Pistolero

Back then I loved guns and I had many of them. Mostly revolvers I wore holstered until it was time to use them. Like the time I was involved in an atentado, a political assassination. The driver of my car had pulled up parallel to the other car. The other driver was in my sights. My windows and his were open, I drew my revolver and fired. We sped away.

I don't recall if my gun made a noise or if my victim heard it. In any case, he was not dead, though, as I would learn, he was plenty scared. If my gun was silent it was because I hadn't bothered to load it with caps. This weapon, like all the others I owned, was a toy. A toy gun. I usually carried mine in some heavily tooled fake leather holster, meant to resemble those of the Old West gunslingers I worshipped at the dual altars of comics and movies. I played at gunslinger, sometimes with my friends, others alone in front of a mirror where I practiced my fast draw.

But it was a different gunman I was playing now. Not an American West shootist but a local and very contemporary one. A political assassin like the kind that was in the news, offing a government official or perhaps just an important member of a rival party. I was maybe 10, young enough to play with toy guns, old enough to know about real-life shoot'em ups in my own city and to appear, in the flash of a second, as a man aiming a gun from a passing car.

Of course, other than mimicking in play the violence in the news that was the talk of the town, I acted like a kid, with no intent. Bang! Bang! What fun. I had acted out an atentado, just like those swaggering pistoleros I read or heard about. Bang! Bang!

My play victim, I would learn, took down the car's tag and tracked it down. As it was told to me he found the driver, my father's cousin, who had picked me up at school and was driving me home. Apparently, the man held some kind of minor political post and was therefore afraid that the wave of atentados that was sweeping th city might catch up with him. When he saw my cap gun aimed at him he thought this was the end.

There were apologies for a child's foolish act and stern words to me never to do such a thing again or even carry any of my beloved guns in a car. I can imagine my parents thinking: what if this guy had been strapped and fired back?

I didn't give up guns though. At some point kids in my neighborhood got BB guns and we went into a vacant lot to shoot them. I got nicked in the wrist by one and my father went, no pun intended, ballistic. I got a BB rifle once for Christmas, the very cool Red Ryder model, but I seldom fired it.

Over the years I've held real small rifles in my hands and fired them at targets. I wasn't a great shot, but not terrible either. Never fired a handgun, though I always kept meaning to do so at a pistol range. Maybe someday I will. Not that high in my bucket list.

To be honest, guns scare me. Too much power. Knives too can be lethal, but to be so they require, besides skill, accuracy and coordination, the power of my body. A loaded gun requires minimum physical effort. I know enough about the explosive nature of the psyche, my own, for example, to not fear an artifact that can easily and quickly acquire that mercurial power.

I cook, so I use knives big and small. If I had to use one as a weapon all I know are a few words of how to hold and strike from Borges' story, "The South."  I pray I never have to. And that no one has to tell that "firmly clutching his knife, which [he] perhaps would not know how to wield, [he] went out into the plain."