map The Lone Hero and the Self-Made Man

by Brandon Getz

Published in Issue No. 266 ~ July, 2019

The Lone Hero had a gun tucked in the waistband of his jeans. He had two more in the pockets of his leather jacket, and a small nickel-plated number in a nylon holster in his dusty boot. Weighing on his shoulder was a bazooka, the Second Amendment written in gold along its pipe-like barrel, its strap digging into his old pinched nerve, a war wound, and hanging from his belt with the wide silver buckle were a half-dozen hand grenades painted with the stars and stripes and made in America just as God intended.

            He was in the Politically Correct Ethnic Restaurant to meet the Self-Made Man. He sipped a bitter un-American beer from the bottle and picked at the label while some foreign sports match played on the television screens above the bar. The Liberated Woman, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the Politically Correct Ethnic Restaurant’s Politically Correct Logo, stood beneath the screens shaking martinis for the Effete Liberals at the other end of the bar. The Lone Hero tapped his foot to the Classic Rock-N-Roll tune playing on the radio and checked his inexpensive watch, wishing there were still someplace in the Good Ol’ USA a man could get a goddamn ice-cold American lager and watch a game in peace.

            The Self-Made Man arrived late, as usual. Self-Made Men are busy men; their lateness is a virtue.

            The Self-Made Man was the salt of the earth. Even in his five-thousand-dollar European suit and sharkskin shoes, he wore a silk tie patterned with the American flag, so you know he was still salt of the earth, that he was a Self-Made Man. He started in Middle America with just his hands and his wits. He never took a dime from the government, never applied for a small business loan. He never borrowed or built upon established intellectual property. He never used public roads, or public telecommunications lines never used the Internet. The Self-Made Man was smart, and he saved his money, and it made more money, and pretty soon he’d made enough to be a Self-Made Man, and how he did it was still a mystery, even to himself, but the Self-Made Man was still the Common Man, just a little better, a little smarter, a little more of a patriot, and when he took a shit, he did it in a gold-plated toilet in the shape of a bald eagle with its wings wrapped around the bowl, and afterward he wiped his ass with paper printed with stars and stripes, and the toilet paper roll played the Star-Spangled Banner as it turned to prove he was still as patriotic as anyone, more so because he was Self-Made.

            “It’s over,” said the Self-Made Man, wiping his brow with a fistful of dollars.

            The Lone Hero chugged his beer, tossed the bottle into the air, and pulled a pistol from his leather jacket, blasting the green glass all over the bar. The Self-Made Man smiled at the Lone Hero’s God-given right to bear arms. From far away, the Effete Liberals were asking politely whether the Lone Hero had had a background check when he purchased his weapon. The Lone Hero blew smoke from the barrel of his gun.

            “I know,” he told the Self-Made Man. He had failed. America was no longer the America he had loved, the country he’d protected since he first popped a musket ball through the face of a Redcoat, setting into motion the great manifest destiny of the Lord’s U.S. of A. What good were all these guns, the Lone Hero thought, if he couldn’t save America?

            “What good are all those guns,” said the Self-Made Man, “if you can’t save America?”

            The Liberated Woman shuffled over broken glass to take their order, frowning, even though her socialist government-run health care would cover any injuries for free, at the Self-Made Man’s expense. The Self-Made Man ordered whiskey, neat, no big ice cube in it like some cuck, and forced himself to drink it. He didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of the Lone Hero. He secretly wanted to be the Lone Hero, or not so secretly, and had always dreamed of being a Big Tough Man as well as Self-Made and had spent nearly a lifetime buying guns and buying wars fought with guns to make him more money and buying people with guns to protect what was rightfully his, what he had self-made without any help from anything but his gumption and his grit.

            The Lone Hero gently fingered the triggers on all of his guns. The bazooka weighed heavily on his shoulder. It felt like the weight of history, of a country that had lost its way. Children were being fed and clothed on the Self-Made Man’s dime. The sick and the elderly suckled at the teat of government health-care, none of them going bankrupt or dying from preventable disease. Prisons were being emptied, abandoned, and the wall along the border had long been festooned with ladders and welcome banners and balloons. Liberated Women sauntered around the whole country like they owned the place, without catcalls, without threats of rape, generally avoiding kitchens and pregnancy unless they felt like having a meal or a baby. Black and brown people walked their neighborhoods carefree, without getting beaten or shot by Lone Heroes in blue. Immigrants from shithole countries flooded the heartland, speaking things that weren’t even English and practicing religions that weren’t even Christian, and they weren’t ashamed. Lone Heroes were being called back from war. Students grew fat on free education, and queers ate at diners across the country, unmolested. Transsexuals were using any damn bathroom they pleased. No one was homeless, and no one worked themselves to death for starvation wages, no one died because they couldn’t afford medicine. It made the Lone Hero sick. This wasn’t the country the Founding Fathers had in mind. This wasn’t the country true patriots had fought and died for. This wasn’t the country of Lone Heroes and Self-Made Men.

