Ch. 1 — The Missouri Rifleman

 

By: Eugene C. Rideout

 

Ch. 1 — The Missouri Rifleman

The stream of .30-caliber bullets rockets out of the plasma TV, miraculously missing the right arm of the lone young viewer.

The damage to the sofa is massive. The entire right arm is shattered, which renders that end of the seat barely usable.

Severely shocked by the projectiles that have buried themselves in a shower of wood splinters in the lumber frame of the four-seater where his arm had been resting, fifteen-year-old David James Richardson gasps.

The grade ten prodigy stabs at the buttons on the remote control he is using to surf for a program to watch. Now, “I’ve got to turn this thing off, so that doesn’t happen again!” he mutters to himself under his breath.

The intent is to prevent further shots from blasting out of the family’s entertainment center. “Bullets can’t get out of the TV and damage furniture; things like that don’t happen,” he stammers aloud.

He punches at the touch-screen of the set’s remote control, but quickly realizes that, in the clumsiness of his panic, rather than hitting the OFF button, he has instead pressed the CHANNEL button.

The image of what appears to be a World War II American soldier or marine does not disappear. Instead, DJ is almost petrified when the M1-Garand-rifle-toting serviceman suddenly zooms in to point-blank range.

For the first time in its history, the Richardson’s family room is penetrated by the business end of a firearm.

Don’t shoot!” the boy yells.

Instantly, almost without a thought, he begins to poke repeatedly at the CHANNEL button to reverse the action that brought the uniformed man up close and personal, right into the home of the St. Petersburg, Florida, family.

He is delighted to see the warrior rapidly, although at first only in a brief series of jerky movements; then, thankfully, as far as James is concerned, smoothly, back off from his earlier confrontational stance, as the boy deliberately holds the button down.

His huge sigh of relief is clearly audible at the immediacy of the troop withdrawal from his home.

A distinct lack of daylight in the scene causes the teenager some difficulty seeing much beyond one hundred yards or so.

His thoughts revert once more to turning off the set his dad has recently installed in the family’s rec room.

However, it occurs to Deej, before he hits the OFF button, that nobody will ever believe his story in a month of Sundays.

If the lad powers down the TV, he will destroy virtually every scrap of evidence he has of the momentous incident.

Everything, that is, with the exception of the enormous holes gouged into the settee.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to get a second opinion.

What an intriguing and challenging decision the teen needs to make.

He must choose between getting verification of what he has seen and experienced, or, pulling the plug, and thus powering off the set, losing everything.

The damning thing is that the proof of the reality of his experience lies in leaving the TV on and letting someone else see it.

From his family’s experiences, the teen knows instinctively that the intruder is an American warrior, probably from World War II. He cannot conjure up any additional information that would explain the strange, violent intrusion.

All of this prompts many questions: Should DJ fear an increase of danger presented by this, or other armed men entering the house through the HD device?

Perhaps even more importantly, will he be able to control whatever happens next?

If James leaves the set on will it continue responding in a similar way?

#

“Life is great,” is not an expression he is about to use; especially now, after this experience.

School is out for James. It is just before 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 21, 2015.

Heavy clouds are contributing nothing toward making this a fun day. Rain, heavy at times, frequently attended by lightning and its resulting thunder, has not allowed the lad to be an active participant in anything outside the house.

Normally, a sunny Saturday would be taken up with sports, like baseball or soccer.

Today would not give you the impression that this Florida resort city is able to advertise an average of three hundred and sixty days of sunshine each year.

Now, with the gloom of a mid-winter nightfall already set in, compounded by the stormy skies above his home, the youngster is waiting for his parents to arrive from the airport.

DJ’s folks are returning from spending their Friday keeping business appointments, and most of Saturday making family visits in Atlanta, Georgia.

Alone in the house with his older sister, Lyndsey, herself a near-prodigy sixteen-year-old high-school senior, it occurs to the lad that what has just occurred is well beyond fantastic.

No, not the experience alone; that had proven to be phenomenal.

Rather, the feeling  begins to dawn on him that by means of a television set, although for but a few moments, the ability to become involved in real-time history has briefly become a possibility for him.

Having ex-military men in the inner circle of his close-knit family, the boy knows enough about the armed forces of the United States to quickly recognize the appearance of American warriors from the various eras.

This includes both World Wars I and II, as well as Korea, and Vietnam.

Like the uniforms of the American Civil War, each of those later conflicts had its own distinctive uniform style, easily recognizable to the discerning eye despite the passage of time.

So, somehow, Dad’s new television has permitted a physical interaction, between the present day in 2015, and the very far distant past of the Second World War.

These thoughts quickly jell in his mind to make Deej realize he has no choice!

“Lynz!” he cries, “come here, quick!”

Alerted by the sound of gunfire, and James’ scream at the marine warrior, Lyndsey Parker Richardson is already en route from her third-floor bedroom to the family room.

