How to Shoot Somebody Who Outdrew You
by subverting the constructs of time:
Find a time traveler. Any will do. The younger ones will be more sympathetic, the older ones more experienced in timeline placement. And accuracy is crucial, for obvious reasons, so choose wisely. Be sure to arrive in a situation wherein a gun is readily available and within reach; it would be easier to bring one with you, perhaps tucked in the waistband of your pants, but time travel is tricky, and any given part of you might very well slip away into stray time streams, floating in limbo for eternity.
When you arrive at the correct time, do not let yourself be seen. Miracles happen far more often than you might think, and your present self will be happier to believe that one occurred that morning in the abandoned warehouse, staring down the end of the barrel and wondering if his challenger would actually pull the trigger.
by appealing to the Big Guy Himself:
Pray to God, or the deity of your choice. Certainly you have never been a pious man, but God seems to always be granting forgiveness to those who don’t deserve it, and it can’t hurt to make a bid of your own. Your old pastor would have expounded with utter conviction on the beauty of placing one’s life, simply and wholly, in His graceful hands. Thank God you stopped going to church years ago.
Whoops. Is that a double sin?
by taking extra precautions:
Hire snipers. After you walk out of that gambling den, contact your dealer friend (acquaintance) from college, who ought to know a mercenary or two given his occupation. Hitmen, top of the line: if you’re going to make a bet on your life, at least back it up with as much muscle as you can afford. Which, following your recent marriage, is a considerable amount of muscle. (You wonder if your wife would consider this use of her money more valuable than your gambling. Probably not, but she’s indulged you in the latter, so why not the former?)
Pray your snipers are quicker to the draw than your opponent is. If they aren’t, at least you’ll both go down. You’ll hit the rotting floorboards at the same time, you and this other man who is little more than a stranger, the receiving end of a drunken bet you made while trying, for once, to feel something other than self-pity. Well. Spite is rarely effective, but it is always, always satisfying.
by relying on the historically terrible combination of love and technology:
In the future they will invent many wondrous weapons. You could commission a poison genetically coded to be deadly only to a single set of DNA. You could purchase unbreakable blades thinner than a blade of grass. You could have micro-darts implanted in your teeth, so that all it takes to kill this man who outdrew you is a parting of your lips, a flicking of your tongue. Perhaps someone who misses you in the future will locate another time traveler, and bring you this technology. Perhaps — but you suspect your wife has never cared, which is why you proposed in the first place, which is why no one, least of all her, will bother to make their way across time to aid you. It seems your luck is running low at last.
by doing what you always do:
Don’t show up in the first place. Brag how close you might have come to death; boast how you would have whipped out your gun before your opponent could even blink. Your wife calls you a coward, but you cannot be a coward if someone holds you back from the fight, so say your ailing father is on his way out, your son has contracted avian flu, your migraines leave you incapacitated every morning. Go on: say these things. They are no different from the excuses that spill from your beer-soured mouth every night of every day. And you shall keep your life.
well, maybe you don’t:
Kiss your wife goodbye as you get out of bed that morning, if you must, though this won’t do a thing to help you draw faster. Love does not course through your veins as adrenaline does; love does not halt bullets. And it’s not as if you ever loved her anyway. She will awaken to the rosy dawn and a stone-faced policeman informing her that her husband is facedown in an abandoned warehouse, and she will tilt her face to meet the red crescent-sun, and she will laugh and laugh, because despite all his posturing and displays of devotion, her fool husband could not think of a single way to shoot somebody who outdrew him.
Johanna Dong (@johanna_ktd) is currently studying economics at NYU, though she was born and raised in Southern California in a family of Vietnamese immigrants. Her work has been published in Cosmonauts Avenue and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop
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