El Presidente

Posted on February 10, 2008

EL PRESIDENTE

Our local shooting club has some enthusiastic members.
Every Friday night, there is a shoot-out. Not of the killing kind, unless you’re made of cardboard. Then, you’d be in big trouble…

Usually, there would be between fifteen and twenty shooters.
The President was there. He would welcome everybody, stuffily. And give you the safety brief. If you were lucky, and he knew you, you’d get the abbreviated brief. Otherwise, you’d get the standard brief. Ten minutes. And, if you were a new guy, you’d get the "you must be an idiot" brief. Twenty minutes.

For starters, by way of a warm-up, we would shoot "El Presidente".
No, not him, although that would have been nice, but a shooting challenge.
Three targets beside each other, seven yards away.
With a bull’s eye about the size of a playing card. You had to place two shots in each. Compulsory re-load. Then the same again, two shots each.
Twelve rounds altogether. As fast as you could. Needless to say, it became a sort of status symbol to record the fastest time. You could intimidate the opposition that way.
A really good shooter would manage all twelve rounds in 5.5 seconds to 6.5 seconds.
Most shooters were in the 8 second to 12 second range.
The President of our club was the fastest. He could manage about 6.0 seconds. He was, needless to say, rather proud of it. His accuracy was pretty good as well. He would "bull’s eye" eight or nine out of twelve. That’s pretty good shooting. Some shooters were more accurate, but a tad slower. I fell in that category. I would have liked to beaten him, because he was the kind of self satisfied, smug, pompous smoothie that you wanted to beat.
I tried. I reckon we all did. But the President beat us, most days. Then he would smile,
in that peculiarly infuriating manner of his, and we would grit our teeth and say:
"good shooting!"

Often enough, we got visiting shooters.
One night, this dude turned up, who looked like he’d had a bad night out. He stepped unsteadily out of this decidedly bronchial old Ford Bronco, and dragged out what looked like an old once-white shoe box. He was plump, borderline obese, red faced, dressed in ill fitting trousers, with suspenders struggling manfully to complete their task. He wore battered, dusty, crocodile cowboy boots with curled up toes. I remember trying to figure out if this was the style, or merely the result of some decrepit aging process. For a shirt, he wore a faded purple… shirt. Thing. It looked like something you’d wear at night, if you were living in the Victorian era.
I had a feeling, the President was not going to like this stranger.
My feelings intensified, as our visitor proceeded to unload the shoe box untidily. Out came some ammo boxes, a decidedly used Glock 23 forty caliber semi-automatic, and an assortment of cleaning rags, gun oil, and empty cigarette packets.
Our President was there in a flash. Casting a despairing glance at the untidy jumble, he introduced himself, and the enquiry started.
"Have you shot much?"
"A little…".
"Have you shot IDPA competitively before?"
"No, Sir…"
"Well, at this club, we take our gun discipline very seriously. Now let me show you how we do things around here…"
The newcomer smiled affably, and we veterans winked at each other.
This was going to be the "you-must-be-an-absolute-idiot" brief. Sure enough, twenty minutes later, our visitor had been shown how to load his weapon, where to load it, when to load it, and had received a lecture on the dangers associated with forgetting about the live round in the chamber. And another one about not-putting-your-finger-on-the-trigger until you were ready-to-destroy-your-target. I wondered if the President was even going to let this dude compete. He seemed to be having doubt as to the wisdom of it.

Eventually, we got to go shoot.
The President was in form, and led the pack with a blistering 6.04 seconds. Nine bull’s eyes. Excellent shooting. I did 7.51 seconds, and scored ten bull’s eyes. Everybody had shot, and last up was our visitor. He missed the call to be "on deck!" (ready to shoot), and had to be called again. He had difficulty in standing up, and wheezed and shuffled his way out to the shooting position. Our President, more than slightly impatient, took time to explain the rules once more, in words of not more than two syllables. With a pronounced emphasis on every syllable when he asked:
"Do-you-under-stand?"
The stranger, listening patiently with serious attention, nodded gravely, wiping away a bead of perspiration from his brow.

He stood at the ready, waiting for the starting buzzer, hands by his sides, for all the world the perfect antithesis of the modern image of the Hollywood gunslinger.
I remember feeling a bit sorry for him.
The buzzer went, and something happened. At first I thought his gun had somehow spectacularly malfunctioned, and spontaneously blown up. The sound was like a very rapid pneumatic drill. It was over before it started.
But his gun was back in its holster…

I remembered then to shut my mouth. My lower jaw had sagged open without any conscious brain command to do so. I stared. And so did everybody else.
He was finished. He had shot. That was it.
Our President was staring at the timer. Slowly, slowly, with a strange look on his face, he went to say something, then went silent. As a man, we all started walking across.
Somebody said the time. Somebody misheard. Three voices simultaneously demanded it be repeated.
3.86 seconds…

Eleven bull’s eyes.
Our stranger, mopping his forehead, was none too pleased.
"Dammit, missed one…"

Missed one…?
Missed one…?
Dude, before your magazine hit the ground on the reload…. you had already got two shots off!
I’m speechless…?

Needless to say, he swept the floor with us. Club records tumbled and fell, whilst we all gazed in disbelief at some of the fastest shooting humanly possible.
Our guest, modestly, would content himself with a "Oh, not bad!", or a quiet chuckle.

Before he left, the kind stranger left me his card. He told me to stop by, anytime I was in his area. I said I would…
I waved goodbye, and glanced at the card.

It was written in a type of Gothic scroll. Big and flowery. And underneath it, in fine print, I read the words:

Captain (Retd) US Marines
Navy Seal Tactical Firearms Instructor

F.M.


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1 response to El Presidente

  1. Woah. This story is pretty fantastic. You wrote it with sensitivity to anticipation and climax, revealing of your powerful writing skills and your awareness of the audience’s expectations. But, as my understanding of great writers goes, they know the best way to treat expectations is to acknowledge them by thwarting them. You’ve done that here. It was also hilarious, as with some of your other writing, I was laughing from the first few sentences, almost all the way through. Your descriptions are continuously well-thought out and original. I personally loved, "with suspenders struggling manfully to complete their task." Overall, A plus.

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