THREE WAYS NOT TO GET SHOT • by Ronnie Pruitt

Dad said there are three simple rules for friendship. One, don’t smoke a man’s last cigarette. Two, don’t drink his last beer, and three, don’t mess with his woman. Easy enough, right?

It was early October and mother was on her way to get her last official piece of government paperwork. As the ambulance rounded the corner of my street, Don and Mick pulled into the driveway.

“Sorry about your mom,” Don said. “Are you gonna be okay?”

“I don’t think so,” I said and lit a cigarette.

“Hey, can I get one of those?” Mick asked.

I held out my pack and showed him that I only had one left — he took it.

***

The rain was cold and the wind wet underneath my favorite tree. Looking back, I realized that fairness was something we hoped for but never really got. Age has a way of changing perspectives. A cold beer on a cold day can bring cold revelations.

“You got another one of those?” Mick asked, derailing my train of thought.

“Uh, yeah, last one’s in the fridge.”

“You’re all right, man,” he said, and went for my remaining beer.

“Only a lousy bastard would take a man’s last beer,” I said to myself.

***

She was an angel with dark hair, radiant skin, and doe eyes — she liked my sweater. “Beautiful cable stitching,” she’d said, extending a soft hand to caress the weave. Unexpected justice rode on the wings of this angel.

We sipped wine and shared our pain, ate sandwiches on a cold beach — and loved each other. We married and promised God that we would forever be together. Shortly after that, I shot Mick.

***

It was a bad day at work. Everything that possibly could go wrong seemed to. Mick said my numbers didn’t add up and I wasn’t meeting expectations. I explained that I had used the figures from Corporate; they had to be correct.

Tugging at his scratchy wool collar, he asked, “Did you verify the numbers?”

“No, they were from corporate,” I said.

“Do you think the head office doesn’t make mistakes? Rework your calculations and get them right this time.” He pulled at the fabric again and brought to mind the medieval torture of hair shirts.

“I’ll have them on your desk after lunch,” I said.

“I won’t be in after lunch. Email them to me instead; I’ll forward them on.”

“Okay,” I said.

***

There’s nothing I like less than paperwork, especially that which requires mathematical computations. Nonetheless, I ran the numbers and found that everything corporate had sent was in order — Mick had been wrong. My work was correct. I emailed him: “Take another look at my spreadsheet. I believe you’ll find my work to be error free. Maybe you should chew your own ass and not mine.” I might pay for this email, but it felt good to stick it to the company man.

***

On the way home I got pulled over and ticketed for expired tags.  The renewal sticker sat on the passenger seat. “It’s not on the plate, sir.  That means you are in violation of the law.”

I had followed the law and purchased a registration sticker. The cop was being unfair; I was in no mood to press the issue.

”Yes, sir,” I surrendered, eager to put an end to a bad day.

***

In a flagrant display of arrogance, Mick’s car was parked in my driveway. I pulled in behind his BMW and gently crushed his bumper. Certain that rule number three had been broken, I ran my house key down his dark blue lacquer finish on my way to the door.

Mick and Marie sat on the sofa, discussing yarn.

“Red Heart is not the best quality. Always go with Blue Bird, especially for clothing. Blue Bird doesn’t itch so much.”

Mick touched the woven thread. “You really can feel a difference, can’t you?”

“Yes, it pays to use the best,” Marie said.

I had been ready to kill. I’d prepared myself for it. The shotgun was close and the trigger had an easy draw. Their innocence was not fair. Why not go ahead and kill him? He had been a jerk, and I needed a release. I opened the closet and my heart began to race. I grabbed the shotgun and cracked it open, exposing the breach. The shells were on the shelf next to the camera.

I shot them both, Mick with outstretched hands circled with yarn, and Marie happily rolling it into a ball. They didn’t know it was coming and I savored their expressions after the shot.

“Busted,” I said after the flash. “Wait till the guys at work see this.”

In this world, fairness is hard to find, and truth can be elusive. If only we could, upon occasion, remove our blinders maybe our world could be seen in a more proper light. Exposing the gun’s breach revealed the rips in my reality. Stitching them up is another matter.

I poured a shot of whiskey and sat down next to Mick. “Now, about your car…”


Ronnie Pruitt has been an Avionics Engineer for the past ten years. Ronnie’s favorite authors are F. Scott and Harry Crews.


Rate this story:
 average 2.5 stars • 2 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Sheila Cornelius

    ‘Maybe you should chew your own ass and not mine.” I might pay for this email, but it felt good to stick it to the company man.’

    ‘Why not go ahead and kill him? He had been a jerk, and I needed a release.’

    This man was too nasty to be credible or even to have a wife, although I gather the gun had no bullets.

    Sheila

  • Frank

    Sheila,

    The shot was a camera shot.

  • Rose Gardener

    Very clever. I missed the camera on the shelf first time I read it and had to reread the last part!

  • I have to admit I found the narrator’s ‘climactic observation’ a bit obtuse:

    “If only we could, upon occasion, remove our blinders maybe our world could be seen in a more proper light. Exposing the gun’s breach revealed the rips in my reality. Stitching them up is another matter.”

