On a still Autumn morning in a small Texas town near Mexico's border, an idiot with a gun emerges from his motorhome. What happens next "Aintright."
Aintright: Episode One
An Idiot With A Gun
(Aintright: The Series, Episode One)
Copyright © 2014 DL Greenlee
All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. All persons, places or things contained within and whether or not similar to an actual person, place or thing, is fictitious.
Part One-A Bullet For The Brit
Part Two-Tooters & Shooters
Part One: A Bullet For The Brit?
An angry woman with an English accent barked another impatient demand, “In one mile turn left on Ranch Road 1437!” She didn’t say it but he knew what she was thinking, “If you miss this turn I will set this motorhome on fire with you in it!”
Three months earlier when they left on their around the country adventure she had been polite, even flirty. He loved the sound of her voice. Now her only emotion was anger and all he wanted from her was silence. Her voice grated against his ears, “In one half mile turn left you Moron. For once listen to me.”
Clinching his jaw he stared out the windshield at the dust blowing across the road in the sunlight, and made his decision. A single speck of lead traveling faster than her words would shut her up forever.
His left hand on the steering wheel, he reached for the Ruger, .380 semi-automatic pistol, holstered inside the waistband of his jeans. Wrapping his fingers around the rubber grips he paused, inhaled slowly then puffed up his cheeks and spit out a burst of warm air. “Think,” he told himself. “Think about what you’re fixin' to do.”
Leaving the .380 in its holster he reached out and muted the mad little British woman that was rampaging inside the GPS. He knew if he looked over he would see her banging against the glass with her fists and screeching out directions. He grinned; all he heard was the hum of tires on pavement.
“Why’d you do that?” his wife asked, looking up from her Kindle.
“It was either quiet her down or use my .380 to 'recalculate' that ornery little British gal that’s been yelling at me since Boise. A company called American Coach should have a little bitty American woman giving directions.”
“So, you’d be okay with an American woman yelling at you and telling you where to go?”
“Well, after 33 years it would be somethin’ I’m used to. Crap here's the turn already.”
He stomped down the brake pedal, the tires slightly skipping across the road's surface. The cloud of smoke rising from the bottom of the motorhome carried the smell of burnt rubber. Passing the wheel from right hand to left he turned the 42’ motor-home onto Texas 1437 from U.S. 180, promptly accelerating down the two-lane road.
“Why don't you ever pay attention to where you're going?” his wife said crossly, her seatbelt choking her from being thrown forward and back.
“Umm, it's just because your gorgeousosity is so distracting.”
“That's not even a word.” Pressing her back against the seat she tugged on the shoulder strap in an effort to loosen it.
“You're right babe it's a beauty to indescribable for words...your beauty.” His foot still mashing the gas pedal against the floorboard, he stole a peek at her then looked back to the road.
“You are so full of it. Finally,” she said when the strap released. “Now stop driving like you’re in a police car? You’re retired you know.”
“We’re just about there, only 13 miles to Aintright.”
“Slow down you’re making me carsick, and what kind of name is Aintright?”
“Probably ‘cause all the folks in town just ain’t right.”
“Why do you say such stupid things?” she asked with a sigh.
“Probably ‘cause I ain’t right,” he said, throwing both hands in the air.
“Could you please steer?” she asked, leaning over to retrieve her Kindle from the floor.
Grabbing the wheel with one hand he turned to look at his wife. His free hand flourished in a parody of a tour guide describing an inviting locale.
“Actually the Aintrights were one of the founding families of this remote, but quaint, west Texas village that’s tucked away in a valley of hidden waters and nestling the Guadalupe Mountains in north Hudspeth County. A fun fact about Hudspeth county, it's approximately the same size as Connecticut.”
“You need something to read besides travel brochures,” she said searching the floor, trying to find her water bottle that had been thrown from the cup holder.
Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Gravel being flung against the underside of the RV warned him they were headed for the bar ditch. The wheel jerked in his hand. Digging her fingernails into the armrests of the leather captain’s chair she sank down into the seat. Looking back at the road he lifted his foot off the gas pedal and gently guided the vehicle onto the pavement, then wasted no time in regaining speed.
