May 22nd. Noon
Micah and Jared sat across from each other at their favorite diner. They had been coming here since they were in high school together. Now they were in their thirties. Jared was married and had two children and Micah has been divorced and has one child. They did their best to meet up once a week for lunch at the Lucky Horseshoe Diner and while Jared ate his pastrami sandwich Micah stared at him with a crooked smile and wide eyes.
"What?" Jared said after finally noticing Micah's gaze.
"Can you make me a cartridge that looks perfectly real but is actually not?" Micah asked.
"A blank?" Jared asked in return.
"No, it wouldn't go off but instead would just make it seem that the gun was loaded," Micah explained.
"Of course I can. That's easy," said Jared who quickly added, "But why?"
"It has to be the correct weight and pass an expert's test," Micah said.
"Sure, sure. But why?" Jared asked again and started fidgeting in his seat.
Micah displayed a joker's smile and said, "I am going to put on a Russian Roulette show."
"Oh yeah," Jared responded with mild amusement. "But why?"
"I'm going to charge people to watch and bet on when it will go off. I use a real bullet to prove that the gun works but then I will put in the fake bullet for the real show."
"That sounds really dangerous," Jared said while getting back to his sandwich.
"Nah," Micah said with a shrug. "It'll be fun."
"What caliber?" Jared asked without looking up from his sandwich.
"357 please," Micah replied.
May 21st. Noon
Jared was excited. He had flowers in his hand when he walked up the driveway to his front door when he noticed Micah's car in the driveway. Curious, he thought but shrugged it off. He continued into his house as quietly as possible. It was Sarah's day off and he wanted to surprise her by coming home from work at lunch, which he never does and tell her that he booked them a trip to Tahiti.
He made his way silently up the stairs where, as he climbed, a sound came from upstairs and it grew in intensity with each step. Loud breathing, grunts, and high pitched trills caused Jared's hair to stand on end and his smile turned to a look of terror. As he turned the corner and peeked into his bedroom he saw it. His wife writhing on top of another man. Sarah blocked his view but he could make out some brown hair matching that of his long-time friend Micah's. He fell to the ground. As shock settled in he sat and listened to the sounds of his wife having sex with his friend for far too long. Before they could notice him lying there Jared got up, dropped the flowers and slowly made his way to his car and left.
May 23rd. Noon:
Jared sat in his garage reloading bullets. It was a way to keep his mind off of what had happened the day before. His wife had found the flowers on the floor and they hadn't spoken since he had come home from work that day. They just artfully avoided each other, neither one wanting to start with the other. He had been reloading his own cartridges for years and was masterful at it. He meticulously weighed the powder. Each bullet was pressed into its casing with precision and care. After he had created a few dozen normal 357 shells he started to make his faux bullet for Micah.
He put the faux bullet together the same as the others but instead of using black powder he weighed out an equivalent amount of black pepper. In order to differentiate it from the others, he cut a small notch in the rim of the casing. He looked at the cartridge and as he stared at it he remembered the shit eating grin on Micah's face at the diner the day after he caught him having sex with his wife. Jared was filled with rage and he threw the faux cartridge against the wall. Then he grabbed a real cartridge and held a small sharp blade to the rim of the casing and made a very small cut. As he held the cartridge in his hand he called Micah to tell him that he had his cartridge and to pick it up when he got off work that night. Jared informed Micah that the fake cartridge would have a distinct cut in the rim of its casing so he could tell it apart from the real ones.
May 24th. Midnight
The basement of the Lucky Horseshoe Diner was dark and dank. It smelled of mold and dead mice. It had not been used by its owner for many years but it was a place that Micah had learned to sneak into a long time ago. Tonight the room also smelled of sweat and cigarettes as it was filled with 25 men bustling around a small table at the back of the room. As they waited for the night's entertainment to begin they loudly placed bets and drank liquor out of styrofoam cups.
Micah sat at the small round table and then suddenly jumped onto the top of the table and waved his arms to get the crowds attention. "Gentlemen!" He barked and the crowd roar simmered down. "Thank you all for coming out this evening and I assure you it will be a night you will never forget."
