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by Kevin Tosca

A skinny Chinese kid, five or thereabouts and wearing a black and red vest-like, robe-like garment, came tramping up the steps of Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix, pointed a black plastic gun at my forehead, nonchalantly pulled the trigger, grinned a smug, “You’re-dead” grin, then trippity tramped up the rest of the steps.

“That wasn’t a nice thing to do, was it?”

Angela hadn’t noticed the shot, but, after thinking about my question for ten seconds (a rather long reflection, if you asked me, because how can toy guns exist in the 21st century?), my wife conceded it wasn’t particularly nice.

“Thought so. I’m gonna go teach this punk wannabe a lesson.”

I must’ve sounded confident when I said that, but I wasn’t confident, I was scared and slip-sinking into a superstitious frame of mind thanks to the fake gun, the Eastern regalia, and our foolish proximity to Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix.

And even though I knew the reason why that kid had shot every last man on the steps — why he only shot the men — why, just when everything was going so well, did he have to shoot me?

Self-pity.

I luxuriated in it, added audacious doses to my fear, mixed in the anger, got the soul hot and spicy, got it to where only the tears are possible because I hate superstition, hate my susceptibility to it even more, and I fucking detested this kid for triggering it.

His mother, wearing pink pants, blue shoes, and a floral blouse (still making her look incredibly Chinese), was doing some kind of crackpot exercise meditative voodoo dance thing underneath the main, purple-hued door of the church. Maybe there is no man, I thought, no husband or father. So what? I whipped out my real gun, the one that felt so good and reassuring next to my pacifist cock.

“Do the right thing, honey,” Angela said, “but be quick about it, the show’s about to start.”

The show … A summer film. A light comedy from the late thirties en plein air, the reason we were so unwisely lounging on the steps of Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix.

I kissed her forehead and told her not to fret. Then I marched toward the kid — I climbed toward him — and he watched me march and climb, didn’t run, didn’t grin, didn’t even blink, his face a blank page, an inscrutable mask. No fear, no anger, no surprise. Nothing.

I thought: Professional amateur.

I said: “This is how it’s done.”

Blew that page-mask to pieces, smashed his toy gun beneath my boot heels so no children would ever cause such catastrophe again.

The mother danced.

An otherworldly mélange of Tai Chi and the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.”

I’m guessing she was stoned and pregnant and killing time before having to join her colleagues, les marcheuses, to work the wangs of a succession of sweaty strangers off the Boulevard de la Villette.

“That was fast,” Angela said, snuggling back onto my lap. I tucked the gun into my pants and took a swig from our bottle of Evian, popped an organic blueberry into my mouth, felt my heart calming, calming.

“It always is,” I said.

The credits and hokey, melodramatic music started up. The dream — someone else’s — began.

“I hope it’s a love story,” she whispered.

I slipped my hand below her shorts, grabbed a fistful of flesh before heading straight for paradise.

“Don’t worry,” I whispered back. “They’re all love stories.”


After a decade in Europe, Kevin Tosca now lives in Canada. Find him at www.kevintosca.com.

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