by Dylan Loring
This summer afternoon on the blacktop
of an elementary school playground
Steve and Rachel have their guns pointed at each other,
as tends to happen every once in a while
between two people who have dated for months,
that is, until Chet shows up brandishing his revolver at Steve,
causing Rachel to complete the triangle by shifting her gun
toward Chet, at which point, Steve says, “Well lookie here.
Seems like we have ourselves a Mexican standoff!”
which makes Rachel say, “Wuh? None of us are Mexicans.”
“I could call my bud, Raul, if you put your guns away,” Chet says.
“That would ruin our Mexican standoff!” Steve says.
“Adding a Mexican to our Mexican standoff
would ruin our Mexican standoff?” Rachel asks.
“Have you ever even been to Mexico?” Chet asks.
“A Mexican standoff,” Steve says, “occurs when each person
in a given vicinity has both a gun pointed at himself
and his gun pointed at someone else.”
“Or herself and her,” Rachel adds.
“Sounds to me like a gun deadlock
or a James Bond-high-stakes-poker-thingy,” Chet says.
“Mexican standoff is just what it’s called,” Steve says.
“I could sure go for some Mexican food
after this . . . Mexican standoff,” Rachel says.
“Are you sure it’s called a Mexican standoff?” Chet asks.
“It sure sounds either made-up or racist or both.”
“It’s not racist, it’s just what we call it,” Steve says.
“You mean like how we call the Washington Redskins
the Washington Redskins? Because that’s still racist
even though it’s the name of our local football team,” Rachel says.
“Go Redskins!” Chet adds. Chet is an avid football fan.
“The Mexican part of the Mexican standoff
is literally the least important part,” Steve says.
“You probably mean figuratively.
People almost never mean literally,” Chet says.
“But then why does ‘Mexican’ make up
a whopping 50% of the term?” Rachel asks.
“If anything, the term is neutral toward Mexicans,” Steve says.
“I don’t know about that,” Chet says, “Best-case scenario it implies
that Mexicans spend a greater-than-average portion of their time
with guns pointed at one another, arguing.”
“White women can participate in Mexican standoffs, too,”
Rachel offers, “I’d argue that I’m holding my own
in this little James Bond-high-stakes-poker-thingy of ours.”
“Why do you always have to make everything about you?” Steve asks.
“Do either of you mind if I start humming a tune?” Chet asks,
“I didn’t, like, bring a book or anything to pass the time
until people start getting shot.”
“Speaking of passing the time,” Rachel says, “Can we sit down
during a Mexican standoff? I’m getting a little tired
but I don’t want to offend anyone or show weakness.”
“I think that would qualify as a sudden movement,” Steve says,
“I forgot to mention the part about no sudden movements.”
“What else are you forgetting to mention?” Chet asks,
“Not that I necessarily trust anything you say at this point,
what with the Mexican standoff terminology and the fact
that your girlfriend’s gun is pointed at my chest.”
“Ex-girlfriend’s gun,” Rachel says, “And I’d like to know
who typically dies during a Mexican standoff,” Rachel continues,
“because I want it to be Steve and/or stranger guy.
No offense stranger guy, much offense Steve.”
“My name’s Chet,” Chet says. “The bad guys generally die
in a Mexican standoff,” Steve says. “I’m not a guy,” Rachel says,
“And I’m rocking this pink dress. Have you ever seen a bad guy
wear a pink dress?” “Yes,” Steve says, “You!”
“Hey,” Chet says, looking at Steve, “Do I know you from somewhere?”
“You’ve seen my play?” Steve asks, even though Chet
isn’t one of Steve’s immediate family members. “No,” Chet says.
“How about my improv show or podcast?” Steve asks.
“You can’t see a podcast,” Rachel says.
“You can’t even listen to one!” Steve says.
“I’ve got it,” Chet says, “Do you go to my therapist’s office
on Broad Street? The one in-between the liquor store
and the smoke shop?” “No,” Steve says, “I go to the one
on North Linn, in-between the gun store and the funeral home.”
Dylan Loring is a poet from Des Moines, Iowa. He teaches English at the University of Wisconsin-EC-BC, and some of his recent poems have appeared in Ninth Letter, Gold Wake Live, Big Muddy, and Forklift, Ohio.
Illustration by Elizabeth Boch