This is Page 2 of Part 5 of Chapter 114 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to Page 1 of "When I Paint My Masterpiece -- Part 5".
"I've got what you want right here, Ronnie," says Jerry Baxter.
He takes the box and lays it on the picnic table. "It would help to know exactly what you want it for. Then I can get you something suited to your needs. But in the meantime, I can lend you this one, just so you can get the feel of it." Then Baxter opens the box and shows it to me.
The gun looks unreal. Cold. You see the things in movies. I've used them in my own films and in television episodes I've directed. Yes, and the climax of 'The Olympian' hinges on a gun, although you never actually see the rifle that shoots Bobby's head to bloody pieces. But the reality of this gun -- not a fake, not a prop, but the real article -- is a different matter.
"Coyotes, Jerry," I say. "They are coming too close to the house. I'm afraid they're going to get the dog. Or attack me in the backyard. You hear stories, you know?"
"That's true, Ronnie. I've even heard a rumor about a mountain lion up in those hills. But it's all hearsay, what can I tell you?"
"Yeah, but I don't want to take the chance, Jerry," I reply. I touch the gun. The barrel feels cold. Hard. "And crime, too. It scares you to think of who might be out there. What they might do to you. There are a lot of sickos in the world."
Yes, a fucking lot of sickos in the world. Ben called me this morning to tell me that he was leaving Los Angeles a day early. Apparently he told Michael everything last night. About him and Brian in Miami. And about him and me in Maui. To say that little Michael didn't take it well is a fucking understatement. So Ben is leaving. Their relationship is over. That fucking idiot! He did it to himself! He fucking undermined ME and THAT undermined their relationship! So Ben deserves whatever he gets.
"I told Michael the truth," he said on the phone. "I would rather do it myself, Ron, than have YOU use what you know to manipulate me. Or to manipulate Michael or Brian or Justin or anyone I know. Anyone I love." Ben sounded like he was about to cry, the big fucking wimp! Those big guys always turn out to be the biggest pussies!
"And I told Brian, too. Told him what you tried to do, Ron," he continued. "So that Brian would understand just how far you are willing to go to ruin his life. And ruin his relationship with Justin. Because I want Brian to be on guard. I want him to watch his back. Because you're a fucking snake, Ron. You're a brilliant man. Probably the closest that I'll ever come to knowing a true creative genius. But like a lot of geniuses you seem to think you are a law unto yourself."
"Get to the point, Bruckner," I said, disgusted with him.
"The point is that you're also the most contemptible human being I've ever come across in my life. You're willing to throw away 10 years of friendship over your obsession with Brian -- a man who has made very clear that he doesn't want anything more to do with you. But you'd rather destroy him than let him be happy. Rather destroy people who are just innocent bystanders in your little game. And that's sick, Ron. That's not anyone's idea of love."
"What would YOU know about 'love,' Professor?" I spit into the phone. "You and your little comic book geek wouldn't know what real love is! You and your pitiful little affair. It's laughable!"
"I knew you'd think that, Ron," he answered. "You live in a world of Grand Passion! Just like your films. Larger than life! Not like normal little people who have no meaning in your Great Scheme. Like me. Like Michael." I heard him sigh. "So, go ahead and withdraw your approval from my book. Go ahead, Ron! I don't give a fuck anymore. I don't give a fuck about anything. I'm going home. Going back to my classes. Going to see if I can keep my health and salvage at least a shred of my dignity. Because my relationship with Michael is over forever and I have to deal with that. Deal with blaming myself. And all those consequences of getting involved with you. Of trusting YOU." And then he paused. "But at least I'll never have to deal with YOU ever again, Ron. Not for as long as I live! However long that will be."
Yes, there are some crazy people in the world. I just don't understand why someone would destroy his life rather than do a few little favors for me. Stubbornness and stupidity, that's the real answer.
After Bruckner hung up on me I tried to call Brian. I left a message at his apartment and I also called his cellphone. He finally got back to me. And the first thing he said was, "If you call me or try to speak to me again, Ron, I'll call Walter Urbanski and tell him to call the fucking D.A. for Los Angeles and give him that tape and my statement. And I mean it. Don't fuck with me or Justin or ANYONE I know -- EVER again, Ron!"
And I felt a chill wash over me. "But Brian, please understand! I was only trying to...."
"You think I'm going to do your fucking Western film NOW?" he shouted. "Your 'Red River'? Well, think again! I wouldn't do it if you got Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise, Jude Law, Ewan McGregor, AND brought Cary Grant back from the dead and promised that I could fuck them ALL on screen!"
"Brian! Don't be stupid!" I warned. "Don't make me do anything I'll be sorry for!"
"Stupid? Don't fucking call ME stupid!" Brian said, his voice shaking. "You'll be sorry, Ron? You'll DO something? Let me tell you what I can do! I'm telling Jimmy that if he has anything to do with you from now on then he can forget about ever having anything to do with ME again. Jimmy will have to make a choice -- you or me. And I wonder who he's going to pick, Ron? I just wonder! Because TWO can play THIS fucking game! Yes!"
"Brian," I said. "You don't mean that! Ben's a fucking liar and whatever he told you is...."
"I said don't fucking speak to me!" Brian yelled into the phone. "DON'T! I used to feel sorry for you, Ron. Used to. PAST TENSE! I used to... love you, Ron. And I still did a little, even after everything you did to me. But after what you did to Justin... and now to Mikey and Ben. I can understand you being jealous of Justin. Because HE has what you want, right, Ron? But why Michael? He's my oldest friend! He never did anything to you! He barely knows you! And Ben... I thought he was YOUR friend? Always defending YOU. Always trying to see the good in YOU. And this is what it gets him? That's what friendship is to you, Ron? That's what LOVE is to you? You're a sick fuck, Ron! And I hate you! I mean it! I fucking HATE you!" And Brian slammed the receiver down so hard that I flinched and almost dropped the phone.
