It was hot in the motel room, the still and baking kind that seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere; microwave radiation that didn’t give a shit that I was made from meat and water and blood.

I stared down at the parts of the gun. They were laid out in perfect order on an oily cloth that I’d carried with me for the past three years. The previous rag had been lost in a house fire that I’d started by forgetting to put out my cigarette before falling asleep. It was a lucky thing I’d kept the revolver in the waistband of my jeans, which I’d worn to bed that night. It was luckier still that I hadn’t been burned alive by my carelessness, though I did have a wide ugly weal that ran diagonally across my chest in a grotesque sash of lumpen flesh.

Sometimes, fire made art.

In heat like the heat of the shabby room, the scar seemed hotter than the flesh it sprang from and lent an unsettling freshness to the wound. I rubbed its length with a sweat-slicked hand and sighed. The cleaning rag hadn’t been the only thing I’d lost to that fire. Emily, too. Now I carried her there in that band of bright-red tissue, and on nights like these she rose to remind me of all that I’d left behind.

Agony washed across my field of vision, and I pounded a balled fist into my right temple. I hadn’t had a drink of clean water in a long time, long enough to not want to think about how close to fatal such a deprivation was becoming. There was whisky. The dregs of a bottle sat precariously on the edge of the desk, but I didn’t feel like drinking any more of it. Part of me was convinced that was because I was saving it, but I knew in my heart that it was to avoid the drunkenness. I didn’t need the introspection, not now. I was plenty worried about becoming a ghost, and it never did me any favors to dwell on such things.

The revolver was a simple weapon. Broken down to bits and including the screws it was some thirty parts all told, but I rarely, if ever, did I take it that far. A simple cleaning could be accomplished without removing a single screw. It was the reliability of the mechanism that drew me to the piece. It only held six shots, but if I was doing things right, I never needed more than two. And I was almost always doing things right.

Fuck this heat.

I was having trouble remembering why I’d disassembled the trigger the way I had. Had it jammed? Maybe it had been too loose or too tight. Maybe metal fatigue was finally outpacing my ability to maintain the weapon. Whatever the case was I’d forgotten what, if any, adjustments I’d wanted to make. I spritzed the parts with oil and reassembled everything, giving the cylinder a quick spin and snapping it into place. A test pull of the trigger and the hammer rose and fell with ease. I shook my head and reloaded the remaining slugs. Only four left. I’d have to find a new supply soon. Either that or avoid shooting anyone.

So long as you keep one for yourself, a voice that sounded like my own said, dry and raspy from a parched throat. What had make me say that? I remembered the only time I’d ever gotten therapy, from a court-mandated head shrinker, and she’d asked me if I’d ever had a thought like that. I hadn’t, not then.

It was just the heat.

2014.08.30 – 2023.04.26

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