[This is part of the Hallowell Saga and, if I ever put that thing together, this would probably be somewhere around chapter forty. However, Susan’s GWWE prompts just seemed to fit with this story. For background, Gloria is a retired Marine Corps officer who moved to the town of Hallowell and opened a gun store. She had a basement in her store where she set up a pistol range and offered shooting classes. John -- don’t worry about who he is right now -- has been learning to shoot for a couple of weeks and Gloria is about to give him a stress test. This test is based on things that happened to me on the range and things I’ve done to students when I’ve taught marksmanship.]
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John had been shooting for an hour when Gloria came down the steps and, when he had finished the string of fire, she said, “Let’s see your target.”
He pulled the target back, unclipped it, and held it out to her.
She studied it a moment, seeing numerous holes within a couple of inches of the center and one hole at least three inches out. She pointed at it and said, “What’s this?”
John grinned sheepishly and said, “That’s when I heard the door open upstairs.”
Gloria stared at him until his grin faded and then she said, “If one door opening distracts you, maybe it’s time to introduce a bit of noise while you’re shooting.”
“Noise? Heck, Gloria, I’ve been living with a jackhammer down here. Haven’t you heard it?”
She chuckled and said, “Pull your magazine and load six rounds in it.”
As he did she pawed through a cupboard behind the range and finally pulled out two silhouette targets.
“Look back here,” she ordered.
When he did, she held up the two targets. “See, one with a red circle and one with a black circle. In a couple of minutes I’m going to say ‘Exercise begins’ and from then on you need to remember only four rules.”
She paused and then said, “First, red circle is the bad guy. No matter what else I say, the red circle is always the bad guy. Got that?”
John nodded and mumbled, “Red circle is bad guy.”
“Second, the black circle is the good guy. Don’t even think of shooting at it. Understand?”
“Black circle is good guy, don’t shoot it. Yep.”
“Third, you don’t pull the trigger until I say ‘Fire.’ Understand?”
“Finally, you keep firing until I say ‘Cease fire.’ Understand?”
“Good, because I’m going to be saying a lot of things. You need to listen and figure out what counts. If it deals with shooting -- do it. I’ll tell you to reload, face downrange, aim, and other things that deal with shooting.” She paused and pointed at the side of the shooting stall and said, “If I tell you to smack that bug -- that doesn’t deal with shooting and you don’t do it.”
John actually looked to one side and saw a spider climbing the divider. “You want me to smack it now?” he asked, with a grin.
She took a step forward and said, “If you don’t listen and do what you’re told, I promise I’ll smack you.” She paused again and said, “Trust me, your Achilles’ Heel in this exercise will be that you don’t follow directions.”
When she was sure he understood she said, “Exercise begins. Lay your pistol down on the bench and the magazine beside it.” As soon as he did she said, “Turn and face the back of the range and don’t turn around until I tell you to.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said.
He could hear first one and then the other target going downrange and tried to figure out where she’d put the red circle. Right side, he thought. She’s right-handed, she’ll put it on the right.
He heard the targets stop moving and Gloria said. “Here’s the way it works. You have five seconds from the time I tell you to fire. You turn, pick up your pistol, insert the magazine, charge the weapon, and fire as many times as you can at the red circle. Clear?”
“You’ll continue firing until I yell ‘cease fire,’ got it?”
“FIRE!” The command came as a surprise even though he should have known it was coming and he wasted nearly a half second reacting. He finally spun around, grabbed the pistol, picked up the magazine, fumbled for a moment, and finally slammed it into the well. He released the slide as he picked out the red circle, on the left silhouette, and sighted in. He had pulled the trigger only once when Gloria yelled, “CEASE FIRE.”
He lowered the weapon and looked back at her, “Pretty bad, huh?”
“KEEP YOUR EYES DOWNRANGE!” she shouted at him. “I’ve told you that too many times. Clear your weapon and lay it and the magazine down on the shooting shelf.”
He did and she walked up behind him. “See how you laid it down?” If you turn the magazine this way, and the pistol that way, it’ll be easier to load it.” As she said it she rearranged the way he had them situated.
