A cautionary tale of weapons, power dynamics, and consequences.
Synopsis: In The Madman and the Hand-cranked Blow Dryer, a group of archeologists discover the rambling diary of a tortured soul slowly going mad. There’s no consistent logic, coherent meaning, or even an apparent chronological order to the bizarre episodes scrawled across the tattered book’s pages. But nonetheless, the adventures can’t help but digest the entire manifesto cover to cover. The Bancroft Man is the next tale they came across. Reprinted from the author’s blog here.
Many years ago, a man showed me his gun.
“Give it to me!” He demanded.
I gave him $20. He was happy and went on his way with nothing further to say. Looking back on this incident, I find it funny that I was willing to die for my phone and wallet. And yet, he respected that.
But the man with the gun would not get away! In anger (that no doubt could have put me away to this day), I raced inside the shabby house called “home,” grabbed my pistol, and ran out in pursuit. Bang, bang, bang!
On my quest, I encountered a man pissing in the street. Such things are normal on Bancroft. He advised against my rash idea. Convinced, though disappointed, I turned back for home and bed. But the man also promised that no one would bother me again.
The select few I have shared this tale with did not believe me when I claimed to have not been scared. Even after recognizing my sincerity, listeners express skepticism. “Adrenaline affects everyone differently,” so I’m told.
But they don’t understand how silly this notion is. Why would I fear a man with a gun when I point guns at myself for fun?
But what of the pistol?
A year before the encounter with the Bancroft man, I made a not-so-triumphant (yet naively optimistic) return to sunny California. That is, before it burned to ash; a prophecy which will have already come true by the time the random reader of the future lays eyes on this text. But forgive me, dear reader of a future eon, I’m rambling. Back to the story.
I wanted a gun. After all, what kind of combat vet doesn’t have a gun? They always do in stories and the cinema… Be a man! Buy a gun! That’s what men do! So off to the gun store I went. I must have drifted out of reality into Hollywood, but no, stereotypes are real, as this one is. At the counter inside stood a grumpy white man, his beard as white as… eh, as white as can be, an NRA cap perched on top the grumpy man’s head, because of course there was!
My brow furrowed; things were not so simple as I thought. See, there were just too many guns to pick from. It was a conundrum, an overwhelming avalanche of choice crashing against a feeble twig dam of an underdeveloped free will emerging from the tyranny of military discipline. Before embarking on a sometimes one-way journey to the field of battle, a teenager, a child, has no need to think. All the thinking is done for him. He’s given a weapon, uniform, and tan boots that only sort of work. Oh, yes, that junk is a far cry from the beautiful black boots adorning the feet of past generations’ armies. Their boots were spotless and glistened in the sun as those armies were marching, flying, sailing, and swimming to distant lands to lose wars to rice farmers. “How can we fight properly if we cannot spit-shine the boots?” Sergeants majors despair. “The banners of Jihad are at the gates! We have bullets, bayonets, and javelins, but no shoeshine!”
I gazed into the glass boxes encasing rows upon rows of handguns of all shapes and sizes and calibers. There were too many. I was hopelessly outnumbered and could not choose. So I asked the gruff man (who I was sure I had seen somewhere in a movie) which gun was best. He grunted and pointed, replying “That one is good!” The FNP 9mm.
So it was decided. I paid a man’s weight in gold. A lot of money for such a basic firearm it was. A high price, but not without carefully-legislated logic behind it. Idealists believe polite society can win the war against criminals by overcharging them to death. Up against such outrageous prices, how can any gang-banger or mafioso stay in business? In no time, all crime rates will drop to zero as the frustrated criminal empires shut down and turn to opening laundromats and collecting rare stamps. But I couldn’t have my new weapon of micro destruction just yet. There was a three day waiting period. So I took a quiz and a background check before returning home. In that little apartment, I waited three days and three nights. Then as the early morning sun rose, a phone call rang. Like Christ ascending from the tomb, my all-American weapon was ready!
What an irony it would be if that gun, my finger clumsy on the trigger, claimed the life of the Bancroft man, $20 still clutched in his hand? What if Zimmerman was me? Would I be less guilty than he? To this day, I am not even sure if the thief’s gun was real…
Oh, but the FNP-9, Thor’s Hammer!
