He liked to think he’d spent a long time arming his memory. Stocking the arsenal, is how he saw it. In particular, he liked facts, they were his bullets, shooting holes in every argument he encountered. Truth, well, there was no bullet like that, or at least he hadn’t found it, though a few times early on, when he was still capable of belief, he thought he had, only to discover it wasn’t that, quite. Once in a while there was a good fact, maybe one of the best, fitted into the right revolver, but it wouldn’t keep his opponents down forever. Sooner or later they’d recover, do some further reading in their favourite magazines and newspapers, gather new facts, figure out how to best fire them out, and return to argue it out all over again. He was hard pressed to pinpoint when he lost his love for it—the build-up to the battle, the projectiles singing through the air, the satisfying thud with which they landed when you’d aimed right, the best shots being when your opponent took a second or two to realize, with that dawning look in the eyes, that there would be no shooting back, not until much later. One day he simply noticed that he’d gone quieter. He let people talk. He let them go on. He should have stopped them, right between the eyes, hours ago. But he had less and less interest in causing the death of anything, even an idea, no matter how ridiculous or offensive, and more and more in the death that was his silence, or not death, exactly, but a kind of afterlife. It was that tranquil, that serene. If anyone asked, he said he’d retired as champ, but that wasn’t it at all, quite the opposite: he’d just let go, cut himself free of an ego that insisted on weaponizing every word, on marking the world, on tallying the wins and losses as if the number mattered. The silence was, if he was asked to describe it, which he rarely agreed to do, his second firearm, or maybe not second, but the same one, except repurposed, firing its bullet inward, one time only, exploding the cylinder and relieving his need for every victory except that of letting the grass grow, up and around and through his feet all the way to the empty skull where his brain had once been.
Tamas Dobozy is a professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. He lives in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. He has published four books of short fiction, When X Equals Marylou, Last Notes and Other Stories, Siege 13: Stories (which won the 2012 Rogers Writers Trust of Canada Fiction Prize, and was shortlisted for both the Governor General’s Award: Fiction, and the 2013 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award), and most recently, Ghost Geographies: Fictions. He has published over seventy short stories in journals such as One Story, Fiction, Agni, and Granta, and won an O Henry Prize in 2011, and the Gold Medal for Fiction at the National Magazine Awards in 2014.