As the senior teen present, she feels a need to investigate the cause of the racket her brother is generating.

“What’s all the yelling about?” she demands. The questioning look on her face tells the story. She slowly descends the stairs to the living room.

“Why are you screaming? … What on earth was that shooting?

“For the love of Pete! What in the world have you done to the daybed, David James Richardson?” she challenges the fifteen-year-old by his full nomenclature, staring incredulously at the mangled piece of furniture.

Normally the two share an excellent relationship, but this is too much.

“Just wait till Dad sees what you’ve done to this sofa,” she chides.

“Who cares about the chair,” the boy retorts. “Take a look at this!”

Having little more than a crude idea as to what effect it might have, DJ slowly and deliberately presses the CHANNEL button, even doubting within himself that it will again function as it had before.

Mixed feelings of happiness — it has to be more like vindication, in reality — and fear overwhelm him as he sees, in the half-light of that dawn battlefield scene, the far-off marine slowly yet distinctly getting closer.

He stops before the armed combatant gets within effective range.

“I don’t see a thing,” the girl insists.

Suddenly realizing something that will help him resolve his problems with the doubters later, James slips a new, blank DVD into the recording device attached to the TV and starts the machine, to get a permanent record of whatever happens during the next confrontation, should there be one.

“Still nothing,” the girl harps.

Totally unimpressed at the sight of yet another soldier on the TV, and far away, at that, she asks herself, “Why are the males of this household so fascinated with military things?”

Still intensely annoyed over the massive damage to the piece of furniture, she blurts out: “You’re not showing me anything, DJ. How did our davenport get smashed?”

“He did it!” DJ has trouble containing himself, and excitedly gestures in the direction of the U.S. military man he can see on the TV.

Infuriated, Lyndsey resorts to ridicule: “What have you been smoking?”

This is a ludicrous rhetorical question, but she is trying to illustrate for James that his constantly putting blame on the far distant marine is idiotic, and makes no sense whatsoever.

“It can’t have been him,” she lectures. “TVs don’t do that sort of thing. They can’t just run off and show whatever they want; they can only display the programs the TV stations put out!

“So, David James, that leaves you; what did you do to our sofa?”

“Good grief, Lynz,” he says, “I’ll zoom this guy in again and you can see for yourself what happened!”

Although subconsciously he feels a desperate need to be cautious, he is being forced into shedding his inhibitions.

His sister’s relentless pressure is beginning to get to him.

Once more, the young student stabs at the CHANNEL button repeatedly, finally holding the button down for a brief period.

The Marine private looms larger and larger, until he pulls in so close that the wood-sheathed barrel of his rifle again sticks right out of the TV, a full twelve inches into the room.

Lyndsey screams, “Stop, James!” reacting with shock at this development, having never been exposed to such war weaponry before.

“Sorry I busted a cap at y’all, sir,” the young steel-helmeted stranger drawls. “I dun thought y’all wuz the enemy; it’s a good thing I heard y’all a-speakin’ English. Everything is so damned hostile here on Iwo Jima.

“I’m just a farm boy from Clay County, Missouri, trying to stay alive in this here pesky war! That tends to make you shoot at anything unfamiliar … Please pardon my French, ma’am.

“I don’t see any way that we can ever win this here battle; it just seems to go on endlessly. We landed at 9:00 a.m. day before yesterday, February 19, and the shooting hasn’t stopped since we dun arrived!

“Who are you people, anyway? … How did y’all get here? … What are y’all a-doin’ here? … Don’t y’all know we got a war a-goin’ on?

“Holy smokes! What on earth happened to your love seat?”

“I was just surfing through the channels on our TV, sir, and suddenly you appeared. The chair was wrecked when bullets from your rifle hit it. I’m sorry I alarmed you and made you shoot.”

“Y’all were doing what? … What in creation is TV?” he demands; but suddenly interjects, “I have to go; my sergeant is a-callin’.”

“Before you go, sir! What place did you say this is? Where are we again?”

“This here is the Japanese island of Iwo Jima; it means Sulfur Island. We are about 750 miles from Tokyo.

“See y’all later, folks!” At this, his rifle is withdrawn without further incident from the HD screen of their dad’s favorite toy.

The two Richardsons exchange the thought that the Missourian looks incredibly young as he lopes off in his camouflaged outfit to rejoin his squad.

Now Lyndsey watches studiously, and with a much more intense level of interest, as her brother again backs off from the area using the CHANNEL button.

As the view slowly fades of the now well-lit background, she notes, with his agreement, that the overall scene is that of a huge battlefield located on a small, partly flat, island.

Its most prominent feature, making it appear to be aesthetically unbalanced, is its being completely dominated at one end by an unusual looking mountain about five hundred feet high; probably, the girl adds, an extinct volcano.

“Lynz, that marine has no idea what a TV is! … How could that be? … What planet is he from?”

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