            The Lone Hero stood up, the only good guy with a gun in the whole Politically Correct Ethnic Restaurant. He shifted the bazooka to his other shoulder and held his pistol over his heart. Staring at the star-spangled tie around the neck of the Self-Made Man, he began to sing:

            “My country, ’tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing …”

            And the Self-Made Man, overcome with patriotism, stood up and held his money over his own heart and stared down at his own necktie and sang along,

            “Land where my fathers died,

            Land of the pilgrims’ pride …”

            And all the rest of the restaurant—the Liberated Woman, the Effete Liberals, the Immigrant Busboy, the foreigners playing the foreign sport on the TV screens—everyone stood, hands over hearts, tears in all their eyes, singing loud as fireworks on the Fourth of July.

            “From ev’ry mountainside

            Let freedom ring!”

            As the singing continued, the Lone Hero touched the trigger of his bazooka. He could kill them all as they sang of the land of the noble free. Bazooka the Liberated Woman and put a bullet in one Effete Liberal after another, because the only bulwark a Hero has against tyranny is a loaded gun. He could use a different gun for each person because he had that many guns. But, he wondered, what good would it do? The nation was littered with Liberated Women and Effete Liberals and Immigrant Busboys, bloated with gaggles of socialists and homosexuals and ethnic and religious minorities. He couldn’t bazooka them all, no matter how hard he tried. It was a lesson he’d learned in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the streets of the heartland and the hedonistic cities of the coasts. No Lone Hero could ever get them all. And that’s when he realized: the greatest injury he could deliver was not a bullet, but the absence of Heroes and Self-Made Men.

            “What are you waiting for?” said the Self-Made Man, his teeth clenched around the stub of a cigar. “You’re a hero, aren’t you? Exercise your God-given right to bear arms. Make this country great again.”

            “It’s not enough,” said the Lone Hero, making his way toward the door. He left cash for his bill, adding a shiny nickel for a tip.

Everyone in the Politically Correct Ethnic Restaurant kept singing their lungs out, the perfect caricature of patriotism.

Let music swell the breeze,

And ring from all the trees …

Their faces were purple from singing with so much passion, and the Immigrant Busboy was openly sobbing into his apron. The Lone Hero couldn’t take another second. He maneuvered his bazooka through the exit, a little bell dinging as it opened.

            Outside, the sky above was spacious, and on the sweet and wild horizon rose a purple mountain’s majesty. The Lone Hero and the Self-Made Man stood a distance away from the restaurant, between the modest American-made pickup truck of the Lone Hero and the long gold-plated limousine of the Self-Made Man.

“What are you going to do?” said the Self-Made Man.

            “Freedom isn’t free,” the Lone Hero said. He moved his hand to his belt. “In God we trust,” he said. Half a dozen grenades all dropped from their pins. “These colors don’t run.” The grenades clattered to the pavement. “United we stand.”

            The Self-Made Man wept into his money, the hard-earned money he had made himself. He understood. Without them, this America could not thrive—this New Order only existed because it leeched off of Self-Made Men. It only existed because Lone Heroes had sacrificed their lives and the lives of countless innocent people to protect Freedom, Liberty, and the American Way of Life. The Lone Hero’s plan was beautiful. Only a true patriot could have thought of it.

A bald eagle flew down from the heavens, shitting on the façade of the Politically Correct Ethnic Restaurant before landing on the Lone Hero’s broad shoulder, an American flag waving in its beak. The Lone Hero said, “Give me Liberty or give me Death,” and the explosions, all six, bloomed around them—red, white, and blue.

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Brandon Getz earned an MFA in fiction writing from Eastern Washington University. His work has appeared in F(r)iction, Versal, Flapperhouse, and elsewhere. His first novel, Lars Breaxface: Werewolf in Space, is slated for release Fall 2019 from Spaceboy Books. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA.