Tuesday Tidbit: The Fun Store

In which Lelia discovers that her husband is on a first name basis with a store owner . . . Before you start fussing about terms, remember that Lelia is the one thinking, not the author.

Two weeks later, Lelia peered at the items inside the counter of Baker’s, a place her husband apparently frequented, based on the enthusiastic greeting by the manager. “Good morning, André! You’re out early. Your ammunition’s still en route.”

André had the grace to turn a little pink and cough as he studied the carpet. “Neil, my wife Lelia Chan. Lelia, Mr. Neil Baker. She needs something for self defense that can tolerate purse carry. Not semi-auto, I don’t think.”

“Ah.” The manager hitched his belt up a little. He wore a fancy tooled leather belt with a very large pistol in the holster on his right side, as well as suspenders holding up brown work-pants. He had a little pot belly, and kind black eyes. “Have you ever fired a handgun before, ma’am?”

“No, sir. None of the gun-owners I knew before our marriage were interested in letting someone else handle their weapon.” True, polite, and diplomatic, I think.

Apparently her choice of phrase worked, because Mr. Baker nodded. “That’s good, since it means that you will have less to unlearn, no bad habits. May I see your hands?” She held them out, palms up. “Hmm. Not too small, but not as large as some. I can see why you want her to have her own pistol, André.”

André folded his arms. “Yes. The grip size is one thing, and my trigger-pull is another.”

“You do know that there’s a safety you can use, instead of making it too hard to pull the trigger?” The older man winked.

“Yes, and I know that you just want to sell me one of those feather-trigger modifications so you can finish paying for that four carat peace offering.” He winked back.

I am totally lost. She studied the various things in the glass case. A very large range of sizes met her eye, from little ones that looked as if they were from a Victorian illustration to a monster that had to be a joke. The price certainly was! That’s almost three house payments, good grief. They also came in various colors, including one horribly pink thing. Ick. No way. The one with the rainbow-colored wooden handle didn’t look very good, either. “Sir, what’s that one?” She pointed to a medium-sized gun toward the back of the case. It had a black handle and was darker than the others.

“Ma’am? Oh, that’s a .357 with rubber grips. The bluing is custom.” Mr. Baker unlocked the cabinet and removed the revolver. He tipped the round part out, checked it, and started to hand the pistol to her. “Do you know the four rules, ma’am?”

She nodded. “Yes, sir. The gun is always loaded, do not put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire, do not point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy, and always know what is behind what you are aiming at. And God doesn’t like having guns pointed at Him.”

The store owner chuckled at the last. “Not one of the big four, but very true, ma’am. What goes up also comes down.” He handed her the revolver handle first. “You can point it at that red square on the wall there, ma’am.”

She did, careful to keep her finger well clear of the trigger. André had moved to stand close behind her. “It’s heavy,” she said.

“Let me have your other hand, love,” André said. She nodded, and he took her left hand, wrapping it around the revolver’s handle. “OK, relax your hold on the grip for a second.” He repositioned her right hand. “Like that. Two handed is much more stable, and you will feel less recoil. Plus you’re more accurate that way, despite what the movies and TV show.”

It felt more comfortable to hold it that way. “This feels better. It doesn’t feel too big.”

“Ma’am, raise your thumb, right hand, up and touch the hammer, that’s the lever on top, but don’t pull it back.” Lelia did as Mr. Baker asked. “Hmm. André, go on and cock it.”

“Yes, sir.” André lowered his right arm. “Love, use your thumb to pull that little lever back until it sticks. Take your time.” It felt a little awkward, but not too bad. “Look past the sights to the red square on the wall.”


“The little metal nubbins.”

Lelia peered that way. “I can’t keep them in focus and also look at the wall,” she complained.

“That’s fine. You’re more interested in the target than the sights.” His chuckle was not amused. “If your sights fall off, you can stare at them. Not until then.”

The young man who had come to stand beside Mr. Baker asked, “How much did the scope cost, sir?”

André stepped away from Lelia before answering. “No idea. Wasn’t mine, wasn’t a good time to ask.” She lowered the pistol, and he asked, “Can she dry-fire it to check trigger pull, sir?”

“Sure. It’s a center fire. But let me get a cap just for peace of mind.” The young man beside him glanced into the cabinet, went to a set of boxes, and returned with something like a bullet but blue. “Thanks. Ma’am, please hand me the revolver.” She did, carefully, very aware of where the end was. Mr. Baker set the blue bullet on the counter, did something with the pistol out of sight, and opened the round part again.

“That’s the cylinder, where the bullets go, pointy-end to the front,” André murmured into her ear. “In mine they go into a flat holder called a magazine, pointy end to the front.”

“Ah, so, how do you put more in?”

She heard his smile. “That’s for later. A revolver’s not as fast to reload in a hurry as my semi-auto, but there’s also fewer moving parts to break or get gunk in.” He made an unhappy noise. “And gunk will find a way.”

That sounds like a lot of things with moving parts. She’d found stuff in the lawnmower that should not have been able to get in there.

Mr. Baker smiled, then handed her the revolver back. “Point at the red square, cock it, and fire, ma’am. It won’t make any noise or get hurt.”

“Yes, sir.” She cocked it again, then put her pointer finger on the trigger. She pulled. The hammer popped forward. That was it.

“How hard was the trigger to move?” André inquired.

“Very easy.”

Mr. Baker extended his hand and she returned the pistol. He did something, then handed it back once more. “Now try it without cocking. This is a double-action, so it will be much stiffer, harder to pull, or should be.” He glared at someone behind a door, or so she guessed.

She pointed it at the red, put her finger on the trigger, and pulled. It was hard! Well, harder than before. “It’s harder, but not too bad,” she informed the men.

“May I?” André asked both her and Mr. Baker.

“Sure. You know the drill.” Mr. Baker said. Lelia handed André the gun and got out of his way. He moved faster than she did, and stood a little differently than she had. Mr. Baker observed, “You could one-hand that one.”

André shook his head. “Not for long. My shoulder’s being a pest again.”

The young man who had been there earlier came by with a box, and said, “You have two hands, sir.” He hurried past before something bad happened.

“Kids,” André grumbled. “You’ll be old and achy some day.” He returned the pistol to Mr. Baker. “What do you think, love?”

She shrugged. “It’s not too heavy, and it doesn’t hurt my hand. I don’t know much more than that.” She glanced into the display inside the counter. “I take that back. I like the color. That pink thing is appalling.”

The men both chuckled. “That’s what most women say, which really makes you wonder what the sales department was drinking,” Mr. Baker said.

“We’ll take it,” André said. “It needs to be in her name, so she can get the lessons, and in case I’m hard to reach if there’s question.” He squeezed her shoulder, then kissed her cheek.

He is so hard to stay irritated at when he does that! Grrr.

“Right. So, we start with the paperwork. May I see your driver’s license, please, ma’am?” Mr. Baker produced several forms. “There’s a waiting period until everything clears, so what we’ll do is send these in with the fee, then call you when everything checks out so you can pay for the revolver then, and talk to an instructor.”

“How long does it take for the paperwork, sir?”

He shrugged a little. “This time of year? Between five days and a month, if there are no problems. Sometimes faster, but since you’re not in the database, plan for a wait.”

A few minutes later, task done, she looked around for André. She hadn’t really seen the store, and blinked at the amount of boxes and stuff. Several animal heads hung from the wall, including a rabbit with antlers. She blinked at that, and at the cigarette in the rabbit’s mouth. OK, that’s gotta be a joke. The counters were laid out in a U shape, and things like shotguns appeared in the back of the store on a long rack. Holsters and belts and some handbags hung on the walls below the animal heads and metal gun-stuff signs. The shop smelled like something oily but a little sharp, and like leather and something else she didn’t quite recognize. Most of the men and the woman working the counters and cash register openly carried handguns. Shoplifting was not going to happen. So, where was André?

He was on the other side of the shop, part-hidden behind a stack of boxes with a large red bow draped over them, looking at something. A different man’s voice said, “. . . nothing bad so far. I’ve put six hundred rounds through mine with one failure, and that was ammunition, not weapon. I tried some of the big-box’s house brand. Don’t do that.”

“No. I’ve had more than enough moments of mild interest thanks to bargain-bin ammunition and parts, thank you.” André was holding a tan, flat-sided pistol, turning it this way and that. “Is there much of a bite from the slide?”

The young Hispanic-looking man shook his head. “No, and I think my hand’s wider than yours.” André held out his left hand and they compared. “Yep. Between the thick stack and the grips, you’re well clear even in gloves.”

They’re speaking a dialect of English, I think. She glanced into the display case and saw that all of the pistols had flat sides instead of bulgy. “Is that real gold?” She pointed to a large black pistol at the back of the case. Gold patterns and writing covered everything but the grip, and the grip appeared to have a gold button in the middle of it.

André made a semi-rude noise and handed the tan pistol back to the sales clerk. “Yes. That is a commemorative fifty caliber that jams when a butterfly sneezes in Argentina, and that costs more than my pickup is worth at the moment.”

“Hey, now, sir. You don’t shoot a gem like this,” the young man protested, grinning. “It’s for appreciating in your gun cabinet.”

“No work, no eat, no come home with me,” André replied. “And no matter how well it fits my hand, I do not need a .45.”

Except Lelia recognized that look as her husband started to turn away from the display case. “Does it fit?”

“Um, yes, love.”

She nodded once. “The we’ll take it as an early Christmas present, one I won’t have to worry about sneaking past Ears and Rings.”

The young man leaned forward and lowered his voice. “Sir, does she have any sisters at home who need a husband? I’ve got a steady job and my mother lives in a different state, if that helps.”

André bared his teeth. “Sorry, Pancho. No sisters that I know of, and she’s taken.”

The clerk drooped as he got the forms. “Story of my life—always five minutes too late.”

“You have to do forms too?” Lelia blinked a little at the paperwork. He was military and had the reserve police thing, why have to get permission?

André nodded as he entered his information. “Yes. There’s almost less paperwork to check a main battle tank out of the tank park than there is to buy a handgun. Almost.”

Mr. Baker had come over to supervise, or something, and laughed. “That’s because it’s a lot harder to conceal-carry a tank, at least with the engine running.”

André chuckled in turn. “A valid point. Silent they are not.”

The Hispanic man grinned. “I want an A-10.”

“You just want the cannon, Pancho,” Mr. Baker said.

“Well, you gotta have something to carry it with, sir,” Pancho protested.

I am totally lost. I recognize the verbs and that’s it. Army truly was a different dialect, sort of like Street in its own way. Although she’d noticed some overlap, especially in invective.

“Do you want to look at holsters now, André?” Mr. Baker asked as he took the paperwork.

André shook his head. “No, thank you sir. I’ll need to decide how I want to carry it, among other things.”

They left with receipts and three boxes of ammunition. “This is heavy,” she protested a little as she tucked the ammunition into the back seat.

“It’s brass, lead, and other things. The brass and lead are what weigh so much.” He stared into the distance. “And it gets heavier the farther you carry it.”

She got into her seat, shut the door, and buckled in. “Thank you, love.”

He took her left hand and kissed it. “Thank you. And you’re welcome. I want you to be safe.”

“Even if I want to throw the thing at you out of frustration?”

“All the more reason to get a double-action. It’s less likely to go off if it gets dropped onto a hard surface while loaded, or knocked off of a table.” His evil grin faded as he let go of her hand. “Uncle Joseph and my oldest brother got to repair the sheetrock in the city house, and repaint the living room, after they discovered a problem that way. They were really lucky that Cousin Sarah’s cat had fled the room, because the round went through the cat’s bed before it got to the wall.” André shook his head and sighed. “If my Uncle Joseph ever offers to show you a power tool or firearm, make a polite excuse and leave the county. He’s really good people and should not be around anything that has a moving blade or that goes bang.”

Lelia tried to remember if she’d met Uncle Joseph. “Ah, he was the one who was attacked by the tablecloth at the reception?”

“Yes. Aunt Tamsin has the patience of Job, and should be a professional bootlegger, because she can smuggle anything out of the house to the repair shop.” André checked traffic and pulled out of the parking lot. “Otherwise he tries to help fix it. No matter what it is.”

“He sounds like the spiritual brother of the guy working on the road crew who made the news three weeks ago. The one in the hole.”

André laughed. “I will neither confirm nor deny that there might be a resemblance.”

(C) 2020 Alma T. C. Boykin All Rights Reserved



43 thoughts on “Tuesday Tidbit: The Fun Store

  1. Nicely done. I’m surprised that Andre let her try just one, but the scene doesn’t need to be any longer.

    • OTOH, with a first-time gun buyer who knows absolutely nothing about guns beyond the Four Rules, taking the first one that fits makes sense. It’s awful easy for a first-timer to get buried under possibilities. I nearly did. If it fits her hand, she can handle it, and she can afford it, what’s wrong with taking the first one she tries?

