A sharp slam of the front door jumped Eric Smith back to reality, subsequently dousing his Pabst Blue Ribbon across the crotch of his already stained khakis. Groggily reorienting himself, he peered in the direction of his grimy apartment’s front hallway to see Walt Wessen kick off his size 13 Nike’s on the welcome mat, greeting his friend with a nod of the head and a grunt.
“What’s wrong, sleepin’ beauty? Didn’t remember I was stopping in for the game?” Walt trudged over to the couch, dropping a 6 pack of Magic Hat on the coffee table before plopping his massive frame on the couch next to Eric with a large thud.
“Yeah, yeah, I know, but hey, Browns will be Browns. Can you really blame me for noddin’ off?” Eric ran a hand through his long, greasy brown locks, slapping himself in the cheek in attempts to rile himself back to consciousness.
“Should’ve played Johnny.”
Eric shrugged, “’Yeah, shoulda’ woulda’ coulda’ right.’ Said every Browns fan ever.”
The two sat in silence, quietly watching the inevitable train wreck take hold throughout the second quarter. Aside from a slurp and the occasional belch — not a word was said until the Browns entered halftime down 28–10 to the Broncos. Eric rose from the couch, wandering over to the bathroom to break the seal. He glanced up in the mirror at himself, examining the beer stain on his crotch, under his potbelly, protruding from his worn jersey, it did indeed look like he’d wet himself. He took off his thick, black-framed glasses and washed his hands, taking a last palm full of water to splash into his freckled face.
“Dude, come here! Check this shit out.” Walt called from the other room, between slugs from his long-neck. Eric walked back across his living room to the couch, finding Walt standing, mouth agape, staring sat the TV. Eric turned around, standing next to his friend’s lumbering frame watching a breaking news update during FOX’s halftime game coverage — not that of sports relation, but a shooting. Ahead of them an anchor was voicing over live aerial shots of what looked like a neighborhood gas station. Scrolling text appeared on the bottom of the screen; Live — Shooting in progress. Gunshots exchanged at the corner of Main St and S Maple Ave.
“Dude, that’s like, fuckin’ three blocks away from work, isn’t it?!” Eric shot a bewildered look up to his friend. Walt was stroking his long blonde beard, trying to grasp what he was watching.
“Pretty sure you’re right. Talk about local notoriety.”
“Fucked up, man.” Cops on screen were now surrounding; guns drawn, recently handcuffed perp, lying face down in a pool of blood.
Eric plopped down on the couch, burying his head in his hands, stroking back his hair. “Fuck, dude. You see this shit all over the place, but in our own backyard? Man.”
Walt planted a massive, calloused hand on Eric’s shoulder. “Dude, you can’t be thinkin’ like that, shit happens everywhere, all the time.” For a man as large as Walt was, he did possess an extraordinarily out-of-place compassionate demeanor, although he was by no means the sharpest tool in the shed. His small compatriot Eric, however, was far more calculating and sharp, although much smaller in size, carried a massive personality.
“Dude, you don’t think — like — we coulda’ had anything to do with this, do you?”
Walt, still standing, looked down at Eric. “The hell you talkin’ about, man?” Last time I checked we don’t kill people. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we’re sketchy, but we ain’t that sketchy.”
Eric brought his face up again, glaring over at Walt. “Dude, think about it. Where do we work.”
“And what do we sell at Cabela’s?”
“Hunting gear?” Walt was bewildered in expression, Eric, stunned at his dense friend’s thought capacity, was forced to fill in the blanks.
“Guns, Walt, GUNS. Think about it man. Say, like one of us sold this fuck one of those pistols, even the M6 lying on the ground there!” He gestured up at the screen again; the man now being bagged up by what appeared to be crime scene investigators, a row of what must have been his arsenal lying next to him in a pool of blood.
“C’mon man. Remember what they say? Guns don’t kill people -”
“- PEOPLE DO, YES I KNOW.” Eric jumped off the couch, whipping the remote across the room, narrowly missing the TV and shattering into the drywall. “But guess what, man, when these fucking crazy people go to buy guns, guess who they consult?”
“Well, I mean, there’s a lot of gun stores -”
“-Forget about everyone else, man.” Eric grew closer to Walt, nose to nose — inches apart. “Where did they write that our job description involved being accomplices to murder?”
“How the hell would you know if this guy even bought one from our store, let alone us man. You’re soundin’ crazy.”
“Yeah, well maybe I am, but fuck this! Look at this guy; he just shot up the place I just fucking got gas at three days ago! I don’t know for sure, but I don’t need this shit on my conscience.” Eric turned away from Walt, and paced toward the kitchen, passing by Walt’s enormous shoes as he rounded the corner between the doormat and his small kitchen. “Something’s gotta give here, dude.” He picked his laptop off the kitchen counter, and powered it up, returning to join Walt back in the living room.
“What’re you going to do?” Walt had returned to his seat on the couch, having manually flipped the television back to the game, and retrieved another beer.
“I’m writing a letter.”
“Fuck if I know, man! Anyone that’ll listen. We need to stop this shit!” Eric had already begun typing furiously. “I don’t know how, but we got to regulate this, right? I mean how else can we keep the psychos from getting guns?”
“But Eric,” Walt peered across the couch with a strong look of concern. “Then what will happen to our jobs?”
Eric was stunned; Walt was absolutely right. He sat for a moment staring at the few sentences he just squeezed off, To whom it may concern. A pregnant pause filled the room; both men letting reality sink in. Eric closed his laptop and rose, trading the computer for a Magic Hat from his coffee table. He walked over to the TV across the room, and flipped the volume up. The Browns were down; 35–13.