(Scene 1) Re: Mike’s Spirit Guide

As a visitor of the majestic junkyard that is Tucson, I thank whatever deity is in charge of of “chance encounters “for providing me with a couchsurfing host turned-friend turned-guide. Without the aid of one entrenched in the local lifestyle and culture, how else would I have found myself out in the desert shooting garbage with a handgun?

This person is Mel, a phoenix-raised Tucsonian who works as a nurse when she isn’t schooling out-of-towners on the way of the gun. With no hesitation, she came up with our itinerary for her day off:

“We’ll go shoot garbage then go hang out in a cave, then go drink”

Formulating any possible objection to her game plan seemed impossible.

I couldn’t really turn down the offer to go shoot a handgun in the desert even though it made me somewhat anxious. Strange though it may be, I did indeed shoot guns growing up. However,  since my baptism in the bongwaters of Olympia, WA, the closest I’d come to a gun was playing Clue. But especially from an audiological and cultural standpoint, it felt like a mistake not to take the opportunity to go show those cacti and sand/rocks who the boss is.

(Scene 2) A Gunslinger Prepares

As we packed for the day, we tripped about her fairly poorly-lit house, brimming with two dogs. There was:

  1. Gatsby: a grey-house who constantly looked like he had just read a spooky story before bed and was mildly anxious. she was full of good suggestions, such as bringing a life-size cardboard cutout of Obama.
  2. Prince: Some husky thing with one eye who was super nice

We swerved in and out of the roving animals putting chips, sunscreen, handguns, and whatever else seemed useful into our bags. Mel cheerily proposed that we bring the life-size cardboard cutout of Obama that stood quietly in her living room corner along with us to go shooting.

“That seems like a really bad idea.” I said. “Like, that seems like it’s how we end up on a special NSA list or maybe in jail.”

“We’re not gonna shoot it!” She said, laughing at my idiocy. “We could just dress him up and have him around.”

It was tough to tell if it really was as big a deal as it was in my brain, but either way, I was eventually able to wrestle this terrible idea into submission, and Obama stayed home to watch the house alone, the president of nothing. Perhaps he even enjoyed a nap.

(Scene 3) Obama Stays Home And We Depart

We drove north of Tucson into the desert and took a left on a dirt road covered in large stones. My truck was 100% not built for such off-roadery, but clearly turning back was not an option. We rolled down the road as I painstakingly navigated every pebble and bump, trying not to secure my friend/truck an early grave.

We inched onward until we arrived approximately nowhere, and pulled off the side of the road. We were awash in a sea of cacti. One powerline loped across the emptiness like a wiry caterpillar.The Catalina Mountains off in the distance acted as a nice reminder of one’s insignificance. Strolling down the road, we chanced into some corrugated metal, a small gnarled tree capable of bearing a hammock, and tons of empty shell-casings on the ground. Truly, we had found the promised land. Having found our new home, we set about the business of shooting stuff.

Mel loaded half of the magazine, but had a cast on, so she let me try and finish it, as the bullets get harder and harder to cram in there toward the end. She handed me the gun and I strode away a safe distance, American flag shorts decidedly not flapping on this breezeless and hot afternoon.

“Don’t shoot the nature.” she instructed, imploring me to aim downward into a pile of wood and scrap metal.

(Scene 4) I Shoot, I Score

Gunslinging Highlight Reel + Fake Death (It gets loud because guns)


Lifting the serious-feeling glock (not the same as a glockenspiel, I would learn) toward some wood on the ground, I took aim, generally. There wasn’t a part of the piece of the wood I especially wanted to make pay for it’s crimes, so I just aimed at the whole four by four. As I slowly squeezed the trigger, I clenched my body waiting for the thing we were here for, apparently. And like magic, a deafening pop surrounded me, followed immediately by a distinct ricochet sound like any good western movie would have. That sound was particularly menacing because I feared it meant a bullet could come flying back at me and I’d die in the desert, penniless and wearing short shorts with an American Flag and a Coors logo, and that’s how I would be remembered. Someone would eventually go through the contents of my truck and find gross socks tucked under the seat, probably, and they’d mention that in my obituary. I WAS GOING TO FISH THEM OUT AND WASH THEM, EVENTUALLY.

I aimed a little higher and squeezed the trigger. Again, I grew tense and waited for the bang. I achieved the bang, and my ears rang. A hole had appeared in the large sheet of metal roughly where I had pointed the gun. Does this make sense? It seemed out of the question that I had anything to do with the hole showing up in the metal sheet. I suppose that is why guns are really good for shooting and killing things. I know this reads as an incredibly childish view on guns, and I’m not saying I’m anti-gun, per se, (I am, though, now that I reflect for like 2 seconds) but for a person far removed from that world, they are pretty crazy efficient tools.

(Scene 5) Mike Reflects on the Divine

Did Michael feel the pulse of God in the high-speed expulsion of hot metal?  Did he hear her smothering voice briefly blot out all other sounds? Did he feel a connection to a primal part of his soul as he hefted this Austrian killing tool and raised it defiantly toward the sky?

(Scene 6) Mike Confirms He Is Still Mortal

I definitely didn’t connect with a sense of power, I mostly connected with a sense of anxiety that I would somehow terminate my own life, or at least make this day so shitty that I would probably never forget it. I wasn’t not having fun, but I wasn’t sure why people would drive an hour into the desert to shoot garbage. Maybe if the gun was giant or made goofy sounds when you shot it. Or maybe if the garbage yelled racist and/or unequivocally evil sentiment and shooting it was the only way to silence it.

We set up some cans, (as you do) and shot at them. I mostly missed. The cans were obviously imbued with some property that diverted ballistics. Trader Joes had evidently invested in some pretty cutting-edge technology. Through careful practice, patience, and walking about 20 feet closer to the targets, I was able to show them who the boss was.

The curious thing is that once you set up cans and shoot them, you start looking at all your worldly possessions differently. What else could I shoot? Would it look/sound awesome if I shot it? I walked over to my truck and began to scan the contents. What could I live without that I could shoot? These questions eclipsed the normal existential fair that occupied my brain. Maybe I could just shoot my truck a couple of times and it would still run? That would probably be pretty sweet, and would also have the added benefit of probably making me seem edgy. I had heard that being edgy was a desirable trait to exhibit, and that other humans were receptive or even drawn to it.

Eventually, though, the thrill of failing to shoot very large targets left, and we were beginning to burn in the aggressive Arizonan sun. The sun was too far away to shoot,and clearly our biology was telling us to flee. The sun was very unhappy, frowning down at us to convince us to leave the desert. So we headed for a cave, where we could forget the sun, and I would grow to wonder if I would ever see it again.



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