This story appears in the August 4, 2020 edition of Guns and Ammo: AR-15 Magazine. You can purchase a copy at the link HERE.

Photos by Brian Hueske

I pressed my palms together, which steadied the gun, trained the center sight on the middle of the target and squeezed the trigger. It was the first bullet I had ever fired.

The smell of spent casing and burnt superhot gunpowder mere inches from my nose, the violent crack of the muzzle and the plume of dirt that shot skyward as my round buried itself into the mound behind the paper target…

Photo by Danny Howe on Unsplash

I met the love of my life on a grassy incline in the summer of 2003. There were 17,000 people between us and Tom Petty, who was washed in stagelight in the distance. She kissed like a freight train and I still don’t know her name. I think she said Sam. Or maybe Anne? The Heartbreakers were loud and I was half-cocked on a mixture of a dozen Keystone Lights and a dark rum that poured from a plastic bottle a few hours earlier in the parking lot of the Garden State Arts Center. Either way, in the haze of…

There’s a quote about being an anti-racist that, after the events of the last three weeks, we’ve all become intimately familiar with. “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” — Angela Davis Maybe it’s this quote, seen scrawled on cardboard box sides held aloft crowds of exhausted Americans black, white and otherwise that has helped propel Ibrim X. Kendi’s book How To Be Anti-Racist to the top of the bestseller list where it, alongside titles like Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, are selling out faster than…

Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

The photo has hung on every refrigerator we’ve shared as a couple. Eight-by-ten and glossy, its white paper frame grows more yellow with each passing year.

There she is, her hands white-knuckled around the safety bar, her upper body almost doubled over as if that might provide some protection should the Cyclone’s old white wood finally snap after almost a century of fun. Her eyes are closed tight, teeth clenched shut, waiting for the first drop to rise in her lower stomach. She does not like this.

There I am, nearly twice her size, a smile as wide as the…

Photo by Janko Ferlič — @itfeelslikefilm on Unsplash

I check in with my emotions, run an internal inventory, and wonder how touching a pair of feet, so reviled as they often are, can bring me to the brink of tears.

I soon realize, as I hold them, one in each hand, that it is not the feet, smelly, mud-caked and chapped as they are, that evoke the flood of emotion. It’s not the dirt pounded deep beneath the corners of the toenails or the little arches that are beginning to rise more and more when the feet take their rightful place on the floor that fill my eyes…

High on my rib cage, near the pit of my left arm is a small tattoo, four or so inches in length, written in almost hieroglyphic font. Its form is difficult to ascertain and somewhat alien to the eye. But when looked at closely, it becomes clear that my ribs bear the number 317.

Those who’ve seen the tattoo often ask if that is the telephone area code of where I grew up.

“Nah,” I tell them. “That’s 609.”

“Oh. It’s a religious thing?” They’ll say. “Like ‘John 316?’”

“No. You see those have colons — like John 3:16 —…

“Where are all the weirdos gonna go?” I wonder aloud to Mark, The Cave’s normally gregarious owner.

On the penultimate night of the club into which he sunk more energy, time, passion and effort than many other dive owners may have, he responds ruefully.

“I don’t know. Somewhere, I hope.”

Little more is said as we take in the scene on the bar’s “back patio,” which is really just a corner of moonlit parking lot beside a few dumpsters.

We scan the gathered mass, noting the panoply of denizens. Everyone is laughing, smiling as if nothing is about to change…

Freaks, losers, miscreants, spazzes, psychos, misfits, dropouts and weirdos nationwide are seeing heretofore unparalleled spikes in popularity thanks to the blossoming #walkupnotout movement.

The movement, a new totem heralded by completely tone-deaf adults in an effort to stem the systematic mowing down of our American students, has risen in profile over the last few weeks in response to the recent walkout protests in high schools nationwide.

Suggesting that a little bit of kindness can stem the spate of bloody gun violence that has plagued American schools in recent years, the Walking Up movement puts the onus of responsibility squarely on…

I was raised along the middle stretch of the Jersey Shore that is almost perfectly divided in civic influence. One half of our forebearers came to the Shore from from North Jersey or New York City. The other half, from Philly. We were neither Manasquan nor Avalon, neither Parker House nor Maynard’s and the accents of our parents were all very different. We were the melting pot, the center of the Venn Diagram of two cities that very much do not like each other.

Growing up, our school was divided down the middle with each passing sports season. Mets/Phillies, Flyers/Devils…

Photo by Eder Pozo Pérez on Unsplash

The first week was okay. You spent most of it settling into your groove. The shows would get better and the kinks would start working themselves out. The band would get tighter. You were too focused on being on tour and all of the little quirks that come with spending so many hours out of the day in a van, hearing the same voices, listening to the same stories. The hangovers would be ferocious because you didn’t drink like that when you weren’t on tour. Your stomach would rumble because you didn’t eat like that when you weren’t on tour…

Michael VenutoloMantovani

Mediocre guitar player who occasionally writes stories in a quiet corner of Chapel Hill. Join mailing list here.

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