“‘Welcome to Texas. Check your vagina at the border.’ Plywood, three times the size of the speed limit sign. I kid you not, Reagan.” Lamar held his hands up for emphsis, three feet between them.
“Just a sec.” Reagan draped her bar towel over her shoulder, changed the Pandora channel on an iPad sitting under the backbar display bottles to something besides business lunch background. “Now where was this?”
“Inbound, at the Oklahoma border. Thought my wife was gonna drown blowing coffee through her nose.” Lamar had gone back to elbows and forearms on the bar, fishing in his basket of low salt pretzels.
Reagan took a deep breath, adjusted to her empty bar post lunch rush version of herself, leaned into both of her hands on the bar opposite him. “You know whoever put that up there has a valid point.”
“Yeah, yeah, but there’s more to it than the sign. Check this out. My neighbor just bought his four-year-old daughter a toy shotgun. I was thinking about one for my granddaughter, but I don’t know. It’s so politically incorrect these days.”
“My brothers all grew up with toy guns, and I always got in trouble for taking off with that Little Joe rifle of Billy’s.”
“Michael Landon was dreamy, Lamar. Just like Dr. Kildare.”
“Dr. Kildare was gay.”
“When you’re eight years old and it’s a hand me down lunch box, you don’t care. Or even know about all that. All you know is that Barbie likes Ken the same way mom likes dad, or whoever mom’s dating, and Dr. Kildare is right in there in the swoon zone with Ken. And Little Joe is the same thing, only he has a lunch box and a rifle.” She paused, signed something a waiter pushed under arm, checked Lamar. “I see the Dr. Kildare proctology kit joke coming. Bag it. He was my big crush and he stays that way when I go back to little girl land.” She tilted her head and raised her eyebrows to make sure he got it. He choked a little on a pretzel and she knew it was from holding down more tasteless Dr. Kildare business.
“So you’re telling me Little Joe Cartwright, or his dreaminess Michael Landon and the forbidden rifle are why grandmother’s carry guns and aerate wannabe burglars?”
“Lots of people have concealed carry permits, Lamar. For lots of reasons that have nothing to do with Michael. I have a Ruger Nine no bigger than a Saturday Night Special. I walk out of here in the afternoon with the deposit in one hand and my other hand is in my purse wrapped around that baby.”
“Is it pink?” He looked up, grinned and waited for it.
“What? My Ruger? Hell no, it’s not pink. What kind of sexist bullshit question…Lamar, some days I don’t know –”
“The kid’s shotgun is. Pink, I mean. A pump shotgun done up pink and girly. Barbie goes thug busting.”
She relaxed back off the bar a little, thinking about a fourteen-inch tall pink box with Handsy Thug Buster Prom Barbie inside, rotated a little and put one hand on her hip. “So it’s a pink princess shotgun? I wish I’d thought of it. And you don’t believe little girls should know about shotguns or how to use them or grow up understanding gun safety and the consequences of firearm ownership?”
“No. I wonder about the marketing logic, that’s all. I figure there must have been a male supervisor at Academy asleep at the wheel.”
“Now sneaky women are behind your pink shotguns? You’re on fire today. How many suburban moms do you know who can tell a shotgun from a garden hose, Lamar?”
“Maybe more than we think. Why I figure a woman is behind the whole thing. You and I and the entire country know the politicians in this state are making it damned near impossible to be a female Texan. Cattle and dogs have more ready access to species specific medical facilities than women. And here we are with all that goin’ down, and some buyer at Academy picks up pink shotguns for little girls?”
“What, are you scared that little girls with toy shotguns will grow up and learn how to use the real thing and start blowing smart ass old guys away?”
“I’m not scared. But if I was that fool in Austin with the two-tone saddle oxford hair who spends all his time shutting down women’s clinics and worrying about who can go to what restroom where? I would sure as hell be looking to retire somewhere far, far away.”
“And why is that? Besides the stupid hair.”
“I’d get gone before any of those pink shotgun girls turned up pregnant just because they couldn’t get off work to drive five hours for affordable birth control.”
Reagan put both hands back on the bar, leaned in a little. “Do you know if those toy pumps come with pink plastic shells?”
“Don’t know. I could ask.”
“Do that. If they don’t? I might get into the accessory business.”
“You think it matters if they have pink shells?”
“I think it matters that every pink princess shotgun toting Barbie in Texas should know to load it as well as hold it. I could advertise them like ‘Pink Shells for your new Pink Pumps’. Whattaya think?”
Something about the way she raised her eyebrows that time…Lamar could see the billboard. My Body Belongs to Me Barbie in a white with blue star Dallas Cowboys t-shirt and black Yoga pants, pink shotgun on each hip, sensible pink pumps to match. He took a long look at his Collins glass, half full of ice and lemonade, drained it.
“You know, Reagan. I think I’m damn glad I never considered going into politics.”