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American Dream Serialization (Early Chapters)
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Maurice Stoker
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Tom Bradley
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: American Dream Title Page by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 1 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 2 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 3 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 4 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 5 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 6 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 7 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 8 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 9 by Jim Chaffee
01-01-2015
Modern Tragedy, or Parodies of Ourselves by Robert Castle
01-11-2014
Totally Enchanté, Dahling by Thor Garcia
01-04-2014
Hastini by Rudy Ravindra
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 5 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
01-01-2014
Unexpected Pastures by Kim Farleigh
10-01-2013
Nonviolence by Jim Courter
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 4 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
07-01-2013
The Poet Laureate of Greenville by Al Po
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part VI by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 3 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
04-01-2013
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part V by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part IV by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 2 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
01-01-2013
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part I by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part II by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part III by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 1 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
10-01-2012
DADDY KNOWS WORST: Clown Cowers as Father Flounders! by Thor Garcia
RESURRECTON: Excerpt from Breakfast at Midnight by Louis Armand
Review of The Volcker Virus (Donald Strauss) by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
01-07-2012
Little Red Light by Suvi Mahonen and Luke Waldrip
TEXECUTION: Klown Konfab as Killer Kroaked! by Thor Garcia
Miranda's Poop by Jimmy Grist
Paul Fabulan by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
01-04-2012
Operation Scumbag by Thor Garcia
Take-Out Dick by Holly Day
Patience by Ward Webb
The Moon Hides Behind a Cloud by Barrie Darke
The Golden Limo of Slipback City by Ken Valenti
01-01-2012
Chapter from The Infinite Atrocity by Kane X. Faucher
Support the Troops By Giving Them Posthumous Boners by Tom Bradley
01-10-2011
When Good Pistols Do Bad Things by Kurt Mueller
Corporate Strategies by Bruce Douglas Reeves
The Dead Sea by Kim Farleigh
The Perfect Knot by Ernest Alanki
Girlish by Bob Bartholomew
01-07-2011
The Little Ganges by Joshua Willey
The Invisible World: René Magritte by Nick Bertelson
Honk for Jesus by Mitchell Waldman
01-04-2011
Red's Dead by Eli Richardson
The Memphis Showdown by Gabriel Ricard
Someday Man by John Grochalski
01-01-2011
I Was a Teenage Rent-a-Frankenstein by Tom Bradley
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Fred Bubbers
10-01-2010
Believe in These Men by Adam Greenfield
The Magnus Effect by Robert Edward Sullivan
Performance Piece by Jim Chaffee
07-01-2010
Injustice for All by D. E. Fredd
The Polysyllogistic Curse by Gary J. Shipley
How It's Done by Anjoli Roy
Ghost Dance by Connor Caddigan
Two in a Van by Pavlo Kravchenko
04-01-2010
Uncreated Creatures by Connor Caddigan
Invisible by Anjoli Roy
One of Us by Sonia Ramos Rossi
Storyteller by Alan McCormick
01-01-2010
Idolatry by Robert Smith
P H I L E M A T O P H I L I A by Traci Chee
They Do! by Al Po
Full TEX Archive
Side Photo for The Big Stupid Review

Performance Piece

By Jim Chaffee

think globally, act locally

actions speak louder than words

The idea came as I watched a news program about the rash of killings in the city, which were neither here nor there to me. What caught my attention was the interest in self defense, particularly by women. Classes on handgun safety to get a permit to carry, classes on hand to hand combat. Handgun sales were through the roof, as were sales of pepper spray. That had to be good for business, not that it had languished. The chain of firearm stores flourished enough it would shock my grandfather who opened the original when only kooks were into weaponry. He taught me to shoot with a Ruger single action .22 before I was in my teens.

The particulars of the crimes held my attention, though the methods seemed uninspired and the rationale sadly predictable. I have always been intrigued by the numerous unsolved homicides in this country, my favorite being the Zodiac killings, with misguided armchair detectives placing the blame on Arthur Leigh Allen. More intriguing is the number of killings for which blacks have been convicted, often wrongly as shown of late by the introduction of DNA evidence.

