Frank got the call from dispatch at one, just as Doris sat his burger down on his table. He listened to the message, but was sure he’d misheard so he thumbed the radio button and said, “Come again, Thelma? I didn’t copy that.”
Thelma repeated the message, Frank thumbed the radio off and said, “Well, shit. Wrap this up to go, would you Doris? I got a call.”
“Damn, Frank. I woulda put it a bag for you if you’d asked. Now I got another plate to wash.”
Frank gave Doris ten dollars, said “Keep the change, for all your trouble” and left Wilber’s Diner, climbed into his old Jeep Cherokee and headed into town.
Buckley, Montana, population two hundred, had one traffic signal, out front of the post office, which also served as the library and video rental store. Across the street was a Shell station.
Frank parked behind the Shell, crept around front and peered across the street at the post office. A rifle fired, the crack echoing across the street. Frank ducked behind a gas pump, though better and ran into the Shell’s office where he found Lenny, who owned the gas station, crouching behind the counter.
“What the hell, Frank?” Lenny said.
“How long’s he been there?” Frank said.
“Sonabitch’s been shooting that twenty-two of his for a half hour now! He’s gotta be drunk. Goddamn, who sold Wizzy booze?”
Frank raised his head and peered through the window. “There ain’t but one store in Buckley, Lenny. Who’d you think sold it to him?”
“Henry knows better than that, don’t he? Don’t he know why Wizzy can’t have no booze?”
“You’d think, after what happened last Thanksgiving.”
“And the Fourth of July.”
Frank crept to the door and yelled across the street, “Wizzy, this here is Frank. What the hell you doin’?”
After a pause, a voice echoed back, “Frank, don’t you try nothin’! You stay put ’till I’m done!”
“Wizzy, for God’s sake, put the twenty-two down and come on out before someone gets hurt. You don’t want no one to get hurt, do you Wizzy?”
“You shut up, Frank! I can’t take this no more and I mean to end it right now.”
Another rifle crack, and a bullet caromed off the traffic light’s metal casing, making it swing back and forth above the intersection.
Frank ducked back into the office and said to Lenny, “It’s the stoplight, ain’t it? He’s shootin’ at the stoplight. Goddamn Wizzy.”
“Wizzy’s a good shot,” Lenny said. “Best in the county two years straight. He shoulda’ hit it by now. He’s already fired seven or eight times.”
“When Wizzy’s been drinkin’, he couldn’t shoot an elephant if he was sittin’ on it.” Frank blew out a breath. “Well, I suppose if he can’t hit the stoplight, he can’t hit me, either.”
Frank went out front again, this time as far as the street. With hands on hips, he hollered, “You come out now, Wizzy! Just lay the rifle down and come on out. We’ll forget this whole thing happened.”
“Like hell, Frank! Every time I come to town that damn light is red! Every time! You hear me Frank? I spent half my life sittin’ at that damn light, and I ain’t gonna do it no more.”
“Wizzy, we only got one stoplight. Now come on, you’re scarin’ Lenny.”
Wizzy’s twenty-two cracked again and Frank ducked, but didn’t run. “Goddamnit Wizzy!”
Frank could hear Wizzy muttering and swearing as he reloaded the single-shot rifle, then thought he should’ve charged him after he’d shot; he might’ve grabbed him before he reloaded.
He opened his mouth to holler when the rifle cracked again. This time sparks flew off the stoplight and glass tinkled down to the street. The light blinked a few times, then went out.
Wizzy whooped and laughed, came out of the post office, laid the rifle on the sidewalk and said to Frank, “I ain’t never gonna sit at that damn light agin, I tell you what.”
“You’re the dumbest drunk I ever saw, Wizzy,” Frank said. “Not only do I gotta haul your ass to jail for distrubin’ the peace, you’re gonna hafta pay for that light to be fixed. I bet it’ll cost you three hunderd.”
“I ain’t payin’ fer no light what has a red part. I tell you what, Frank. I ain’t.”
This will be me one day. When I snap, it’ll be over the damn traffic lights. They’re always red. How much of that is a man expected to take?
Much thanks to Wizzy for letting me borrow his name for this short story. Wizzy’s a colorful character from my book, THE MIGHTY T. He’s been great to work with.
P.S. Here's the link to my other Wizzy post: << Click here >>