“How’d the kids do today?” Pressure asked.
Sherman looked at his friend with a grimace, his wide forehead expanding. “Collectively, I’d give them a C.”
Sherman had come from Des Moines a year ago with his master’s in his pocket and a three-ring binder of Demosthenes, Wilberforce, and Roosevelt under his arm. He paid for his first-floor room teaching public speaking up at the community college, which he was good at, though he did sound foreign at times with his droll Midwest pattern. The man weighed in at just under twenty stone and his brain was like tightly wound watch.
His upstairs housemate was a few years younger. Originally from the county side of the river, he had moved into town some months ago. There had been a brief stint at higher education in Lynchburg but it didn’t stick. His days were now spent copying endless overdue notices at the Ellis Central Library. They called him Pressure because he looked the part.
“That ain’t bad,” Pressure replied, “What did they pick for their speeches?”
“Two of them did Regan’s Challenger address. Both were forgettable. There was some Shakespeare, which was hard to watch. One kid thought he could do a Marlon Brando impersonation and get away with it,” Sherman shifted in his chair, “It was their last chance to fix their projects before the final and most of them blew it.”
“Was it Fat Brando or Streetcar Brando?”
“He was doing lines from the first Godfather, but none of it made any sense. It was so bad I had to ask him why he thought it was a good idea to bring it in at all.”
“Were there any good ones?” Pressure asked, doubting it.
“Two. There was a girl that did a bit from Mrs. Warren’s Profession, but I’m sure half the class didn’t get what her profession was anyway. The other one was a William Jennings Bryan. Odd choice, but he convinced me.”
“Future leaders of the Commonwealth,” Pressure remarked.
They watched the street for a while. An old woman in a broad hat pushed a two-wheeled cart full of clothes into the laundry.
Pressure turned to his friend.
“I think I’m gonna buy a gun.”
“Okay,” his Sherman replied.
“There’s just a lotta shit goin’ on in the world and I think I might need one.”
Sherman cracked his knuckles, an old habit. Pressure looked at him.
“Thought I’d let you know. Don’t wanna make you nervous or anythin'.”
“What kind of gun?” Sherman asked.
“A shotgun. Just for the house, you know, home defense. I’m not gonna carry it everywhere or take it to the grocery store.”
“You wouldn’t look out of place.”
A truck passed by in the rain. Pressure sat up.
“I was thinkin’ of goin’ to pick it up today,” he said.
“Where?” asked Sherman.
“Up the highway. There’s a pawnshop across from the Rite Aid. They got a Remington I been looking at for a while.”
“Do you really think you need one?” asked the larger man.
“I think I do.”
The Eagle Gold and Pawn had iron bars over their windows. Behind them were heaps of TV’s and audio equipment, with the ubiquitous neon “BUY, SELL, LOAN” hovering over the entrance. Pressure and Sherman went inside and stood amid the guitars hanging from the ceiling.
There was a crusty man in overalls at the back counter, a rack of camouflage long guns, hunting rifles, and foreign surplus from the Cold War rising above his head. He rose to address his customers.
“How y’all doin?”
“Fine, how about yourself?” Pressure said.
“I’m aight. Good day for a duck,” the crusty man said slowly, “You buyin’ or sellin?”
“Take that Remington off the rack and lemme have a look,” Pressure said pointing at the one he’d been eyeing.
The crusty man took the shotgun down and laid it on the glass counter. It was a twelve gauge with a dark wood stock.
“This here’s two-fifty,” the crusty man said running his hand down the barrel, “Nothin’ fancy, but you take care of it and you’ll do good by it.”
“I’ll take it,” Pressure said, he could hear Sherman cracking his knuckles, “And two boxes of buckshot. The green boxes.”
“Okay, I gotta see you ID.”
Pressure took out his driver’s license and the registration on his Dodge, laying them on the counter. The crusty man took a look.
“You live down in Lynchburg?” he asked.
“Used to,” Pressure replied.
“But this ain’t the address you’re livin’ at now?”
“No, I’m here in town,” Pressure said, the crusty man handed the identification back.
“Can’t sell to you then. You gotta fix your ID so I can run it through the system.”
The crusty man put the shotgun back on the rack. Pressure put his hands in his pockets.
“I’ll be back later,” he said.
“Aight, I’ll see you when you get everythin’ in order,” the crusty man replied, returning to his stool behind the case of revolvers.
Pressure and Sherman drove back to the house on Cobb Avenue, the rain hammering the car whenever they came to a stoplight.
“So it’s that easy to buy a shotgun around here?” Sherman asked .
“Guess so,” Pressure said.
Sherman sighed audibly.
“What’s the matter?” Pressure replied.
“Nothing, I’m just tired,” Sherman said.