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You’ll probably notice that Reliable Source was on hiatus last week. That’s because my apartment was broken into by some hoodlum. I am a bit surprised actually, not because I was robbed, but that it didn’t happen sooner. This isn’t exactly a nice neighborhood. Last month, some crackhead stabbed my neighbor for a bag of Funyuns in front of the apartment building. It’s nuts the lengths that people will go to satisfy a case of the Munchies, isn’t it? My neighbor would have a pretty funny story to tell, if he had survived the Funyun-jacking, that is. Poor guy.

Anyway, I was robbed and they got away with a laptop I bought in 2002, a broken bass guitar, my Xbox 360 and some games. Nothing that was stolen was all that valuable. They left my desktop computer, probably because it weighs like 40 lbs, which I was thankful for, because, honestly, I don’t know what I would have done without my Japanese porn collection. Perhaps if I was denied my daily leisure time with hirsute Asian beauties, I would have acted a little like my Dad.

“Goddamned junkies stealing my picture box!” he shouted. He rarely swore, and I hadn’t seen him this angry since he found me mixing in my Transformers with his Civil War dioramas. I still don’t understand why he was mad that I was acting out Starscreams’s Charge on the Autobot Union defenses in Gettysburg.

Dad was unhappy about the loss of the Xbox because he’d really gotten into Left 4 Dead 2 and was eagerly awaiting The Passing DLC. The Xbox had all been part of my plan to keep him occupied and out of trouble. And now that it was gone, well, he was already getting in trouble.

“You know, this wouldn’t have happened if we had ourselves an AK-47,” Marion Sr. opined. I wasn’t keen at first, but Dad kept talking about “beefing up our defenses.” Despite my misgivings, I began to entertain the thought because, after the break-in, I felt powerless to protect my stuff.

I’ve never owned a gun, but I love first person shooters and can probably identify most weapons at some distance and tell you which countries made them. It just never occurred to me that I’d ever need to actually shoot someone, or something, for real.

But after talking with Dad for a while, he convinced me to go down to the gun store and talk to a professional. I would have made him do it himself, but I remembered that he was arrested for armed robbery in ’98 when he accidentally robbed a liquor store. Dad said he didn’t mean to beat the clerk and take his money, but had become convinced that the 24 year old law student had used the evil eye on him. The conviction unfortunately left him ineligible to own a firearm in the state of Illinois.

The next day, armed with my father’s confidence in firepower, I went to a gun shop, and talked to a pleasant fellow named Mark. He was not at all what I expected, but considering that I imagined some guy named Cleetus playing a banjo behind the counter, I guess I had set my expectations a little low.

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I explained that I’d been robbed and that I needed something to protect my property from further invasions.

“If you’re in tight quarters, like a house, you’re going to want a handgun or a shotgun. Sure, a handgun is maybe a little more portable, but if you want to stop a PCP crazed immigrant, you’re gonna want one of these,” he said as he handed me a shotgun from the rack. “Like it? It’s the Remmington 870 SPS with custom scope and hair trigger.”

I’ll admit I liked it very much. I didn’t really need a scope to shoot someone at 10 feet and it was nearly 700 dollars, but it was beautiful. This was not a gun; it was a piece of art.

Due to the draconic 24 hour waiting period, I couldn’t bring it home with me that day. Mark suggested that I borrow his “loaner” Winchester M97. I took it home to my now gleeful father who excitedly welcomed the gun into the house like a new son. We talked about the guns he’d shot in Korea, though he never said whether he’d actually killed anyone. I doubt he had; he spent his entire tour in Pusan as a cook for the top brass. He could make a mean turkey club sandwich and the Army always places the talents of its soldiers where they are most needed.

Marion Cox Sr. showed me how to break down the gun and how to clean it. Finally, I felt like we had something in common.

“You see, the commies always come in packs. Sometimes there are heavily armored ones: those you have to smack with the butt of your gun, spin them around, and shoot them in the back. Back in Korea, I remember a big fat commie that exploded and attracted other reds by the spray of his guts. War is hell, son, and a shotgun might be your only friend.”

