“Laptops out of your bags, please! Shoes off! Any liquids you’re carrying must be taken out and thrown away at this time! Let’s keep the line moving, people!” Ronald repeated the mantra every two to three minutes, pacing slowly back and forth in between the luggage screening and x-ray machines. He didn’t make eye contact with any of the travelers. He’d tried that when he’d first started the job but he’d learned that it was a mistake. There were only so many glares a guy could receive in a day before beginning to feel really down on himself. Everyone hates the TSA.
The monotony of the day was broken when, in the middle of Ronald’s speech, a woman screamed. He looked down from his eyes’ habitual staring space just above the crowd’s heads and saw a small man with sunglasses holding a gun to a woman’s head, right in the middle of the crowd. The woman screamed again.
Time didn’t slow down for Ronald. It didn’t speed up. It kept moving just like it always did, second by second. He put his hand on his regulation gun, but he had absolutely no intention of drawing it. He would let one of the others get to the attacker. He watched, brow furrowed, one leg thrust forward as if he was going to spring into action, but he didn’t actually move.
The crowd was scattering around the thin, lithe man. His face was hardly visible beneath the shades and behind the woman’s big, curly hair. The gun he was wielding looked unnaturally large in his pale hand, but the muzzle wasn’t moving from the woman’s temple. She was much bigger than the man, both broader and heavier than him, and the gun’s point was making a dent in her flesh. Her eyes were closed and her lips were moving silently now that she’d stopped screaming. Ronald thought she was praying.
He was calm, which was surprising. Nothing like this had ever happened on one of his shifts before. He tried to envision a scenario in which he wouldn’t go home that evening to the apartment he shared with his sister and his cousin but it seemed preposterous. He had to fight the urge to smile. He thought that maybe Ashton Kutcher would jump out from behind one of the trash cans and tell them all that they’d been Punk’d. None of this seemed real, mostly because it was so very realistic.
The little man with the gun was still, just standing there, calmly, facing the TSA workers and holding the woman’s arm with his free hand. Someone, some vigilante from the crowd, was sneaking up on him, but the little man, in a movie-like moment that Ronald wanted to applaud, butted his head back hard and hit the vigilante’s nose. The vigilante reeled back with a moan of pain, his nose pouring blood.
The redness of the blood changed the game, and all of a sudden it seemed that there were security personnel all over the place, all of them aiming at the little man and pointing their guns at him. Ronald drew his gun out too, gingerly, making sure to point it at the floor and keeping both his pointer fingers well away from the trigger even though that was the most comfortable place to rest them.
The little man shoved the woman away from him. She fell onto her knees and crawled into the crowd, not bothering to get up. Ronald could see the cleft of her swaying breasts through the cut of her dress and looked away quickly, feeling indecent.
Security personnel approved and tried to keep coaxing the gunman, telling him to lower his gun. The man didn’t. Instead, he pointed it right at Ronald and smiled. Now his face was visible, and Ronald could see that the man’s mouth was thin, almost lipless, but that his teeth were perfect. He’d had orthodontia. For a strange reason, Ronald envied the gunman for those teeth. His own were a hideous mess that he was ashamed of but his mother hadn’t believed in putting bits of metal into children’s mouths. The real reason for this disapproval, Ronald suspected, was that they hadn’t had the means to pay for braces.
The gun was fired, and then another and another and another. Ronald’s gun was still pointed at the floor and no bullet pierced his body. The security personnel, three of them, had shot down the gunman the moment they saw him pull the trigger. They walked closer to the fallen man, none of them realizing yet that Ronald was both unhurt and walking towards his would-be killer with them.
The little man was still smiling and the gun was still in his hand. Out of the gun had popped a little white flag.


2 thoughts on “Surrender

  1. Great pacing! I have the impression that this was something of an experiment for you; it was good but not polished. It’s missing that Em-ness.

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