Robert David Roe

Robert David Roe

IN SUM

The fiction of literary author Robert David Roe including published short works and excerpts from the forthcoming novel, Move to the Rhythm


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WITHIN US ALL

In his musical life he chose to maintain the habit of carrying a pistol, though as a civilian now he chose to conceal his weapon—even though Texas had become what they called an “open-carry state” in 2015.

Until a certain moment in his life, he couldn't have admitted to himself exactly why he preferred carrying a gun to not carrying one. In the course of his musical career Jimmy would never find a reason to pull the weapon. That is, he would never pull it on anyone, never point it at anyone or brandish it in a gunfight; would never participate in a gunfight.

As a detective he had shot a suspect in the leg, a suspect who had himself been carrying a weapon near a crowd of bystanders.

Jimmy was at a party. These were all industry people: musicians, producers, radio folks. They occupied the mansion of one of the more successful producers in town, a woman who had done well by turning a local act into an internationally famous band of megastars. Further stars had followed.

The guests at her party ran the gamut, style-wise, from jeans-and-t-shirt roadies to men in suits that cost near five thousand dollars. Jimmy was standing in a circle with a lanky, dreadlocked drummer from Chicago, a woman wearing a pristine white Louis Vuitton dress, a roadie in his mid fifties who wore leather pants and a David Bowie t-shirt, and a mid-twenties girl who might have been anything, her face full of gold and silver piercings, her lipstick bright red. Each of them held a drink and all of them slouched the same slight, partygoing slouch; the friendlily disinterested lean of those who understand what it is to be hip.

This was roughly three years after Jimmy had made his change. Light rail was the first subject they took up after the group inadvertently formed. Next, of course, they moved on to traffic. Then vehicles. The roadie advertised that he drove a “piece-of-shit Chevy,” after which the woman in white managed to say without it sounding like a brag that she drove an Audi S3000. The drummer said this model of Audi was a “mean machine,” and “a hell of a fast car.

The woman said she didn't drive fast because she didn't want a ticket. The drummer said he knew a police officer who received a nearly sexual thrill anytime he pulled over an expensive car; an adrenal rush with the satisfaction of inflicting this petty piece of justice on certain people. Those were the people he considered overly fortunate in proportion to what they contributed to society. The drummer made quotation marks in the air with his fingers and said “Rich white fucks.” He was himself white. And everyone laughed, including Jimmy.

Thus the opportunity was upon Jimmy, and it was no opportunity but a complex biological imperative, electrical impulses traveling across neurons, chemicals dispersing in synapses and disproving free will again in a new iteration of the same old story.

“Being a cop is like any other profession. They just do their jobs,” Jimmy said.

“You a cop?”

Jimmy took out his handgun and showed it to the four people standing in the circle. This drawing of his weapon was driven by desire, but desire at such a great depth that it was no more than something you could get a few fingers around in a way that taunted your grasp, a mental flash that's a suggestion of the thing's shape and structure. Your arm is not long enough; your hand is not dexterous enough. You stretch deeper into the dark. . . .

Jimmy held it sideways before them all, then turned it over and held it on its other side, feeling the alarm that rippled through them all, the alarm they tried to hide, as palpably as he felt the dense mass of the gun as he flipped it before them. He drew the weapon from within his jacket, where he kept it holstered beneath his left armpit. It shone black and cool in the way that only excellent steel can shine black, cool: a small, weighty weapon, a semiautomatic, a .45 calibre.

He was talking to them about the gun. He snapped open its action, exposing the chambered round to all of their vision. He popped out the clip, exposing those rounds as well to partial visibility—glimmers of brass through a slit in the blackness—and then snapped the ammunition back into the weapon.

“Yes, I used to be one. A street cop and a detective, eventually.”

The group had been dividing itself, the different conversational opinions. Talk at parties needs difference among those speaking, not identification. Now, however, they were united in expression, a sheet of doubt covering their faces as one. This he'd done by making that incredible, entirely alien portion of his existence manifest, that old Jimmy, that man in his past who was a cop.

He replaced it in the shoulder holster, a garment that was a little bulkier than Jimmy's preference dictated but a deliberate choice, the bulkiness, because it better concealed the gun. “But anyway,” he said; and resumed his conversation about the workaday nature of giving traffic tickets. He swiftly changed topics, though, deciding to speak of people he had met on the road while making music, then of musical instruments. He told them about his recent purchase of a fantastic Casio, a 61-key synthesizer that he used for both performance and live shows; best he'd ever had.

They would be seeing him in a new light. Jimmy felt it over the next few moments of the conversation, actually seeing it in their faces, he supposed: in whispers later they would speak of his showing the gun, but for now covering all of them was the veil of politeness; veil, or God knew what it was that made them all try and fail at pretending nothing extraordinary had happened. The atmosphere, the tone of fear currently pervading might have been imperceptible to an outsider coming upon them in this moment, but Jimmy was attuned to something—slightly widened eyes, or slightly open mouths—and perhaps more in the faces of the men than of the women, the fact they had been bested, though none of them had any reason to feel that way, members of civilized society as they were.

“I'll never forget when I first touched its keys,” he said. “Pivotal moment of my life.”