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A Return to Grace (an excerpt from QUASI) / Wilson Koewing

A Return to Grace


A desert wind scatters sand. Visible heat rises. A bus arrives and departs. A lone passenger, Kit Mallory, appears through exhaust smoke carrying a suitcase. Kit takes measure of the vast emptiness. A Gilla monster slithers across asphalt. Kit lights a Marlboro Red and enters a phone booth. After the seventh ring a machine answers. 

“You’ve reached the Mallory Residence--.”

Another bus arrives. Kit gets on. 


Kit exits in Downtown Charlotte. A passenger hands him a flip phone.

“Need a cab from the Greyhound station,” Kit says. “Clover, South Carolina.”

“We can get you to the state line.”

Kit stares out the cab’s window. I-277 curls around Uptown Charlotte. The skyline paints an interstate hub, big banking, new money, a city without an identity. 

The cab stops by a sign: Welcome to South Carolina, the Palmetto State.

Kit sets off walking. The Carolina humidity instantly dampens his shirt. He passes an abandoned factory on the outskirts of Clover. Businesses are boarded up. Weeds rise between train tracks.

Outside town, Kit passes a dairy farm. A country store. Churches. At the corner of two roads, he gazes up at a stoplight that wasn’t there before he left.

Kit’s childhood home rests on a corner lot peppered with Dogwoods. A marine flag hangs from the porch. A Ford F-150 and a Pontiac Firebird in the driveway. A personalized license plate “Hoorah.” A bumper sticker “My son is a marine.”


A car is parked by the driveway covered with a tarp. Kit peels back the tarp to reveal his red, ‘65 Cadillac Convertible. Cherry. Three summers working at the Jiffy Lube. Piled in the backseat are clothes, baseball trophies, posters, and a wide range of personal effects.

Kit knocks on the door. No answer. He hears the labored breaths before he sees his father, Bill Mallory, waddle around the side of the house carrying a shotgun.

“Get on out of here now, boy,” Bill says.


“Where’s my dog?”

“Ran off.” 

Bill tosses Kit his car keys. 

“That’s it, then?” Kit says.

“That’s it.”

Kit drives away.  

Bill labors towards a clearing behind the house. Smoke rises from a fire. Bill pulls out a document, reads it and drops it into the flames. The words Dishonorable Discharge curl away. Bill turns and points the shotgun at a young collie tied to a pile of logs.



A double-wide hugs up to a state highway. Tall hedges separate the trailer from traffic.

Grace walks up a hallway like it’s a runway. Her clothes borderline trashy. 

Grace examines herself in the mirror, seems to like what she sees, but cakes on more makeup.

Grace enters the living room where her dad and two buddies watch baseball. Empty beer cans cover a coffee table.

“Where you off to, honey?”


Grace lifts her leg onto the table to pull a stocking tight.

“Then why the hell you all fixed up?”


Her dad’s gaze drifts to his buddies whose tongues are on the floor. He bangs his fist on the table, rattling cans, “Baby, what the hell?” 

He tries to push Grace out of the room. She struggles free and bolts for the front door. He watches without reaction then looks at his buddies. They refuse to meet his gaze, so he sits, cracks a beer, and keeps watching the game.



Kit drives, trying to piece together what happened.   

Grace storms out of the trailer, lights a Marlboro red and approaches the highway at the same time Kit appears in the distance.

Grace steps into the road.

Kit slows to a stop.

Grace circles the car, studying Kit. Finally, she jumps into the passenger seat. 

Kit’s eyes are drawn to her bare midriff.

Grace exhales a smoke ring and glares at Kit. 

Kit drives.

 “Didn’t anybody ever tell you not to take rides from strangers?”


“What’s your name?”


“You don’t have much grace,” Kit laughs.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It’s just curious you’re dressed that way is all.” 

A silence lingers.

“I told you my name, now what’s yours?” 

“Name’s Kit. Grew up over on Beaumont Street about halfway down. Little green house, white picket fence.”

“That true?”

“Name is, only thing else true is I used to be a nice guy.”

“How about now?” 

Kit’s steely gaze is trained on the road. 



Kit parks outside a VFW. Neon lights, low outside upkeep, distant feel.

The place is semi-crowded. Smoke permeates. The jukebox plays country. A bartender with 80s hair reads a magazine. Kit and Grace sit at the bar. Kit surveys the place with a surgical eye. Grace pulls out a mirror and adjusts her makeup. Kit’s focus settles on a TV over the bar where George W. Bush is delivering a speech. 

The bartender ambles over.

“Double shot tequila,” Grace says.    

The bartender is skeptical but doesn’t ID her. 

“White Russian,” Kit says.

The bartender returns with Grace’s Tequila and walks away.

“What’s the deal with clothes, anyway?” Grace says, downing the tequila. “Everybody’s always telling me what to wear.”  

Kit’s attention is on the TV. 

