Under the Gun

By John R. Herrman

Fucking phone! It’s the editor. Piece ready?  Just polishing it up. The lie comes easily. She has no idea I’m staring at a blank screen counting cursor blinks. (About 62 a minute.) I remind her I am under a deadline and the longer she distracts me the longer it’s going to be until she gets her pages.

 I’ll never finish. I’ll send the advance back. Minus the new laptop, the coffee maker, and the chair. I am screwed. I need a drink. I’ll just have a little something to take the edge off. Luckily, I bought this fancy globe bar… with the advance… and stocked it, with the advance.

 I down the whisky then get another. A little lubrication is all you need. That’s how I got this far. Drunk and making promises. I am two glasses of whisky in and far away from done. I’m going to have to call off tomorrow.

 The wife is calling. I love her but, she knows I hate to be disturbed. It’s dinnertime. I have to finish. No, I’m not coming down. Just leave it out and I’ll get some later.

 I wonder if I have time to invoke Hemingway’s ghost. What would you need? Whiskey? Rum? A typewriter? A shotgun? Got that.  What would he say? That I’m in over my head? That I’m pathetic? Go back to doing whatever it was before I to pretended to be a writer. What does he know?

 I close my eyes and take a breath. Hands floating above the keys and  … nothing. There is only whiteness mocking me. Hemingway has shown up and is pacing around the room demanding whisky, yelling at me to get off my ass and get to work. He starts about how he and Scott would fight but ultimately they made each other better. Made the other work harder. That’s what I need. Someone to push me to become better or else …. Hell, who knows, end up like him. Furious that he would even suggest such a thing, I throw my glass at him. He fades out seconds before the glass hits the wall and shatters, sending fragments falling to the carpet and my favorite reading chair.

 Here she comes. She is asking if everything is okay. Everything is not okay. We are hell and gone from okay. The lie that everything is fine and there is nothing to worry about slips from my mouth as easily as an “I love you.” Yes, of course, I’m sure I’m okay, I soothe. Just finishing up here and I’ll be down.

 Hearing her retreat back down, I look at the shotgun mounted above the door. It was my grandfather’s. I only took it out once with dad for pheasant. We bagged six birds that day.  I take the shotgun down. It feels good in my hands. I bring it to my shoulder and sweep the room. “Bang” I sit down with a sigh. Pulling the trigger with your toes doesn’t sound difficult.

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John R. Herrman is a writer, native of the southern Chicago suburbs and a third generation member of the United Steelworkers. When he’s not working in the belly of a blast furnace, he is writing and publishing fiction at Writing from the Dark on Facebook. He also writes for Garfield’s Crossing and Analogue Music.

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