Bad Day for the Home Team
Click on image to enlarge.
by Alex O'Meara
Description: What makes a man walk into a restaurant on a bright, beautiful Memorial Day afternoon in a small Arizona town, pull out a gun and shoot forty people before killing himself? That's what Sam Tryor is trying to figure out. Only he's trying to figure it out from beyond the grave. Instead of a who-dun-it, this mystery is a what-made him-do-it. With the help of a gorgeous reporter, a world-weary cop, and his own brother, Sam seeks the reason for his horrific crime, and his search leads him to a conclusion that is as disturbing for what it reveals about us as it is shocking for what it reveals about him.
eBook Publisher: Zumaya Publications, 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: November 2010
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [293 KB]
Reading time: 186-261 min.
It just went off, like, oops. The first shot hit solid and sent a guy cutting pizza for his son back into a wall.
"Wow," the shooter said. "I'm sorry."
He apologized in the same tone a mother uses when she tells her child the hamster died.
"What was that?" someone said. "What the hell?"
The shooter looked at his gun. A woman went over to the man who had been shot. She looked at the shooter with an expression like the saleslady in the china shop about to say, You know you have to pay for that now, don't you? The toddler with them--he couldn't have been more than four--put a bite of pizza into his mouth and looked at the man. He clapped his hands like he was saying goody-goody gumdrops!
There was movement.
Chairs scraped against the floor.
"Okay," the shooter said. "It's all okay."
Sounds gained momentum and built on one another.
"All right now." The shooter spoke only to himself but didn't know it. "It's fine."
A wall of noise and panic moved in on him. There were screams. The man who had been shot slapped the floor with a flat, open hand. He kicked the table leg with his heel. Silverware went flying across tabletops.
"Mike," the man's wife whispered. Then she yelled "Mike!" over and over while another woman, a large one in a yellow flower-print sundress, grabbed her purse, put it in the bend of her elbow and started running. She had one hand over her mouth.
The shooter felt vibrations through the floor. He felt them through the soles of his feet.
"Mike!" the woman yelled. "OhmyGodMikeohmyGod."
The shooter yelled, but no one heard him over the noise and the awakening to the reality of what was going on.
"All right. Okay. All right now," he said.
He fired multiple shots in a line. It was a dotted line that started in the center of the woman in the yellow sundress and led away from her. She went down. Her purse trailed after her. The man next to her was shot in the throat.
It was amazing.
A kid in a corduroy baseball cap looked at him. He held his right ear and just stood there with his mouth open. At first he didn't move to protect anyone, not even himself. Then he turned to get out of there and tell someone about it.
"Don't leave." the shooter told him.
He resumed firing. Shell casings dropped to the floor with hollow clinks.
"Don't," he said.
More people fell. Some staggered forward from the impact then fell. Others just sank. It was crazy. The shooter walked a few steps. He looked like his legs had gone to sleep and he wanted to wake them up.
"God, I'm sweating," he said.
He ran for the door to get in front of it, to block it. "No," he said. "Okay. Okay."
He put his arm around the shoulder of the kid who had held his ear.
"Go and sit down now," he said to him gently. "Everybody, listen. I want everybody to just listen."
Everybody huddled in two groups in the corners about twenty feet away. They moved chairs in front of them and held on to table legs for protection. One woman said "Hail, Mary." Another said, "Mike, wake up."
"It's all right now," the shooter assured them.
No one believed him. He'd always had trouble talking in front of groups. He preferred the one-on-one.
"Is there anyone in the back there?" he asked the kid in the baseball cap. "Go check. Go. You."
It took the young man three tries to open the swinging half-door to the kitchen.
"Pull it. Try pulling it. That's the stuff. Good."
There was heavy breathing. Everything in the room was becoming less fuzzy. Strangers looked at one another to confirm what was happening was really happening. The two clumps of people huddled tighter together and looked at the gun. They didn't look at him. He was obscured by the greater reality of the gun.
He looked like he didn't know what to do. He just stood there.
"He's alive," someone screamed.
"No one's back there," the kid said in a twisted yell once he came back from the kitchen. He was still holding his ear. "Can I go now? I'd like to go. Now. I'll just..."