“Idiot. It’s a miracle you haven’t killed us,” she said relaxing her grip.
“You know what they say about God taking care of idiots.”
“What worries me is they say nothing about God taking care of those that have to ride with them.”
“Ha, very funny...mercy, speakin' a God, look at those mountains.”
“Seriously? Why don’t you try looking at the road, I’ll look at the mountains.”
It was as she had imagined. The orange light of a late September sunset captured the peaks of the Guadalupe Mountains in a fiery spotlight, while the salt flats of the Chihuahuan Desert glowed white in their shadows.
“I can’t wait to see the fall colors of the maple trees in the mountains,” she said.
“Yep, pretty unusual sight in Texas. But ya know what ain’t unusual in Texas? Me bein’ hungry.”
“Is food all you think about?”
“No ma’am,” he said with a wink, “it’s not all I think about.”
“You might as well just keep thinking about food.”
“Food it is. Soon as we get the Command Center set up at the Aintright RV Park, I’m breaking out that leftover Mexican we got at the Little Diner in Cornutillo. I’m sure he’ll be able to find work around here.”
“That is not funny,” she grumbled.
“Don't take everything so dadgum serious babe.”
“I don’t take everything serious. But you shouldn’t just blurt out whatever pops into your head, you might really offend someone, or in your case a bunch of someones.”
“I'd hafta' completely stop talking. More’n half the country is either a crybaby or just lookin' for somethin' to be mad about.”
She leaned against the headrest and let her eyes shut. “I agree with you...you should stop talking.”
“Don't get too comfortable, we're nearly there.”
He reached behind his head and grabbed the top of his seat with both hands, stretching and making his left shoulder pop. Sighing, he grabbed the steering wheel and turned his head from side to side. Cracking his neck he stared down the quiet Texas road, flipped on the headlights and yawned. Ten minutes later he was wide awake.
“Open those pretty blue eyes, we're here,” he said.
“Yes we are,” she said, opening her eyes and leaning forward. “Here on the road in the RV. See I can joke.”
“Uh, Okay, but no. To quote our fellow Texan, Bill Engvall, ‘here’s our sign.’ Aintright, Texas, population 413.”
“I should never have given you that DVD.”
“We can watch it again as soon as we find the RV park.”
“Yay,” she said mockingly. “Give me the address of the park; I’ll put it in the GPS.”
“No, no, no,” he said. “I’m not about to let Her Majesty loose again. From here on out we get where we’re goin’ with good ol’ American know how….besides I didn’t get an address.”
“Didn’t get an address?”
“Nope, but I did get directions. That's good enough in a town this size.”
“What are the directions?”
“Look for the Aintright ISD and school building”?
“That was it?”
“Pretty much. There'll be a marquee that said-”
“No, though yeah, prob'ly there is. It'll read Cougar Country, Aintright ISD.”
“I meant the Aintright School is right in front of us. You don't see that?” she said impatiently, then shook her head. “It's a wonder you never got shot.”
“Too quick to kill baby.”
“Just slow down and look for the RV Park.”
“Aintright RV Park right there,” he said, stepping on the brakes. “Looks like the road runs next to the school.”
He turned the motorhome onto a wide, well-maintained gravel road that had been recently graded. The gravel crunched under the wheels as he followed the road alongside an adobe wall of the Aintright School, before curling around the school's back parking lot.
At road's end a small wooden office with a single door and a fresh coat of white paint. Its porch barely big enough for the two chairs rocking in the wind, under a sloping roof of green corrugated fiberglass.
“The park is at the back of the school?”
“Seems so,” he said, “but it looks closed. Shoot it's not even eight o'clock yet.”
“It is Sunday evening in a small town. Stop and I'll check the office.”
He brought the motorhome to a halt barely twenty feet from the simple structure. Staying put he leaned his right shoulder against the back of the driver’s seat. His wife eased from her chair onto the steps leading out the door next to her. A year back she started working out in preparation for this trip and it showed in all the right places as she went out the door.