“My high school has a dress code,” Grace continues. “Skirt can’t come higher than your middle finger when your hands are at your side. Can’t reveal more than two inches around your navel.”

The bartender returns, “Sorry hon’, no Kahlua.”  

“Bud and a whiskey then.”

“Any particular whiskey?”

“Worst you got.”

“You know why they have a dress code?” Grace continues. “Because of older men.” 

Kit looks from the TV to Grace back to the TV. 

“Older men can’t have sex with girls my age because it’s illegal. So, we can’t dress and act like the girls on TV or the actresses in the movies.” 

“Wait, how old are you?” 

The bartender returns with Kit’s drinks. He downs his shot. His attention goes back and forth between Grace and George W. Bush talking on the TV.

“Seventeen,” Grace says, “But it’s because, you know, like, my teacher can’t teach a class with me dressed the way I want to be dressed because he won’t be able to stop thinking about me. So—"

Kit chugs his beer and hurls the glass at the TV. The screen shatters and smoke rises. The place stops. All eyes are on Kit.

Kit grabs Grace by the arm, “Let’s go.” 

As they leave, Kit looks from eye to eye. Grace is scared but doesn’t struggle. 

Outside, Kit releases Grace. She follows at a distance. When they reach the Cadillac, Kit opens her door, waits for her to climb in, and closes it behind her. 

They ride in silence.

Grace steals glances at Kit, emotionless behind the wheel. She places her hand on his leg.  He glances at her hand then back to the road. The double yellow lines just keep coming.


A sniper rifle rests on a table. A Drill Instructor addresses a group of marines. A young Kit is particularly attentive. 

“Sniping is not about action. Sniping is not about moving. Sniping is not about hunting. Sniping is about waiting. Do you mules understand that?”

“Sir, yes, Sir!” 

“Sniping is about position. Sniping is about being able to kill from a position where you cannot be killed.” 

“Sir, yes, Sir!”

“DIS - missed!” 

The Drill Instructor watches marines file out. Kit is last in line.

“Private Mallory,” he stops Kit. “How are you, son?”

“Ready to leave this place and serve my country, Sir!” 

“And you’ll get your chance.” 

Kit nods and begins to leave.

“Kit, you’re the best shot I’ve ever seen,” The Drill Instructor says, stopping him. “You could knock a tick off a hound’s sack at three hundred yards.” 

Kit laughs.

“Dad was a Marine, wasn’t he?” 

“Yes sir, tour in Vietnam.” 

“And your granddad?”

“Yes, sir. Colonel Mallory, second world war.”

“Lost his life in WW2, didn’t he?”

Kit nods.

“Do you believe he died in vain?”

“I think he died for the greatest country in the world.” 

“And you’re willing to do the same?”

“I’m willing to do anything for this country.” 

The officer nods and checks to make sure they’re alone. 

“Kit, be honest with me,” The Drill Instructor says, “What was Major Turnbold thinking putting the squeeze on with one out and bases loaded in the ninth?”

“Well, the strategy is staying out of the double play,” Kit says. “Decent strategy unless the batter bunts the ball in the air.” 

“But that’s what happened isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir. We lost one to nothing.”

“You pitched a fine game.” 

“Thank you, sir.” 



Kit drives, long past midnight. Grace sleeps curled up against the window. Kit parks by a dock washed in the dim glow of a streetlight. Lit up houses dot the opposite shore of a lake.

Grace rustles as Kit flips on the overhead light and retrieves a wooden box from the back seat. Inside are baseball cards in plastic sleeves: Ken Griffey Jr. Upperdeck Rookie Card, Eddie Murray Topps Rookie Card, Mickey Mantle Topps Rookie Card, Nolan Ryan Topps Rookie Card, Stan Musial 1956 All-Star Card, Mark McGwire Olympic Team Card.   

At the bottom of the box is a smaller wooden box. Kit reaches under his shirt and pulls off a necklace with a key attached. Inside is a Honus Wagner T-206 tobacco card, ancient and in poor condition, but it is the famous card.


Under the glow of giant halogen lights, the Beaver Park High School Beavers compete in the regional championship game. 


HOME 1   Visitor 0    Inning 7 

A young Kit peers in for the sign. The crowd is abuzz. Fans pack the bleachers and line the fence surrounding the field.

Coach Tate, a weathered man, forty years into his high school coaching career, glances at his score book. The opponent’s hit column is blank. 

Kit scans the crowd and finds Bill leaning against the fence wearing a camouflage jacket and a Marine Corps hat. The least interested man in attendance. Kit winds up and hurls the ball towards home. 

The batter hits a slow grounder. The third baseman charges, grabs the ball, drops it, picks it up again and tosses it to first. He beats the runner by a step and the crowd goes wild. 

The players rush from the dugout and carry Kit on their shoulders.

After the celebration, Kit finds Bill leaning against his pickup.

