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Sterling Warner

The Competitor

 

Charles hated going for physical exams, sitting through dentist appointments, and bothering with eye and ear check-ups—anything medical. Now, hooked up to IVs and a catheter, he had nothing but time to reflect on his cavalier attitude towards people—particularly Lindsey. 

 

Sadly, Charles wanted to surpass or dominate others in every phase of life. He had to be the football quarterback, the captain of the debate team, the male lead in a play, the class president, or undisputed track star—but Lindsey was different. 

 

To his displeasure, she never tried to best anybody. Nevertheless, she threw baseballs faster, tossed footballs more accurately, and shot midcourt baskets more frequently than anyone. Also, male or female, she flew past rivals on the track, stole every scene in a play, and won all her class debates, yet she dismissed positions of prestige such as class president as trivial, preferring to spend time with friends, enjoying life without pressure.  

 

Charles excelled Lindsey in only one area: shooting firearms. Whether paintball pellets or lead, he’d hit all targets with precision. Lost in a plethora of murky thoughts, Charles hardly noticed when a nurse entered his hospital room to change his catheter, check his IVs, and give him a sponge bath.

 

“Rather orange today, Charles,” observed the nurse, looking through the plastic pouch containing his urine.  “You need to hydrate a bit more; perhaps we better test your liver and bile to make certain you’re not developing some sort of condition.”

 

“Could I get a new nasal oxygen tube?” he asked. “The cannula thingy seems to clog whenever I breath through my nose.”

 

“Of course—but I’ll have to wait until this afternoon after I receive a shipment of new cannulas and other medical equipment,” his nurse explained and then tended to other patients’ needs. Effortlessly, Charles drifted back to sleep and resumed dreaming about his dominance over Lindsey on the paintball field and shooting range. 
 

*

 

Every week presented a similar scenario. They’d arrive at the PocoLoco Paintball Field, and with traditional authority, Charles would remind Lindsey all about the rules of the game:


 

  • Wear masks at all times

  • Set Boundaries

  • Allow surrenders 

  • No blind firing 

  • Shoot less than 280 FPS

  • Use barrel plugs

  • Do not drink alcohol before or   during play

 

Needless to say, Charles felt no qualms about setting a few guidelines of his own, and Lindsey never challenged him. “The first person to hit the other with paintballs six times wins…and we need to shout out whenever we get hit so both of us can keep points,” he’d explain ad nausea.

 

Next, they’d step outside his car, he’d help dress Lindsey in a protective paintball mask, go over how to use her marker, make certain she remembered the way to place paintballs into the hopper, and explain why her compressed air tanks helped to fire and propel pellets.  Although Lindsey never complained about his ranting, after a while, she ceased listening to him altogether.

 

Unquestionably, Charles played a dirty game. Despite her strategic skills, Lindsey seemed to misread his maneuvers and walk right into his line of sight time after time. Of course, he’d often just lie in wait, and alternately shoot her with paint pellets on her breasts, her pussy, and her ass. Still, Lindsey never complained and seemed to simply brush off his intolerable behavior. 

 

One evening as they were leaving the Paintball range, Lindsey reasoned, “Charles?” 

 

“Yes, Lindsey.”

 

“You’re such an exceptional player; I feel out of my league. I honestly can’t imagine a less qualified paintball adversary than I am.”

 

“Admittedly, I’ve had a lot of practice; nonetheless, you seem to get stronger each time we play.”

 

“Well, perhaps, yet some things, good things need to come to an end, Charles. You see, I’ve traced my recent onslaught of rashes to their source: the chemicals in paint pellets. 

 

“Oh no!”

 

“Yes, I’m afraid…. After being hit by your expert marksmanship, the paint soaks through my clothes, irritating my skin. 

 

“You should have told me about this sooner.”

 

“No worries. “All in all, paintball shootouts have been a lot of fun,” she assured him, “but count me out in the future—for medical reasons.” 

 

“I’ve a great idea, Lindsey. Instead of paintball, next week, let’s visit a fire arms shooting range.  You’ll have a blast doing target practice with pistols.”

 

“Ya think?  Hum…well, at least you won’t be shooting me in my private parts with real bullets every chance you get.” 

 

“Coincidence—each time a coincidence—I assure you.”


*

 

“Wake up, Charles; it’s time to change the cannula in your nose and keep the oxygen flowing!”

 

“Thanks for remembering,” he replied. I was just dreaming….”

 

“Yes, you were,” she smiled, “and you can continue to do so in just a few moments after I change the cannula.”

 

“Appreciated.”

 

“Please open your mouth; I need to check your temperature.”

 

“What about my pulse?”

 

“I’m getting to that Charles…it’s just fine. As long as we’re at it, I’m going to start charting your blood pressure three times a day from now on.” 

 

“You’re so efficient,” he grinned.

 

“Keeping current records of my patients’ vital signs help to pay bills,” she winked.

 

“Sorry about the sarcasm....”

 

“You’re not the only person who's been around the block and seen the world through rose-tinted glasses one day and shades on the next.”

 

“I’m beginning to see you in a whole new light,” Charles replied, directing his lowered, sexy voice at the nurse. “By the way—do you like guns?”

 

“Not as a going concern, Charles. Why?”

 

“Oh no reason—I was just….”

 

“Let me guess,” she interrupted. “…Just getting ready for another nap, right?”

 

“Yes.” While the sound of the nurse’s cart faded in the distance, Charles imagined he could hear the sound of fingers pulling triggers and the pungent smell of Nitroglycerin swilling in the air.


*

 

Bam! The gun’s backward movement caused it to recoil, sending Lindsey’s shooting hands and pistol stock over her head.

 

“I warned you about the kick-back!”

 

“Yeah, but you’re such a gun snob, Charles, I figured you were acting all knowledgeable about nothing.”

 

“Guilty,” Charles laughed, as Lindsey grabbed the luger with both hands, aimed, and fired at a tin can sitting on a haystack.

 

“Missed again,” he laughed. “Better give up.”

 

A wry smile crossed Lindsey’s face. “Hey asshole, wanna bet I can’t shoot your balls off from fifty paces?”

 

“What do I get after you miss, Lindsey?”

 

“You mean, if I miss.”

 

“Fine—if you miss my nutsack.”

 

“Relief, I should think,” she snickered.

 

“Enough kidding around, Lindsey; put the gun down before you hurt yourself.”

 

“I don’t think so, Charles—not this time anyway.” Bam! Bam! Bam! Her shots landed at the top of each shoulder and three inches directly above his penis.

 

“Lindsey, I’m hit!”

 

“Charles, I’ve decided to give you a chance….”

 

“Don’t shoot me again,” he pleaded. Lindsey lowered her gun and looked at him furtively.

 

“You always liked humiliating me on the Paintball Field, plastering me with multicolored pellets on my pussy, ass, and tits. Well, let’s see how you like being the sexual victim.”

 

“Huh? What are you talking about?”

 

“Strip.”

 

“But I can hardly move my shoulders.”

 

“Grazes—just grazes; if I really wanted to hurt you, I’d a done so.”

 

After tearing off his shirt, kicking off his shoes and socks, unbuckling his pants, Charles stood before Lindsey nude, except for his boxer shorts, very wet from a combination of blood dripping from below his belly button and urine. “Remove the boxers too, and then start running,” Lindsey ordered like a drill sergeant. 

 

As Charles began to run towards Main Street, she fired into the air, but she never followed him. The humility he’d suffer running through town naked with two minor flesh wounds and a bullet below his belly button would last a lifetime. She could not have known he’d break two legs and his collarbone when a drunk driver hit him, and that the serious infections would send him to a hospital.

 

*

 

“You’ve got a visitor,” announced the familiar voice of Charles’ nurse. Lids sticking together, he slowly opened his eyes, groggy and skeptical.

 

“Lindsey?”

 

“Yep. It’s me babe.”

 

“People told me you’re in jail for attempting to murder me!” 

 

“I tried to murder no one, Charles, but I think you know now I could have shot your balls off in a heartbeat; that was the bet, if you recall.”

 

“Yeah, sorta. That day’s rather hazy.” 

 

“Checked your balls lately or played with your cock?”

 

“What the fuck?”

 

“Chill, babe. Both boys remain intact, ready for masturbation once you can move a bit.”

 

“Why are you here? Haven’t you done enough to me?”

 

“To thank-you for dropping the assault with a deadly weapon charge.”

 

“You’re welcome, I guess,” he muttered. “Anything else?”

 

“Yeah,” Lindsey continued, “and to rub it in that I’ve always had an edge over you; we never were equal competitors.”

 

Lindsey’s final comment didn’t hit him as hard as he expected; perhaps he knew about her superior skills and abilities all along. Maybe that’s what attracted him to her in the first place. Distracted by the plunging neckline on her blouse and a glimpse at her magnificent breasts, he began to imagine the warmth of her naked body pressed on his own, the fragrant smell of perfume on her neck, the angelic sound of her voice, coaxing him to make love to her.

 

“Charles? Charles? Earth to Charles! Are you listening to me or miles away in La La Land?” 

 

Looking her in the face, Charles smiled and said, “Send me photographs—not flowers—in the future; I’ll be around.” Lindsey turned, started to walk away, but suddenly spun around.

 

“By the way, Charles—I might have misspoken about how easy it would’ve been to shoot off your manhood.  Like most Loganberry citizens who saw you running naked can affirm, it’s not much of a target.”



 

A Washington-based author, poet, educator, and Pushcart nominee, Sterling Warner’s works have appeared in such literary magazines, journals, and anthologies as the Atherton Review, Street Lit, the Shot Glass Journal and Metamorphoses. Warner’s volumes of poetry include Rags and Feathers, Without Wheels, ShadowCat, Edges, Memento Mori, and Serpent’s Tooth: Poems. His first collection of fiction, Masques: Flash Fiction & Short Stories, debuted in August 2020.