Shots exploded in the mall’s corridors.
My first instinct was to run, but I didn’t know which way. And then I thought, wait, this is my chance to experience the new American dream. No, not winning the lotto; I could be the hero to take out the shooter and save countless lives. Only I wasn’t packing. I was itching to pull the trigger on a gun I didn’t have. Sadly, I wasn’t prepared to be a superhero. I was in danger of becoming the loser who didn’t have a weapon.
As the shots got closer, I couldn’t move and hugged the wall, hoping to blend in. I kept expecting to see bloodied bodies falling before crazed men armed to the teeth and dressed in long black coats or superhero costumes, but no one was getting hit, and what came next both shocked and excited me. America’s first female mass shooter. The world had long wondered where they were; certainly they had more cause to explode. She had long brown hair and was cute except for her beat red face, flushed with anger. Probably because she couldn’t hit a damn thing. All of her shots were missing. People moved safely along the walls, keeping low to the floor. I was the only one dumb enough to stay put. Soon I’d be the only logical target. I didn’t know why I couldn’t move. My only hope was that the blouse and short skirt sale going on across the hall at the Ann Taylor store would distract her. In fact, the mannequin looked scrumptious. Her ensemble would have been a much better outfit than the uninspired brown slacks and black t-shirt the shooter was sporting. Right next door was a jewelry store, something she could use, and beyond that, Victoria’s Secret, each store presenting everything the shooter was supposed to be. I clung to the façade of a Radio Shack, clearly a store of little or no interest to the shooter, so I felt relatively safe from her attention.
I was proven right, as she zeroed in on the stores opposite me. What she did next, though, made me wonder if the pressure to comply with the stores’ expectations had been too much, because she finally hit a target, riddling the mannequin with countless bullets. Next came the jewelry store, just a few shots, and then Victoria’s secret, where she emptied an entire clip. I’d been so busy checking out the mannequin and watching the action that I hadn’t noticed when the shooter stopped.
She was looking right at me, her rifle pointed between my eyes.
I instantly became painfully aware that I symbolically represented all men at that moment, everything that had brought her to this point. I’d been through all the stages: the boys were better phase, the shy guy, the aloof genius, the playboy, the gift to all women complex, the classic bachelor, watcher of football and baseball and even a little golf, the control freak, the pervert, the couch potato, the macho guy, the good guy, the sensitive man, the listener, the egotistical monument to self-centeredness, blue-collar hardness followed by the soft white-collar professional and wearer of ties, the man with the golden hair, the lover, the protector, the soft-spoken gentleman, the intellectual, the humorist, the poet, the practical joker, the adventurist, the man with the plan, the master of orgasmic pleasure willing to take on all frustrated challenges, the adult man-child, the wine connoisseur, the judger of perfectionism and promoter/encourager of
Barbie-ism, Mr. Cool, the drunken fool, the curmudgeon, the party pooper, the impatient horn honker, the cheap bastard, the friend with the wandering eye, the disturbed artist, the mighty hunter, the vegan animal lover, the nature boy, the dope smoker, the troubled drinker, the hippy, the libertarian (when libertarians weren’t nuts), the wild child, the wounded boy act, and the, “C’mon, you know you want to,” phrase repeater. I’d worn all the hats and played them to some critical acclaim – the history of my many forms all created for one purpose: reproductive success. Not reproductive results, just the successful act. She looked at me with rage, ready to destroy the symbolic source of her anger, all of her frustrations displayed before her in one place.
Deep down I wanted to be a cowboy and express this new form by carrying a concealed weapon, ready for the quick draw in the new American west. Instead I settled for the mild mannered gentleman, weak and lame, leaving me with no other choice. Glockless, I put to use the only weapon I had. I gave her the best puppy-eyed look I could muster. Her gaze met mine and, unsurprisingly, it worked. Women were such suckers. She couldn’t go through with it; she couldn’t take me out. She made a lousy shooter. Only men could fulfill that role after they’d failed to express one of their many forms, rectifying their perceived hindrance by becoming a superhero in their mind, taking out all those who were blind to their hidden greatness. Men were shooters, women receivers. When the targets of their expression couldn’t be hit, killing became their final manifesto, going out as artists of death.
The shooter lowered her gun and stepped toward me. I pulled her close and yes, we immediately kissed. It was glorious. Fortunately I’d watched a lot of John Wayne movies while growing up so I knew how to make women swoon under the power of my embrace, prolonging the kiss. She gave in, she submitted, she was all mine, completely under my spell; she dropped the gun. She couldn’t even react to the approaching march of combat boots. The police rushed in and tackled her to the floor. After they secured her in handcuffs one of them stood up and turned to me and said, “Good job, you’re a hero.”
I nodded. It was true, I was a hero; I’d saved the American way of life from exposure or scrutiny without even using a gun. We could all return to our normal, materialistic routines.
They took her away. They didn’t go far when she looked back, hands cuffed behind her, to meet my eyes once more. “Call me,” she said.
But before I could make any conjugal visits, I woke up.