A clean cut man in a powder blue shirt and khaki trousers with an assault rifle hanging from a shoulder strap strolls through a Texas park at dusk, on his way home from an open carry event at the local Dip n’ Dunk coffee shop. Dip n’ Dunk has not banned long weapons from its local chain of stores, so his group meets there, even though the coffee is terrible.
The Clean Man misses the Starbucks days.
Across the baseball field, where a group of middle schoolers are playing softball, he spots another man carrying a long gun emerging from a tangle of shrubbery. This man has long scraggly hair, and is wearing a ripped t-shirt which has, scrawled in something reddish brown, the phrase GOD HATES YOU. Several drywall screws appear to be protruding from his skull on the left hand side, each trickling blood into his filthy mat of tangled hair.
The Clean Man approaches the filthy one.
“Hi,” he says.
The Filthy Man grunts.
“I don’t remember you from the meetings.”
“The open carry meetings.”
“I don’t go to meetings,” the man says. His hands tighten around the weapon, his finger curled around the trigger.
“Oh!” says the clean cut man. “So, may I ask, why are you out here with a gun?”
The man reaches up, turns one of the screws in his head, winces, and says, “Why are YOU out here with a gun?”
“I’m exercising my second amendment rights,” the Clean Man says. Sweat has broken out under his armpits, staining his shirt a darker blue.
“Me too,” says the Filthy Man. “Heh.”
“Why do you have screws in your head?” the Clean Man asks.
The filthy man winces, and reaches up, touching the screws, one by one.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the Filthy Man says.
The Clean Man glances over, and sees the children standing, paralyzed in the playing field. Somewhere, in the stands, a baby cries. The Filthy Man bares a mouthful of stained and broken teeth.
“I think maybe you’re making them nervous,” the Clean Man says.
“I think maybe you’re making them nervous,” mimics the filthy man in a high pitched falsetto.
“I’m serious,” says the clean man.
“I’m serious,” mimics the Filthy Man.
The clean man glances back at the children, making a ‘run away now’ gesture with his free hand. When he looks back, the filthy man has his assault weapon leveled at his chest. The clean man tightens his grip on his gun, almost raises it, but stops, as the Filthy Man shakes his head.
“I feel threatened,” says the Filthy Man.
“I’m not being threatening!” shouts the Clean Man, furious that he has let the bad guy get the drop on the good guy. The gun in his hand is trembling.
The Filthy Man winces. “Why are you shouting?” he says. “Are you crazy?”
The Clean Man looks around. Has anyone called the police? The children are still standing in the field, staring at the two of them. The parents in the stands are looking at them, motionless. He tries to make eye contact, to signal, that someone needs to call the police.
But nobody calls the police, because everyone is used to people walking around with assault rifles. They’re everywhere now.
“This is not how this is supposed to happen!” the Clean Man says. A spreading blot of urine has bloomed on the front of his khaki trousers. One of the children in the field points and laughs.
The filthy man reaches up and twists one of the screws in his head, his finger on the trigger the whole time.
Then he smiles from ear to ear.