“Don't bother getting up,”
“Hadn't planned on it. I'll just sit here and admire the view, but do me a favor and walk slow,” he said out the open door.”
“Shuddup,” she replied, without looking back.
The two front windows were dark, a bulb screwed into the fixture above the door casting its yellow light across the porch. The boards of the porch creaked under her feet.
Reaching the door she saw the placard hanging on it, GONE TO WALMART. “Seriously?” she thought, "nearest Wal-Mart would be in El Paso, ninety miles away." The posted hours and check-in instructions were painted in black letters.
OPEN: When We're Here.
CLOSED: When We're Not Here.
Hookups are that-a-way. 20$ a day whether we're here or away. If you stay & don't pay it's best you learn to pray. Drive Friendly Folks!
A red traffic arrow painted under the posting pointed toward the RV hookups. Below that a metal slot in the door with the words, “CASH ONLY,” painted in green.
She turned, hesitated on the top step of the porch and glanced in the direction of the empty hookups then started walking toward the idling motorhome. She gave a shout to her husband who, as he promised, hadn't moved.
“They're closed but the sign says...”
“Long-haired freaky people need not apply,” he sang off-key. “Sign, sign everywhere a sign.”
“What are you trying to sing?” she asked.
“I ain’t tryin’, I’m doin’. It’s from the song “Signs,” by the Five Man Electrical Band.”
“Whatever,” she said stepping up into the RV. “That’s fine if you don’t want to know what the sign says.”
“Do not sing that again unless you want die in your sleep,” she said plopping into her seat.
He opened his mouth, the word “sign,” on the tip of his tongue; she folded her arms, raised an eyebrow and stared at him. Patting her shoulder he decided to ask again about the office sign.
“Okay. What'd it say?”
“Go read it yourself.”
“I would, but I’d hafta’ climb over you to get out. I wouldn’t mind, but you…”
“Fine. It said hookups are that way,” she motioned toward the windshield with her hand. “Once again I'm surprised you didn't see them, the first one's not forty feet away.”
“Indeed they are,” he said looking out the windshield. “But come on, who expects RV hookups to be at the edge of a school parking lot?”
“Aren't you the one that's always saying 'expect the unexpected?'” she asked making air quotes with her fingers.
“I was applying that to crack-heads, criminals and convicts where the unexpected is normal; not to life in a small town.”
“Maybe life in this small town's not normal,” she said.
“You may be right,” he said putting the motorhome in gear, “but all I care about is gettin' settled in for the night.”
“Just so you know, I'm always right,” she said, shaking her finger in jest, “the problem is you never listen.”
He turned his head to look at her. “Are you sure you're not related to that contrary little British woman that lives in our dash?”
“Watch where you're going! You're about to hit the hook-up thing.”
“Oops, that was close,” he said turning the wheel and coming to a stop in the RV slot.
Part Two: Tooters & Shooters
A shockwave of sound blasting from the horn of a locomotive tore past his eardrums; its energy propelling itself into his brain and forcing his eyes to flare open, their lids widening over dilating pupils. Disoriented, he jackknifed his body to a sitting position in the queen size bed. The rapid beating of his heart could be felt pulsating through the veins of his neck.
Throwing off the flat sheet and comforter he snatched the Smith & Wesson, .357 magnum revolver, off the nightstand next to their bed, swung his legs over the side and instinctively pointed the handgun at the shaded window nearest him. Another nearby blast from the train’s horn shook the glass in the window and caused him to flinch but he did not fire. Feeling the mattress move behind him he looked over his shoulder to see his wife bouncing off the end of the bed onto her feet.
Throwing on her robe as she started to the front of the motorhome she said, “You can shoot a train if you want, but I’m heading for the door.”
“None of this makes sense,” he thought. “How did our RV get on railroad tracks?”
Gun still in hand and dressed only in pajama shorts he jumped in his boots and grabbed his cowboy hat off the hook as he headed for the door. His wife was already out.
