Story Go Round 11/29/2009, #5

The Unfired Gun

It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out.

Somewhere, a woman screamed. Lightning flashed and thunder followed, a long rolling boom that shook the treetops. Rain came bucketing down, soaking the corpse of the one who'd just been shot.

My God, thought Smethers, I'm caught in a Bulwer Lytton novel.

He inspected the hot and smoking handgun, which smelled like iron and firecrackers. How had it come to be in his hand? How had he arrived in this miserable rainy forest? And who was it he had just shot?

Dropping the gun, he knelt to examine the body. Definitely dead, the still-cooling corpse was that of an overweight, florid, balding man whose staring blue eyes evinced the surprise he'd shown when Smethers appeared before him. In his coat pocket, Smethers found a passport, a handkerchief, a bag of candy (quickly disintegrating in the rain), and a wad of hundred dollar bills neatly clipped together with a silver money clip.

Somewhere in the woods, the woman screamed again.

"Great gods above and below," Smethers muttered to himself. "Will she ever shut up?" Another, higher pitched scream informed him that no, she would not. Grumbling, Smethers tucked the money in his pocket and went off in search of this damsel in distress.

If she wouldn't shut up, he'd make her shut up, in one way or another.

It didn't take him long to find the woman, in fact, she ran into him. She screamed again, causing Smethers to grimace and shove her away.

"God be damned, woman, shut up," he snapped.

Surprisingly, the woman quieted. "Now that I have your attention," she said calmly, "Allow me to thank you for dispatching that pestilent husband of mine."

"I- I- I don't understand," Smethers stammered. "I don't know you, these aren't my clothes, and I've never been here before in my life."

"I know, and yet you have fulfilled our agreement."

The agreement. Shit. I remembered something about that. I'd been gambling, playing some card game I'd barely understood and losing horribly.

No, earlier. That hadn't been me, either. A well-dressed man — a tux. A spy. Next to me, winning with the cards, the women. "He can't be real," I remember thinking. And I was right. What was before that. Think, further back. Yes, the deal...

She pulled a pair of 38s on me, then I saw the gun. Damn, Raymond Chandler too? I hoped to God Stephen King wasn't going to make an appearance. Then behind me something neared. A shadow on the wall in front of me grew to monstrous proportions. Dear God, it reminded me of a group of people being chased by a herd of wild elephants & one baby zebra, during Christmas, while hippos dance Swan Lake.

"Anyway," the woman said, "Now that you have fulfilled your duty as my knight, I will marry you until I have sapped all your power, money, and will, then I will hire some other poor fool to off you. Then I'll do the same with him."

I considered. She was evil, and homicidal, and quite, quite insane, but hey! She was beautiful. Just look at that sexy bombshell of a bod! "Okay."

Maybe I could worm my way out of this one with a little sweet talk. "Say," I said, "Would you like an Almond Joy?"

At that moment, the shadow delivered on its promise, and people, elephants, a baby zebra, and ballet-inspired hippopotami stampeded onto the scene, crushing all my candy bars and stepping on my toes.

"Ouch! Damn this mixing of irrelevant story elements into an otherwise perfectly executed noir thriller!"

"Are you calling us irrelevant, buster?" The zebra glared at me out one red-rimmed eye. A patch covered the other.

"Not a bit, sir." I had recognized the ugly mug of Zanzibar Fred, feared across the world's oceans.

The woman spoke. "Aw, pirates?"

Damn if she wasn't right. A crew of pirates swung in — I'm not sure where they tied their lines — swords raised and roaring drunkenly.

One of the hippos stamped her feet and said, "Pirates? Really? Well, if you're not going to take this seriously, I'm taking my tutu and going home."