You know it’s your last shot away from a $200 reward, a marksman badge and 2 day-offs. It’s the last bullet chambered in your rifle. All your magazines have been emptied and the spent cartridges lie all around you, smouldering like discarded pieces of incense. It’s your last target right there. It’s tiny – just a little plastic head poking above the ground.
You just ran from your last firing position, and you’re now looking down the scope, breathing heavily with the crosshair wobbling. Curse your scrawny arms. They’re shaking with sweat and rifle grease and they stink of burnt nitrocellulose. Regardless of how hard you jam your rifle butt against your shoulder, or how hard you try to calm that fluttering piece of shit in your chest, you know you can’t hit that target. You whisper a meek, pathetic, “please…” to neither no one nor nothing in particular. Besides you don’t even believe in a higher supreme being who could confer upon you a miracle. All together, two entire seconds have passed; two more and that target would never be exposed to your flaccid, circumcised muzzle ever again.
You close your eyes and let fly the unpleasant orgasm of a crushed trigger.
It is then when the pinprick recoil of a mere 5.56mm round hits like tidal wave on your puny torso, and the rifle cheek-rest yet again rips across the pimples on your sweat-stained face. You look up and lo and behold, the target is still standing, unperforated, and snarling smugly at your existential despondence.
There are about a dozen questions left in the booklet and a few more scattered, unanswered and unanswerable ones in the preceding pages. There is roughly 5 minutes left, according to that chief examiner with that tuberculous microphone at the front of the exam hall that is actually a frigid hotel ballroom, populated by obnoxious, wealthy RJ kids. This isn’t what’s supposed to happen. You did all the time trials at home. All the arithmetic, all the critical thinking, all the “which statement would weaken this argument most” and all the “which is the correct appearance of the dice on the reverse side”.
It’s a nightmare in the god-damn daytime. You find yourself poking your own palms and feeling the jabs. The reality is real.
The reality is that your once-in-a-lifetime window of upward meritocratic mobility is shuttered and hermetically sealed with the “please put down your pens (because like all of you I need to fucking pee, and unlike all of you, I just wanna go home with my paycheck)”.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross tells me that my first reaction is denial. Maybe it could differ for some. Maybe not. It could be followed by anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance, in succession or in no particular order. It depends on your psyche and the circumstances, she says.
Acceptance. Tsk. Acceptance of the undying longevity of the pathetic mediocrity of my person. I need a more pathetic synonym for “pathetic”. I’ve been overusing it and it ain’t pathetic enough to describe the pathetical pathetics of my pathetically patheticing patheticisms.