One of the killers in the news targeted people leaving work late, usually at cheap restaurants in poor neighborhoods. Supposedly a male who wore disguises, he robbed his victims and raped the women before shooting them. It seemed stupid to rob people working at low-class restaurants. The rape aspect disturbed me, though it was predictable. In one crime he was said to have raped and killed a woman after making her watch him rape and kill her thirteen year old daughter. They didnít say how they knew the details of the sequence. Nonetheless, a bad thing to do, raping helpless women, though more acceptable to society these days than racially motivated homicides. Of course, the Zebra killings would never be acceptable here, but not that many years ago the fiasco in Jasper, Texas would have been business as usual.

The remaining attacks appeared to be random shootings of people out late at night or early in the morning, like many other unsolved murders. All without apparent intent, except maybe the rapes.

Most intriguing were the interviews with women, one of whom had been robbed at gunpoint a few years ago. She got involved in self-defense, carried a handgun, pursued a martial arts belt, kept pepper spray. The smart aleck reporter caught her by surprise, pointing his finger at her head as if it were a handgun and asking what she would do in this case. She stammered that hopefully she would have time to use her pepper spray before the gun came up, or that she could deflect the gun and get her own. Hopefully. The word stuck in my head. As did her name, Nancy Stolle.

The next morning I enlarged my wardrobe. At my favorite menís shop I purchased a silk and wool blend summer sport coat in rough gunmetal blue tweed. I chose ten summer weight wool slacks and ten pullovers in raw nubby silk, coupled to complement the jacket. To each ensemble a pair of Italian hand-woven tasseled slip-ons in hand-burnished English calfskin from black, brown, gray, blue and tan to buck and even egg shell. I specified the slacks be tailored, each set be dry cleaned, and all of it delivered within twenty-four hours.

The afternoon I passed in my flagship store on the private range firing my grandfatherís classic 1895 Nagant revolver. He had been proud of that specimen, an important part of his collection and one he used to explode certain myths, like that no revolver can be suppressed effectively. Then he would explain why it worked, leading to how to build effective suppressors for various weapons. He enjoyed lecturing on the history and mechanics of firearms, particularly handguns.

Me, I just enjoy shooting. I have retained my affinity for the .22, particularly a custom made short barrel version with a built-in suppressor. A unique handmade weapon from an Eastern European craftsman, exquisite in functional lines with no visual nonsense like etching, fully enclosed just as the Nagent for effective suppression but firing standard .22 long rifle ammunition, a difficult design feat. The Nagent unfortunately gives away its identity with special ammunition.

After shooting, I searched the computer records for Miss Stolle and found that she had bought two handguns from us, a small caliber for target practice and a .38 special, likely the weapon she carried on her person. A good choice for personal defense. I wondered if she could use it. I found where she had trained and also found her home and work addresses, part of the application information. I wondered where she practiced firing.

The next day I spent reading prospectuses, looking to enlarge my portfolio, dining later in the evening with friends. Following afternoon, dressed in my new sport coat, slate gray trousers, white silk pullover and gray tasseled loafers, I drove to the bank Miss Stolle had listed on the records.

She was the only officer in the branch and took my information as I opened an account. A willowy creature with short, straight mahogany hair, not unattractive though she appeared tired, heavy orbs under her eyes adding years not apparent during the television interview. Maybe she worried too much, probably had debt problems or even a troublesome boyfriend or ex-husband. These were things that did not come through on the television, best found out in person. Upon reflection, I doubted it was a problem with a boyfriend, as she seemed a no-nonsense person.

Later, driving a car with bogus VIN and adorned with interchangeable business logo kept for those special occasions when I didnít want to appear in a vehicle registered to me, I followed her to the dojo where she studied Aikido. I left for an hour, returned and waited. As she crossed the parking lot, I walked up behind her and shot her once behind the ear with my silenced .22. She slumped in a heap.

I returned home and changed into a muted charcoal suit, then went to dinner at a new seafood restaurant, feasting on a simple repast of grilled char served with a parmesan risotto and fennel salad, accompanied by a Sancere. Later that evening I burned the outfit, all except the coat, in the basement furnace, along with the logo from the car and the license plates. It seemed a small sacrifice. The logo and the license plates would be replaced with fresh variants, the car tucked away in the old shed at the rear of the grounds.

