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Disgruntled

Remember when "going postal" was a fixed phrase in our culture?  Apparently we needed to broaden or refine our definition. 

You don't have to be a postal worker to be disgruntled. No. These days, righteous indignation can be the dominion of any wage slave.

Disgruntled by William Dylan Powell



I lit a Marlboro from the minivan’s cigarette lighter, counting the bullets and listening to Amanda by Waylon Jennings.
    
Loading an AK-47 in the minivan where I toted the kids to Discovery Gymnastics and Captain Spaceburger seemed wrong. But wrapping the gun in a Sponge Bob beach towel helped a little.

I sat in the parking lot of the Tyler Rose Museum, across the street from the office. Almost everyone was there now. I was afraid to wait in front of a 7-11 or the mall. Someone might think I was a robber. But I’m not robbing anyone. I was robbed. Robbed plenty.
    
Breathed deep, in and out. Just like my yoga teacher instructed.
    
Tyler is famous for roses. From Dallas to Houston, folks sell Tyler roses for cheap on every corner like evening newspapers. Of course, with all these roses flying around there’s a sort of Rose Inflation across the state. Guys always assume women automatically go crazy for roses, but here you bring home a dozen roses and your wife’s looking inside them for the real gift. God bless Texas.    
The Rose Museum is a jolt of rose varieties—old Confederates, deep a red as Manassas blood, Chinese Bracteatae with petals so soft you want to nap inside and even pink Chinensis from Burma, where monks make tea from the delicate hips.
    
Rows of roses, all lush and verdant. Ironic that right across the street Rose City Bank was what denied my family the ability to ever literally “stop and smell the roses.” The long hours. The disrespect. And just plain being taken for granted.
    
When I looked in my rearview mirror, everyone seemed to be there. I opened the door and flicked my cigarette into a nearby rose bush, scaring an armadillo that was drinking from a broken sprinkler head.
    
“You’re never here this early,” said Mike, the guard, as I walked into Rose City Bank.
    
My mouth made a straight line as I nodded and set the Sponge Bob-wrapped rifle on the island where customers filled out deposit slips and such.
    
“Mike, I like you,” I said. “You’re probably the only one here who doesn’t deserve this.”
    
He laughed. But concern wrinkled his already-wrinkled forehead. He adjusted his cap. “What do you mean?”
    
“Get. Out.”
    
“Whatcha got in the towel?” he asked.
    
“Roses,” I said, flipping the towel open and slinging the AK against my shoulder. Daddy taught me plenty about guns, and every summer I’ve shot at the deer lease to keep the skill up.
    
The blood drained from Mike’s face as his hand went to his gun.
    
A lady I’d never seen watering plants by the bathroom screamed.
    
An alarm bell sounded.
    
“Don’t make me do it, Mike,” I said.
    
His face, usually soft and kind hardened into alabaster. “Can’t do that.”
    
“Don’t,” I said, hearing the panic in my voice.
    
“All these people,” Mike said, pulling his gun from the holster.
    
If you’ve never heard an AK-47 fired inside, it’s something. Like every wall is furious with you; the explosion made me dizzy and sick. Mike clutched his chest and fell backwards, crushing a cardboard display showing a happy old couple carrying their sandals on a beach.
    
“You made me do that,” I said, biting my lip.
     
Then it was all a blur.
    
Ellen, the pig of a teller always mocking me. Shackleford in payroll, who hit on me at the Christmas party. The young UT Tyler Marketing intern, with auburn hair that glowed like embers in a summer campfire. Now she’d stay beautiful forever.
    
I thought of the pain these people caused me as one after the other fell. Thought of the losses this drab building represented. The joy denied. Shooting only got easier.
    
Smoke filled my nostrils as I panted at the back of the building. Running my hand through my hair, I tried to remember how many shots I had left. Because next was the Man of the Hour. He who could have used influence to make my life less miserable, but instead hardly knew I was alive.
    
Mr. Important Bank President screamed like a sissy when I shot the lock off his thick, mahogany door and kicked it open. Knew he’d be unarmed because yesterday I removed the Glock he kept in his desk and threw it in Bellwood Lake.
     
“You?” he stammered.
“That’s all you have to say? You…?”
    
“In Lord’s name, what right have you?” he said.
    
“I have every right!” I said. By my count I had six of the 30 rounds left in the gun. “The right to quality of life! The right to respect! The right to not have to come in here like this!”
    
He stepped out from behind the desk.
    
“I never knew…”
    
Two in the chest put him down, and filled me with a tremendous sadness—a completion about today that left me strangely calm.
    
“Oh, sure,” I said. “Now you had time to talk to me.”
    
I checked the gun’s magazine, hearing police sirens in the distance. Four rounds left. Slapping it back in place, I smiled and flipped the gun around.

***

Smith County Sheriff Wylie Remington rubbed his eyes as the first responders on scene gave him the tour. Seventeen bodies in all. He’d parked across the street at The Rose Museum because ambulances and crime tech vans filled the bank lot. It was almost noon and only the dead weren’t feeling suffocated by the still, East Texas heat that gave no quarter by way of breeze.
    
“Who’s the shooter?” he asked. “Someone turned down for a loan?”
    
“Get this—she’s the wife of the bank president. Lindsey Caldwell, Age 46. Lives out on Millionaire’s Row, private airport and everything. According to the friends we interviewed this morning, she resented this place, and everyone here, because he worked all the time.”    

“Wow,” said Remmington. “Guess money really can’t buy happiness,” making a mental note to pick up some roses for his wife on the way home. 

Powell writes shady fiction set in Texas. He's the author or co-author of a half-dozen books, and winner of awards from the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award Fund and the Mystery Writers of America. Powell's work has been featured in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Dirty Noir, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Demolition and a host of fine truck stop bathroom walls across the Texas badlands. Further degrade his character at www.darktexas.com.