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by Nick Petty

I came back from a scavenging run to find him sitting on my porch with a rifle laid across his lap. He claimed his name was One Bullet. I introduced myself as Patrick because that’s the name my mother gave me. He said he hadn’t met many Patricks lately. Plenty of Burnt Faces and No Thumbs and other such descriptions. I told him I wasn’t one to follow fads no matter how close the world was to ending. He called me Wise One after that.

He was a sparrow of a man and in spite of his gun he didn’t seem threatening, so I offered him lodging on the condition he share a vintage I’d been saving. He asked what’s the catch, so I told him I just wanted company on account of me having no friends in town. No enemies nor strangers for that matter.

We drank ourselves stupid, and at the bottom of the bottle I challenged One Bullet to sharpshoot a tin off a fencepost. He accepted and fired and missed. When he left the next morning, he was pretty low, grumbling about a sore head and a lack of identity.

***

I found him later that week, spread across the pavement at the base of an empty tower block. According to his wallet he was once called Clarence. When I buried his pieces in a nearby park, I chiselled that name into a rock and laid it on top of the turned earth.

I was never destined to be wise. Even my mother would have told you that. But it’s all relative, I suppose, and folk don’t always rise into enlightenment. Sometimes the whole world just falls around them.


Nick Petty is a British writer living in Utrecht, the Netherlands. His work has previously been published in the 2018 Bath Short Story Award Anthology and as part of the 2018/19 Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize. He hopes one day to write a half decent novel and own a half decent dog. Twitter: @nickpetty6.

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