      • It’s true about many things. Like the burrito restaurants Qdoba or Chipotle. Get a default burrito to start with. Then you can identify the things you don’t like about it and make changes or try a completely different thing next time.

        Without knowing how at least one combination works you have no basis to form opinions.

  2. CANDY!!!! (oops, sorry, wrong candy store). Nice snippet, and a good touch with a visit to an undiscovered country for Lelia.

    Not about to concealed-carry an Abrams without the big set of hot pads. It concealed-carries itself, at least for sound. The turbine is much less audible than diesels at a distance.

  3. Really good description from the point of view of someone who does not know firearms. That is hard to do, and you did it very well. Reminds me of when my husband first took me into a gun shop.

  4. I like it. You really catch the “first impressions of a gun store from a non-gun-enthusiast.” I’m curious as to what Lelia actually selected, but she wouldn’t care about make or model yet, just “does it fit my hand” and “does it work?” Andre wouldn’t let her buy a cheap or unreliable gun. Were I selling her a gun I’d make sure she saw how to open the cylinder, but I’m not and anyway this isn’t a Monster Hunter book. You don’t want to bore the average reader with unnecessary detail.

    Two questions, however.

    1) is this gun store in his old stomping grounds in Phoenix, or is it in Riverton? If Phoenix, why are they there when he’s moving in with her in Riverton? If it’s in Riverton, then how is he already on a first-name basis with the store owner?

    2) the second gun that she bought as a gift for Andre – was it the gold-inlaid .50-caliber she asked about, or the tan .45 pistol he was looking at with the store clerk? I think it’s the latter, but it’s not entirely clear from the wording.

    • On your first question, I believe it is in Riverton but he has been living in Riverton for months (?) so he has had time to find the best gun stores and has had time to be a regular customer in this store. That would lead to him getting into a first-name basis with the people there.

    • Wolfwalker, 1) This is Riverton. He’s been living there for over a year (not counting a six-month deployment) and they’ve been married for fifteen months. 2) The .45.

  5. OK, technique nit here… I get the impression Andre is very high speed, yet he tells her not to worry about the sights? How about something like “just put the little front nubbin over where you want the bullet to go. Don’t worry if the target’s a little fuzzy.” Unless there’s a plot twist requiring Lelia to shoot and miss…

    • I tripped over that, too.
      Everybody say it with me, “clear front sight post”.
      Over, and over, and over again.
      You’d be seriously amazed at how often people miss from the 7-1/2 yardline, because they’re looking at the target instead of their front sight!
      I always had them try spit on their target from the firing position before the line went live (most hit it, no problem). It helped drive home the point.

      • Um… Don’t think I could even think about spitting that far, without wind assistance. And I’m pretty sure my aim would be better with a gun than with spit.

        I mean, I hope so, because I barely miss my foot if I try to spit….

        • Sorry, feet, not yards.
          It’s been a rough few days, and the old melon is vapor locking.

  6. Nice scene. Assuming that there is more elsewhere about the change in Leilas’ attitude towards having a gun, and not now being frightened of them.

    ?? God doesn’t like having guns ( fired ) in his direction, which would match the owners comment about “must come down”.
    It also seems odd, or lucky, that she buys the first gun she tries.
    She has experts available, perhaps they could suggest that a gun with aftermarket rubber grips would fit her hand better, and that they might be on a good used gun, at a lower price.
    A medium-frame .357 like a Colt or S&W will kick strongly to severely.
    She has apparently not shot a handgun before, and she will probably have to learn not to flinch at firing, or at the noise of other shots on the range.
    Colt or S&W because of the reference to the custom very dark bluing job. Also suggests that the gun is used or a estate piece.
    Usually, I suggest training on gun handling and shooting before buying a gun, but that might take up too much story time.
    Andres’ gun seems to be a 9mm in an Earth tone, possibly the new SIG that the Army is adopting. That would give Andre a common training platform for both home use and when on military duty.
    Looking forward to buying this one.

    • I’m trying not to use brand names, since I don’t want to get nasty-grams from corporate lawyers. And you are right about story time. Later in the book there is talk about her getting instruction (not from André). She’s also had a lot of time to process that she’s not a felon, and touching a firearm won’t send her to prison for a decade or more.

