Lester J. Munce was Taffeta’s only sibling and four years her senior. A standard issue American quality male, he found moderate success in all he did by capitalizing on a certain innate cleverness, the ability to both see and seize an opportunity and an infectious, affable personality. He played basketball in high school. He served his country in Viet Nam. He never went to college, but seemed adequately served by the education his life experiences gave him. He never married, but seemed adequately completed as a person through a series of long-term relationships that carried him through the bulk of his life.
He might have been what some would call wealthy due mostly, to his keen ability to sniff out a good business deal.
He might have been what some might call eccentric, for while he wasn’t one to flaunt his affluence, he did enjoy his hobbies. He fancied himself an explorer, a discoverer, a collector.
Once Taffeta settled into her life with Abel, the time she was able to spend with Lester became rare and fleeting. There never was an ounce of bad blood between them, they just focused on being who and where they were at that point in their lives. On those occasions when they could get together, the stories, laughter and hugs flowed like wine.
While she knew nothing of its existence, it was no surprise to Taffeta that he would have a “facility” filled with crates holding the many treasures he collected over the course of his travels. It was no surprise that in the event of his death, those treasures would be distributed to his family, friends and acquaintances according to his very specific directions.
What did surprise her was the fact that she received anything at all, for she recalled a conversation where his ultimate goal was to have his life complete a cycle in which there was nothing left to give. He came into this life with nothing. He planned to leave the same way. Still, in the absence of full control, a decent will was the next best thing.
The other thing that tossed her a bit was the items bestowed upon her.
The circus of events that surrounded the arrival of the crates seemed distant and unreal. What a morning.
Myrna, whether completely emotionally overwhelmed by the sight of what they found in the crates, or deciding to embrace the drama in the concept of being completely emotionally overwhelmed, excused herself from the obligation of lunch that day and decided that what she really needed at that point in her life was a good ‘lie down.” A Billingham version of catching a touch of the vapors.
All the better for Taffeta who spent the time getting back to getting regular by catching up on her pill schedule, getting something to eat and then taking the afternoon to further explore the “gift” that seemed to be consuming her sitting room.
She started with the gun.
Pulling it out of the crate, she noticed that while it had a bit of heft, it wasn’t heavy. Depending on the calibration of her bathroom scale, it came in at about nine pounds. Under the packing material she located the service manual and what the service manual then defined as four empty “magazines.”
According to the manual, what she had here was a .45-caliber M3A1 submachine gun. The Google told her it was commonly referred to as a “greaser,” not so much for what it did to whatever was in front of it, but rather, because apparently, it looked a bit like a mechanic’s grease gun. All the better for she found the concept of “greasing” somebody unsettling.
She learned that each bullet was called a “round” and that each magazine could hold thirty rounds. She learned that it could probably shoot about a hundred rounds a minute, a stupid statistic to her considering the thing only held thirty bullets at a time. And, depending on where you did your research, the gun could shoot effectively anywhere between 50 and 100 yards.
It seemed obvious enough where one’s hands were supposed to go and while she shifted it around to get a feel for it, she put extra effort into avoiding the trigger…just in case. It also came with what she saw as a lightly frayed, yet functional strap.
She moved all the gun pieces and parts from the crate until it was empty and placed them on a towel across her dining room table as if on display. She convinced herself it helped her better understand what she was dealing with to see it all before her.
Doing the same with the second crate, she moved boxes of bullets, noted as 230 grain .45 ACP rounds, from the sitting room to the dining room table. With the last box in place, she looked over the pyramid of ammo, some 2000 rounds in all by her calculation, that proved to be an effective visual backdrop for the gun. She resisted the strong urge to take a picture.
Standing there, staring at it all, she found it didn’t make any more sense why she had these things once they were out of the crates than it did when she first opened them. As she stood tracing her eyes back and forth across her new inheritance, she found herself side-stepping to the window. Without looking, she reached up and pulled the cord to draw the drapes. Not that she cared much, but what would the neighbors think?
Despite having what she equated to a small armory in her home, at least compared to what she was used to, she slept surprisingly well. Her eyes popped open refreshed and ready at 7:26 am just like always and everything felt so incredibly normal and routine that began to imagine that the whole adventure might have been just a dream.
She made her bed, kissed Abel’s pillow, washed, got dressed and moved to the kitchen for breakfast, totally unaware that the urge to confirm if the dream was real or not had quickened her process quite a bit. Walking toward the dining room, she paused. She drew in a slight breath flavored with a mild taste of apprehension she had not expected, then held it and peaked ever so slightly past the door jamb.