“Big day tomorrow,” Bill says.

“Yeah,” Kit says, deflated. “Somebody said there was a scout at the game tonight. Might have been looking at me.”

“No sure future in games, boy,” Bill says. “You know Marines got a ball team.”  

“I know.” 

“Congratulations, son. Go out with your friends and enjoy this moment, you earned it.”

Bill gets in his truck and drives away. Moments later, Kit is bombarded by teammates still yelling and cheering.


The Marine recruiting office is nestled in a strip mall surrounded by service businesses. Bill stands beside his pickup smoking a cigar. A “Semper Fi” flag flies ten feet above the bed.

Kit approaches his beaming father.

“When do you report to the island?”

“Whole month.”

“Hop in. I’ve got something I want to give you.”


A little mom and pop joint, red checkerboard tablecloths. Kit and Bill sit in a booth. A waitress comes up.

“How are ya, Bill?”

“Second best day of my life, Misty,” Bill says. “The boy enlisted today.”

“Congratulations, Kit!”

“Two beers, Misty,” Bill says. “The boy isn’t old enough, but that doesn’t matter. He’s old enough to serve his country.” 

“Coming right up, Bill.”

“My old man sat me in a diner not unlike this in St. Louis day I enlisted,” Bill says. “March seventh, nineteen sixty-five.”

Misty brings two beers. 

“Same day your granddad gave me what I’m about to give you,” Bill says, placing the small wooden box on the table. 

Kit opens the box. 

“Your granddad knew he was going to fight the Nazis and the Japs,” Bill says. “I knew I was going to fight Charlie. You know you’ve got to fight those towel heads. Bastards attacked us on our own soil. Just like the Japs.” 

Kit holds the Honus Wagner Card, speechless. 

“Your granddad won that in a game of poker during the second world war,” Bill continues.

“It’s not in the best shape, but it’s yours.” 

“I’m damn proud of you,” Bill says. “That in that box is damn proud.” 


Kit lights a Marlboro Red with his Gold Zippo and watches Grace sleep, “What happened to you?”

He starts the engine and drives away.   

A half hour later, Kit pulls up to a seedy motel. The Regal Inn, but nothing is regal. A few cars litter the parking lot. The asphalt is cracked. The pool is drained.


Grace sleeps in the King Size bed. Kit sleeps on a cot. A morning show host drones on the TV. Kit frightens awake and jumps out of bed.

Kit steps into the shower and turns on the water. Nothing. Kit stares at the shower head. Finally, water explodes out.

Steam pours under the bathroom door into the room. Kit steps out releasing the rest. 

Grace is awake, chin on hands, watching.

“What are you gonna do today?” 

“Look for work, two, three towns over.” 

“Nobody’s calling?”

“Nobody’s calling.” 

“Why don’t you call them?” Grace says. “I thought you were supposed to call them.”

“What are you doing here, Grace?” Kit says. “Why’d you get in my car that day?”

“What else would I be doing?” Grace says. “Sitting in my Dad’s trailer? Going to high school with guys who tell everybody I slept with them? 

“I don’t know what you should be doing. I just don’t know why you’re here.”

“I got nowhere else to be.” 

“I gotta go,” Kit says. “You got money?” 

“A little.” 

Kit shuffles through the few bills in his wallet and hands Grace a twenty.


Kit fills out an application at a convenience store. His pen hovers over the no box but checks yes to: Have you ever been dishonorably discharged from any branch of the armed forces? 

Kit fidgets as the manager peruses his application.

“I’m sorry, Kit,” the manager says, “We aren’t in the practice of hiring individuals dishonorably discharged from the armed forces.”

Five more times that morning, at five other entry level jobs, Kit is told the same thing.


Kit rips down a country road. Dust flumes out behind the car. The speedometer creeps past 100. 


A sand camouflaged Jeep floats across endless desert. Kit lounges in the passenger seat. Jerry O’Caine, drives. 

“Life in the Corps, ain’t it something?” Jerry says.

“Yessir, it is!” 

“Just riding on an endless beach baby, endless beach!” 

“Endless beach!”

“Hell, we’re here serving a cause, a just cause, the reason we are here is very simple.”

“Why are we here, preacher?” Kit says.

“To spread democracy to these poor, uncivilized peoples.”

“Uncivilized folk, stuck tragically in the dark ages, for come to them in the name of our country and commander and chief, second time around W. Bush!”

They laugh as the Jeep melts into the Sunset.


Kit parks in the hotel lot and turns off the lights and sits there, defeated.   


Across town, Bill Mallory enters a smoky bar. Deer busts on the walls. Photos of servicemen. Flags and regalia. Older men slumped over beers.

“Hi, Bill,” the bartender says. “How you doing, honey?

“Been better, Angie,” Bill says. “Been a whole heap better.”

“First one’s on the house.”   

