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…

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…

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…

“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…

He wrapped his arms around me without asking, just in front of Sutton’s Drugstore on Franklin Street, the hangover still doing exactly what its name implies as it stretched above the entire town like a light but immovable blanket. People moved through Chapel Hill like zombies, staring ahead of them only to avoid running into everything. There was no intent, there was no motivation. There was only stunned disbelief.

My confusion grew as he squeezed me tighter, pinning my arms to my sides.

“Congratulations, man. You guys really deserved it.” He began to cry a bit as he held me…

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

My old man is one of the most patient and open-minded fellows a person can know. He never spoke up when I’d come home with my fingernails painted and my hair dyed any variety of Manic Panic colors. He kept it to himself if he ever thought my enjoyment of collecting action figures well into my twenties was childish. He didn’t prevent me from hanging out with the young druggies that had gone to my school, kids who I’d grown up with. He believed that I wasn’t a fuck up, that I would make sound decisions and that I had…

A photo that isn’t my tattoo artist not tattooing my first tattoo by Allef Vinicius

Two weeks after I graduated from high school I got my first tattoo. A tall, boney, alien-like figure in black ink holding a body-length stick that my friends would soon decide looked like something from a Tim Burton movie.

“Nah. That’s ‘Tex,’” I’d tell them.

“Tex. So it’s a man?”

“Nah. It’s not really a man or a woman. It’s just Tex.”

“Right. Well what IS Tex?

Tex is my buddy. Tex will fuck you up if you mess with me. That’s what the stick is for. The stick will fuck you up.”

The truth is, I didn’t know what…

Photo by Federico Giampieri on Unsplash

Hey, asshole. Yeah you. The one burying his cigarette butt in the sand on our beach. Why you gotta be an asshole like that? No. No, I don’t wanna hear it. In fact, don’t I recognize you? Yeah I do. You’re the guy I saw pissing in the street on the way home from the bar last night. That wasn’t you, you say? Oh. Must’ve been the other guy with his own last name tattooed across the length of his back and enough hair gel to coif the entire Italian navy. No? Oh! I know. …

Michael VenutoloMantovani

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

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