“Aim for the heart.” Dee’s damp hands close over mine and I’m embraced by summer sweat, beer breath, clean laundry. She’s taller; her breasts and belly press against my back. Soft, but hard inside, like when you accidentally bite your fork as you chew.
“Line it up. Aim careful, like pointing your finger.” Dee backs away.
I hold the gun like she showed me, grasp my right wrist with my left hand.
“Even a little gun like that’s got a kick.” She drains her beer.
Deep breath. I line up my shot and squeeze. The .22 comes to life and I try not to drop it. My ears ring. Now I know why they wear earmuffs on those shows.
“Not bad for your first try.” Dee pulls the tab on her fifth beer of the day. Late afternoon sun glints in her hair. Fake gold halo, in the light movie people call “magic hour.” Her hair is the colour of too much cheap dye, not red nor blonde but a brassy yellow she calls “gold.” One of the names she gives her clients is Goldie; when they ask what colour her hair is, she says “What do you want it to be?”
Smoke drifts from the barrel and I’m reminded of grade nine Science, back before I quit school. Conversion: energy to matter, and matter to different forms. Water’s solid form is ice. It reaches its melting point and becomes liquid; it reaches its boiling point and becomes gas. Condensation into liquid, and the process starts again.
You lose something every time.
A ragged hole through the paper man-target’s “neck.” Dee laughs at this, a belly-busting “Haw haw haw!”
Water freezes into ice.
“On a man, anything above the waist will do.” She toasts me and I grab a beer for myself. I watch her line up empties along the motel’s wooden fence, her own .38 sticking out her pants like a tail.
Dee wants to do something that will make us famous. We move on whenever her mouth gets us into trouble. She’ll never back down from a fight. I’ve seen her break pool cues over people’s heads. This is why I wonder when she brings home a car, or tools she tells me she’s holding for a friend. Except for me, Dee doesn’t have any friends.
Ice melts into water.
Vic, the manager of this fleabag, is coming toward us. We avoid him when the rent’s late.
“Dee, you got money for me?”
“Yeah.” Dee pulls out a ten. It’s not enough. Dee makes some excuse about money owed for her business.
“You have the $150 you owe me by Friday or you’re out.”
Dee’s anger is like a summer squall, her blue eyes sunny one minute and furiously dark and stormy the next. Before I can stop her, she’s on him, slapping and screaming.
Water boils into steam.
“Get off, you psycho bitch.” Vic pushes her half-heartedly. Good to know he won’t hit a woman.
Dee stumbles and grabs me for support. With her other hand, she pulls the gun from her pants.
“Jesus, Dee!” I yell.
She elbows my arm away and I step back. We’re in a lot of shit, even if she doesn’t shoot.
“Don’t move, motherfucker. No man lays a hand on me and gets away with it.”
Vic closes his eyes. For one tense moment, we stand still and the only sound is ragged breathing. I look from Vic’s screwed-up eyes to Dee’s red face, nostrils flared and mouth pressed to a thin white line. Vic’s hands hang limp at his sides.
The .22 is in my hand now, and everything is blurred with tears. “Dee, stop, can’t you see?”
“You shut the fuck up, too!” Dee screams and before I can do anything, the .38 roars. Sound, the sound of the end of the world and oh, Jesus that poor man’s blood, blooming red on his shirt.
Weeping. The .22 is so heavy.
She turns her head toward me, eyes depthless black and her face contorted with fury.
Condensation. Droplets of water catch the light, the light’s glinting off her hair.
Aim for the heart.