ike Armaiolo considered himself a premium machinist, but when Louis Capice came into his business and stealthily requested a silencer for his 500 Nitro Express, he felt challenged and slightly vulnerable. It was awkward trying to disguise it. The 500 Nitro is a loud, formidable rifle, and when Louis motioned Mike’s ear closer and whispered the order, he said, “Of course,” but he wasn’t sure of himself. From a practical point of view, silencer diagrams from prison came to his mind. He had done time with a gun genius nicknamed The Deadlifter who had sketched exploded diagrams of esoteric firearm devices, all of them illegal. Mike’s memory raced through this library and got a few good hits, but he still wrestled with how the diagrams could be adapted to a double-barrel design like the 500’s.
Louis remained at his ear for a few seconds after his order, as if he was listening for the snap of a twig and readying himself to fire. Then his head slowly moved away from Mike and he looked at him squarely to speak honestly.
“They are hunting me, Mike,” he whispered. “I know it sounds insane, but they are all coming back.”
His face was taut and his eyes looked around to confirm what they already knew, that they were alone in the machine shop.
“At first the scenes came back in flickers; I was alone in the bush, listening and barely moving.”
Mike had been building guns for Louis for over twenty years, and he considered him a good customer and to an extent a friend, but now he was confiding in him as if they were close. Louis looked around again, clearly nervous, and confessed.
“Not in dreams, Mike. In the dark while I’m lying in bed trying to rest. I’m actually seeing them. All of those sons of bitches!”
“First, the guides walked away like silvery, poor quality chalk drawings whose edges became sharper, crisper, then smeared and blurry and then pure black and gone.”
“What the fuck,” Mike whispered back, thinking to himself how surreal Louis’ artistic language seemed.
“Then I was alone in the bush, in absolute darkness, with distant roars and cackles and nearby twigs dryly cracking. And then the thin white pencil outline of my first lion’s profile emerged and then he turned to me and the lines thickened and became luminous and he roared full out, I swear, exactly as he did the moment before I blew the bastard away with my 500 Nitro, and then I shit a bit in the bed and jumped up in a full sweat and turned on the lights and there was fuck all in the empty room!”
“Fuck me,” Mike whispered.
Louis was deadly serious. He looked around and then flinched when he saw a woman’s figure approaching the front door and then heard the bell ring as she entered. She was obviously out of place in a machine shop but seemed to know why she was there. She was wearing a conservative faint pink dress and a string of small white pearls, and her auburn hair was braided near the temples and pulled back into a delicate crown. She was wearing red lip stick and she obviously had self-respect. Her expression was serious.
“Can I help you?” Mike asked her.
“My husband Carl asked me to pick up something you made for him.”
“You are Carl Rimpianto’s wife?”
She nodded, and Mike brought out a small box from the back room, rang up her bill, and she left with the door ringing. Her hair lifted slightly in the wind as she walked to the left and away in the sunlight. Mike looked back at Louis and they quickly regained their previous confessional intimacy.
“You’re not bullshitting me, are you Louis?”
“Mike . . .”
His face said it all. He looked like a man genuinely concerned about being committed.
“Now, it’s not just that first lion; they all come back as soon as I turn off the lights.”
“It’s a fucking herd of lions, rhinos, water buffalos, and hippos, and all of them tangled
together and roaring full blast as if I never silenced them.”
“Fuck me,” Mike whispered.
“I’ve got to kill them again, Mike. And this time for good. That’s why I need the silencer for my 500 Nitro.”
“How the fuck is that supposed to work, Louis. You can’t just start blasting at hallucinations. Somebody in the real world is going to get killed. You need to talk to your doctor, not me.”
“They are real. No one will get caught in the cross-fire. You make the silencer and I’ll go camping in a remote location close to the Yukon border. I’ll kill them all the first night and then return. It will all be finished with and I will be able to have my life back.”
Mike was silent and in deep thought for at least a full two minutes; then he said, as if breeching a promise of silence, “You should take Carl Rimpianto with you.”
“The guy whose wife was just in here? Why?”
“Because she just left with the silencer I machined for his 458 Winchester.”
“What the fuck!” Louis said loudly.
“Listening to you is like listening to Carl’s voice being played back to me on a
tape recorder,” Mike whispered.
Louis’ face turned a grave pale grey and he yelled, “Don’t fuck with me, Mike.”
“I swear I’m not, Louis. Your order today is the seventh silencer ordered this month. The neighbors have been complaining about me setting off fireworks at night in my back yard. They’ve got no idea that I’ve been testing silencers.”
“What the fuck,” Louis whispered.
“Yeah, what the fuck,” Mike responded in even a lower voice.
And then Mike began filling out Louis’ order form.
Vic Cavalli’s fiction, poetry, photography, and visual art have been published in literary journals in Canada, the United States, England, and Australia. His visual art can be viewed at vittoriocavalli.com. His novel The Road to Vermilion Lake, is forthcoming from Harvard Square Editions in July 2017.