In Which Our Heroine And Her Laser Cannon End a Relationship

This is an excerpt from a short story I wrote about the ending of a fraught relationship. You can find the entire thing here.

I paused, hefted the wide canvas straps of the cannon’s carrying bag, and continued plodding up the stairwell. This wasn’t really about Zack, although I was certain that the news media would jump to that conclusion. No, Zack had merely been the proverbial last straw.

I grinned, fiercely.

The cannon was Zack’s fault, really.  He gave me the idea last week, when he came by to pick up his rock collection. Our final meeting began badly. Zack informed me that he had arrived in his customary way; that is, he sat in his convertible and leaned on the horn, waiting for me to come down and open the security door.

Enraged, I had opened my window and began throwing his rocks—each carefully labeled, with a lovingly printed serial number and description of origin—at him, and his car. We exchanged a variety of insults, many unprintable, at full volume, as interested neighbors clustered at windows or on porches.

“Oh yeah?” Zack yelled, in response to a particularly inventive comment of mine on his sexual inadequacies. He picked up a large, green-flecked chunk of serpentine and hurled it up at my window, missing completely. A musical crash somewhere below and to my right marked where the rock had stuck somebody’s wind chimes.

“Well, you couldn’t blow me with a laser cannon!”

A few moments later Zack was distracted by the owner of the wind chimes, who was advancing across the lawn brandishing the sad remains of what had once been a trio of porcelain owls.

A wave of sadness swept over me as I watched Zack confront this new threat. There was something sexy about the way his nostrils flared, and he looked so passionate as he grabbed a piece of broken owl, threw it to the ground and began jumping up and down on it. Melodrama welled up in me, and with images of Scarlett O’Hara reeling though my brain I cried out his name, ready to say that I loved him, I forgave him—

“Shut up!” Zack screamed, momentarily distracted. Seconds later he crumpled to the ground, the unconscious victim of a sucker punch.

I sighed, remembering, and dabbled at my eyes with the sleeve of my jacket.

The fifth floor was, of course, deserted. I wandered past the security cameras without even attempting to hide my awkward bundle. If Steve, my survivalist brother-in-law, and his paramilitary chums had wired the cameras correctly, my movements on this floor would not be recorded. Steve had sworn me to several fearful oaths of secrecy regarding the source of the laser cannon and the video-rigging equipment, and had wanted to seal our compact by tattooing the complicated sigil of the Invisible Defenders of the American Nation on my right wrist. I persuaded him to accept a handshake and a case of Viagra instead.

I dragged the cannon over to my chosen window. Outside, people were milling about, and traffic cops in orange jacket were shooing people off the street. It was still early. I figured I had at least half an hour to wait before the parade floats came into view.

Assembling the cannon was easy. All I had to do was unfold the tripod and slip in the power cells. Cutting a small hole in the shatterproof glass of the window was a bit tricky. The glass cutter Steve had packed for me was different from the one I had been practicing with, but I managed within a few minutes. Focusing the telescopic sight took another few minutes. I flipped the cannon’s main power switch to let it warm up, listening to its high-pitched hum with a combination of glee and awe. Once assembled, the cannon looked like a fat silver telescope.

I stroked the shaft with my gloved hands, imagining I could feel the power running through it, that my hands, as they moved, were crackling with static.