Bill lights a smoke and scans the room. Some people seem to be whispering. Others won’t make eye contact.


Bill is several mugs in. Feeling the classic rock.

A rough-looking trio of rednecks make a scene walking in, already drunk. One is big and dumb. One short and stupid. The other is bearded. They wear marine corps hats.

Bill sips his beer, doing his best to ignore them as they sit at a table behind him. 

Bill stares ahead, drunk. Behind him, the rednecks talk loudly.

“I heard Bill Mallory’s boy let Saddam give it to him in the ass before they caught him,” the big dumb one says.   

“I heard he turned tail and ran first time he saw one of them towel heads,” the short dumb one says.  

“The great Mallory tradition crashed and burned in the third generation,” the bearded one says.  

Bill refuses to turn around. 

“Where’s your boy at, Frank?” the big dumb one says.

“Tour of duty Afghanistan,” Frank, the short stupid one, says. “Where’s your boy at, Bobby?”

“Tour of duty stationed in South Korea,” Bobby the bearded one says. “Where’s yo’ boy, Tommy?”

“Baghdad, I do believe.” 

Tommy taps Bobby on the shoulder as if to say “watch this.”

“Hey, Bill! Bill Mallory!”

Bill won’t turn around.

“Bill Mallory, I see you over there,” Tommy says. “Where’s your boy, huh?” 

Bill finishes his beer, puts out his cigarette, stares the rednecks down, and leaves. 

“That’s right, run away,” Tommy says.   


Kit and Jerry sit around a campfire illuminated by flames.

“You get caught I heard they gamble on you, play sick games, torture. Won’t feed you for weeks and then, finally, when you’re about to die give you enough to last another month. They gamble on who can last the longest.”

Kit listens, shadow flames dancing across his face.

“Kit, they ever get me, and you’ve got a shot, you take it. Hear me?”

Jerry spits and looks away, sure of what he said. 


A fire burns outside the Mallory residence. A deafening din of crickets roars out of the surrounding wall of black. Bill wears a Marine Corps officer’s uniform, the buttons about to burst. On the other side of the fire, leaned against a log, is the old shotgun. Bill polishes off a bottle of Thunderbird, spits and pulls a case from his pocket.

Medals of Honor tossed in the flames. 

Bill walks around the fire and picks up the shotgun.

Bill performs a military action with the shotgun. 

Bill sits cross-legged on the ground. 

Bill turns the shotgun around and pulls the trigger.

The medals burn to liquid as Bill’s blood trickles toward the flames.


The flame from Kit’s Gold Zippo lights a Marlboro Red.

Driving, windows down. Grace smokes, hair blowing in the wind, staring out at the passing road.  

Hallmarks of the rural South slide by. Dairy Farms. Houses on acre lots. Fields and cow pastures. Churches, churches, and more churches. Everything covered in Kudzu.

Kit whips the convertible into the parking lot for Beaver Creek High School. Kit and Grace approach the deserted baseball diamond.

Kit carries a basket of balls and a glove. 

Kit steps onto the field, hears the cheers of a crowd that isn’t there. An announcer calls out his name. Kit takes the mound as if a game is being played. He spins 360 and stops on Grace seated alone on the bleachers behind home plate.  

Grace becomes just part of the crowd.

Other players appear on the field.

Kit drops the bag, puts on the glove, and fires balls towards home plate. They clang against the back stop. Kit looks in, takes invisible signs, checks runners. 

Grace watches intently. 

Kit grabs the last ball and tosses the empty bag aside. He spins and hurls the ball towards center field. The ball flies over the fence into the woods beyond.   

Grace stands up on the bleachers. 

“Hey!” she says. “Where are we going?” 


Kit and several Marines sit around a fire. An officer enters the foreground. Sergeant Major, a lifetime in the corps.

“Mallory, front and center!”

Kit leaps to attention and salutes.

“Put your god damned hand down, son.” 

“Yes, sir.”

“Come with me.” 


Kit and Sergeant Major enter a tent barrack. A television broadcast can be heard. They enter the sergeants’ private quarters. A TV/VCR combo grabs Kit’s attention.

“Two weeks ago, the third wife sent it,” Sergeant Major said. “Series is probably over by now.” 

On the screen, Game seven of the 2006 National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets plays. Jim Edmonds is at the plate. 

“Way back! Way back! Gone!” the announcer screams.    

Kit leaps in the air. He looks at Sergeant Major like a child. Sergeant Major absorbs his joy as a father might.

 After Kit settles down, Sergeant Major says, “Kit, is it true what I’ve heard about the Wagner card?”


A smile crosses Kit’s face and he sprints away.

A few minutes later he returns with the box, uses the key to unlock it and hands the card to Sergeant Major.

“My god,” Sergeant Major says. “That is a thing of beauty. You could sell that for a pretty penny you ever find yourself in a spot.”