    Still, much of this piece displayed a strong voice that helped move it forward. I had a clear idea of the narrator in my mind, even if (like Sheila) I didn’t particularly care for him. Nice job with that – it’s not an easy thing to do.

  • A clever piece of work. I too missed the ‘camera’ shot as opposed to the ‘gun’ shot on the first reading.

    Thanks for the read.

  • That actually was a blinder (in the UK, that’s a good thing), and I thought so even before discovering I’d missed the key fact about the camera. I thought the MC was psychologically convincing: a man brought up to be fair and being ripped off and then chewed out by a ‘friend’. And whether or not Mick was having an affair with Marie, he was still behaving in an underhand manner and taking advantage of his position to abuse the MC. Strong writing of a convincing pathology. Now I know this time it was just a photo, I’d be warning Mick to watch his step. Five stars, two of them on timers..

  • The story is very disjointed. It tries to do too much. It covers too much time.

  • I would’ve liked to see this story structured a bit differently and maybe tightened up further, but it was quite good overall. Mr. Pruitt has a lot of potential and I hope to read more of his fiction.

  • I had trouble following the opening thread of the story through to the climax. I felt like #7 (Guy)–that it was disjointed. Maybe I read it too early in the morning before my antenna were fully functioning.

    In any case, a tough read for me. Three stars for the empathy I felt for the MC and the “trickeration” with the camera vs shotgun conclusion.

  • Jen

    I loved the ending. I was quite sure he was going to shoot Mick [with a gun] and I wasn’t going to like it. The narrotor was totally unlikable and at the beginning of the story I couldn’t figure out was so bad about mick. Sure he was a bit of a freeloader, but is that worth being killed over? That’s why the ending worked so well, maybe we should alljust try to understand people more.

  • fishlovesca

    With an opening set-up like this, the follow through has to be expert.

    Four stars.

  • I enjoyed this story very much. I loved that it was written in vignettes. I also like that it’s a camera shot at the end, not a gunshot. That surprised me. I think it would be even better if it were tightened up a bit. But for me, it was a terrific read as is.

  • I loved everything up to the last section, where I just didn’t feel it did the rest justice. It was a bit more elusive and indirect, and despite the cleverness of the gun/camera shot idea, I think it didn’t deliver. Still, I enjoyed it thoroughly and thought the narrator had a strong voice.

  • John Drake

    Saw it coming all the way !!
    Loved it.

    coulda called it….JUSTICE…. lol
    5 stars

  • “mooreleggs”

    “Five Stars” for Ronnie’s first published story! A captivating and intriguing short story out the gate. Can’t wait for more stories from this new author!

  • Ronin

    I wish I could give 5 stars twice. Excellent piece of work!

  • How do we know this is Mr. Pruitt’s first published work? (Per comment #15) If that’s the case, I might go into a pout, wondering why this author hasn’t shared his work with us before. Have you been holding out on us, Mr. Pruitt? 😉

    I usually dislike flash that is broken up into segments. In this case, not only didn’t the segmenting bother me, it was crucial to the structure.

    An excellent piece of flash, IMO. I enjoyed every word of it.

  • How do we know it’s ‘Mr’ Pruitt, even?

  • Excellent voice, and a really solid buildup, but I think it stumbled slightly in the ending. I get the “shot” as a camera gives a nice twist on what was expected, and also the discussion of yarn, of all things, makes for a entertaining quirk instead of the expected “messing with his woman,” to quote the father’s adage.

    A very enjoyable 4 stars, but somehow, for me, it just slightly missed the mark in the wind up.

  • Ooohhh, Suzanne, good point. Mr./Ms. Pruitt is a wonderful writer. I apologize if I got the gender wrong.

  • Paul Friesen

    Even if you have the lousiest friend in the world, your spouse still has the blame if they chose to cheat on you. That’s my philosophy anyway. That aside, i missed the camera on first read through, but get it now. Not bad.

  • Simone

    I was shocked that he “shot” Marie, too, until I read this: “Busted,” I said after the flash. “Wait till the guys at work see this.” Then my eyes jumped back to “next to the camera” and I got it. I was not at all put off by the narrator leading me to believe murder was afoot.

    Five deceitful stars.

  • Very cool. I knew what to expect, but then it still caught me by surprise. Expertly done.

  • I liked this a lot, but I must admit I missed the punch at the end – as stated above, the point that it was a camera he ‘shot’ with was a bit too obscure for me. It demanded a meticulous close-reading that the rest of the story didn’t need (the latter is a good thing in my book). Other than that, great buildup, I like the minimalistic style.

  • Brisco

    I enjoyed the read. As stated earlier, the MC was easy to dislike, but the twist at the end was great. Thanks, Ronnie!

  • Ronnie Pruitt

    I loved this story. It was fun to write and I appreciate all the comments. Oh, and I’m male. I know that “Ronnie” is sometimes used in the UK for females (Veronica, I think) but I am 100% male.