A neighborhood kid told me that Wildman was a bad man. The kid said no one should ever go in his store. He was standing in a patch of sun on the sidewalk outside the convenience store when he told me this. Corpse-thin and pale as fresh chop of wood, mouthing a popsicle, letting it stain and redden his lips and the tips of his teeth so that he looked like he’d just emerged from the woods after having done something secret. The sign where his small finger pointed read: Wildman’s Civil War Surplus. This was in Kennesaw, Georgia, mid-July, near a club called Cowboys and a bar that advertized Jell-O wrestling for five dollars. In Kennesaw, trucks replaced women, horses had nice asses and twenty-five was sort of old to be having kids.
Wildman had his arms resting on the front desk. His gnarled fingers tapping wood, showing a glinting row of skull rings. A knotty braid hung from his chin to the silver button of his cut-off jean shorts. It was yellow and rotten looking, like a vine that’d grown there and died. He sported a white bandana, Rambo-style.
“What do you want?” he said. He had two 9mm on his hips. The store had no air conditioning, just a small, dust-coated fan.
The dim lights, the piles of rotting papers, the stagnant smell of old carpet, gave the store a bodily feel, like walking into an open mouth.
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