One Good Reason


“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t shoot you right now,” the kid with the gun said.

Christ, Arrington thought, so this is what it’s come to?  Playing cops and robbers with a greased up little shit who’s watched too many movies.

Maybe this is what you get.  After all, Arrington was pushing fifty, a time when a lot of guys would be thinking about hanging it up.

“Come on, hotshot,” the kid with the gun said, pressing the 9mm firmly into Arrington’s temple.  “One good reason.”

This was on Cooksey, who could’ve called and asked what was up, and Arrington would’ve explained it was a misunderstanding, a shipment got waylaid in customs, and by night’s end they’d be getting drunk somewhere.  But that’s not the way the game’s played these days.  Probably wasn’t even Cooksey who made the call.

“I asked you a question, mutherfucker,” the kid with the gun said, cocking the hammer, his hand trembling slightly.  “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t shoot you right now!”

Arrington was about to tell the little shit with the flipped-up hair to fuck off.  He’d been on the wrong end of a gun plenty of times in his life, and one thing he’d learned.  Some guys have the stones.  And some guys don’t.  And this little shit, with his fuzzy lip quivering, wasn’t shooting anybody.

Then Arrington thought about what was actually being asked.  One good reason why he, Loomis Arrington, deserved to live.

Goddamn, Arrington thought, that’s a good question.

It was the timing of it all that made it bigger than just one man on his knees in an abandoned airport hanger near the Neman’s Freeway haggling over a delayed shipment.  No, this was a liminal moment, a goddamn crossroads.  Judgment Day.  It can happen like that sometimes.  Call it God.  Call it the Universe.  But it’s a goddamn reckoning.

And the thing was, when Arrington stopped to think about the question, he wasn’t feeling so hot about his answer.

He blamed it all on Leonardo da Vinci.

Arrington probably could’ve circumvented this whole mess had he just picked up the phone and rang Cooksey himself.  Problem was he got caught up watching a show on the History Channel at his condo last night about this guy da Vinci, and then it was too late.  Arrington had seen pictures of the Mona Lisa and all that, but he never knew just how involved the guy’s life was.  This da Vinci had his hands in everything, from building cathedrals to debating philosophy.  The real kicker was da Vinci’s final words.

I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.

When Arrington had heard the narrator say that, he just about lost it.

That was some heavy shit.  Here was a man who, in addition to being one of the best artists to ever live, was also an architect, a scientist, geologist, and inventor.  The guy developed the prototype for the first helicopter, for crissakes.  And if a man like that wasted his years, what the fuck had Arrington been doing with his?

Arrington had screwed up his marriage.  His own son wouldn’t talk to him.  All the money he’d made, pissed away on the various women who’d come in and out of his life, which was probably why Dolores had up and split.  He’d bullied and intimated, cheated, lied, and stole at will, all because it was the road most easily traveled.  Fuck, even his dog, Lucky, had recently run away.

Now here he was.  Kneeling in a goddamn airport hanger on a Wednesday morning, playing twenty questions with one of the Backstreet Boys.

A goddamn reckoning.

“Give me one good reason,” the kid said again, “why I shouldn’t—”

“I heard you the first time,” Arrington said, turning to face the kid.  “If you’ll shut up, I’ll give you the answer.”  Arrington sniffed hard, inhaling the lingering fumes of a dozen grounded single-engine airplanes.  “One good reason, you little shit?”  Arrington began to stand.  “Because I can do better.”

And that was the last thing Loomis Arrington had to say.

~ fin ~


Joe Clifford is acquisitions editor for Gutter Books and managing editor of The Flash Fiction Offensive. He is also the producer of Lip Service West, a “gritty, real, raw” reading series in Oakland, CA. Joe is the author of three books: Choice Cuts and Wake the Undertaker (Snubnose Press), and Junkie Love (Battered Suitcase Press). Joe’s writing can be found at