Skipping the first step he hit the bottom one with his left foot and launched himself out the door. Hitting the ground with both feet he felt another deafening blast of the horn coming from the left. Jerking his head in that direction he saw his wife marching toward the back of the Aintright public school building.
She was in full stride of her I ain't happy walk, clearing a path through a stream of about two dozen students and staff making their way across the caliche parking lot, before funneling through a single glass door to the school cafeteria. Beyond the large glass panels that comprised the back wall of the school were two dozen more seated around the tables, shoveling in breakfast and spitting out words to their neighbor.
“Wait a minute,” he thought, looking around. “We didn't go nowhere. We're still parked behind the school.”
He tucked the .357 in his boot, the grips of the weapon exposed. Hurrying across the unpaved parking lot to catch his wife he realized she had already reached her objective.
“Why are y'all blowing that horn?” she asked, approaching two men standing near a tall pole behind the school. They turned, looked at her, looked at each other, then back at her.
Standing in front of them she pointed to the top of the pole and asked, “Did you not hear me? Why are y'all blowing that horn? Our RV is obviously parked by a school, but it most definitely isn't in a railroad yard.”
Both men remained silent doing their best not to laugh at the barefooted woman wearing a bathrobe turned inside-out, disheveled pajamas and her hair tousled in early morning cow-licks. The younger man was near forty and dressed in a long-sleeved shirt, tie, Wrangler Riata pants, polished boots and a Stetson hat. The other man looked old enough to have been a childhood friend of Methuselah. He wore clean, striped bib overalls, a matching stained engineer's cap and an ancient pair of scuffed work boots.
The younger man took a deep breath to gain his composure. Putting his hand on the other man's shoulder he spoke.
“Ma'am to answer your question, Jon Luther here sounds this horn three times a day, five days a week. Seven forty-five in the morning to welcome the new day, eleven forty-five, just before lunch, then four forty-five for another day done. He's our town tooter. I'm Felipe Gonzalez, district superintendent and principal.” He held out his hand.
Crossing her arms she said, “Your tooter here, and his Viking war cry horn scared me close to a heart attack. I thought our RV had rolled onto some railroad tracks. Don’t look at me that way, I’ve read about that happening, and believe you me there's nothing welcoming about running for your life first thing in the morning.”
Felipe awkwardly stuck his hand in his pocket. The older man removed his cap from his head before speaking. “Dear lady my sincere apologies for frightening you. Allow me to introduce myself, I am Jonathan Luther Jones, engineer for the Illinois Central Railroad, retired. The people of Aintright have been kind enough to allow me the pleasure of replicating the whistle that was on my last train and sounding it three times daily.” He waved at the pole, “Of course as there is no steam available I had to fashion it from air horns.”
“Oh, of course,” she said raising one hand in retort, but leaving her arms crossed.
The early morning sunlight floated through the cool, dry air of the autumn morning, shrinking the shadows behind the school building. A drifting aroma of bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy from the school cafeteria caused the mans stomach to grumble as he stopped next to his wife.
“Hey babe, what's goin' on?” he asked.
Her arms still crossed she nodded her head toward Felipe and Jon Luther. “These two gentleman...” The “gentlemen” glanced at her husband and burst into laughter.
She turned and looked at him. “Oh no,” she gasped, her eyes widening in embarrassment. “What are you wearing?” She dropped her arms to her sides intent on staring an answer from him.
“Oh crap,” he said, catching his reflection in the glass wall, “I don't have clothes on.”
He was bare-chested, his straw cowboy hat jammed down on his head. Below that a pair of pajama shorts covered with pictures of the Looney Tunes character, Roadrunner; on his feet cowboy boots with his .357 tucked in the right one. It was then a blonde, high-school girl staring out from behind his reflection, pointed and squealed, “He's got a gun!”
Felipe and Jon quieted their laughter. He immediately raised a pair of empty hands when the glass in front of the girl shattered. She crumpled onto the shard covered floor as screaming bodies wildly scattered.
He didn't hear the noise of the glass breaking as an instant before, his senses targeted a vaguely familiar sound; a fully automatic, AK-47 rifle, spewing out 10 rounds per second. It was to his left. The nerves and muscles of his body reacted swiftly. Shoving his wife aside he bent, drew the .357 from his boot and stepped in front of her as the revolver rose past his hip.
