Cardboard Kingdom: Part I

He’s choking… well, it’s more like painful gargling right about now.

Richie Kincade can’t breathe with all the saliva collecting in the back of his throat. He tries to swallow, but can’t with the muzzle end of his father’s Barretta jabbing into the roof of his mouth. Coughing, he pulls out the gun, wipes away the tears with his sleeve and throws the handgun across the room, clearing off a tabletop of picture frames. History be damned.

Richie has been, metaphorically speaking, staring down the barrel of danger for a while now. He’s a moderately attractive guy, but his charm is what really draws people in. It’s true, he hadn’t exactly been “behaving responsibly” in recent days. His latest endeavor would most likely meet the legal definition of “money laundering,” if it was more successful.  He’s been a con artist his whole life. He’s always benefitted from convincing kind and vulnerable people to believe every word that came out of his constantly moving mouth. He’s the asshole who takes a mile and calls you out for trespassing on an inch.

Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t entirely business that made Richie put the gun in his mouth this particular evening. For the first time in his life, something had been taken from him. And with it, his sense of self. What Richie had just wasn’t enough and what he really wanted, wasn’t realistic. He was living a life in limbo. Richie was longing for something that wasn’t actually real. The reality is that life as Richie currently knew it would never be the same… it had to end.

The buzz of his cell phone was enough to bring Richie back from the brink. He checks the caller ID: it’s HER. One ring…

Two rings…

Three rings…

Richie snatches the phone and hits the “Accept” button.

He coughs to clear his throat. “Hello?”

“… Richie?” The female voice on the other line is faint, undoubtedly the result of her own bout with tears.

“Uh… yeah?”

“Are you still upset with me?” She asks.

“No… I can’t be. This is as much my fault as it is yours.”

“It’s not my fault at all, Richie. Don’t you get it?”

That cut him down again. Richie drops his head onto the table with a loud slam, shaking the various table accoutrements.

“What was that? Richie? Are you okay?”

Richie responds with is face smushed against the tabletop, “Yeah. I’m fine. Look, I’ve got to go.”

“… Are you going to tell her?”

Richie picks his head up. “What do you think?”

“I think you sh-“ Richie ends the call, obviously not caring for her opinion on the matter.

It takes a short moment, but soon he can’t hold it back any longer. Richie starts crying again. At first it’s generally somber, but slowly his depression grows violent. He starts clawing at his clothes, hitting the table and throwing things around the room.

He lunges to his feet and scrambles toward the corner of the room where he threw the gun. A chair happened to be in his way and for that sin, it had to be broken into a dozen splintering pieces on the floor. A small smile washes across Richie’s face as the chair shatters in his hands. He throws the last broken piece onto the ground and eyes his target: the barretta.

For some reason, it felt heavier than it had just a few minutes earlier. Perhaps it was because Richie’s adrenaline was really pumping at this point, or maybe it was because this time he knew he really wanted to use it. He rolled the steel weapon over, investigating the craftsmanship and presentation. The imprinted brand name. The handholds and thumb lock. The wooden handle. It was an incredibly simple device capable of the most heinous acts. Dumb and dangerous.

Richie slides open the glass door to the apartment balcony, the high-rise winds wiping the red curtains into a frenzied dance. From the balcony, Richie can see across the city. The windows sparkle and reflect the golden afternoon sky. The balconies are rooftops are empty and the passersby on the sidewalks look like busy ants meandering aimlessly about. He points the gun at the tiny insects, reenacting the handgun’s kick with a smile on his face. Dead. Dead. Bus driver? Dead.

He takes a deep breath and puts the gun back into his mouth. He releases the safety with his thumb and delicately places his finger on the trigger. His hand starts to shake a little bit, so he takes another deep breath. He starts to tighten his grip on the trigger, when

*KNOCK* *KNOCK* *KNOCK*

Someone’s at the front door, but it might as well have been a gunshot the way it scared Richie. He quickly steps back into the apartment, rechecking the safety and tucking the gun into his waistband.

“Who is it?”

“UPS. I have a delivery.”

“Leave it right there, would you?”

“I’m afraid this requires a signature.”

A snarl washes over Richie’s face. He pulls the gun from his waistband and aims it at the peephole, again reenacting the shooting. He tucks it back into his waistband, pushes back his long greasy hair, and takes a deep breath.

“Coming.”

He opens the door and immediately grabs the tablet and pen. He scribbles his name on the screen and aggressively passes it back to him.

“Who’s it from?” Richie asks.

“I -“

“Nevermind,” Richie snatches large envelope from the deliveryman’s hand.

“Thank you. Have a nice day?” He says

“Fuck off.” Richie turns around, steps inside and slams the door.

To be continued…

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