Posted on: March 13th, 2010 Conventions of the Genre

by Jesse Bullington

“If we knew where they came from we could stop them,” Gove says.

“Silver seems to stop them just fine,” I remind him, funneling the carefully measured metal pellets into the mouth of a yawning 12-gauge shell.

“I mean all of them,” he says.

“So do I.” I seal the end of the filled shell and get another hollow one from the box.

Every moonrise is another action movie.

I used to hate action movies.

Until they ate my husband and my little boy.

I used to think I just hadn’t found what I was good at–what if Wong Kar Wai was born, say, two centuries earlier, before film, before cinema? Would he have done something else, found a different means of crafting beauty? Or would he have floundered, an artist trapped in a world without the tools he needed to flourish?

I was right. About not having found what I was good at, I mean. I could write articles, of course, give lectures, attend conferences, keep the lights on, the internet up, the old 16mm I picked up for a song thrumming along. But I wasn’t an artist the way I am now.

I think Gove would have cut out on me a long time ago if I wasn’t so good. He stopped bitching about the camera’s weight the last time we hit one of their dens, when we must have mistimed the moonrise, when it went from another day at the abattoir to an action movie in the time it takes for bones to break, for fur to sprout, for fathers to realize the sentries were dead, for mothers to realize that their pups have been crushed in their cribs, for all of them to see me framed in the doorway, backlit perfectly, the silver-plated sledgehammer leaning against the wall, the pump shotgun in my hands, my smile shining in the dark the same way there’s used to. They weren’t smiling then, and Gove wasn’t bitching about the camera’s weight, he was doing what I’d told him to, the shutter clicking along with the slide on the gun as the shells were pumped into place.

I would have said my motivations were cliché, that they were pure grindhouse. I would have rolled my eyes when some naïve undergrad argued that any female protagonist was better than none, that the backstory of the heroine was, if not original, at least compelling. I would have told my husband about it later, the wine spicy on his breath, and he would have sided with the student, because he liked grindhouse, he liked action movies, and he especially liked playing devil’s advocate.

So I’ve become a stereotype–an archetype, he would argue–but I’m a stereotype with a silver sledgehammer and a shotgun, a brace of pistols, a nuanced performance (if I might be allowed the vanity), and a cameraman. We burn their dens, we burn everything, but they have good noses, of course, and so I’m sure the others find our presents–I make doubles of everything, so that my personal albums don’t suffer from the filmcases full of evidence we leave for any that come after, that wonder at the inferno that claimed their brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, cousins and friends, spouses and children.

I’m sure I sound like some xenophobic gun nut pursuing the genocide of a people, but the truth, the real truth I don’t even tell Gove, is that I don’t want to kill all of them–I always want them to be out there. As long as they’re out there, waiting, I have a means of making myself happy, of forgetting the dead, of creating something beautiful, and of having an audience. I wonder when Gove will realize that I’m intentionally timing it so that at least a few rise with the moon to find us in their midst–it would be much, much easier to go in the middle of the afternoon, much, much safer to go then, but it wouldn’t be half so beautiful. An artist works with the tools given her, and my tools are made of newly risen moons, the screams of grieving parents, and pure silver. Roll credits.

Filed under: bad-ass, stories

3 Responses to “Conventions of the Genre”

  1. Rachel Green Says:
    March 14th, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I love this piece. The heroine as antagonist. Excellent.

  2. Rachel Green Says:
    March 14th, 2010 at 12:47 am

    I love this piece. The heroine as antagonist. Excellent.

  3. Berry Says:
    March 14th, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Oh, snap, Jesse! This piece is chunky, crunchy, and visceral. Love the transition to inner monologue, too.

  4. Berry Says:
    March 14th, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Oh, snap, Jesse! This piece is chunky, crunchy, and visceral. Love the transition to inner monologue, too.

  5. Ally Says:
    March 22nd, 2010 at 5:10 am

    I love everything that’s *not* said– subversive down to the title. In a time when we’re inundated with teen wizards, zombie digests and vampire-romance, the restraint is just spot on.

  6. Ally Says:
    March 22nd, 2010 at 5:10 am

    I love everything that’s *not* said– subversive down to the title. In a time when we’re inundated with teen wizards, zombie digests and vampire-romance, the restraint is just spot on.