Wayne F. Burke

Lethal Beauty

The gun Mai Ling held in her hand, a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver, had come packaged in a velvet-lined case, like a musical instrument.

She slid the gun barrel into her mouth. The taste of the metal was unpleasant. Would she die, she wondered, or only maim herself? Instead of casket, would she end in some institution, sitting in some horribly drab common room before a television that played 24/7?

She cocked the hammer. Squeezed the trigger. The hammer made a loud click, like a door being shut inside her head.

She set the gun aside, got up off her couch, and walked out of her apartment to her car in the lot. She drove to the Sporting Goods Store, bought a box of bullets from “Fred,” a short overweight salesman, so smitten by Mai Ling’s statuesque beauty and long silky raven-black hair that he had trouble speaking.

Back at her apartment, and on her couch, and holding the gun, Mai Ling’s China-doll face grew pensive. She wondered what would happen to the bullet. Would it go through the wall and kill Mrs. Dearborn in the next apartment? Would it go out a window and kill some passerby?

She got up off her couch and drove herself back to the Sporting Goods Store. She told Fred that she had decided to take-up ice hockey and was in need of a helmet. Fred showed her a line of helmets. She decided on a black and paisley blue number.

Back at her apartment, Mai Ling strapped the helmet on. It capped her head like a melon-half.

She put the gun barrel into her mouth. Curled her finger around the trigger…

She hoped everything would go smoothly; she hated watching television.

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