 “Yeah,” Kit nods. “But my old man would disown me.”


Kit and Sergeant Major stroll on the outskirts of camp. 

“Whole family hails from St. Louis don’t they, Kit?’’

“Dad’s side, every last one.” 

“Going into Fenway for the series,” Sergeant Major says. “Damn Red Sox made the biggest comeback in history to beat the Yanks. Down three to none, first time that ever happened.

They’re battling the hell out of that curse.”

Kit shakes his head in amazement. 

“Bill Mallory, son of Eugene Mallory. Your old man was a real cock sucker.”

“He loves the corps.”

“Loves it? Hell, the man’s obsessed with it.”

“I can’t argue.”

“People talk about dying for your country they mean Marines. Air force, more casualties come from faulty equipment than combat. National Guard don’t ever leave the country. Navy, pretty boys playing football on aircraft carriers. Shit, Kit. I know people you couldn’t imagine knowing. Generals, politicians, hell I even knew a Playboy bunny once.”


“Miss September seventy-three,” Sergeant Major says. “Beautiful. Couldn’t spell her damn name.”

Kit laughs.

“Kit, I’m retiring. I’ve lost two sons, both Cardinal fans like you. All but abandoned a daughter, lost a wife, my first, she couldn’t deal. For this fucking corps. You know what it gave me?”

“I don’t.”

“A fine burial.” 

They walk in silence.

“You’re a great man, Sergeant Major”.

Sergeant Major sizes Kit up. 

“Don’t be lifetime, Kit. There are other ways to use what you’ve learned to make a living. If you ever need anything you get on I-85, ride into South Carolina until you see the Cowpens exit. Take a right, go two miles then left down a long dirt road. At the end is my farm. I’ll be there until the day I die.”



A road sign reads: Cowpens, SC. The convertible takes the exit.

“Cowpens?” Grace says. “Sounds like something you’d find behind a barn more than a town.” 

Kit turns the convertible onto a long dirt road bisecting hay fields and bordered by pine forests. They approach a two-story farmhouse. Cows graze, chickens and dogs run free. 

A small woman answers the door. 


“Kit Mallory.”   

Kit and Grace turn as Sergeant Major strolls from the barn, smiling. Kit meets him in the middle and they embrace. Sergeant Major throws his arm over Kit’s shoulder and leads them inside.

Sergeant Major places three rocks glasses on the table. Scotch flows peacefully over the ice. Kit takes a generous swallow. Grace sniffs the scotch, takes a sip, and pushes it away.

“Kit, I understand why you did what you did. Honest to Christ, I would have done the same,” Sergeant Major says.

“Pop didn’t take it so well.”

“Man, I know,” Sergeant Major says. “I could hardly stomach it when I heard.” 

Kit eyes Sergeant Major curiously, “Ah hell, it wasn’t that bad, just packed up all my things and said don’t come back.” 

Sergeant Major pours another whiskey, “Kit, you know, don’t you?”

“No, sir, I don’t.”

Grace starts to walk away out into the yard.

“Bill put a shotgun in his mouth out by his wood pile.” 

Kit walks outside, rigid and without emotion. He slides to a seated position and then the sobs come.   

“I know why you’re here,” Sergeant Major says, placing his hand on Kit’s shoulder.   

“I’m lost,” Kit says. “I don’t need a place to stay, or money.” 

“I know,” Sergeant Major smiles. “He’s already expecting you.” 


The front door of a two-story cedar cabin opens, and the burly, well-dressed Guy steps out. The cabin is surrounded by dense woods, deep in the South Carolina Piedmont. The Guy surveys the yard. As he turns, the sun gleams off the barrel of a pistol tucked in his belt.

The Boss, dressed in a robe, steps outside, and moves swiftly through the wooded front yard. A cigar dangles from his lips. The Guy follows a few yards behind.

The Boss stands by the mailbox until the Guy retrieves the mail. They retrace their steps.

The Guy holds the door open for the Boss. As he steps inside his robe blows back revealing the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun.


All is still in the yard. Birds chirp. The sound of wheels on gravel. Kit parks halfway down the driveway.

“Stay here,” Kit says to Grace.   

Kit knocks on the door. He hears a twig snap and turns into the barrel of a pistol.

The Guy is cool as a fan. The Boss steps out and sizes up Kit. 

“Come with me.” 

Kit enters a two-car garage adjacent to the cabin. The space is empty except for a folding chair, a file cabinet, and a CD player. A string hangs from a wooden door in the ceiling. 

Kit soaks up the bizarre scene. 

“Sit,” The Boss says.   

Kit sits in the folding chair. The Guy presses play on the CD player.

“Cocaine” by Eric Clapton plays.

The Guy removes a plate from the file cabinet and places it in Kit’s lap. It is covered in cocaine.

The Boss holds the string hanging from the ceiling door. As the chorus hits, he yanks it and compressed bricks of money fall to the ground. 

