The Overton Window: Chapter Forty-One

Oh my fucking god! Chapter forty-one! Finally! Something happens! Woo hoo!

As I recall, the last time something happened was back in chapter twelve with the mêlée at the teabagger bar. There was a gunshot and Hollis got tazed (where is Hollis anyway?) and Noah got bonked on the head. He's sort of been groggy since. I think we all have, really. So, now, nearly thirty chapters later, something else happens. Good thing too, as we're about forty pages from the end.

Their model bomb wasn't that heavy, maybe eighty or one hundred pounds, but it was unwieldy to carry between them. When they came within sight of the men they were here to meet—and like last time, there were only four of them, not the expected five—one of them motioned to a spot on the ground to show where they should leave their burden. When they got to that spot, they put it down.

"When they got to that spot, they put it down." Yes, more quality exposition. And model bomb? It's still a model bomb? At this point no one is confused about the functionality of the nuke, are they? It's too fucking late to introduce some other plot device into this story. So let's stop pretending this thing is a mystery.

The men have automatic weapons and one has "brand-new-looking satchel at his feet, a bag of the sort that might be holding their twenty thousand dollars for the exchange." What they don't have is names. Or even descriptions. There's some exposition about their demeanor coming up, but they are hardly even characters. Just props. Cardboard cutouts just guiding the story along its course.

The armed man to the left held his gun like he'd been born with it in his hands. The other one didn't seem at all at ease, either with his weapon or his assigned enforcer's role. His hands were deep in his pockets and his rifle hung haphazardly by its sling over his shoulder, as though it had been put there against his will and he had no desire to deal with it.

Good clichés, both of those.

Upon their arrival Kearns had made a bit of small talk with each member of the group, and soon all agreed it was time to do the deal they'd come to do.

"Here's your money," said the man on the end. He'd introduced himself as Randy at their meeting the previous night.

Who is writing this? A child? No offense to children. I love children. I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside, give them a sense of pride to make it easier. Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be. And maybe they won't grow up to be conservative douchebags or hack ghostwriters.

And hey, at least one of the guys has a name now. Which Kearns learned last night but wasn't mentioned then because later saying "he'd introduced himself as Randy at their meeting the previous night" just reads so much better. Randy has the two other guys load up the bomb into their cargo truck. Danny peeks inside as they do.

Down the center, on a welded-together, waist-high metal rack, was what appeared to be a long, silvery torpedo. Not really, though; the nose was too blunt and flat and its far end was tapered and ringed by large aerodynamic fins. It looked like something from a war museum, an overbuilt piece of heavy-duty air-dropped ordnance from a bygone era of the Cold War.

That wasn't all. Tucked back in the corner, away from the light, some thing was wrapped up and bound in a black plastic tarp on the floor. It could have been a lot of things, but to Danny's current frame of mind, what it looked like most was an occupied body bag.

From a bygone era of the Cold War? I thought the Cold War was a bygone era. Why can't the author just say what he means, instead of trying to fluff everything up? At least avoid using confusing and vague notions to describe things. If the bomb looks like it's from the Fifties, just say the bomb looks like it's from the Fifties, not "from a long since-passed epoch in humankind's seeming eternal history of civilization" or whatever.

A loud ringtone from the phone on the belt of the man named Randy broke the silence. He held up a polite index finger, as if to say, Sorry, I've got to take this, turned, took a half step away, and answered.

Ringtones. Yes. Everyone says that now. "Pardon me, but your phone is ringtoning. Did you hear your phone ringtone? Give me a call, I'll be listening for the ringtone." Very natural. And thanks for explaining that the ringtoning came "from the phone on the belt of the man named Randy." I guess it was too much to just say "Randy's phone rang" or whatever. Quality exposition.

Randy, the one still on the phone, looked back over his shoulder.

He was listening intently, not talking; his eyes went first to Stuart Kearns, and then over to Danny, and then he turned back around, with his back to them, as he'd been before. A few more seconds passed, and still facing away, Randy's free hand came up slowly and touched the shoulder of the man to his right, the mouthy guy who looked like he just couldn't wait for the lead to start flying.

And that was it.

Here's where something happens. Something happens! Oh, the excitement!

When you've practiced enough it gets to look like one fluid motion, but there are four distinct parts to a quick draw, at least to the one that Molly had taught him. In the beginning the count is slow and you stop between the steps so your teacher can make sure you've got them right. After a few months and several thousand repeats, though, it starts to go so fast that if you blink, you might miss it.

Danny's right hand swept back to clear his clothing and found the pistol grip just where he'd left it; he pulled the weapon free and brought it forward, the barrel coming parallel to the ground and his left hand joining the solid grasp; he extended toward center-mass of his target with the iron sight rising level to his eye; and at the end of the forward movement, as it all came together at his ideal firing position, without a pause he squeezed the trigger to its stop.

The boom of their first two shots was almost simultaneous, though Kearns had a much easier draw from his pocket. They'd chosen the same primary target, the man to whom Randy had given his too-obvious go-ahead, the guy who would have cut them in half with a hail of bullets if they'd given him half a chance to shoot first. As Kearns took off to his left, still firing, their designated executioner was crumpling backward, likely dead on his feet, but surely out of commission.

Kearns runs, fires, as does Bailey. "Danny dropped to the ground in a shallow gully he heard a tire explode and the windows shatter in their van just behind him." Woo! Just like the movies. Especially the bit where the "jagged line of bullet impacts stitched across the sand toward him." Does that really happen? I know it does on TV, but I'd think in real life that would mean your aim was way off.

By the end of things, "three of the men were lying motionless on the ground, and one was unaccounted for." (And no, I'm not sure if The Man Named Randy is one of the dead.) Whoever is alive starts up the cargo van, and speeds off. Kearns jumps in back and Bailey gives chase.

As the truck dropped into gear and started to roll Danny got to his feet and ran for it. The faster he ran the faster it went, and it had nearly accelerated to the point of no return when he caught up to the tailgate, stumbled forward to get a grasp on to Stuart Kearns' extended hand, and felt himself pulled up and in.

Oh my! Wasn't that exciting? What will happen next? I can't wait!

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