      • I’ve heard before that some women, even with small hands and arms, have a better time with a .357 than with something that would seem more “suitable.” I think (and this is just my guess from other objects) that it’s a function of the gun being just heavy enough to steady the hands, rather than being light enough to make one’s hands jittery, or prone to skitter and over-adjust.

        This is not something I’m ever going to test, because I am the anti-aim person. I am literally more likely to hit a target with, say, a ball, with my eyes closed. I bowl better if I don’t try to hit the pins. (Probably because I’ve always had severe astigmatism.)

        That’s not something that bothers me with balls, but it gets worrisome if somebody hands me a crossbow.

  7. This snippet makes me wonder, again, which state they are in. Riverton sounds like it is either in Kentucky or Pennsylvania, however neither of them have waiting periods to purchase a gun… Andre could carry when he visited, and has talked about her getting a gun and carrying, so it can’t be one of the more restrictive East Coast states where legal carry is essentially impossible, and those are the only ones that require waiting periods or paperwork beyond the standard Federal 4473. Hmm…

    • Riverton is in PA. Remember, we are in an alternate universe, where there are some differences. She’s a first time buyer, and doesn’t have any permits (yet).

      • Living within 15 miles of Andre’s Avondale home and having spent time in the northeast I have to remind myself regularly that it’s an alternate universe. Nothing that has ever interfered with the story, but it’s soooooo close. 🙂 If you need a picture of some Arizona Jumping Cactus, let me know!

          • I know it is too. I used to live in the Midwest, then moved to NH about fifteen years ago. With the way the fungoid left is growing here, though, I’m thinking about moving somewhere a little redder. Anybody know of a town or small city (I hate big cities) place in a reliably R-voting state that has a need for a moderately good web developer/programmer?

  8. Pennsylvania, so no delay if you pass background. If it’s late fall, expect delays from the third major holiday: Deer Season. More to process with fewer people.

  9. In an alternate universe, getting gun permits in PA would be temptation to add an extra tag on the deer license (antler, antlerless, muzzle loader, bow): politician. The Game Commision tried to keep the herd in check for the past decade, by making antlerless much simpler to take, by giving the tag and making it overlap buck season. This is helping. Well, it’s just a thought …

  10. As you might guess, I’m from NY/NJ, where firearms are strange alien devices that induce panic in the hands of anyone but Antifa. With that background: I remember reading, in the 1980’s, of a computer expo held in (I think) Texas. After the two weeks were up, one of the locals introduced some of the exhibitors to a range that would allow you, for a fee, to shoot up anything not inherently dangerous that would fit in the target area. With a fully automatic weapon.

    A number of displays, computers, etc., got reduced to lead-flavored scrap. The highlight was said to be the demolition of a largish mechanical printer–while said printer was running.

    I guess they saved the shipping charges back to HQ on the machinery.

    I suspect environmental regs and more recent restrictions on fully automatic firearms would prevent such fun today. At least if it happened on the books.

  11. Sigh.

    I keep checking Amazon for Alma’s books.

    Is there a guess-ament for when it’ll be available? [Pleading Look]

  12. The snippet reminds me of the first time I visited a gun store as a newbie, and again as someone who had not picked up a firearm in 20 years (long story).

    • One of our local range operators gulped when I said, “I’m safe but not license proficient.” Then he watched me shoot and agreed. I was safe, but not quite ready for the CCHP yet.

        • My SWAG: Concealed Carry Handgun Permit. There’s no convention for a concealed carry permit designation; Oregon’s is a CCW for “weapon”.

          $SPOUSE has very small hands, and the Keltec P-3AT mouse gun I bought for her was hard for her to use. (Not to mention racking the slide; the 1911 is so much friendlier to my somewhat arthritic hands. 🙂 )

          We finally got her a .38 revolver (Ruger DA-only), and when we get the round tuit time, she’ll play with the .22LR version of the same. I get to play with the Mark IV 22/45 at the same time. (IIRC, the S&W Chief’s special was a possible, but budget said Ruger.)

  13. I appreciate the fifth rule so very much. “God doesn’t like having guns pointed at him”. Still laughing about that one. Definitely enjoyed the snippet, and can’t wait to buy the book.

  14. Only on about the fourth read did it occur to me how appropriate it is that Lelia chose a custom-blued revolver with black grips. Concealed or not, it should go very nicely with her goth wardrobe.

  15. Intensely Familiar Is Available And It Is A Very Good Read! 😀

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