Forgetting breakfast, she exhaled in a gush of relief and stepped quickly into the room and up to the table like a child on Christmas morning.
She caught herself. She stopped quickly just short of the table. The tiny step backwards was for, “Balance,” she said, her soft words crushing the silence. Her eyes traced the form of the weapon and the small mountain of bullets. “Oh…you did not just go and name that gun Cora.”
But she did.
She reworked the back pedal into forward momentum and pressed up against the edge of the table.
“Or, did I?” she said. “Cora seems like a perfectly normal name for a submachine gun, much better than being a ‘greaser.'”
Her mind churned. “What else could you be? Rocko? Doniella? Crystal? Monique?” She poured through names like she was reading the phonebook. Nothing fit. Nothing needed to fit. She reached down and placed her hand on the cool steel.
“Cora,” she said.
The four empty ammunition magazines sat straight and still next to the gun as she brushed her fingers over them. It’s real, she thought. But…
Much like the doorbell, the phone rarely rang anymore. Taffeta was so singularly focused on the daydream that the intrusion nearly caused her to fall. Regularity and balance were key to an old…an “experienced person’s” survival as food and water.
She pulled away from the table and stepped into the kitchen to grab the receiver.
“Taffy? It’s Myrna”
“Hi, yeah, I gathered.”
“First, let me apologize for leaving you in such a spot yesterday.”
“It’s OK. I…”
“It is not OK. I knew you were going to say that, but I won’t accept that. It was rude of me to leave you yesterday in such a spot and I can not even believe I didn’t call to chuck on you before now!”
“Now, I just will not accept forgiveness so easily.”
“It’s really all right.”
“It’s not and I apologize from the very bottom of my heart.”
Taffeta paused, partly to let the apology sink in, partly to help Myrna feel good and absolved and partly to take a moment to peek back into the dining room.
“Twelve percent,” Myrna said, “But that’s better than nothing.”
“All right then…”
“Do you still have that…thing?” Myrna asked, the tilt in her voice added a dollop of disgust to the word thing.
“Yes,” Taffeta said. “Yes, it’s still here. It’s all right here. I have one submachine gun and about 2000 bullets.”
“Two thousand bullets?!”
‘”Yup,” Taffeta said.
“A SUB-machine gun?”
“Well…,” Myrna worked to process the words as fast as she could. “What do you plan to do with it? How do you plan to get rid of it?”
Taffeta thought. She really hadn’t gotten that far. She unpacked it, weighed it, set up a small shrine to it surrounded by boxes of bullets on her dining room table and was for some reason, very glad that it was all still right where she left it.
“I guess I have to keep it.”
Taffeta pulled the phone from her ear as the shrill screech of Myrna’s voice bore into her head.
“You cannot mean that!”
“Well, what can I do?” she said. “It’s from Lester. It’s the last thing he will ever give me. He chose this specifically for me.”
“To what end, Taffy? What kind of person, family or not, gives another person, family or not, a sub-machine gun and 2,000 bullets? I mean really!”
“He was my brother.”
Each sat on one end of a silent connection for what seemed like a long time.
“Again,” Myrna said finally. “I’m sorry. He was your brother and it is a gift. It’s not right for me to judge the quality of a gift shared between two people. You deserve so much more in a friend.”
“It’s fine, Myrna,” Taffeta said. “You’re a good friend. And you’re right. It’s a weird thing to give to someone, but…I don’t know…it seems like a good gift.”
“How could it be a good gift?”
“I don’t know. When I came down this morning, it all felt like a dream and when I saw Cora there, surrounded by the boxes of ammo, I just…”
Another helping of silence wedged itself between them.
“Wait,” Myrna broke in again. “Did you say Cora?”
“Did I?” Taffeta said, not certain whether she said it out loud or just thought it.
“You named that thing?”
Taffeta jumped at the noise.
The sounds of struggle reached through the receiver.
“Myrna!” Taffeta said pushing back on a wave of panic.
“Sorry… Sorry…,” Myrna said finally. “I’m all right. I dropped the phone!”
“Are you OK?”
“I’m fine. I just…when you said you named your gun, what…Cora is it? I just lost my balance a little. I’m sorry. I’m fine.”
“Take it easy over there.”
“I got it. I’m sitting down now. I’m fine.’
“You scared me,” Taffeta said.
“I scared you? Ha!,” Myrna said still settling the phone into place.”You name your sub-machine gun Cora, and I scare you. That’s funny.”
“Are you sure you’re ok?”
“Fine. Yes. Right as rain.”
More silence rose up between the audible spurts of Myrna’s breath.
“Whew…, yes dear?”
“I’m going to teach myself how to shoot it.”