That's when I call Jerry Baxter. I've been thinking about this for a long time, I realize, and I need his expertise. Yes, I detest Baxter. He's a fucking toad, but he serves a purpose. And he doesn't like me, either. But that doesn't mean he's not enough of an asskisser to pretend to be my pal if I offer my 'friendship.' Yes, I won't need him for very long. Just to do this one thing for me. This one last thing.
"Go ahead, Ronnie. Pick it up." But still I hesitate. "Go ahead! Don't be a fucking pussy!" says Baxter. Like I say, he's a creep, but he serves a purpose.
I pick it up. It's heavy. Funny how you play with a toy gun as a kid. Pretend to shoot someone. It's a game. Just a game. But the stark substance of the thing in your adult hand -- that's different. THAT'S power.
Jerry Baxter shows me how to aim. He picks out a tree beyond the poolhouse and wants me to try to hit that.
"I don't know if I need to shoot that far, Jerry."
"If you want to get a coyote -- or even just scare one -- it isn't going to just walk right into the house, Ron."
"He could," I say, picturing it. "He just might. Walk right into the house, I mean."
"Sure!" Baxter laughs. Then he shows me how to load the gun. It's just a simple kind of gun, a single shot pistol, with a clip of bullets. Seems easy. I've seen this a million times in the movies, on TV. He gives me a box of bullets. I feel like a fucking cowboy.
Baxter has me hold the thing with both hands to steady it. "Spread your legs, Ron. Brace yourself. You're a director. You know what it should look like!"
"I feel like fucking Dirty Harry!" I tell him. All those films I've seen. All those cliché images in my brain. I feel powerful. Invincible. No one can fuck with me now. HE can't fuck with me now! And I'll have the last word after all.
"Don't get your nose in there or you'll end up getting it broken." he says. I adjust the hold. Baxter guides my hands. "Squeeze the trigger. Don't jerk it, Ron. Squeeze back. Ease it."
I do. The load cracks and the recoil makes my head spin.
"Not bad," says Baxter. "I don't think you hit the tree, but that doesn't matter. The shot didn't go wild. And the noise is enough to scare off anything -- or anyone -- who might come into the yard."
"I don't think I need to aim it that well. If I can just point it in the right direction...."
"Nah, you'll get better with a little practice, Ronnie," Baxter says, patting my shoulder. "Just put a can or a piece of paper in the grass and aim for it. You'll see."
"I... don't want to hurt anything... unless...."
"Well, this baby isn't exactly a powerful weapon, but it could really put a hole in someone at point blank range. So be careful! If someone gets into the house and confronts you, Ron -- you just need to point it and blast 'em!" Jerry Baxter aims with his finger. "Pow! You don't need to be too subtle. Just one little bullet can blow someone's fucking face right off -- if you're close enough to him."
"Good," I say. "That's good to know. It makes me feel more secure." The handle of the gun feels hot in my hand now. It feels alive. This is a partner who won't let you down. Who won't leave you, ever.
"Keep firing until you use up those bullets in the clip," says Baxter. "Get yourself used to the sound and the kick. Learn how to brace yourself for that recoil. And if you're going to shoot for a while, you should probably muffle your ears or stuff them with some cotton. You don't want your ears ringing afterwards. Right?"
"Right," I answer.
I squeeze off a few more shots. Then Baxter reloads and tries it, aiming at the tree. Then he sets a can down in the grass and shoots at that. Then he has me shoot at it.
"Not bad, Ronnie. You're getting close," he says as we finish up. We walk across the yard and back over to the table. Baxter empties out the gun and puts the safety on. "This was fun, Ron. I'll take you over to the shooting range and you can try a real target," he says.
"Thanks a lot, Jerry." Yeah, I think. Thanks for the instruction.
He smiles with all his teeth. "You can really get a lot of your frustrations out shooting at a target, let me tell you. It makes you feel good. And it's also good to have a gun to protect yourself. I was always trying to get Diane to buy a gun to protect herself. But she's too afraid of guns. Funny -- her old man was in the military."
"Maybe Diane knows too well what a gun can do. What kind of damage." I picture in my mind the kind of damage even one of these little bullets might do. Especially at point blank range.
"Could be," Baxter sighs. "That's all fucking water under the bridge now. We're kaput."
"Sorry about that, Jerry."
"Ah, what the fuck?" he says, shrugging. Baxter shows me how to check and double check to make sure the gun is unloaded before I put it away. "See? We used up a bunch of your bullets just playing around. You'll use up this batch pretty quick just practicing. I'll get you another box next week."
"I don't think that'll be necessary, Jerry," I reply. "I don't need that many bullets."
"Oh, you'll be surprised, Ronnie." Jerry Baxter packs the gun in its box and then hands it to me. "Put this away in a safe place. But put it where you can get at it -- when you need it."
"Right, Jerry. When I need it." I hold the box with the gun in my hands and squeeze it between my fingers, feeling the power radiating from it.
"I'll call you about going to the range, Ron. And I won't forget those extra bullets for you."
I nod. But I don't tell him that I won't really be needing that many bullets. Because I won't.
Just two. That's all.
One for him.
And one for myself.
Continue on to "I Threw It All Away -- Part 1".
©Gaedhal, May 2003.
Updated May 27, 2003.