The whole world is blind
When Randy Pervis saw the road sign to Bethlehem he figured it was the Lord Baby Jesus himself giving him the thumbs up, showing him he was on the side of righteousness. His jaw moved in a rhythmic, hypnotic, side to side motion as he chomped on some chewing tobacco and expectorated the unwanted juices through the open window of his truck, periodically hitting vehicles driving in the adjacent lane with his spit. Most people who knew him called him Red because his favoured brand of tobacco was Red Man. Red also liked to smoke Marlboro Reds, sometimes both chewing and smoking tobacco at the same time for that double hit. At the moment he was just chewing and driving. He scratched his beard. Having a beard was unusual for Red as he liked to be clean shaven—but these were special circumstances. Pervis was famous in Midland, Texas for his beard, which grew faster than a New York minute. To remain presentable he was required to shave at least three times a day. Girls had been known to sleep with him just so they could stay awake while he slept to watch his beard grow before their very eyes. His skin was as tanned and leathery as a cowboy’s saddle: he liked to stay outside in the Texas sun as much as he could, moving his TV and easy chair into the open air some days, so he had the comfort of the indoors outside. Red witnessed the twin towers terrorist attack on TV first hand along with the rest of the world. It had gotten him mad as fire. So mad that he’d jumped straight into his truck with the intention of driving all the way to New York to go kick some terrorist butt. But in all the excitement he forgot to put the truck in reverse and ended up crashing into his own home. In a freakish twist to the accident, his eagle weather vane had become unfixed from the roof of his house when the truck impacted, and piercing the roof of the vehicle like a spear, landed between Red’s legs impaling his manhood and causing him to be hospitalised for a good few months. Red’s rooster was now back in full working order; although his voice was still a high pitched squeak. But he wasn’t going to be prevented from heading to New York any longer. He wasn’t afraid to put his guns where his mouth was and help his country fight these terrorists and keep the streets of America safe. Red drove the 1,877 miles from Midland, Texas to Manhattan, New York fuelled on good old American coffee and tobacco. To relieve the boredom of driving and to help with his target practice Red stopped off occasionally to shoot various critters along the way. These ranged from armadillos to rattlesnakes in Texas, and were mostly just plain old rats as he got nearer to New York. He collected the kill and put them in the back of the truck, planning to sell them to Stefano the Stuffer when he got back to Midland. Stefano either stuffed the animals to sell as ornaments and toys, or skinned them to make various goods from their hides. Red’s truck had seat covers made from armadillo skin, the hardness of which served as a massager to his back when he was driving for long periods of time. Arriving in Manhattan, Red emerged out of the Holland Tunnel onto Laight Street and turned left onto West Street. He was happy to crawl along for the remainder of his journey as it gave him time to soak up the view around him. Immediately in front of him and over the river on his right were a crowd of skyscrapers sticking their middle fingers up at the rest of the world, making him feel proud to be an American. Red turned off West Street and onto Liberty Street. He parked the truck on the pavement and took a moment to open his gun bag and look at the contents; his entire arsenal was inside that bag, just looking at it made him feel heroic. He stroked his latest acquisition, a Beretta 92F handgun that he’d christened Harry: the metal barrel felt slicker than a jar full of eels and reassuringly hard to his touch; his red checked shirt reflected on the barrel, giving it a pink glow. He smiled lovingly at the gun and put it back in the bag. Red disembarked from the truck, banging his head on the cushion he’d duct-taped in an elaborate fashion to the roof. He did this every time. At least now he’d taped the cushion there he no longer hurt his head on the hard roof. Once on the pavement, he put his arms through the handles of the gun bag so he could wear it on his back, leaving his hands free for shooting, punching, smoking and such. Lighting a Marlboro he stumbled on the pavement, almost falling on his face. He was surrounded by tall buildings thrusting upwards. He walked back towards West Street realizing that he was just across the road from Ground Zero. Had he been wearing a hat he would’ve removed it as a sign of respect. The sounds of a hard working building site could be heard over the six lanes of traffic. Above the