Wednesday, January 16, 2008

RANDOM ACTS by Keith Giles

RANDOM ACTS by Keith Giles
(A prequel story from "UV:Target")

Claire told everyone who would listen that she saw things. Visions, and premonitions. She said she was clairvoyant. I think I was the only person in our entire school who didn’t need to look up the word in the dictionary to figure out what she was talking about.

Anyway, we got to be friends. I imagined that she had a crush on me, but it was really the other way around. I would’ve done anything for her, but I think she just needed someone to talk to and I was a good listener.

About a year ago, around the Fourth of July, she and I were talking on the phone. She was crying and telling me that three little kids were going to get shot that evening, accidentally. She kept asking me why it is that only little kids and single Mom’s get hit by the stray bullets that drunk assholes fire into the air on Independence Day. “Why don’t the gang-bangers and the rapists get hit by those bullets?” she asked. I didn’t have any good answers.

The next night on the evening news there was the story of three separate stray bullet accidents where little kids got hit in the head and died. One single Mom was hit in the chest and had to be rushed to a hospital but was going to be ok.

That’s when I got the idea about how I could answer Claire’s question.

My Dad had a silver-plated .357 Mangum handgun he kept between the mattress on his side of the bed. I had a wristwatch with this global positioning feature on it. I took a map of the city and worked out a radius that a .357 Magnum slug would possibly hit based on the known speed velocity of the bullet leaving the barrel, and the angle of the trajectory. I also factored in the variant wind speed in the upper atmosphere using a local weather site I found online. After a few tries, I was able to develop a formula where I could, theoretically mind you, hit any target on the map in a three mile radius of my house.

I showed Claire my calculations and told her the next time she got a vision that another child was going to be hurt or shot by a stray bullet, I could put a bullet into the air and strike any target, if she could tell me where the shooter was and when it was going to happen.

At the time she just wrinkled her brow. Her nose crinkled up and she half-smiled at me, but I think mostly she was just fascinated that my Dad owned a handgun.

The next Fourth of July she came over to my house. My Mom and Dad had gone out to a company party and fireworks show and I pretended I needed to study for a test on Monday. As soon as they left Claire came over.

I confess I was pretty nervous about having a girl in my room alone. She had on a skin-tight black tube top that showed off her pale white belly and these tight black jeans. She laid down on my bed and curled up with my pillow because she said she only got the visions when she slept. She fell asleep after a few minutes and I surfed the web a little, but mostly I watched her sleep.

Around 10:30pm she woke up talking strange. Like she was half-asleep and half-awake, but still dreaming about something.

“There’s a little boy on San Juan who’s going to get shot by a stray bullet,” she said.

“Where’s the bullet come from, Claire? Where?” I said.

She never opened her eyes, kind of swayed around the room a little, then said, “His name is Matt and he lives on Baine Street. 1478 Baine Street.”

I got to work on the map. Found Baine Street just about two miles North of my house. Marked it on the map and used the Global Positioning Unit to triangulate the trajectory of the bullet first.

“Hurry,” she said. “He’s getting his gun now!”

I didn’t have time to double-check my calculations but they looked about right. Next I tried to pull up the URL for the weather site but it was taking its time loading up.

“He’s loading it.”

Finally it came up and I had to type in today’s date and my zip code. A pop-up window blocked my typing in mid-stroke and I had to grab the mouse to close it.

“There’s a girl about to be raped,” she said. “On Newport and First.”

“Wait, I can’t do two at the same time,” I said. The website was slow loading the current weather report.

“Matt’s got the gun now. He’s aiming into the sky.”

“Almost done, Claire. Hang on,” I said. My fingers fumbled on the calculator keys.

“There’s a cop in Album Park about to get shot. Hurry.”

I couldn’t do that many at one time. I was still struggling to get the first address and trajectory calculated when suddenly Claire grabbed my Dad’s gun.

The sound of the gunshots felt like someone stabbing my eardrums with icepicks. Car alarms down the street started going off.

I watched her lift the heavy, chrome-plated revolver in her small white hands and randomly fire three shots out the window, turning slightly to place each bullet at a different angle.

The gun dropped to the floor like a rock. Smoke curled out of the barrel like silver ooze. Claire shook her head and broke out of her trance. “What’s that smell?” she asked.

I tried to explain to her what had just happened and then said she needed to go home. Without another word she was out the door and down the stairs to the street.

I quickly put my Dad’s gun back in the closet and tried to clean up any evidence of what we’d been doing.

The next night on the evening news they ran a story about a guy named Mathew Ward who was hit by a stray bullet, right through the skull, just as eyewitnesses say, he was preparing to fire a drunken shot into the sky to celebrate our Nation’s Independence with his friends.

Another story followed about a Cop in Album Park who nearly died when a thug grabbed his gun in a scuffle but was saved when the kid got hit by a random bullet in the arm and dropped the weapon.

The last victim of random gunfire was a boy in an alley on Newport and First who got shot by a stray bullet in the leg just as he was about to date-rape his girlfriend.

Claire and I never talked much after that night. She ended up moving to another school the next semester.

Still, random bullets fall out of the sky in Maverick County every Fourth of July and New Years and they always seem to hit the right kinds of people.

Keith Giles

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