The crowd roared for a moment and then simmered down allowing Micah to continue. "Tonight I will risk my life to show you that...I am the luckiest man alive. I have studied for years to persuade the Gods to increase my helping of luck and they have delivered! Tonight I will take this real gun and this real bullet." With this, he pulled out a large revolver from behind his back and held out his left hand to show the audience a single cartridge. He flung open the revolver with a flick of his wrist and gingerly placed the cartridge into one of its chambers.
He cocked the hammer back, pointed it across the room at a bottle sitting on a ledge and fired. An incredible blast rang out which caused all in the room to wince except Micah who had remembered to wear ear protection. The glass shattered and after a moment of realization and recovery, the crowd roared again. They turned to Micah who said, "I will take five shots and will not be harmed!' He paused and continued briskly, "The show is about to begin. Finalize your bets and make sure that door is locked!" He jumped down from the table and sat in a chair facing the crowd. He stared at the door on the other side of the room and hoped that this would work.
May 24th. Midnight
Jared woke up on the couch with sweat on his brow. He rushed to the garage and frantically searched for the black pepper cartridge that he had made. Finally, he found it and tried to call Micah.
"Hello?" Micah asked.
"It's Jared. Don't do it! I think I gave you the wrong one!" Jared panted as he spoke.
"Gotcha!" Micah exclaimed with glee. "Leave a message, you idiot!" BEEP.
"Fuck!" Jared yelled into the microphone.
He ran out of the house and rushed to the only place he could think Micah could be.
Moments later he was in the parking lot of the Lucky Horseshoe Diner and when he saw the group of cars that lined the street he knew he had the right place. He rushed to the back of the diner where the doors to the basement were hidden behind some vines but when he pushed them away he found the doors were locked from the inside. He stomped his foot on the doors until he was exhausted but nothing happened.
He decided to run around and try the front door. To his surprise, the door was unlocked. He crept inside the dark and desolate diner and made his way to the back room where he ran down the stairs that led to the basement's main entrance and tried the door. It opened to reveal a room filled from wall to wall with men, most of whom cocked their heads toward him as he entered. He scanned the eyes that looked at him looking for Micah but only saw angry faces.
"Get out of my way," said a short and stout man with a gray baseball cap who pushed passed Jared. He closed the door and locked it, looked at Jared and said with a smile, "The shows about to begin."
Jared made his way through the crowd slowly and as he pushed passed the front row he stumbled and the faux cartridge fell out of his hand toward Micah. Micah swooped down and picked up the cartridge without thinking. As they stared at each other in the midst of a room full of bloodthirsty animals Micah held out his open hand to show Jared two identical cartridges.
Jared took a step forward and whispered into Micah's ear, "I know you had sex with my wife but I don't want you to die man. I brought the real "fake" one but you just picked it up with the same hand as the real "real" one."
Micah's eyes maximally widened and he whispered back into Jared's ear, "I haven't seen your wife since I let her borrow my car on Friday."
"Fffuuuuuuuuck," Jared said softly.
Micah let out a resigned, "Shit."
The both turned and looked at the ravenous crowd. The cutthroats were rocking back and forth, waving their wands, and chattering incessantly with excitement. They wouldn't settle for anything less than mayhem that night and the two friends knew it. They stepped back, Micah held out his hand with the two cartridges, looked down at them and then back up at Jared. Jared looked at the cartridges and then back at Micah who gave him a reassuring look. With reluctance, Jared slowly picked one up and handed it to Micah. Micah took the cartridge and began his show.
"Alright, everyone!" Micah announced. "Take a look at this bullet," He said and handed it to the nearest man other than Jared. After only a moment's inspection, Micah took the cartridge from the man and with a flourish opened the revolver's action and placed the cartridge in a chamber. He swept the revolver's wheel with his hand and it clicked like a bicycle with cards clattering against its spokes. The room fell silent save the sound that reminded every man in the room both of their own childhoods and the impending violence. The spinning wheel slowed and soon stopped with a soft 'click'. All eyes were on Micah as he pressed the warm muzzle flush with the side of his head. He pulled the hammer back, held it there for a moment, took a breath and squeezed the trigger.