“Pick a bill,” The Boss says.   

Kit looks at him in disbelief.

“Why doesn’t anyone ever laugh?” The Boss says.  


Grace and Kit sit on a couch across from the Boss on the back porch of the cabin.

The Guy stands over them arms crossed. 

Grace is comically uninterested. 

The porch décor is bizarre: antiques, knick-knacks, trinkets. 

“I’m sorry to laugh about the death of your father, Kit, but the man was clearly insane,” The Boss says.   

Kit doesn’t respond.

“Are you the best, Kit?”

“I wouldn’t bet against me.” 

“Do you have a problem killing a man you don’t know?” 

“I didn’t for my country.”

“And for money?”

“Even less.” 

“Do you think you could kill me right this second?”

“I was trained to kill.”

“There’s two hundred thousand dollars in that cooler. If you can touch me, just touch me, before The Guy intercedes, it’s yours.”

Kit laughs nervously.

“You’re a trained military operative, Kit,” The Boss says. “A trained killer. All that stands between you and two hundred thousand dollars is a few feet and one man?” 

Kit looks around confused.

“Two hundred grand. Freedom. No worries. Make a move.” 

Kit lunges at the boss. The Guy stops Kit in midair, plunging his left hand into the pressure point on his shoulder. With the other hand, he brandishes his gun and has it to Kit’s temple. 

The Boss’s expression remains unchanged. 

Kit is startled. The Guy releases him.  

“No formal training.”

“He’s fast.”

“Like a mongoose.”  

The Guy stares off into the distance; a heartless machine.   

“No matter how dangerous you are, there is always someone more dangerous,” The Boss says. “Except when you are talking about The Guy.”

“Why don’t you tell me what you want,” Kit says, growing annoyed.    

“I may call, I may not,” The Boss says. “If you don’t hear from me in a week, you won’t.” 

The Boss disappears inside. Kit tries to wake Grace. The Guy aims the gun at Grace and

pulls the trigger. Click. Nothing. The gun wasn’t loaded. 


Kit and Grace stomp into the same sad hotel room.

“Why are we back here?” Grace asks.

“This is the only number I had to give that crazy fuck.” 

Kit sits on the bed and turns the tv to news coverage of the Iraq war. 

Grace mutes the TV and turns on the radio. She dances feverishly to some incoherent mid-nineties Alt Rock song. 

Kit watches her with a savage intensity.

They tear at each other’s clothes.


The next morning, the sun shines in through a slit in the curtain. Grace opens the shades allowing the rest to pour in.

Kit jumps up, gathers his keys and leaves.


Kit pulls down the Boss’s driveway, parks, and steps out hesitantly. Kit slips between the house and garage. Peers into the backyard... nothing. Kit stiffens when a twig snaps behind him. He turns, yet again, into the muzzle of the Guy’s pistol.

“I need to speak with him.”

“He said he would call you.” 

Kit’s adrenaline pumps. The Guy’s heartbeat hasn’t risen a beat per minute. 

“Where is he??”

Kit borders on rage.

“He’s in the garage,” The Guy says, holstering his pistol.  “You won’t believe what you see in there.”

In the middle of the garage there is now a Brunswick diamond billiards table. 

Mississippi John Hurt’s studio recordings, disc 2, plays.  

The Boss twirls in a swivel bar chair, smoke billows from a cigar in his mouth.

A professorial looking man stands over the table preparing to take a shot.

The Boss’s reaction to Kit is jovial, like his presence is a welcome surprise.   

“Private Mallory! Perhaps a beer?” 

“Sure,” Kit says.  

The Guy tosses Kit a beer.  

“You’re just in time,” The Boss says. “Meet Jefferson.”

Jefferson has a strange air of confidence mixed with fear. Jefferson sets over a shot and knocks it in.

“Where he leaves the ball is life and death,” The Boss says. “Does he have a shot?”

Jefferson watches the ball roll to a stop.

“As if everything depended on it, Kit.” 

Jefferson knocks in another ball. 

“One on the break, now two, five more,” The Boss says. “Odds I get a shot, ten to one,

minimum one thousand dollars.” 

The Boss looks around the garage like it’s full of people. 

“Ten thousand,” The Guy says, removing a rack from his pocket.  

“Ten thousand from The Guy!” 

A bead of sweat hangs from Jefferson’s glasses.

“Give Mallory something, Guy!” The Boss says. “Four to go. Look in his eyes, Kit! Each shot holds his life in the balance.”

The Guy rummages in the file cabinet and places a plate on Kit’s lap covered in cocaine.


Kit and Jerry are in a sniping situation, hidden in a nondescript desert enclave. Insurgents move through their position.

“How many?” Kit says.   

“Twelve, fifteen. Hard to say.”

“Can you see them all?”             


“Don’t give away your position.” 

