In addition to writing about I, Frankenstein, I also sometimes write fiction. I’ve been working on a story recently that involves a potato gun. You might say that I am somewhat obsessed with potato guns despite little experience with them in real life. For example: years ago I wrote this extremely short story that also involves a potato gun. Now that I’ve written a second story with a potato gun, I have to either make a potato gun-themed short story collection, or maybe set this other piece aside. Or: maybe I set it free, and nothing says setting free like SportsAlcohol.com. It was either this or try to discreetly slip it into a literature textbook and get fired. Enjoy?
Dawson, Pete, and Sophie are planning a trip to Mexico. They go over the checklist. It’s in Sophie’s handwriting, which looks sort of like normal girl handwriting, soft and round, but messier, like if a boy possessed her hand. Sophie is recording secretary. Sophie keeps things civil by telling people to shut up.
“Blankets. Matches. Juice boxes—apple. Pillows.” Sophie reads, and Pete and Dawson nod in unison several times, until Pete looks at Dawson’s nods and stops.
“A box of change for tolls. One BB gun.”
They are in Dawson’s van. It used to be a minivan, but he took the back seats out to make room for the stuff on the list. It’s summer and it’s hot inside the van, but Dawson never wears shorts. Sophie would say it is because he never figured out how to look dignified in them (even though nobody has). Pete would say it is because he is an asshole. Dawson would say that he doesn’t have any shorts.
“Batteries. Photographic film. Marshmallows. BBs.”
“Hold up,” says Dawson. “BBs?”
“For the BB gun,” says Sophie. Pete looks at the floor.
“He’s allowed to load the BB gun?”
Pete looks up. “Of course I am! BBs are on the list!”
“True,” says Sophie.
“If I thought we were gonna let him have BBs, I never would have agreed to buy that BB gun,” says Dawson.
“It was implied,” says Pete. “So I added them.”
“You doctored it! You added BBs without my approval!”
“Shut up, Dawson. I’ll cross them off,” says Sophie.
“Don’t cross it off. What am I supposed to do with a BB gun and no BBs?” says Pete.
“You should’ve gone for the potato gun,” says Sophie. “I told you.”
“No,” says Dawson. “No way would I supply him with potatoes.”
“I would’ve brought potatoes from home.”
“You don’t have any potatoes from home.”
“Well I know where I could get some.”
“Even now, without a potato gun, potatoes aren’t on the list. Do you think I’d put them on the list if you had a potato gun?”
“Enough!” says Sophie. “Pete, do you have a potato gun?”
“Do you even know where to get one?”
“Dawson, do you even know what a potato gun looks like?”
“I saw one once.”
“Dawson, do you know?”
“Then let’s shut up and move on.”
“If I ever get a potato gun, Dawson, I’m coming for you.”
The next night, Pete sneaks into Dawson’s bedroom with a potato gun. This sounds impressive until you consider that Pete and Dawson live in the same apartment. Then it sounds very simple, until you consider that Pete went outside and came back in through Dawson’s bedroom window.
“AHHHHHH – hey, is that a potato gun?” says Dawson.
“You’re goddamn right,” says Pete, immediately forgetting to use his menacing whisper.
“And it’s loaded with potatoes?”
“Well, Jesus. I’m pretty impressed.”
“Honestly, you didn’t think I could find potatoes?”
“I figured you’d spend most of your energy not being able to find a potato gun,” says Dawson.
“You figured wrong,” says Pete.
“Why did you just start whispering?” says Dawson. “Anyway, can I go back to bed now?”
“So I can bring it?”
“No,” says Dawson.
“Okay then,” says Pete. He points the potato gun at Dawson’s head. “We’re gonna play a little Idaho roulette,” says Pete.
“I don’t really see how it’s roulette,” says Dawson, “since there’s no way to partially load a potato gun. So I’m going to get it in the head no matter what, unless it jams. And knowing you, you didn’t buy a cheap potato gun. You probably cashed in a savings bond you had since you were a baby or something to get yourself the best potato gun in the catalog.”
“Plus shipping,” says Dawson.
“I’m a man of taste,” says Pete.
The next day, Dawson comes home from the store with bread and a flower for Sophie and sees Pete on the steps of their building with two potato guns at his sides.
“So when I told you that you couldn’t bring a potato gun,” says Dawson, “you decided to ask if you could bring two?”
“I found a way to do roulette with potato guns,” says Pete. “I have two. One is loaded. One isn’t. Get the picture?”
“I get a picture,” says Dawson. “But I don’t exactly see where roulette comes in.”
“I’ll juggle the guns around and shoot you in the head with one of them.”
“But that’s not really roulette. I’ve got a fifty-fifty shot of getting mashed in the head, and that’s assuming you don’t maintain some knowledge, subliminal or otherwise, of which gun is loaded. I’m guessing a loaded potato gun is significantly heavier than an unloaded one.”
“Fuck it,” says Pete. “Now I’m just going to shoot you.”
Dawson’s van pulls up to the curb, driven by Sophie. Even though they’re already looking straight at her, she leans on the horn.
“Hey boys,” she says, and honks it again.
Dawson calls over to her. “Sophie, do you have that Super Soaker full of mustard?”
Sophie brandishes it.
“Son of a bitch,” says Pete. “This always happens.”
“The mustard gun thing always happens?” she says to Dawson. “Were there others before me?”
“Since forever,” says Pete. “He’s taller, for one thing. It pretty much went from there.”
Sophie looks at Dawson, and apologizes with her eyes. She open fires mustard on the crowd of two. She shows no mercy. She gets it in Dawson’s hair. She staves off adulthood for another week.
This is the story that Dawson and Sophie tell on their wedding day six years later, about their trip to Mexico, when they first admitted to falling in love. They get about halfway through it before Pete charges in with roman candles blazing and wrecks two centerpieces. As Dawson’s two biggest cousins drag him away, Pete gives the first part of a magnificent toast, trailing off. Sophie takes Dawson’s hand. They look around the room, heads turning in sync, and for a moment everyone else is a stranger.