HUGH CULVER

The big gunfight, in my mind

Updated to Life on June 16, 2023.

I woke up this morning from a dream. Poured a coffee and sat down at the keyboard. An hour later I had this. Enjoy.

The sun was dropping low, boots kicked up dust and sage bush rolled slowly down the street. There were three of us, hats pulled low, hands at the ready. It was a gunfight. It was going to be ugly. 

I looked to my left at the familiar shape – it was my past – the one I call Amigo-past. To my right Amigo-future. Both were fighting for my attention.

“Hey, loser!” Amigo-past calls out in a squeaky Joe Pesci-like pitch. “Remember you dropped out of college, never wrote that best-seller book, and…oh, yeah you drink too much!”

I swivel my head to the right and catch a glimpse of Amigo-future reaching for his gun. “Lost again?” He calls out. He’s more the sour-mouthed Jack Nicholson type – a dark cloud on my dreams. “Yeah, you talk a big story, but you have no idea where you’re really going.”

“CUT! CUT!” Somewhere in my dream, a director steps out of the shadows. He’s tall and rangy, sporting an old baseball hat, and carrying a Starbucks takeout. “This is BORING!!” He screams to anyone who would listen. “I’ve heard this story over and over – it’s the hero’s journey, but no one’s getting rescued.”

Taking the cue, I launch into the gunfight of my life. I start with my past.

“I’m tired of listening to your sniveling whining!” I shout at Amigo-past. “You’re like a slide carousel of my life, but all the good memories are missing!” I have Pesci’s attention, so I keep pushing. “I want to remember the birthdays, the picnics, family vacations, the renovation I did with my friend, and – damn it – I want to remember the good times with my wife.”

“But, you’re divorced!” He screams back, reaching for his gun.

I don’t hesitate, I fire back “Yeah, but that’s one slide in the whole carousel – I want to remember the thousand that came before.”

I’m on a roll so I pivot to my right “And as for you, Amigo-future. You’re boring as hell!” Stunned, he reaches down and pulls something out of his holster. “What about this, eh?” He shouts back “Is this what you call your f*cking future?“

I squint at the fat, red tablet with two white knobs. “Is that an Etch-A-Sketch?”

“You talk big about plans and dreams,” He shouts, holding the tablet over his head. “but the best you can do is a few scribbles. You’re pathetic.”

“ENOUGH!” shouts the director, jumping out of his chair and spilling his low-fat, Venti Frappuccino. “You’ve all said your piece – it’s time to move on! Amigo-present, we need to wrap this up and get to the bedroom scene.”

“Okay, Okay!” I call back. “Let’s all agree on one thing.” The other amigos stop fiddling with their guns and turn to me. This is my moment.

I bore down on Amigo-past with my best Eastwood stare. “I’m tired of listening to only part of my story. I want the full carousel – everything. All the good times, embarrassing moments, big wins, missed opportunities, and dismal failures. All of it.” 

“And as for you, Amigo-future, I want you to get out a paintbrush – a big one – and get to work on a beautiful future for me. I don’t need all the details (a place on the water would be sweet), but it has to be full, rich, exciting, and surprising. Oh, and you can keep the Etch-A-Sketch.”

Author’s note: I was going to tack on some pithy how-to advice – you know, like you should listen to your dreams, or never get into a gunfight with yourself – but, instead, I thought I’d leave all that up to you.

The illustrations are all mine (Amigo-future made me do it.)