He immediately saw that if he picked up the pistol in his right hand and the magazine in his left hand, the magazine would be already aligned with the well in the pistol. “That’s smart,” he said.
Gloria smiled at him and said, “Comes with experience. Okay, we’re going to try it again.” She paused and then said, “You already know which side the red circle is on, so it should be easier. Ready?”
“Okay, face the rear of the range.” As soon as he did she yelled, “FIRE... ON THE RIGHT... FIRE AT THE RIGHT TARGET!”
John spun, picked up the pistol, then the magazine and slapped it into the well, released the slide, and fired at the right target.
He had only fired once when Gloria yelled, “CEASE FIRE!”
She, calmly, said, “Clear your weapon and put it down.” As soon as he did she smacked him on the head. “Dipstick, didn’t I tell you that the bad guy was ALWAYS the red circle?”
“Yes, but you said fire to the right.”
“Just to screw with you. You always fire at the red circle, got it?”
Properly cowed, John merely said, “Yes, Gloria.”
“Okay, let’s try it again. Face the rear.” As soon as he turned Gloria yelled, “FIRE!”
John spun around, picked up the pistol, slammed the magazine into the well, released the slide, aimed, and fired. Before he could fire again Gloria said, “Stop.”
John lowered his weapon and Gloria said, “Why’d you stop shooting?”
He started to turn to look at her, but stopped and answered, “Because you said to.”
“Did I say ‘cease fire’ ”? She let that sink in and then said, “Don’t choke on me. Listen to what I say and follow all the directions I’ve given you. Now, I didn’t say ‘cease fire’ so why aren’t you shooting?”
As soon as he raised the weapon Gloria yelled, “CEASE FIRE.”
John lowered the weapon again and stood there as Gloria came up to him and put her hand on his shoulder. “Okay, you’ve really done better than I expected and didn’t retreat even once. Now, one last test. No tricks this time. I’m going to say “fire” and you’re going to fire three rounds at the red circle. Got it?”
He thought about what other kind of trick she could be planning, but finally said, “Three rounds in the red circle. Yes, got it.”
“Okay,” Gloria said, “no tricks. You’re already holding the weapon; I’m going to say ‘fire’ and you’re going to put three rounds in the red circle. Right?”
When he agreed Gloria said, “Fire.”
John raised the pistol, fired the first round and... stopped as the slide locked to the rear. He kept the pistol pointed downrange and turned his head to grin at Gloria. “I’m empty.”
Gloria was not smiling. “Get your finger off the trigger,” she said. When he complied, she said, “Why aren’t you firing?”
“Uh, I’m out of rounds.”
“If you’re out of rounds why aren’t you reloading?”
When he started to reach for the ammo box she called out, “Exercise over.” She walked up to him and said, “How many rounds have you fired?”
He thought a moment and then said, “Uh, four.”
“So if you had six rounds to start, why are you out of ammo?”
“Well you had me clear the weapon twice and that...” he paused to think about it.
“Yes,” Gloria said, “Each time you cleared the weapon it ejected the round that was in the chamber and left you with one less. When I told you to fire three rounds at the red circle, why didn’t you tell me you only had one round left?”
“I didn’t think of it.”
“Always, no matter what else, always know how much ammo you have left. If you’ve got four targets and only two bullets, you need to be thinking about how you’re going to reload.”
John dropped the magazine from the pistol and laid it and the weapon down on the shelf. “I guess there’s more to shooting than just pulling the trigger, huh?”
“Yes there is. You have to be thinking all the time. Yes, you can get lost in the pleasure of shooting, but you have to be aware of everything that’s going on around you at all times.”
She let that sink in and then said, “That’s all for today, let’s get upstairs and clean that weapon.”
As she turned to walk away John chuckled and said, “ ‘Let’s?' Does that mean you’re going to help me clean it?”
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Prompts: include the words or the idea of Achilles’ Heel; use a metaphor (jackhammer); include the words: promise, retreat, & spider; choking must be involved in your post; and tag with gwwe