep my eyes from her face.
“I need a break. It’s all yours.”
Mindi removes her ear guards and goggles. “Line’s going dead in a moment. I’ll wait for a new objective.”
We stand side by side, staring toward the distant targets. Silence hangs thick, oppressive. Finally, Mindi speaks.
“I shoulda told you on the phone. I know.” “Yeah. A heads-up would’ve been appreciated.”
“I sort of tried, but I guess I didn’t think you’d come if I did. When I’ve totally described myself right off the bat, the only guys who showed were the weirdos. But when I’ve said nothing at all, well...that was not too pleasant when we finally met. So ‘scarred’ was my compromise. True, but not too true. And I would’ve told you eventually, you just kinda jumped the gun.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Of course.”
I hesitate. “Why don’t you get it fixed?”
I can’t quite read her expression, but it isn’t good. “Fixed?”
“I mean surgery or grafts or something?”
Mindi shakes her head. “You have no idea how many operations I’ve had.” Her voice is hard. “Don’t you think if there was more I could do, I would?”
“Sorry. It was a stupid thing to say.”
“Sweet sixteen, Dale. That’s when it happened. Do you understand? I was pretty, too. Shoulda seen me then.”
“You’re still pretty.”
“Don’t! Please don’t. I know what I am. You learn fast when kids call you a monster and run away. My aunt used to say, ‘Kids’re meaner’n chickens.’ But I think adults are even meaner, ’cause they’re not so honest.”
“Line is dead in 30 seconds.” Ron’s voice crackles over the loudspeaker. We stand, silent, waiting.
“Dead in ten.”

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