Sunday, December 02, 2012

One Gun

There is only one gun in Square City and whoever owns the gun owns the city. The owner of Square City is The Mayor and The Mayor doesn't usually last more than a few months. You can buy protection up to a point but you can't stay awake forever.

Mike Weis is just some dumb kid that lives in Square City and makes his days kicking bottles down the street before he goes home to eat the gruel that his mother slops down on a plate for him. Gray, orange, green, with toast, with buttered toast - it's the same almost every day. Mike is old enough to have a job and he could probably use the money but he's content in his way to mope and complain more than to actually do stuff.

Mike has a girlfriend. He's a good looking kid even if he looks like he was dressed by a homeless shelter trying to sell "the lifestyle." She's a cute enough girl, Karen Cares. She's got ambitions in the world and she thinks Mike is a higher rung than the other guys in town. Karen is a standard literary trope, she pines for a better world and tries to trick her sad-sack man into growing some vision and determination. She stares out the window at night looking at the moon and clutching things to her chest.

There are jobs to be had in Square City, it's not so run down as you may have heard. The jobs aren't going to make you a millionaire or put your face on the pages of celebrity rags but you can get buy and do well enough to buy an apartment and a car and raise your family. Mike could be happy with a job as a garbage man or a post man. He's not a creative sort, by nature.

Karen and Mike and every kid who lives in now or who has ever lived in Square City knows about the gun. They know when they see a Mayor coming that they should crane their necks and see what kind of opulence he gets to take for granted until he gets what's coming to him in the end and soon. They see the large men who walk around in front of and behind The Mayor and they wonder where does one find these large men so soon after ascendency since there is no obvious supply of these men. Maybe there is a depot on the west side of town.

Most of the time The Mayor makes a display of the gun since it is the symbol of his reign and the only thing keeping him in control. He can have it in a box or glass case or in a velvet bag or a holster, but the only legitimacy to his position is held within the gun. Even police don't have guns. It has been 38 years since there was another one in the city walls. There used to be more than that. The Mayor, the first one, won his position by killing all the other guys fighting for the crown. He rounded them up, twelve in all, shot them and melted down the weaponry to make a bauble. That was how Square City became what it is.

That one, the first Mayor, actually lasted a long time. He was The Mayor for 16 years and only lost it because he had a heart attack. One of his bodyguards saw he was dying and realized that if he called for help somebody else might become The Mayor and bring in his own new bodyguards. So the large man reached down and let his sunglasses fall off his head onto the ground as he picked up the gun and the bauble and walked out of the room to announce that he, erstwhile bodyguard of The Mayor, was now The Mayor himself.

Square City has been in flux ever since but it hasn't really slipped in fortune. If anything, the place was more down at the mouth under the first guy than any of the others. When he died it opened up a new set of possibilities where, with a good sense of timing and a little bit of luck, every kid that grows up in Square City can have his own day with the gun and live the glorious but terminal life of The Mayor.