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Stories are our businessTM

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Flashes of yellow and orange from the moving bodies, Frank’s boys, pushing forward and crouching low, with nowhere to take cover. The speaker system is shot to hell. A firework, already lit, tips sideways off the big rock behind the pool where Frank was having one of his buddy’s fire them. The rocket shoots toward the house and explodes in a Christmas-colored explosion of red and green sparks amidst the men firing from pistols and little compact guns Emerald doesn’t know the name of, machine guns. Another stray firework darts its way between the two war parties and, Emerald thinks, it must be a whole army assaulting this place. Emerald is paralyzed where she crawls. Men are screaming, bleeding, dying. Bodies float face down in the pool and the pool light is turning crimson. The boy that Emerald was supposed to lay with is lying on one of the pool chairs, his body crumpled and still.

Frank is screaming and firing from the back deck when something thunks into his forehead. There’s a little beady hole in his scalp as he staggers and falls against the grill. It’s one hell of a grill, a big sturdy square thing, and Frank doesn’t knock it over. As he slides down, his face strikes the still hot metal rungs and, even over the gunfire, Emerald can hear the sizzling as his face melts and his hair, full of a stinking gel, goes up in flame. All Emerald ever wanted was a little bit of an advantage, a free score, a heads up on the other hustlers. Why is there so much blood? Why does the gunpowder make her nose burn so bad?

#

Perry bobs, weaves and cuts down man after man. He’s no monster. He hardly pays attention to each body after it’s riddled with bullets; after stomachs and livers and hearts are deflated and flooded with blood and air. All that’s really killing them is the air, the exposure. Taking what’s in and pulling, punching it out. There are massive hornet stings along his arms and against the vest. The vest is a shitty one for cops and Perry is confident that a bullet or two have pierced the Kevlar and are now lodged within him. He keeps moving, from side to side. Maybe that fucker Cranked Up Bill was right, about winning.

A shirtless fat man’s stomach takes too many holes and a bullet whizzes by Perry’s head. Perry craves the silence. He needs it all to end. He gets his wish when the M-16 clicks empty on his fourth and last clip. He drops it, brandishes the pistol and then is tackled to the ground.

A snarling man straddles Perry’s chest and this, it’s all a joke. It’s all pointless. The pistol still clutched like a dying ship’s anchor in Perry’s hand bucks twice and the man, who had a half moon tattoo across his face, suddenly has a full moon under his jaw, pouring out the liquid of the stars.

Perry shoves the carcass away and another hornet sting appears across his chest. These fools don’t know how to hide. They don’t know how to take cover. They don’t know not to wear a bathing suit and flip-flops to a gunfight. Half the enemy has fled into the woods, but let them run. Perry shoots another man, who’s already lying among his fallen comrades on the ground. It’s a mercy kill, as Perry lowers his pistol and howls to the night sky. Small fires from the magnesium bombs are softly burning beside the fallen. There's a loud sizzle emitting from the porch. Something’s cooking.

Someone’s twitching by the pool, so Perry heads over, cautiously. By the time he limps over there, the twitching body’s stopped and Perry’s staring into the emerald hue of the pool. Its red clouds are starting to dissipate. Its floating bodies can only bleed so much. Perry stares down at himself and, begins to cry. There are too many holes in him. Just like last time.

There is a sharp pop-pop from Perry’s left. He watches his own chest become deformed as he crumples to his knees and the pistol falls from his hand. Officer Longshaw is approaching him, gun drawn. Perry imagines smoke twirling up from that police-issued piece of shit.

“God…son…God…” Officer Longshaw is speechless. There is more gunfire from Perry’s left and Officer Longshaw crouches, screams as something plucks his leg, and then he’s firing at someone Perry doesn’t care to see. Another round catches Longshaw in the throat, and then he’s just another gurgling thing, lying down, bleeding fast, then slow.

In the pool, there is an American flag float. It has four cup holders, and each one is full of an unopened can of Eagle Light. The float gently glides towards the edge of the pool and Perry, a mess of gore, falls forward. His legs are soaked, but he manages to roll over. The vest took all it could take. He shouldn’t blame the vest. Perry’s pretty sure he won, now, and the vest is a hero. It took all it could. The guns did their part. Those spent clips were brief, but not wasted.