[An excerpt from THE GREAT AMERICAN SUCTION, forthcoming from Tyrant Books on Feb. 26]
Once a month, the Brothers Tully host militia training maneuvers in and around the thirty-odd acres that entrench their house. Since Shaker owes the Brothers approximately a full week’s labor for use of their truck, he has been conscripted into service this Sunday afternoon. The game is paintball, and he joins the angry secessionists and meth mummies and paroled vagrants who have also been coaxed through assorted Tully-related obligation. Shaker is kitted up in camouflage and fourthhand hockey pads, humping things into position. Thanks to the dearth in available head armor, he can see a few exposed faces that he recognizes. Stool slouchers from the Regal Beagle, grocery stockers, an alderman, a Shriner. Even Bob Mossenfeld, who managed the only used auto lot in town and sold Shaker his old van before he was fired for lagging odometers. The Minnesotan sits with a shotgun cracked open on its hinge. He’s trying to huff the paint cartridge inside. Hunkered on another tree stump is Bitters McCaulky. The reverend’s face is clamped with concentration as he velcros on his body-molded shin guards and aluminum crotch shield. He’s suiting up for some serious castle siege. Shaker hurriedly crams his head into his ski mask. Then he straightens his bullet belt and thermal gloves, his night-vision goggles although it is not night. Fully pieced together, he walks up and holds his gun point-blank to McCaulky’s cheek and gives the trigger a dainty pinch. A loud lisp of compressed air. The man’s head jerks. Red paint decorates all immediate parties. Shaker thinks he can read in the spatter the cryptic intimations of his own existential liberation. It more or less resembles red velvet cake.
“Bombs away,” Shaker says and returns to his team of junky addicts and lonely stalkers and school board members. A Tully blows a bullhorn.
The skirmish can now officially begin.