Scanning, he saw Felipe grab his wife and dive for the ground as Jon Luther fell backward. Several bodies were on the ground, others frantically running, looking more than like a rugby scrum than a stampede. More screams, more yelling, and breathing...his breathing.
“Threat located,” he thought, his mind in a hyper-vigilant state, “black ski-mask, dark clothing, one-hundred round drum, still firing...now closer to the back entrance of the school. Remember bring up sidearm with a high two-handed grip to minimize recoil. Remember, position thumb under thumb, rest finger on the trigger, sight target center mass, use double-tap...breathe, hold, incapacitate threat.”
A thunderous explosion of gas and fire sparked by two near instantaneous taps on the trigger sent a pair of .158 grain, hollow point projectiles spiraling from the barrel of his gun and thudding into their target less than thirty feet away. The shooter stumbled backward from the impact but didn't fall. His finger squeezing the trigger of the AK-47 and sending a burst of rounds up the wall, through the ceiling and into the sky as his arms jerked up then down before he regained control of the weapon and his balance.
Processing the frantic blurs of movement to his left and right, the man with the .357 focused on the still standing menace in front of him. A tornado of screams swirled around him, dulled by the loud ringing in his ears. The smell of burnt gunpowder overpowered the aroma of breakfast, his stomach twisting in a knot.
“Body armor,” he thought. “Head shot, acquire sight picture.”
A hailstorm of bullets sliced through the caliche surface in front of him throwing up a broken wall of dirt. He had counted on that. He knew from his training that most bad guys using a fully automatic weapon tended to point and spray instead of aiming. This meant he had one chance before the shooter raised his sights, putting him in the middle of that hailstorm.
“Breathe, hold...incapacitate threat.” He squeezed the trigger. A cool breeze flitted across the bristling hairs of his chest and arms.
The fabric of the ski-mask barely moved as the shooter's head jerked back; his body falling onto its left side, his head bouncing off the sidewalk. The AK-47 silent, except for the clanging sound it made hitting the ground. Scarcely 5 seconds had passed between the glass shattering and the last shot he fired from his .357. At least 50 rounds fired by the shooter, three well-placed shots delivered by him. He took a deep breath, exhaled and relaxed his muscles letting the revolver drop, the barrel hot against the bare skin of his leg.
Turning to find his wife he was knocked a step backward by a body crashing into him. The body's arms grabbed him around the waist and squeezed hard. It was her. She squeezed, cried and talked at the same time. The colored blurs and distorted sounds of this chaos slowed, taking the shape of normal people horrified by the unthinkable.
“Thank God you're alright,” she blurted out.
He put his arms around her, the .357 dangling from his hand. Lowering his lips to her ear, he pressed his cheek against her hair. “I told you, too quick to kill baby.” Pulling his head back he looked into her eyes. “I'm just glad you’re okay. I was scared that, well, you know.”
“I love you too,” she said, leaning her head softly against his chest. She took several quick breaths and wiped the tears from her eyes, slowly reached up and twisted his bare nipple hard.
“Owwwwwww!,” he howled, roughly pulling her against him in reaction. “That stinkin' hurts. Why would you do that?”
She clasped her hands around his back and leaned away to look at him. “Why would you go against a machine-gun with a revolver?” she demanded.
“It's what I doooo,” he quipped. “Figured I had a better chance than those kids did.”
“Idiot,” she said softly, closing her eyes and giving him another hug. When she opened her eyes her blood turned cold. “There's another one behind you!”
Spinning out of her embrace he placed himself between his wife and this new threat. He saw the familiar silhouette of a Colt, AR-15 rifle, in the hands of a man running at them. The .357 rose in his right hand, his left racing toward it. He felt the metal of the trigger press into the meat of his finger as instinct took over. “Three rounds,” he thought...
Thank you for reading Episode One of AINTRIGHT, “An Idiot With A Gun.” The series continued in Episode Two.