They reported her death on the evening news. No one had seen a thing, though I shot her just before sundown. Probably if anyone saw me they would think I was walking by, the inconspicuous shooting executed in a single movement with a small, silent handgun; I didnít linger to examine my work.

The irony did not escape the reporter, her murder outside the dojo where she trained for self-defense, immediately after class. Somehow no one tied it to the dojo or to her training. The police didnít say whether it belonged with the others, but I doubted they would think so given the use of a .22. I doubted anyone else used so small a caliber.

The next morning I spent in the basement gun range working with my favorite autoloader, an M1911-A1 Colt .45. Upstairs the day maid supervised the bi-weekly house sanitizing. With my morning coffee and brioche I read about the death of Miss Stolle. On the evening news they interviewed both the owner of the dojo and Miss Stolleís personal trainer. The owner was a burly, dark-haired man they claimed among the best in the world in aikido, her trainer a small bleached blonde they said held black belts in both aikido and jujitsu. On another channel they interviewed the instructor who had qualified her in handgun safety, a woman who taught firearm self-defense. She worked out of a local range.

I took notes. These people had all let Ms. Stolle down. She had been unaware of her surroundings, letting me approach almost unnoted; awareness is primary in self-defense.

It made my small victory vacuous. I needed to find a way to test the metal of these self-proclaimed warriors. But Karen Findley performed next evening and I didnít want to miss her piece. Her early work left me breathless, particularly when the men in the audience went into hysterical spasms of outrage; now she had matured into a tame creature well beyond the intermediate bleak years when she parodied herself parodying herself. Though tame, I still liked her. And she had once allowed me to touch her while she wandered naked in the audience, though immediately after I departed to wash my hands.

After checking the hours of the dojo, I spent the remainder of the day relaxing. I had a great urge to leave town for an extended vacation, but there remained unfinished business.

Finleyís show was a letdown; she had become a professor, the refuge of those who have lost their edge. Besides, she had grown long in the tooth. I was glad she didnít disrobe.

The following day I spent in retreat, wishing it would get late. When it did, near closing time for the dojo, I mated the sport coat with dark Prussian blue trousers, bright cobalt blue silk pullover and navy blue suede loafers. I hoped the blues would calm my instruments.

I parked in the shadows of the lot adjoining the dojo a few minutes before closing time. A gaggle of what I took to be students exited the building and I waited a full twenty-five minutes for the owner and Miss Stolleís personal trainer to emerge. As they made their way into the light I materialized, hanging back a safe distance.

"Excuse me, sir. Are you the world renowned aikido master?"

They stopped and appraised me.

"I have belts in aikido," he said, "but I donít think I'm world famous."

"I have been led to understand that an aikido master is able to attack and disarm a man with a handgun even from a distance."

"There is neither attack nor defense," he said, without seeming to look at me.

I shot him in the groin, then turned and shot her in the face. He lay curled in a ball, panting, and I finished him with two more rounds in the head, then added another to the side of her head to stop the blood bubbling up from the small hole between her nose and eye socket.

I parked the car in its shed and burned the logo from the door, this time for a real-estate agent, along with the license plates and of course the slacks, shoes and blouse. The jacket I retained.

All that survived of this hapless crew of self defense adepts was the woman handgun expert. I hoped she displayed some kind of competence. She certainly had gone on about Miss Stolleís being a good student. So what? What it had gotten her?

I am goal oriented, but I also have an aesthetic sensibility that is not readily discerned. My accounting degree and CPA were for the purpose of running the business left me. My law degree, specializing in gun law, had the same purpose, and the business trod the straight and narrow in all respects. But none of this had any spiritual being, the innate beauty that had driven my grandfather. My famished soul…

Anyway, the non-rhetorical question was whether my goal in the piece would now become apparent. It seemed it had to, though for members of the audience there remained open other pathways. Perhaps it had been about aikido, for example. My next move should leave no doubt, but how delineated the work appeared with this additional piece of information would only become apparent from mindless reporting. I needed to let it ferment in the public imagination long enough to acquire focus within its short attention span.

