The Man Outside
A kestrel is a tiny but fierce raptor capable of hovering in midair as it hunts, using the ultraviolet light spectrum to track the urine trails of its prey. Its nests are filthy and foul smelling. A pair resides with their brood in the expansion joint of Interstate 40 where it crosses the Rio Grande in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I did not see the man exiting my casita after my friend Ellen Dreyfuss dropped me off. The only light came from inside, the kitchen light I’d left on to ward off prowlers. I could hear the sound system blaring RiRi singing Disturbia. I take efforts to make the house appear occupied when I’m out. There’s an ADT sign on every window.
Walking past my kitchen door, a stranger and I nearly bumped into each other as he stepped off my porch. He was as shocked to see me as I was to see him. He had squinty eyes, a neat little mustache, and a gun, which he pointed at me.
“Get back,” he said. I stepped into the light from my kitchen. “You just stay back. I’m leaving’, goin’ around you. I’m done for the night.” He sounded hoarse, midwestern, and anxious. I’m done for the night aren’t the words of a man about to shoot you. They’re the words of a repairman checking out for the night.
“Whatever you say.” I sounded casual. To this day I don’t remember whether he was holding a revolver or an automatic. He might as well have been point a black boxing glove. Adrenalin will do that.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had a gun pointed at me. I’ve been shot through the cheeks by a thug trying to make a point, a T-a-T he called the wound, a through-and-through, the personal touch he used on people he marked for terror.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” the Repairman said, as we circled each other from about seven feet. My uncle Thomas in Boston who kept books for the city had a gut like this guy. Both men were dowdy, in their mid fifties. Thomas celebrated his birthday on Monday, September 28, 2009, the day seven months ago when terrorists detonated a nuclear bomb in the heart of Washington.
The dumpy thug kept edging past me, eager to get away. He needed a shave. He wore a tan poplin suit, Walmart running shoes, and a Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirt decorated with green palm trees, blue skies, and big splotches of bright red hibiscus. The outfit didn’t go with the purple surgical gloves on his gun hands.
His face lit up for a moment, or least his eyes grew round and bright, as if some thought had occurred to him. “You carry a gun, dontcha Guild?”
He knew my name. And, of course, he mispronounced it. “The last name’s Guild as in wild.”
“Shut up. Use two fingers of one hand and removed the pistol you’ve got there in your belt.” He pointed on the wrong side of my body. I carry cross-draw. My name, my gun. How did he know I was carrying?
“Now drop it.”
“It’s a collectible, an antique” I told him.
“How about if I just gently put it down on the ground?” I thought that was a fair offer.
The man’s vocabulary was limited. The pistol stuck in the tight holster, which reminded me that I had not racked the slide. The magazine was full, but I could pull the trigger all day and the weapon would never fire a shot. I wasn’t going to move on him. I had the sense he was more frightened than me.
Lowering the vintage Remington 1911 pistol onto the gravel surrounding the casita, I took my eyes off him but still saw him move, stepping toward me. His upper body was out of sight, but I’m certain that he hit me with his pistol. I didn’t think I lost consciousness because I heard hear the loud thunk between my ears as the gun cracked my skull. That mixed with the sharp icy pain, and when I looked up from the puddle of blood near my gun, the sun was up over the Sangre de Cristo Rockies. I’d been out for hours, and now my head rang like I had a siren going between my ears.
I slowly got up, bending over several times to stop the blood hammering around my brain. I took a breath, looked around, decided that hurt to and began walking toward the porch when I thought better of it. My mind was not clear, but my instincts told me the Repairman might have something left behind, a booby trap maybe. My eyes would not focus and it took my two tries to dial 911, and a long moment to repeat my address. I told the dispatcher I’d been mugged and beaten unconscious. She said help was on its way. That’s when things got strange, stranger I guess.
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