He was a forgotten vet, a warrior without a cause to fight. His broken down body ached in places he didn’t know he had, but this was the unenviable life of a disabled combat vet. An austere existence; that included a lot of 40 oz. bottles and packages of Nissin’s Top Ramen noodles. He hadn’t had a woman at his side in years, ‘cept ones he could pay for, and he passed his days with generous helpings of cigarettes, dope, and small time bets on the ponies. Most of the buildings stood empty on this street, yet it seemed to be densely populated by a criminal element. Illicit drug deals, whoring, and underground weapons trade were the life’s blood of this part of town.

He bled stars and stripes, but it was no use in a land of avaricious plenty. Affluenza afflicted the nation, and the have nots didn’t have a say. The president was a shell of a man who lived by the Bible of unfettered capitalism, and imperialist war. There was a war on at present, but it wasn’t followed much as the everyday lives of pop icons and thespians ruled the zeitgeist. The chattering classes and muckty-mucks wouldn’t haven’t agreed, but who among the commonfolk cared about what they say? Much as the Cultural Revolution tried to eliminate the elite, the America of today seemed to be trying to eradicate the great unwashed mass of men. This was the America of the permanent war economy; what Ike had warned us about, was now real.

Though the nation was perpetually at war with Eurasia, or whoever the mass media villified today, there was nothing left in this country for an old soldier like Jim. The military had no use for his body, ‘cept maybe spare parts, and the only war being fought on the domestic front was against hard workin’ small town folks like Jim. Jim had been in the union, working at the plant, until ‘92, when it pulled up stakes and went on to Mexico. No one cared much anymore, anyways, but the latest rumor was that the plant down there, was on it’s way to yet another transit to Vietnam, Thailand, or somewhere where it would be powered by the modern day slave laborers of the periphery.

Unions weren’t any longer widely known, the Republican revolution and its hate radio minions had suceeded in driving them off the landscape. Jim had been a union man, but he felt powerless to make any kind of change. The media was only interested in political sex scandals, and the politicians were only out to thieve. Jim was growing tired of lying around, and waiting for death; today he wanted to make something happen, today he would take on something new.

Jim picked up his shotgun, loaded it, and left his room. This was the first time he had been out of his apartment in days, and although the city air wasn’t clean, it felt good to breath. Jim thought death was in the air, and today was a good day to accomplish his plan. He boarded a city bus, riding it far as it went, to his destination, the mega mall on the outside of town. This grand structure hosted hundreds of smaller shops, eight large anchor stores, and an eighteen theatre multi-plex. Jim had grown up with the A and P, and the five and dime; for a small town boy, like Jim, this kind of place wasn’t any longer his sacral U. S. of A. Jim thought this is what America had become, a country with town after town looking precisely the same.

Jim was off his meds and today he’d make history. He would find a department chain, and become immortal. He entered Carson’s, discharged his weapon, and made short work of the front end cashiers. Onto the men’s clothing department, and old Jim popped a stocky balding man in the chest. To sporting goods, and old Jim made a fricassee of a sad soul eyeing the lures. From above him, a football whizzed at Jim; but the hurler was, a novice, missed by more than a foot. Jim, next, entered appliances, raining death down on a diminutive woman taking refuge behind the blenders. Surprise, an attack! A security guard leapt out at Jim! He fired two anxious rounds; Jim finished him promptly, wiping sweat off his brow.

Today was not going to be the day of glory that Jim had laid it out to be, the dominos wouldn’t be falling into place, as he’d foreseen. Just over the horizon, from where Jim was standing, a police officer was enjoying a lazy shopping day with his wife. The couple braced themselves against the store fixtures as the blasts of the shotgun rang out. Officer Crist knew it’d be minutes before the cavalry came, so the pressure was on him to stop the shooter’s play.

Never before had Crist been called on to fire his weapon, and his heart fluttered briskly as he fingered his gun. He figured he could save some lives today, if only he used his noggin instead of his chutzpah. His mind wandered for a second, and he thought of his dear ones, he thought how this might be the last of his days. But he reconstituted himself, and pulled himself together.

Crist wriggled his way over to a large gum ball machine, where he thought he could make an attempt.He surprised Jim; he missed with the bullet, the slug pinging off toaster. Jim spun around, and returned fire with two alertly; Crist scampered away, on all fours, briskly. Crist, then, took refuge behind the gum ball machine. He thought if only he could leap quickly enough, he’d have time for an admirable go. He guessed right as he sprang cat-like from his perch, clipping Jim with a bullet to the shirt. Jim fired back, popping Crist in the leg; Crist staggered back, missing a quickie. Jim made Crist pay, by landing a solid shot. By this point, Officer Crist had emptied his tank, all that was left for him was to wait for Saint Peter. By some great miracle, by some divine turn of events, he optioned the courage for a last lucky hit. A direct shot! Dead center! A fatal blow to the heart!

Jim and the officer now lay motionless, beside each other, in pools of their own blood. As the last instants ticked out on old Jim’s life, a thought graced his mind for just a second. His lips crimped up, and he felt good for in that moment. He had accomplished something, with his actions today; that in all his life’s work he couldn’t have hoped to achieve. Headlines, TV, morning shows, he now had fame.

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