“The one you hit is still alive. Another one’s coming out trying to drag him to cover.”


Jefferson buries another shot.

“Now three remain,” The Boss says. “Just like the holy trinity. The father, the son and--

“The holy ghost!” Kit screams.   

The Boss, the Guy and Jefferson turn to Kit, surprised. 

Jefferson knocks in another ball.

“Only one more, then the one that counts, but look where the ball has stopped, Kit.” 

The cue ball rolls behind the eight, an impossible shot.

The Guy pulls out a revolver, flips open the chamber, unloads the bullets, reloads them, snaps the chamber back, cocks the hammer, uncocks the hammer, flips open the chamber, unloads the bullets... repeats.

 Devastation flashes across Jefferson’s face.

“Nowhere to go,” The Boss says. 

Jefferson paces, studying the shot from every angle. 


Jerry turns to Kit with fear in his eyes. 

“I caught a fucking sun glint,” Jerry says. “I saw two take off. The one on the ground pointed right at me.”

“We have to move.” 

“No, you stay here,” Jerry says. “Find a defensive position on a different floor.” 

“The fuck are you gonna do?” 

“I’ll sneak around and flank them,” Jerry says. “Push them into the open and you take them out. You’re a crack shot.” 

Kit slaps a clip in and tosses the Sniper Rifle over his shoulder. 


Jefferson still labors over the shot. Finally, he sets and shoots. Not close. He shuffles away with his head down. 

The Guy switches CDs and “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix begins.

The Boss stands and holds out his arms. The Guy removes his robe. He wears a Jimi Hendrix shirt tucked into slacks.

The Guy returns to the file cabinet and removes a cue case. He opens it and pulls out a cue exactly like the one Fast Eddie gives Tom Cruise in “The Color of Money.”   

The Boss slides the cue through his index and thumb with sickening grace and buries a shot.


Kit watches Jerry exit the building, counts to himself, then jumps up.

Kit finds a new position, secures the room, swings the rifle off his shoulder.

The Boss makes another shot easily. 

Jefferson watches the cue ball roll to a stop.

“He grasps reality,” The Boss says.  


Kit stares through the sniper’s sight. Back and forth, frantic. No shot on the insurgents... in the cross hairs for a moment, back to cover.

Back and forth - searching for insurgents, searching for Jerry. 


The Boss nonchalantly makes another shot. 

“He thinks of his family.” 


Jerry stands at the threshold between the safety of the building and the open street. He pulls a picture from his pocket and kisses it. He is off, out into the open. Kit follows with the sight. 


The Boss buries another shot.

“He prays silently.” 

The Boss looks at Kit, who looks at Jefferson. Jefferson can’t pry his eyes from the table. 


Kit watches Jerry through the sight. He hears something behind him and turns quickly, aiming the rifle, nothing.  

He finds Jerry again, hiding, plotting his next move.

... and then a gun is to Jerry’s head.



The Boss sinks his last ball. The Cue ball rolls to a stop. Only the cue and the eight ball remain.

“He is resigned to his fate.”


Kit watches as Jerry, a prisoner, is walked through the clearing. The crosshairs hover over the insurgent. Kit adjusts the sight. 

Kit’s finger shakes on the trigger. The crosshairs are on the head of the insurgent. Kit lets them float. Over to Jerry. Back to the insurgent. Back to Jerry. Kit holds his breath and pulls. Jerry falls to the ground. Kit takes cover and begins to sob.  


The Boss settles over the last shot. He stares at Jefferson and shoots without looking. Kit watches the eight-ball roll in. Jefferson stares at the pocket. 

“He is thankful he had a chance,” The Boss says.  

The Guy walks up behind Jefferson and executes him.

Kit tries to flee, but his legs won’t move. 

The Guy pulls a tarp from the file cabinet, spreads it out on the floor, and pulls Jefferson’s limp body onto it.

“He was a killer, Kit, a liar, a traitor,” The Boss says.

“Why did you do that??”

“He was already dead, Kit,” The Boss says. “I gave him a chance to live.” 

“You would have killed him anyway!”

“Not true.”

“You didn’t have to say all those things,” Kit says.

“He put my life at risk,” The Boss says. “My life was on the line every moment he lived.”


“That’s none of your concern.”

“You’re a killer, a low life, scum of the earth, nothing!” Kits says.

The Guy tenses, gun in hand, no qualms about adding another body.

“I’ve never killed anyone in my life, Kit.” 

“No, you get your sick “yes man” to do it!” Kit looks at the Guy with hatred in his eyes.

“How do you do it?!”

The Guy moves towards Kit but is stopped by a glance from the Boss. 

“He does it because it is his job,” the Boss says. “Just like killing was your job.” 

“I killed for my country.” 

“You really believe that?” The Boss says. “You killed men you didn’t know. Men with

families, wives, children, a sense of national pride. Men not so different from yourself.” 