Dad was crazy, but owning a gun was exciting, and more than that, it was a bonding experience, the kind of which I’d never had with him when I was younger.

I had traded an Xbox for a shotgun, Dad felt safe – I did too. So safe, in fact, that I finally had the courage to leave Dad alone in the apartment for a few hours. In retrospect, this was pretty stupid.

I met my friends at Jim’s house for some Battlefield Bad Company 2 drinking games. We’d take a drink each time we died; the more we drank the more we died. My K/D ratio suffered greatly but Jim made an effort to rally us by giving us orders. We, of course, willfully misinterpreted them with homoerotic subtext and teased him constantly. It was too easy – at one point, I distinctly remember him shouting, “They’re raping me! Come on guys, push harder, I need you to push hard and fast!”

After a few hours of jokes about Jim’s sexuality and my own drunken failure, I had enough. No matter how much I sucked at Bad Company, I had a real gun at home and that made me infinitely cooler than the spawncamping twerps and their noobtubes.

I got home and fumbled at the lock with the wrong key. Inside, I heard some movement, then a heavy thud as if someone had knocked over the sofa.

“Dad, open the door.”

I heard the sound of a gun being pumped and instinctively stumbled away seconds before splinters of wood exploded into the hallway of our apartment building.

Stupidly, I looked through the hole in the door, “Jesus, Dad. It’s me.”

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I could see him ejecting shells from the shotgun from behind his makeshift firing position. He probably thought I was a zombie communist (Zommbunist?). Had the theft of our Xbox denied him an outlet for his unique brand of dementia? Had I unwittingly armed a psychotic war veteran?

A small group of frightened neighbors gathered hesitantly in the hallway.

“Um, are you ok?” one neighbor hazarded. I think his name was Simon, and that he once stole mail from me.

I dismissed the shotgun blast with a bad excuse, “Ceiling fan exploded.” I waved them off with a dumb smile. I don’t think any of the apartments had a ceiling fan, but I didn’t want to stick around to see if they bought it. I quickly reached through the hole my Dad had blasted in the door and unlocked it.

After a brief struggle, and a mellowing headlock, Dad gave up the weapon and we got a good night’s sleep, but only after I’d dismantled the gun and hid pieces of it all over the house. If he was going to kill me in my sleep, he’d have to go on an Easter egg hunt for gun parts first.

The next day I returned the loaner, and canceled my purchase of the gun. Mark was unhappy with me, not only for the loss of the sale but also because I hadn’t properly secured the weapon. I would have told him to fuck off but since he was better armed, I decided just to take his lecture on proper gun etiquette as penance for letting my Dad shoot at me.

Having saved myself $700 by not buying a gun, I decided to make my next stop a GameStop [Ed. Note: That slogan will cost you $3 million, GameStop CEO]. I replaced the Xbox and shoplifted him a copy of Modern Warfare 2. Dad needed something to keep him occupied, and as long as he was busy shooting polygonal Russian civilians, I felt safe.

I haven’t been able to afford a new door, but the cardboard and duct tape seems be foiling any intruders. Maybe the spray of shotgun pellets in the hallway wall acts like a proverbial head on a pike, warning thieves that crazy people live inside.

When I told him what happened, my friend Jim joked that Dad was a veritable case study about the causal link between games and violence. We laughed – I don’t know if there’s a link between games and violence, but I do know now that there’s a link between crazy Dads, guns and holes in my door. My Dad is a special person. Right now, he’s barking out orders at some squeaky-voiced teenager. “Return to your goddamned foxhole before the commies use your brain to reanimate Stalin!”

Ah Dad, I love you, even if you do try to kill me sometimes.

Marion Cox can be followed on Twitter, or if you prefer more traditional stalking methods, you can find him passed out drunk in The Public Library of Springfield every afternoon between 2 and 5pm.

Question of the Day, May 1, 2010

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