And he left.
The first guy who was shot was still hitting the floor with his hand. It was soft as a whisper. Slap, slap, slap.
The guy with the gun looked out a window with the blinds up. The sunny day continued. The cars passed on Fry Boulevard. The tires made that sizzling sound.
"Do something," said a woman in the corner to her boyfriend. "Do something, Jerry. Look at him."
She wanted him to be a hero. That was a mistake.
Jerry got up and made it only three steps before he was shot in the chest. A smattering of goo hit against the window with a splat. Behind the balls of blood, the shooter saw a man in the parking lot get out of his car. He saw him look at the restaurant window.
"I got to do it," the shooter said.
He braced the gun against his shoulder and kept it low while he walked and fired. People scattered, and a few hit the ground. One man with blond hair and a chain that held his wallet to his belt loop crouched behind the dead woman in the yellow sundress and called for his mother.
The shooter straight-line walked and shot on automatic. It looked very easy. The clip emptied. He reloaded and continued until he was about five feet from the wall.
"Oh, damn," he said, like he'd forgotten to mail something.
He turned around to face the other group of people and shot a college girl as she ran for the door. She wore a T-shirt, bathing suit bottom and flip-flops. When she fell, the flip-flops slapped against her heel one last time and that was it.
People dove under tables. They kicked and hurled their bodies into tight places. The scratched along the Mexican tiled floor. It was very fast. Everyone moved very fast.
A woman off to the side noticed the shooter's face. She saw that his eyes were absolutely huge.
"Hot bullets," he said to no one in particular.
He stopped at a table and poured a Pepsi on the top of the gun, and on his hand. He stopped firing and watched a man behind the wheel of a car in the parking lot. The man's hand slipped along the gearshift as he put it in reverse. He was horrified, looking into the restaurant, but he was still a careful driver: He checked his mirrors before he backed up.
He was sure to call someone. They would come soon.
The shooter adjusted his grip on the gun. The woman watched his knuckles carefully. She saw them turn from white to red when he relaxed his hands. She saw them tense and go white again and held her breath.
He gripped the gun and sucked in as hard as a long jumper before a leap. Then he just went everywhere with the gun. The barrel flying hot, shots opened along the wall, glass shattered, an upper arm got all chewed up, and the cash register got hit. Its drawer popped open like a tongue. The shooter raised his foot high and kicked it hard. Nickels, dimes, quarters and pennies sprinkled down. Bills fluttered. They looked absurd in the smoke, and weirder still when they landed. One $20 bill soaked up the blood on a hole in the college girl's forehead.
"He's a mess," Jerry's girlfriend said. She was on the floor holding him as he spasmed. His shirt was reddened wounds. "This is a mess." The woman stroked his head and muttered. "Jerry, do something. Do something, Jerry, do something."
A girl noticed the shooter looked tired. Weary was the word, she thought.
He raised the gun to fire and everyone tensed, but then he didn't shoot. He dropped to a relaxed position. He thrust his arm with the gun forward, like he was trying to shake it off. Then he did, and the gun clattered to the ground, empty. He looked around, picked up an iced tea and took a long gulp.
"I always liked iced tea."
No one moved when he spoke. A lot of people kept their eyes on the gun, even though it was on the floor. For a few moments now, everyone had been quiet and still. It was like the silence when no one can think of what to say at a party.
"Looks like a bad day for the home team," the shooter said.
He pulled a pistol from his back pocket and put the barrel in his mouth.
"Oh, yes, finally, you fuck," a voice said.
He looked toward the ceiling where an overhead fan spun slowly. He took the gun from his mouth and aimed it around. But he didn't shoot.
"Come on," someone said.
Ten feet away, a black woman stood up, walked to the door and said, "Let me. I'll do it if you can't."
"No, that's fine," he said. "Thank you. I can take care of it. I can."
"All right, then," the woman said.
The other people started moving.
"Don't," he said quietly. "Don't move."
It was so sunny out. It was a good day. He put the tip of the gun to his mouth.
"Bad day for the home team," he said. "I'm sorry about all this."
He pulled the trigger.