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I met this guy once on the train to Prague, Gary or Danny or Johnny, something-y anyway. He was from Texas, or something like that, and I don’t remember why – we were drinking, maybe that’s it – but he told me this story about a friend of his from his hometown, wherever that is, who got married and divorced within six months, quickly anyway.

He said they were childhood sweethearts, whatever that means – they were probably Prom Queen and King or whatever he called them – and they got married as soon as they finished high school. They were full of dreams. The king was going to join the army or marines, and the queen was going to run her own hairdressers. They got a loan, rented an apartment, and were going to have five kids, two boys and three girls, though why they settled on that as the perfect number and combination he had no idea.

It all went to shit, though, when the king failed his army medical, or something like that – whatever, he didn’t get in – and he ended up getting a job as some kind of apprentice at a mechanics or car shop. He didn’t earn enough money to pay the rent, and neither did she at the hairdressers, they never broke even, so they took out more loans and got into more debt.

Eventually, the king said he thought it’d be a good idea to move back into his parents to save money, or to get his best friend to share with them to split the bills, but the queen said they couldn’t, what about their dreams, the kids, the house, they wanted to be independent, so the king gave in. He always did. He said she was right, he’d do anything for her, some sentimental shit anyway, and they worked more hours, pulled double-shifts or whatever, until they began to see less and less of each other. He left early, she came back late, until it got to the point where they’d only really see each other in passing in the kitchen, some less than intimate place anyway, him toasting some bread, her getting a coffee.

Then one day the king came home at lunchtime. He’d forgotten something. Or maybe it wasn’t lunch, maybe it was morning and he hadn’t forgotten anything. Whatever, he came home and found the queen in bed with his best friend.

The guy said the queen screamed, or so he’d been told, and the best friend said, hey, or something moronic like that, which he could believe, he had a tendency to say dumb things at the wrong moment. Anyway, they thought he was going to go mental – he’d once whacked a guy in the stomach with a baseball bat for trying to make a pass at the queen – but he just went all quiet, turned around and left. Apparently the queen shouted after him, but he didn’t reply. He got in his car, took his wedding ring to a pawnbrokers, exchanged it for a gun, and drove back to the apartment where he parked the car outside the apartment by the kerb.

Then he waited for them to come out. Or didn’t. Maybe he was thinking what to do. In any case, they didn’t come out, and after a while it got dark. The king probably began to think they might’ve already left, at least that was what the guy supposed, but then the street lights came on, and half-an-hour or so later the lights in the apartment.

Apparently, the king didn’t move. He just sat there. They would come out eventually, if it was they – the best friend might’ve already left. The guy on the train really didn’t know what the king was thinking. No one knew, unless he’d told his parents, or the therapist they probably got him to go to see afterwards.

Anyway, eventually, the best friend came out and then the queen, and the king got his gun and put it in his lap, unless it had been there all the time, or on the passenger seat, or in his hand – it was a residential street, so maybe he’d put it in his glove compartment in case kids walked past. Whatever, the queen saw the car, paused, and then began to walk towards it, hands up, like she was surrendering or something. She started talking, or so people said, saying things like, hey, what are you doing, come on, get out the car, come into the house, we need to talk, but the king said nothing.

Eventually, she got to the car and saw the gun. She took a step back, or at least that’s what the guy thought she must’ve done – that’s what people do, right? – and she said, what’s that, or why’ve you got that – she would’ve known what it is, but sometimes people say dumb things in stressful situations, right? – but the king said nothing. He turned, smiled, and pointed the gun at her.

The queen stepped back a bit more, or it would’ve made sense if she had, and said, put it down, come on, we need to talk, killing me’s not going to solve anything – where the best friend was I have no idea; he just seemed to slip out the story at this point, and the guy on the train seemed to forget about him. The guy said the king apparently just kept on smiling and said, why, isn’t this part of the dream? – this the guy said was definitely what he said; the best friend appeared then to say he did – and with that the king pulled the trigger.

The queen jumped back. There was no sound apart from the king laughing. Then the queen screamed.

A month later they got divorced, and the queen moved in with the best friend. The guy on the train had seen pictures the day before. His mum told him about it. They’ve got a mortgage, three kids, another one on the way. The dream.

God knew what had happened to the king.

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13 thoughts on “A Ring For A Gun

  1. Best friend is the most interesting character here – he’s like one of those chemicals that trigger a chemical change but at the end remain unchanged themselves, leaving everything else different. Exploring his mind would be fascinating. (I think this was a common character-type in the early movies – Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, et al.) , or, “The Small-Change Agent”

    • Can see that point of view. The catalysts usually are just that, though, right? I’m thinking of The Victim by Saul Bellow. It’s about what they do to the main characters, not their story, but his POV could be another story, a guy going round ruining people’s lives, or making them better depending on how you see it

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