Pudge says he’s down. It’s the anniversary of his sister’s murder. I drive him to In & Out for a Double-Double animal style, Bro! and some fries, also animal style. He adds a vanilla shake at the window (string orders suck I say, bringing a knowing smile from the cashier) and his ‘skinny’ item, a small iced tea.
Whatcha got going on today. This is his misery looking for company. Library, I say, and it’s true. It might be Labor Day weekend but the city’s AC is still roaring on this, Sunday.
Pudge says OK, he’ll go back home to clean and assemble his AR-15. Already cleaned my twenty-two, forty-five and my thirty-eight.
As we turn the corner I say so let me get the story straight, the most I’ve said for the last half hour. You’re saying you’re down, sad, it’s the anniversary of your sister’s death and you’re going home to clean your AR-15.
Do you hear yourself?
Don’t worry, you’re still going to see me tomorrow.
He doesn’t tag on I hope so, so that’s reassuring. He stacks his cardboard food trays, clamps the two sweating drinks in the fingers of his meaty right hand and turns back to the house.
There used to be a neighborhood bar down the street from Pudge’s house. The neighborhood has changed and now it’s a vegan grocery & full-service deli. Inside, I’m the only Caucasian face in a sea of bright Indian fabric. There’s enough English to accommodate my request for potato tikkis and pea-filled samosas. A dozen conversations in Hindi fill a building once ruled by shouts of Bro!
I can feel my culture diluting. This immersion has always made me happy. I think of who I could share this with and I think of Pudge.
What Pudge needs is to leave America. But today, let him get in his own car. Let him have a couple more beers, drive his bellyful of American culture to the gun range, and find a target more paper.
MATT McGEE writes short fiction in the Los Angeles area. In 2019, his stories have appeared in Poetic Diversity, Gnashing Teeth, Octillo, Biograph and ‘The Rebirthing Shed’ currently appears in Zimbell House’s “1929” anthology. When not typing he drives around in a vintage Mazda and plays goalie in local hockey leagues.