February 1, 2017

Flash Fiction by Kip Hanson: "Losing Clint Eastwood"

Kip lives in sunny Tucson, where his wife makes him watch Poltergeist while insisting clowns are not scary. You can find his work scattered about the Internet, at Foundling Review, Inkspill, Bartleby Snopes, and a few other places, proving that a blind squirrel does occasionally find a nut. When not telling lies, he makes a few bucks cobbling together boring articles for technical magazines.

Losing Clint Eastwood
Nighties, sweatpants, and mismatched socks fly from the dresser in a polyester storm. She runs to the closet, shoves aside dusty his and hers towels, pulls down winter coats as though she’s urgent to get warm. For the third time in an hour, she opens the plastic tub of Christmas decorations; another ornament shatters, the garland is by now a tight knot of synthetic green. Damn it.
A sudden thought intrudes. Yes, that's it, and skins her knee on the nightstand as she turns. A spatter of blood follows her to the bed. Her arms grope madly beneath the big four-poster, but she encounters nothing more than Bill’s abandoned paperbacks and a lazy heap of photographs, shoved there after the divorce. Where the hell was it?

It was only last week that she’d stood before the display case, the eyes of the store owner running from her ass to her tits and down again. “I want that one,” she said at last.
“A .45 cal? Are you…”
Her best Dirty Harry voice cut him off. “Make my day,” she said, laughing nervously.
He shrugged. “Whatever you want lady,” and took her credit card and ID. Ten minutes later, he handed her a heavy paper bag.
“I want to try it. Where can I go?”
After the range, she stopped at Home Depot for a fireproof safe. She wrestled it into the garage and bolted it to the wall beneath Bill's workbench. Finished, she stacked her purchases inside, setting the combination with numbers Bill would never guess.
Her hands ached. When she’d first fired it, the kick came as a surprise, but she felt confident now. She’d already begun to think of the big revolver as Clint Eastwood. With a grin, she swung the door shut. I'm ready for that bastard.
That night she jerked awake from the dream of Bill choking her. Pale moonlight peeked between the shades, illuminating the empty bedroom. What good is having a gun if I can’t get to it, she thought, and rushed naked to the garage, trying furiously to remember the combination.
She tried sleeping with Clint Eastwood beneath her pillow but he was too large. She finally shoved him to Bill’s side of the bed, her hand cradling the grip like a lover. Since then, she’d obsessed over him, urgent to know his whereabouts at all times. She found herself talking to him, and carried him from room to room. Every morning before work, she locked Clint Eastwood in the safe, so he would be ready for her when she got home. She considered a holster, and laughed at the picture of herself as a middle-aged Annie Oakley.
But today when she came home, the safe was empty.

After searching the bedroom, she runs to the garage. She looks once more inside the empty safe, searches beneath the workbench, among the rusted tools and bits of metal on the shelves overhead. Clint Eastwood is gone.  
Inside the house, the doorbell rings. She stifles a shriek. It rings again, and again: it’s Bill. She considers the side door. Maybe she can climb the fence and run next door for help? She moans. No, after thirteen years, it has to end. No frantic phone calls to the cops, no help from outsiders. Just him and her. Today.
She tucks a loose hair behind her ear, smoothes her rumpled clothing and walks on wobbly legs into the kitchen. Her hands shake as she pulls a boning knife from the drawer. She slides it into the back of her waistband and moves toward the hallway. Turning the corner, she sees his silhouette in the sidelight, pushing impatiently at the bell. She stops, unable to go further, her breath coming now in short gasps.
Steeling herself, she starts down the hall. She'd never been able to deny him, and hates that he’s made her into what she is now: a coward. Tugging the door open, she confronts him. “What do you want, Bill?”
There’s a bitter look on his face, as though he’s tasted something unpleasant. “Nora. I've missed you,” he says. A lone tear courses down his cheek. “I want you to see something,” and he pulls the gun, her gun, from his jacket pocket. “What were you thinking, Nora? Was it so bad?” He uses his fatherly voice, the one which indicates she’s misbehaved.
She stammers. “I...Bill, I was afraid. You. You hurt me so much.” She flutters her left hand before her face, feeling like a half-assed magician attempting to divert the audience as she reaches behind her for the knife. “Let's talk about this. We can work it all out, okay? Please, Bill.”
He shakes his head, acting disappointed. Keeping a firm grip on the pistol, he reaches into his pants pocket with his free hand and pulls out a wedding band. “I want you to have this, Nora,” and offers that old smile she once knew, so many years before. “I'm sorry.”
He lifts the gun and she screams, “No Bill!”
Grimacing at the terror on her face, he spins the pistol around and pushes it roughly at her. “I’ll bet you even named it. Clint Eastwood, right?
She takes the gun, nodding dumbly. “How did you open…?”
“Our first date, darling? Next time pick a better combination. Goodbye, Nora,” he says. While she aims at his fragile heart, he backs away to the end of the sidewalk and leaves her there, alone with Clint Eastwood. 
© Kip Hanson

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