Just because it was time–probably past time–to post something again. 

 

Real Men

By Ronald Cypress

 

Several days and nights of random trembling and sweating had occurred after the game was played before Bobby finally broke down and told his wife about what had happened. The confession made its way out shortly after the couple had finished eating dinner. Bobby had gone back to the last time he had been at Travis’s house, and the trembling slowly started to work up again as he recalled the gam they had played. He remembered holding the small handgun and gradually lifting it up to his temple. The cold metal had touched his flesh.

The thought was what made him break. For the first time Bobby began to weep about what he and the others had done. Naturally, his wife wanted to know what was wrong and she kept pushing until he eventually told her about what had happened. It was just a stupid game that had been instigated by Travis. Bobby made sure that Jackie understood it was completely Travis’s idea and that he hadn’t wanted to do it in the first place. He had been pressured into doing it. Jackie knew how Travis could be.

She would nod and say, yeah, I know how he is.

Bobby mentioned that in a way he almost felt threatened and forced to play the game.

The whole thing had started while he and the fellows were playing cards. The usual group was there. Hops was there and he played the game, and Vincent was there, the one person who refused to touch the gun but remained in Travis’s garage as the others risked their own lives. As hard as it may have been to fathom, the game came about because of a discussion about ballet. Vincent had mentioned that his nephew was going to start taking classes in a few months, and the others had started to make jokes about a boy going into ballet.

Jackie would briefly interrupt to say that there was nothing wrong with that.

That wasn’t the point, Bobby explained.

The talk about boys going into ballet hadn’t last long. All it did was segue the men’s talk into another subject, one that was mostly discussed by Travis. Bobby couldn’t remember everything that was said, but he could tell his wife that Travis had started going on and on about how hard it was to find real men in modern times. All the real men were disappearing, and soon the only thing that would be left were weak little boys who couldn’t handle themselves or protect a “goddamn thing.” The talk about ballet had ended, and Travis had begun to discuss cowardice. He said that there were too many cowardly men out there. No one had any real guts anymore.

The others were starting to dismiss his words, but then Travis abruptly left the table and walked away from the poker game they were playing. He exited the garage and was gone for several minutes. When he returned Travis was holding a small gun. Bobby told Jackie that he had never seen the gun before and didn’t even know that Travis owned a gun.

Jackie wanted to know where Jess was at while all this was going on.

Jess had left again, and Travis didn’t know if or when she was coming back.

Jackie told Bobby to go on with the story.

There wasn’t much more to tell. The gun was brought into the garage, and Travis insisted that the poker game was over and it was time to play another game. He said that it was a game that would test their manhood to see if they were real men or cowardly little boys. The name was only mentioned once, but Bobby didn’t need to hear it. He already knew what Travis wanted to do, and initially he believed there was no way he was going to go along with it. He had actually wanted to get the gun out of Travis’s hands but found himself unable to speak up or take action.

Travis quickly went over the rules. He showed them the gun, the one bullet in the cylinder and explained how it would work. It was very simple, he insisted. He offered to go first. Vincent told him he was crazy and demanded that he put the gun away and stop acting foolishly. Bobby didn’t think anyone actually believed Travis was going to do anything dangerous with the gun, but the game was started before the other three had a chance to stop it. All it took was for Travis to put the gun to his temple and pull the trigger.

Jackie let out a short gasp, and she asked if he really did it.

Bobby nodded.

Jackie understood what it meant. It took a minute, but she had to hear the rest.

Bobby couldn’t offer a decent explanation, one that would alleviate what he had done. The only thing he could say was something, something more than Travis’s urging, had pushed him into taking the gun. Travis kept talking about being a real man and not a scared little boy. Bobby had taken the gun and stared at it for a long time.

He would say that it felt like time had stopped.

Jackie just shook her head.

By the time he had gotten the gun up to his head, Vincent had left the table and was standing in the corner of the garage, close to the door that lead outside. Bobby remembered seeing the terror on Vincent’s face, and he told Jackie that was the final thing he needed to see to go through with his part in the game. He was in a zone that he had never been in before, but once he heard the click the world around him began to fall. Bobby still didn’t understand how he didn’t faint after the act was over.

Jackie wanted to know about Hops. She knew that he was stupid enough to take part in such a game, but did he have any reservations?

Bobby paused and thought about how Hops had been before taking his turn. He knew that Jackie probably envisioned him with his goofy smile and naively going along with what Travis wanted him to do, but it hadn’t been that way. If the terror on Vincent’s face had pushed Bobby to actually play, it was the look on Hops face that would make him forever regret that he had allowed the game to go as far as it did.

Bobby would lie to Jackie and say that Hops went through with his turn fairly quickly and didn’t seem to give much thought to doing it.

Jackie shook her head some more, and said that it was sick to let someone like Hops be dragged into such a dangerous situation. Bobby knew that he didn’t know any better.

But it was too late to change anything. All he could do was talk about it, and Bobby was disappointed to find that it didn’t help him feel better about what they had done. When the discussion was over, Jackie assured her husband that she was going to have a talk with Travis. She was going to let him know her feelings about the game and what he had done to her husband and the other two men.

Bobby wanted to mention that he didn’t think confronting Travis was a good idea, but he remained silent. He knew that his judgment and character had already failed once. But he had made it back home, and one thing that Travis had said to him after the game almost felt like it could be true. Travis said that Bobby would feel like a real man when he got home and thought about what he had done. As crazy and dumb as it seemed, there was some truth in the statement. It had been a fleeting one, but for a moment it had been there.

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