A Crack Shot


Janeice couldn’t hear Raelyn holler, “Lock and load, girl. Uh huh, that’s right,” above the whir of the domed hair dryer burning her ears. Janeice couldn’t see Raelyn jump up and down and clap either, because her eyes were set on her nimble fingers as she dropped bullet after bullet into the chamber of the Marlin 336 in her lap. Only after she flipped on the safety did she look up at Raelyn and grin, prompting Raelyn to duck under the dome and smack a wet kiss on her cheek. Janeice wiped her face with the back of her hand and shook it in the air. Raelyn’s lazy eye narrowed as she let out a, “Hmph.” She swiped the rifle and turned it on Janeice. Janeice covered her heart with her palms. Both women howled.

They howled so hard they missed the first couple raps on the door. After a pause there was another. Raelyn turned off the dryer and touched her fingers to her lips, silencing Janeice. The dryer hood squeaked as Janeice threw it back. “Screw that a-hole,” she shouted, springing to her feet. She released the rifle safety and crept to the door as if she’d already sighted her prey. Raelyn ducked behind her. Janeice rested her hand on the doorknob and clenched the rifle forestock tighter with the other. Her bicep tensed. She yanked open the door.

“Good Lord, what are ya doin’ here?” she cried out to her grandbaby, Brandy, dressed in her Girl Scout uniform, a whole bunch of badges decorating her sash. Against her chest she cradled four boxes of Thin Mints cookies. Janeice pulled Brandy inside Raelyn’s at-home beauty parlor, slammed the door and passed the Marlin 336 to Raelyn. “Mama told me to deliver Raelyn’s cookies,” Brandy said, staring at the rifle. “What are you doin’ with Paw’s Marlin?”

“Raelyn’s landlord don’t want her here no more. I want to see if I can talk sense into him,” Janeice said, beckoning for the rifle with a wave of two fingers.

There was a loud knock at the door and Janeice, Raelyn and Brandy froze. Janeice lifted the rifle to her shoulder, pushed her cheek against the stock, locked an eye on the sight and pointed the muzzle toward the door.

“You gonna shoot Mr. Tate, Mawmaw?”

“Hush,” Raelyn said and opened the door.

Sheriff Russell tried to chuck Raelyn a slip of paper but she quickly stuffed her fists in the pockets of her apron. The paper floated to the linoleum floor. “That there’s a set out order. Nothin’ you can do about it,” he said. “I’ll be back in an hour to evict you if you’re not gone. Janeice, don’t act a fool.” He looked at Brandy. “Good day, ladies.” He turned and walked back to his car. “Just doin’ my job,” he yelled out the window, his tires spitting gravel as he drove off.

“Why the hell didn’t ya shoot him?” Raelyn said.

Janeice nodded at Brandy. “It ain’t right with my grandbaby here. Raelyn, maybe you should do as he says.”

“Over my dead body,” Raelyn said, eyes narrowed.

“He’ll return in an hour. I’m gonna walk Brandy home and come right back.” Janeice pointed to the kitchen counter and Brandy dropped the cookies on it. Janeice grabbed Brandy’s arm and pulled her out the door. Halfway down the driveway, she heard Raelyn slam her door.

“Did I do good?” Brandy watched Janeice as she fiddled with a curler.

Janeice patted Brandy’s arm and smiled. “Sweetheart, you was perfect.” They walked the rest of the way home arm in arm. When they reached their front door, Janeice held it shut. “Now, you want me to buy four more boxes?”

~ fin ~

Jan Elman Stout‘s short fiction has been published in Literary Orphans, the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Vestal Review, Pure Slush and elsewhere. She was a finalist in the Midwestern Gothic Summer 2016 Flash Fiction Contest. Jan’s flash, “Marital Amnesias” was nominated by JCCA for Best Small Fictions 2017. She lives with her husband in Washington, D.C.