by Deanne Gwinn (flash fiction)
Hog Glockson ran a polishing cloth along the last long dark barrel to bring out the “this-means-business” gleam. He nudged the semi-automatic slightly so it lined up with the rest of the inventory spread down his table.
Satisfaction filled him like a rich cappuccino, grande. Business was going to be good today, turning cold, hard gun metal into a new Harley for his kid’s birthday. The president’s executive order on gun sales had galvanized the second amendment cherry pickers. They were already lined up at the glass doors on the other side of the building, eager to pick through the offerings, looking for something solid, reliable, and deadly.
Hog’s little fruit stand had something for everyone.
Of course, there were a lot of other tables. A lot of competition. But that was the American way. Profit to the businessman who could offer his customers the best quality and the best deals. Hog was comfortable with that, because he was a fantastic businessman. A winner.
Across the room, the manager unlocked the doors and people flooded in, filling the building with echoing voices and footsteps.
While he waited for his first customer, Hog bent to put the polishing cloth back in a case under his table.
“What does the word ‘regulated’ mean?”
Hog looked up. A man stood across the table from him, bemusement on his stubbled face. Hog thought the guy looked a little rough, but he couldn’t be all bad. Under his long-sleeved plaid flannel he wore a red t-shirt with the picture of an adorable little girl holding a kitten.
“You talking to me?” said Hog.
The guy seemed a little dazed, so Hog wasn’t sure.
“Yeah. I think you’re the person who can best answer that for me.”
“Well, I guess regulated means having rules and laws and people who make sure people pay attention to them. But I’m no dictionary. Can I interest you in a sweet firearm here? I’ve got something to fit any person’s requirements.”
“Oh, I don’t think I’m eligible. You know. Background checks. I was in – “
“That’s OK, Bro. You don’t need to tell me your history. We don’t do the checks here, so if you want to buy something –”
“No. Actually, I’m good. I went online a couple weeks ago and got this.” The man reached under his long shirt and produced a small handgun to show Hog. “No checks required online — yet.”
Hog made a wry face. “I know. That president’s got plenty of people upset about that. But your pistol, that’s a pretty inferior product. Doesn’t have any power. I hope you didn’t pay much for it. Let me see it. I’ll show you what I mean.”
“I’d better not. It’s loaded. Don’t want to cause any accidents here.”
Hog gave a laugh and nodded. “Yeah, you do have to be careful with things like that.”
“Actually,” said the man, “I wanted to show you this.” He reached in a pants pocket and pulled out a bent-up, folded paper to hand Hog. “I was wondering if you recognize this kid.”
The gun seller unfolded the picture. A pale, scrawny boy of about seventeen looked back at him.
Hog shook his head. “Can’t say as I’ve ever seen him, but you know I get so many people coming by. I wouldn’t remember.”
“Yeah. Some people you remember better than others.” A shadow of despair crossed the man’s face. “Anyway, the kid’s name is Charley, but he goes by the name Loki.”
“Give me your cell number. I’ll call you if I see him.”
“Oh, I know where he is. They put him back in a psych ward. I guess they realized they never should have let him out.”
That puzzled Hog. “If you know where he is, why’d you show me the picture?”
“Because that’s the boy who murdered my little girl. And you sold him the gun.”