Kit listens, restless. 

“Men you can’t say with any confidence deserved it. The Guy has never done that.” 

“I killed men who were against our country.”

“You killed men whose country you invaded!” The Boss roars. “They fought for the same cause. For more, they were fighting for their survival. You didn’t have to be there.”

“You don’t know anything about me.”

“I know everything about you, Kit, you’re a boy in a man’s body torn apart by fear, brainwashed just like the rest of today’s youth, but at least it happened to you by bullets and blood and death, not television," The Boss chuckles. "Video games."

Kit is silent.


“I grow tired of this, Kit,” The Boss continues. “It’s time for you to answer the only question that matters.”

“What’s that?”

“Are you ready to kill again?”


“Then why are you here?”

“I don’t know,” Kit says. “I made a mistake.”

“Then go back to her,” The Boss says. “Run back to the girl you barely know in the hotel room that feels like a tomb. How long do you think you can last?” 

“How much?” 

The Guy tosses a bag of money on the pool table.

“Two hundred grand.”

“One time only?”

“One time only,” the Boss says. “Come back tomorrow at noon with your answer.” 

Kit sprints towards the convertible glancing over his shoulder. He jumps in and tears ass out of the driveway. Eyes on the rearview.


Grace sits on the bed watching baseball. She startles as the door creaks open. Kit enters trying a bit too hard to appear angry. Grace is unsure how to react. Kit’s angry look becomes a smile. He rushes Grace and they embrace.


Early the following morning, Kit sits in the driver’s seat, takes a deep breath, and turns the key.

Kit walks slowly around a gas station, meticulously eyeing every product. 

He studies a Cappuccino Machine before grabbing a cup.

The attendant watches him curiously. Kit approaches with a grin. 

“Find everything alright? 

“Never had a cappuccino,” Kit says.

“Big day.”  

“Not bad,” Kit says. “Hey, mind if I use your phone?”   


Kit rides sipping his cappuccino. He passes a roadside flower stand and hits the brakes. He buys a dozen roses.

Kit steps out of his car outside a house where a man in overalls waits.

“You the fella called?” 

“Sure am.” 

“Come around back and see them.”

Kit approaches a pen of collie puppies.

Kit examines the pups. A loner stays in the corner.

“I’ll take him.”

Kit drives. The collie pup in the passenger seat.

Kit pulls into The Boss’s driveway.

He slowly approaches the garage. He feigns going in the backyard then turns, surprising the

Guy trying to sneak up on him. 

The Guy can’t help but smile, “He’s been waiting for you.”

The pool table is gone. 

The Boss sits in a La-z-Boy watching a TV. 

There is an identical chair beside his. 

Kit sits. 

The guy moves behind them. 

The Boss is watching a St. Louis Cardinals game. 

Kit starts to speak.

“Shhh,” The Boss says. “Pujols.” 

They watch the at bat in silence then the Boss turns to Kit.

“I assume you being here means you want the job.”

“I can’t do it.”

“I thought you might say that.”

Kit goes to stand, but the boss reaches his arm out.

“Unfortunately for you, Kit, it isn’t going to be that easy,” The Boss says. “You’ve seen us kill a man.” 

The Guy cocks his pistol.

“Give me the card, Kit.” 


“The card.”

The Guy puts his gun to Kit’s head.

Kit walks solemnly towards the convertible and retrieves the wooden box.

Kit hands over the box, removes the necklace and gives it to the Boss. The Boss turns the key and pulls out the Honus Wagner T-206 tobacco card.

The Guy walks to the file cabinet and returns with a bag and an envelope.

“It’s been a pleasure, Kit,” The Boss says handing Kit the bag.

Kit opens the bag ... inside are stacks of one-hundred-dollar bills. 

The Boss hands Kit an envelope.

“Don’t open this now,” The Boss says. “Go.”

Kit doesn’t hesitate. 

The Boss holds out his arm. 

The Guy dials a number on a cell phone and hands it to the boss. 

“It’s done.”


On his porch, Sergeant Major hangs up the phone, smiles and stares out at a cloudless sky.


Kit and Grace ride down I-40.

The roses rest on Grace’s lap. 

The Collie pup barks in the floorboard between Grace’s legs. 

Grace lights two Marlboro Reds and hands one to Kit. 

“Where we headed, anyway?”

Kit hands grace the envelope the Boss gave him.  

An internet printout reads: Open Tryouts for the St. Louis Cardinals will be held on Monday

March 1st at 10:00 a.m.

“I never been to St. Louis,” Grace says.  

Kit smiles and guns it.


WILSON KOEWING is a writer from South Carolina. QUASI is available here.


Mark Reep
Mark Reep
Jan 20

I didn't see that coming. Enjoyed, thanks!

Wilson Koewing
Wilson Koewing
Jan 20
Replying to

Thanks, Mark. 🍻

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