That FN, even many years and guns later, remains my most trustworthy. Its trigger is as light as a feather with almost no slack. But all good things must come at a cost. In this case, that price is a heavy double-action hammer, unless of course one wants to carry it cocked – to the rear! My FN – which remains unchanged, the same as it was on the factory floor, born perfect – I call it the hammer. It will hit what you point it at. It will not jam. The FN can only be defeated by a trembling hand and faulty cartridges. Yes, the soldiers, gunfighters, and gangsters of the modern era continue to be foiled by the same pitfalls as engineers and arquebusiers on a medieval battlefield.
But the FN, no, not my FN! I would carry my hammer everywhere I went, if only it didn’t look like a howitzer on my undersized hip. But today, forsaken, far away from that Western sunshine, bundled for the dreary winter ahead, the FN, my beloved hammer, is polished and lubricated like an expensive lady of the night.
As ready as the FN may be, will I be ready? So asked the man who died before he hit the ground.
Catch up on all the chapters of the Madman’s Manifesto!
Suggested Books and Movies
When it comes to media I would recommend that’s relevant to the subject matter of The Bancroft Man – here’s three. Two books and one movie.
Revolutionary Suicide is the autobiography of Huey P. Newton, the brilliant Marxist-Leninist revolutionary who founded the Black Panthers,. In this book, Newton penned a candid and often brutally frank account of his early life, his education, and radicalization. He created the Black Panthers, forging them up into a serious political and social force known across the nation and even overseas. Then Newton watched the entire organization he spent years building collapse into chaos and ruin – in part caused by pressure from relentless FBI campaigns and, arguably, even more so from poor leadership. Ignorant and violent party members irreversibly undid most of Newton’s work to create a multi-racial Leninist coalition while he was behind bars and unable to stop them.
The Black Panthers all but annihilated as a movement, Newton himself fell… twice. First, Newton was personally destroyed by the needle, held by his own hand. Then, not totally unlike Wild Bill Hitchcock, Newton was ambushed and shot dead by a young thug trying to make a name for himself. Revolutionary Suicide is the account of a formidable leader who, despite his ultimate defeat, terrified an entire nation’s power structure all the way up to the highest echelons of the Federal government.
In a recent podcast with my friend Jake Pries, a combat veteran, former police officer, and owner/lead trainer of a self-defense program in the Midwest, I brought up a certain book that made a huge impact on me. In that podcast and in the article posted with it, I highly recommended Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s book, On Killing. I’ll recommend it just as strongly here, as Grossman’s work is immediately relevant in just about any topic pertaining to violence, both on and off the battlefield.
On Killing provides an excellent play-by-play description and analysis of the human response to stress and danger as well as the short term aftermath and wide range of long term consequences inflicting violence on the human psyche.
We are a generation fighting or at least watching the longest war in American history, making On Killing more relevant than any other time since it was first printed in 1996. As combat veterans continue to stream home by the thousands, an increasing percentage of the country’s population is coping with the first or at least second-hand fallout of inflicting violence in a chaotic war zone with no clear frontlines, and oftentimes not even a clear enemy. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants a well-painted picture of the psychology of violence, both at war and in peacetime.
The Veteran is a violent rollercoaster from start to finish. The nerve-wracking tension of graphic action sequences is seamlessly interwoven with enough air for the audience to pause and take in the post-apocalyptic nightmare the characters live in. Except this isn’t a futuristic wasteland like in the Terminator films or A Boy and His Dog. On the contrary, The Veteran takes place in a world that probably strikes many watchers as a little too familiar; a housing project in London. A paratrooper returns home from Afghanistan, and it’s not so different than the place he just left. The projects are rotting, both literally and metaphorically. Living conditions are close to third-world status and gangs control the streets.
Despite being restless and having little idea what to do with himself in the civilian world, he declines a job offer from the community’s most powerful gang leader. Instead, a close friend recruits him as a field agent for a hush-hush counter-terrorism task force. But as our hero goes deeper down the rabbit hole, he realizes the government’s goals in the name of “national security” might not be as altruistic as they initially appeared to be.
The Veteran is a masterfully shot and tightly written movie that got far less attention than it deserves.
About the Author
I worked in the Army’s Public Affairs program as a multi-media “correspondent,” if you will, for eight years, producing news articles, video, and photography in around the United States as well as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait.
My current creative endeavors include Tales From Venus, the Night Witches Project, and The Man With No Heart. A full list of my published work on Fabius Maximus can be found here. My portfolio of military work and publications is located here. I have the attention span of a squirrel, so none of these are quite finished yet. I’m excited to have launched Reading Junkie, and hope it is a platform that other creators enjoy and find useful. See my full bio here.
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