I amused myself reading a history of the ineffectiveness of monetary policy, carefully documented within the short history of federal reserve actions, questioning the entire superstitious edifice of modern worship of ceremonial economic activity and economists by politicians and investors. When that became tedious, Lawrence Ferlinghettiís two collections Pictures of a Gone World and A Coney Island of the Mind restored pure images, particularly the naked young virgin wearing a birdís nest in a very existential place passing through the crowd before the erecting statue of Saint Francis in a birdless church. I imagined the fog. Karen Finley in her prime could have played the virgin in a film version. Later I fired a number of weapons, including a fabulous Thompson submachine gun left over from World War II that filled me with adrenaline bursts.

The news analysis and police commentary seemed sparse at best. No word as to the weapon used, which I considered a wise move on the part of the authorities. Also no leads, but neither were the shootings lumped with the other homicides.

Wearing the sport coat matched to khaki slacks, dark blue pullover, and brown loafers, I caught the firearm instructor alone near her car at the firing range. I meant to ask if she was armed but she moved for a sidearm as if she had expected me to come for her. Sometimes paranoia is reality. I avoided torso shots in case she wore a vest, putting two neat rounds in her face, one just below her left eye, the other at the bridge of her nose. I finished her with a round through the side of her head, sauntered to my vehicle, now advertising a computer repair service, drove home, where I burned the slacks, shoes, blouse, and car paraphernalia, then donned a dark suit drawn in wide blue pinstripes, yellow shirt, and a bright blue tie sporting a gigantic hand-painted garish flower in yellow and red. Feeling bold, I went out to dine on a steak accompanied by a magnificent ancient Sangiovese by Fontalloro.

My piece neared completion, needing only a crowning touch to offset the emerging pattern, a pattern the woman I had just put down had discerned. The cap would need to be a broad stroke, a statement beyond the narrow confines of the performance to date. I thought of Karenís yam bit, hard to top but an inspiration nonetheless.

Dressed lone ranger style, white slacks and silver pullover with white buck shoes and the requisite tweed jacket, I arrived unannounced at a public shooting range. Instead of signing in I shot the boy at the desk with the .22, locked the door, then went into the range and started shooting the shooters with my trusty military combat .45. More interesting now, since they were all loaded and firing away, putting me at risk, and though a few turned to fire at me I got the order right, just like Eastwood playing William Munny in Unforgiven. With no one left alive, I drove off into the sunset advertising maid service, the final act delivered.

Having accomplished my purpose, with a great feeling of satisfaction I invited several friends to a late weekend dinner at my favorite restaurant, a Ligurian seafood place I booked for the entire evening. The sensational news of the murder of seven men taking target practice at a local range buzzed the table, but I tired of the endless news prattle and worked to divert the conversation to more pleasant topics. I announced my plans for an extended vacation in Argentina, where I would tour the up and coming wine regions and perhaps catch an elusive wild Brown trout.

Killing mustnít be taken lightly, no matter the sort of victim. That was why a spectacular finale seemed so appropriate. The car, abandoned in a slum where it had been stripped, was out of my life. The remainder of the new outfits, including the sport coat and the shoes, were packed in a pair of new bags bought for the trip. Everything else I could purchase in Buenos Aires. As I sat back in first class awaiting takeoff, the flight attendant brought newspapers and poured Veuve-Cliquot. I chose a local, a national, and several major metropolitan tabloid dailies.

The local police had caught the thugs who rampaged with their artless, random early morning murders, a pair of low-life blue collar types, roommates sharing an apartment.

On the previous evening there had been a local shooting of a handgun instructor outside his class, in full view of several students all of whom gave conflicting accounts, the shooter escaping unharmed.

In the national newspaper I read an account of a shootout in a firing range in a major urban center. It seems that the perpetrator was himself gunned down.

One of the dailies for a major metropolis ran a lurid account of a shooting of two uniformed police officers as they breakfasted. Again, the dozen or so eyewitnesses gave conflicting accounts and descriptions, some claiming two or even three shooters, others saying a single shooter, not even able to agree on size or skin color, though they were in concert as to the gender: male.

I felt like John Cage with his concert masterpiece, a map of Central Park handed out to attendees. Now I hoped for female attendees.

apartment building mural Madrid, Spain

This story has previously appeared in Unlikely Stories and Nth Position

© Jim Chaffee 2007