There was a little excitement down at the Arroyo Cafe when Sour Frank walked in packing heat. South of his belly he’d shoved a Magnum, in his vintage holster he’d planted his precious old Colt, and across his ample back was slung a freshly oiled Bushmaster AR-15.
The coffee slurping and the pancake chewing stopped cold. Every eye was on Sour Frank as he sat down at the counter with us. “What are you all looking at? It’s a free country isn’t it?”
Romero leaned over to Frank. “You know something I don’t know? Something big going down? A coup? An Apache raid? Red Dawn? You should have called. I would’ve brought my samurai sword to the fight.”
Sour Frank answered Romero’s sarcasm with the patriot’s flourish. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Romero rolled his eyes. “And a poorly regulated arms industry being profitable, the plight of the people to bear unbearable carnage shall not be slowed. ”
Rosa pointed her coffee pitcher at the wall. “Frank. Read the sign. No guns in my cafe. I don’t like guns, Frank. My kid brother was killed by a ... ”
Sour Frank perked up. “Well, Rosa, maybe if he had been armed ... ”
The room froze. We all felt Rosa’s pain and fury stirring inside her.
Just then the oldest living silver-haired hippy, Lavender, the Baroness of Bisbee, put her withered hand on Frank’s shoulder. “Seeing a therapist about the inadequacy issues you’re wearing in plain sight today, big boy?”
We giggled nervously. Frank didn’t see the humor. “There’s at least one shooting a day in this state! And I, for one, am going to stand my ground. When are you people going to get it? Guns are not the enemy! Guns don’t kill people ...”
Romero said, “Let me guess! They just make it a hell of a lot easier.” Romero turned to Officer Robbins for her opinion. What do you think, Robbins?”
“I think sane people with clean records have a right to small firearms for defense.” Officer Robbins patted her holstered Glock. “ I don’t like being outgunned on the street by perps with combat weapons. Civilians do not need military-style weapons. You planning a revolution, Frank? Am I in your sights?”
Romero got wound up. “Listen, Frank, I support the right of licensed Americans to possess registered firearms for self-defense, pleasure and hunting — but military-style weapons? Come on.”
Frank rolled his eyes. “You’re an idiot, Romero. Any kind of gun control is the slippery slope to fascism. When the government comes to take way your guns, you’ll all be singing a different tune.”
Lavender rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right. Uncle Sam knocks on one door and it will be Ruby Ridge times a million. It’s like your dream of getting me up on “A” Mountain alone with you — it’ll never happen! Frank, as a practicing ammo-sexual, tell us: How goes your fight to legalize marriage between a man and his semi-automatic?”
I defended Frank. “Listen Frank, don’t answer that. What goes on in the privacy of your compound bunker is your business.”
Frank was steaming. “What is with you people? This is the Old West! A place where a man is free to ...”
Yoda, our resident scholar and retired UA history professor, rang his empty coffee cup like a dinner bell with his spoon. “Our Old West was the place where a man was free to carry firearms anywhere but inside the city limits of Tombstone, Deadwood and Dodge City. After public intoxication, the most common arrest in the Old West was for carrying a firearm within city limits — illegally.”
Rosa put down her pad and pencil. “All right, I just have to know. How many of you jokers in here are armed?”
Seven hands shot up, including Lavender’s. “A girl has to be safe. Frank, when you came in, the sun was behind you. I didn’t recognize you but I recognized the silhouette of a Bushmaster. I unlatched the safety on my Ruger.” She looked down at her Birkenstocks. “Just in case.”
From behind the kitchen, Jose, the chef, held up his shotgun and cocked it. “At ease, everybody! Hold your fire, amigos. Rosa, order No. 12 is ready. Eggs scrambled, two strips of bacon, whole wheat toast.”
After tossing his lethal weapons into his truck, Sour Frank waddled back in, huffed about being a “defenseless sitting duck,” sat back down at the counter, ordered scrambled eggs and refused to talk to any of us.
That morning at the Arroyo Cafe we ate in cold silence, as Americans everywhere tend to do these days. And as we ate our hash browns, sipped our coffee and read the morning news, we eyed each other with suspicion. And dread.