boards that surrounded the site was just sky. Even though Red had never borne witness to the buildings when they were there, he could sense something was missing—like a mouth with a pulled tooth; the absence was obvious, unsettling and downright heart-breaking. He felt even more determined to bring those evildoers to justice now and swallowing a lump in his throat he vowed that he wouldn’t allow his country to be attacked again. Red needed a drink. His hands were a little shaky with all the coffee and tobacco he’d had in the past couple of days and he wanted to raise a glass to all those firemen who had helped the victims of 9/11. He spat out his mouthful of tobacco on the sidewalk and strutted along the river taking in the view across the water of the rigid, tall buildings. The city sounds were noisier than a bunch of bob cats at the Midland monster truck derby. A breeze came through a subway grate and caressed his beard with a soft touch like an angel kissing his chin. His stomach was all tied up in knots but he kept a cool exterior, walking as straight and purposeful as the skyscrapers that surrounded him. He squinted his eyes in the sun and rolled his cigarette from one side of his mouth to the other. He turned left, where buildings stood erect and proud on both sides of the street, drawing the eye ever upwards. Midland was nicknamed the Tall City, but New York dwarfed it. Big always meant better to Red, it was what being from Texas was all about. He wasn’t sure what the rainbow flag outside represented but the bar was called the Boots and Saddle, which was good enough for him. Inside the bar it was darker than the inside of a cow and smelt of good American beer. Bonnie Tyler sang I Need a Hero on the jukebox. His eyes took a while to adjust after the daylight outside. He nodded to a fellow customer who had a cowboy hat and moustache and then set about sitting down on a high bar stool and placing his gun bag on the floor between him and the bar. He rested his feet on the bag and ordered a whisky. The bartender was so tall if she fell over she’d be halfway home. She was dressed up as a cheerleader, her hair in pigtails; she looked like a true American beauty and smelt of sweet vanilla. She went to open a bottle of whisky but Red, always ready to help a damsel in distress, took it from her and opened it himself. ‘Where are you from, stranger?’ the woman asked in a throaty voice. ‘I’ve come from Midland, Texas. I’m here to fight in the war against terrorism,’ said Red in his high-pitched voice. The lady was impressed. ‘A real hero,’ she said with a smile and poured them both another whisky. Holding her glass aloft in a toast she said, ‘To Osama Bin Laden, that son of a bitch, may his dick run off with the seven year itch, we’ll bang his balls with a ten pound hammer til his asshole whistles the star spangled banner.’ Red raised his glass aloft and said ‘Amen to that.’ Red liked this lady a bit more with each whisky. She was the real deal. He asked her name and she told him ‘Eva Destruction.’ ‘Is that a stage name?’ ‘No, I was born this way.’ ‘Do you perform?’ ‘Like a dream.’ ‘You have a mighty pretty voice.’ ‘It’s this deep throat of mine.’ ‘How come you’re running this bar all on your own?’ Red asked as he knocked back another whisky. ‘You should be more street wise. They’re everywhere, those terrorissstss. They have no morals, they ain’t like us; they’ll blow you up soon as look at you.’ Red was slurring as the whisky radiated warmth from his insides out to his extremities. He was drunker than a boiled owl, his muscles relaxed and floppy. ‘Is there anywhere I can bed down for a while?’ he asked Eva as he struggled to keep his eyes focused. ‘And maybe you pretty little thing could come keep me company.’ ‘Take my hand stranger and I’ll show you some famous New York sites,’ Eva said as she smiled and led him to The Dark Room, a pitch black cushioned room without lights where customers could go and do whatever they liked—anonymously if preferred—no questions asked. No matter how inebriated he was, Red was never one to neglect his manly duty and raising his arms above his head he allowed Eva to pull off his shirt. He then fumbled about trying to get his hand up Eva’s skirt and unbutton his own trousers at the same time; he kicked his jeans off and got his hand in Eva’s underwear. It was then he noticed that something wasn’t quite right. There was something where there should have been nothing: something proud, erect and very, very big. At first Red wondered if Eva stored a gun in her panties, but it felt like no gun he’d ever held before and furthermore it was attached—attached to Eva. It took a while for the truth to dawn on Red, but when it did the warmth drained from his blood, his stomach plunged from somewhere below his heart to down past his ass and the darkness turned a strange red colour. His rooster drooped and shrank, collapsing in on itself like a concertina. Eva’s seemed to grow harder and bigger in his grasp. Withdrawing his hand he whimpered an apology: ‘Sorry ma’am, I already have one.’ ‘Not man enough, huh?’ Eva retorted. Red instinctively found his gun bag, and felt his way out of the dark room, stumbling against the wall until he found a door handle and burst out into the bar. Walking past the cowboy he tried to maintain some dignity but the cowboy wolf-whistled at him as he strode past. It wasn’t until he was blinking in the daylight of the street that he realised why he’d been wolf whistled at: except for his work boots, he was naked as a jaybird. He hugged his gun bag to him to cover up his full-frontal nakedness. There was no way he was heading back into the bar to retrieve his clothes; a man has his pride and they were all queerer than a three dollar bill in there. Walking in an awkward bow-legged strut to accommodate the bag as it came at an angle between his legs he nearly fell over and damaged his rooster. Thinking of a solution to his immediate problem, he ducked down an alley to stop and think for a while. He put the gun bag on the floor and bent over it to get Harry out. ‘Man, my prayers have been answered, that there is some fine white ass.’ Red looked up to see a homeless guy stumbling towards him with his eyes focused on Red’s bare naked ass. Red instinctively put his back to the wall and zipped up the gun bag all in super fast time. Then he looped his arms through the handles so it covered his coveted ass and holding the hand gun he’d retrieved from the gun bag he cupped his hands over his rooster, so the gun protruded out stiffly in front of his genitals as he strode into the street. Naked, he was exposed. Unprotected and un-American in his defencelessness, he ran into the nearest clothes shop. Bursting into the thrift store Red waved the gun in the manager’s face. ‘I need clothes, gimme some clothes!’ ‘Excuse me?’ ‘Clothes! I’m naked as a plucked chicken and I need to cover up.’ ‘What sort of clothes you want? We have vintage at the back; designer over there, high street near the window and the bargain bucket is here.’ Red thought for a minute. ‘Err…bargain bucket.’ The shop manager walked the few steps to the bargain bucket and rooted around. The musty smell of worn clothes was overpowering and the shop stereo pumped out Survivor’s Eye of The Tiger. Finding a suitable light cotton top and trousers, he handed them to Red. Rather than put the gun down, Red gripped it in his mouth; the holdup victim inspected his nails as Red stumbled about trying to balance on one leg as he attempted to put the other leg into the trousers. After several failed attempts the shopkeeper offered his assistance, and Red leaned on him as he put the trousers on, and then put both hands in the air as the manager pulled the shirt over Red’s head. Fully dressed, with the gun bag in position on his back and Harry in his hand, Red squeaked his thanks to the shop manager and walked out into the street. The shop manager waved his hand dismissively in the air, bored by the whole event. Two worlds collided with an impressive smack: the cyclist that hit Red flew headfirst over her handlebars; tucking her knees under her she turned her trajectory into a graceful somersault, before landing coolly on her feet with her arms stretched upwards like a gymnast. Red wasn’t so lucky. He was knocked off balance and fell down, still clutching his gun, and cracked his head with a dull thud on the kerb. ‘What the fuck you doing man? Not looking where yous going. You shouldn’t be allowed out.’ She sucked her teeth as she helped Red up. ‘Jeez what’s all this blood on you? You’ll have to take this big bag off so you can sit down and I’ll bandage you up. Head wounds always look worse than they are. I’ve got a first aid kit in my bag; I’ll have you bandaged up in no time.’ Continuously talking she helped a dazed Red take his bag off and put it at the side of the kerb, and then helped Red sit on it. She then rummaged in her courier bag and pulled out a small travel first aid kit and dug around for a bandage, which she wound around Red’s head in a generous manner, hoping the ample bandage would stop the blood. ‘What are you doing wandering around with that gun for, anyways? You up to no good?’ ‘I’ve come to fight against the terrorisstss.’ Red reiterated. ‘Well you ain’t going to find any round here.’ ‘But this is where they hit. And they’ll hit again if we don’t keep vigilant. Varmints always head back to where they struck last.’ Although she tied the loose end of bandage at the back of Red’s head it still dangled down past his shoulders and waved in the breeze. ‘Well I don’t know about any terrorists but I know you’ll live to fight another day now yous all wrapped up.’ Red remained seated on his bag of guns as he watched the cycle courier disappear into the traffic. His head rested on his hands, the left one still holding Harry, so the barrel rested against his cheek providing comfort. He heard a nearby voice shouting into a megaphone over the traffic and noise of people walking by: ‘…and you can mark my words, it’s all a conspiracy! A conspiracy! The attacks are a cover up. All the movies are true, I tell you, true! I speak the truth! I’m the only one who does! The authorities tar me with the crazy brush but it’s only because I know the truth! It was King Kong what done it! He’s still up there! On the Empire State Building! Has been there for all these years! They’ve just covered him with an invisible cloak! But he’s still there all the same! They don’t want you to know the truth! But it was HIM! He grabbed the planes out of the sky and threw them like darts at the twin towers. He couldn’t stand them being taller than him! He wanted the Empire state to be the tallest! It’s all King Kong’s doing and they don’t want you to know.’ Red had heard enough. Someone saying what the hell they liked was just so damn un-American. He went over to where the conspiracy theorist stood, shouting into the crowd of pedestrians, who walked by like he wasn’t there. ‘What the fuck are you saying? An invisible monkey did all this?’ Red shouted. ‘That’s exactly what I’m saying, brother. It’s all a big cover up—just look on the internet.’ ‘Well I don’t know about no internets, all I know is that what you’re doing ain’t right.’ Red had used the internet at his cousin Jim Bob’s house and knew it was good for looking at porn and guns, sometimes both at the same time, but he’d not really used it for anything else. While Red was thinking about porn and guns the conspiracy theorist looked at him properly for the first time. Open mouthed he screamed like a girl and ran away, shouting ‘I’m sorry, don’t blow me up. I believe it was you, it wasn’t King Kong, it was you. Just don’t blow me up.’ Red scratched his beard and figured the guy must be nuttier than a squirrel turd to be acting like that. Frowning to himself, he decided to head back to his truck to sit on his armadillo seat covers and think some. He had no trouble getting through the crowd as it seemed like people were giving him a wide berth—some were even walking into the busy street to avoid him. When he got back to Liberty Street his truck was in the process of being towed. The tow truck had hooked up his truck and was dragging it off the sidewalk. Each time the truck hit a bump some of the dead animals in the back jumped out, leaving a trail of shot critters behind it. The tow truck drove off towards West Street. Red shouted, ‘Hey! That’s my truck!’ as he waved his hands, with the pistol still in the left one, up in the air. Upon seeing the gun the tow truck driver put his foot to the accelerator and sped off. Driving slick enough to slide on barbed wire, Red couldn’t help but admire the true grit the tow truck driver showed as he veered off into oncoming traffic in an effort to escape him and his gun. Other traffic screeched to a halt as the tow truck, yanking Red’s truck behind it, sped away, shedding dead animals in its wake. By the side of the road two NYPD detectives were in the car arguing over whose turn it was to buy the coffee and donuts when they noticed the blue tow truck, speeding past pulling a red beat up truck that appeared to have wild animals leaping out of it. This they could have ignored, but in hot pursuit of the vehicles was what looked like America’s most wanted man: a thin, dark-skinned gentleman with a long dark beard, a turban and traditional Muslim clothes chasing after the vehicles waving a handgun in the air. At first, the cops could only stare; Mahone was the first to gain his senses and shout, ‘Holy shit! That cannot be…’ He fumbled for his radio and shouted, ‘Terrorist alert! We are in pursuit of a terrorist suspect. I repeat: we are in pursuit of a terrorist suspect.’ Detectives Mahone and Tahat pursued Red on foot. Red, weighed down by his gun bag, realised that even in the busy city traffic the tow truck was getting away, bumping other vehicles and getting shouted at by drivers as it went. Panting, he stopped running and heard shouts from behind him: ‘NYPD! Drop your weapon! Put your hands on your head! Kneel on the floor!’ Red turned round to see what the commotion was and saw two men in suits pointing guns at him. Confused, he automatically put his hand up to stroke his beard, the hand that was still holding Harry like a comforter. He heard a gun go off and felt himself fall to the ground. Red lay on his back in his dying moments, his left arm extended above his head with the gun still in his hand, like the statue of liberty holding her torch aloft.