The Ancient Wisdom of Sun Tzu and Dale Earnhardt
By M. A. Stirnaman
Jessup flowed from one tai chi stance to another. He masterfully executed setting sun and held it. The big rigs barreling down Highway Fifty, which was situated no more than two dozen feet from his double-wide trailer, could not penetrate his bubble of peace and tranquility.
Jessup squatted low, his hands pointed up at the sky. His cotton briefs, virgin white save for one small skid mark, were all that stood between him and the warm Missouri weather. His forearms and neck were bright red. His torso, chest and legs were stark white. The blue beer koozie in his hand completed the trifecta. He was a living tribute to Old Glory. The epitome of patriotism. He tilted his hand and let the cold brew pour into his open mouth. In Osage County they drank STAG beer. Steak, taters and gravy. Meal in a can.
Jessup was hungry after his morning meditation. He stepped into his trailer and emerged a few minutes later adorned from head to toe in camouflage. He owned a variety of guns. This trip called for his twenty-two caliber semi-automatic rifle. It wouldn’t take down a buck, but it was perfect for small game.
His forty-acre backyard was quiet at this hour. Deer would be hunkered down in tall brush. Jessup’s prey was in the trees. Squirrels leapt from limb to limb, oblivious of the stalking hunter below them.
He pointed the gun at the trees, peered through the scope, and settled the crosshairs on the left eye of his lunch. The bullet travelled at twelve-hundred feet per second and dropped the squirrel from the branch. He approached his kill to thank it. To take from the land, you must respect the land.
Before he could honor the small mammal, a fox darted from the bushes and took the squirrel in its teeth. The fox disappeared into the woods.
Jessup followed the thief. Morning meditation had opened his third eye. Small paw prints, broken twigs, drops of blood from the wounded squirrel, he saw it all.
He also saw a gathering of people in the clearing south of his lagoon. The amount of people was concerning, but even more worrisome was the sight of white robes with matching white hoods.
Jessup propped his rifle against a tree and stepped into the clearing. The clan members were mingling in small groups. They chit-chatted among banners bearing swastikas and other supremacist symbols. It bordered on parody.
“Can I help you, brother?” Jessup wasn’t sure which hood the question came from.
“I’m going to need you off this land here. It’s private property.”
A clan member stepped forward. His robe was green with several stripes on the sleeves. He stopped a few feet from Jessup. “I appreciate your position and apologize on behalf of me and my men here. As you can see, we are up to no trouble. Perhaps you wouldn’t mind letting us finish our little gathering?”
“I suppose you’re all just kind, God-fearing men? That boat ain’t gonna float. A whole smattering of grown men wearing their wives’ linens? That’s about as innocent as two-beer Martha under the bleachers at the tractor pull.”
Bangs erupted from one of the trucks parked in the clearing. The back door of its camper top flung open. A dark-skinned woman, naked and bound at the wrists, rolled from the truck and struggled to her feet. Frayed ropes hung from her ankles. She dashed for the tree line.
The man in the green hood rushed forward. Jessup slid into tiger stance and planted a firm fist into the clan leader’s stomach. The man barely recoiled. He grabbed Jessup by the throat, lifted him into the air and flung him to the ground. Jessup fought to regain air into his lungs. The man stood over him, one foot raised, ready to slam into Jessup’s face. Jessup slid his blade out and thrust it up, through the robe and into the area between the man’s anus and scrotum. The scream was inhuman. Jessup freed his blade and got to his feet.
White sheets scattered everywhere. Some jumped into their trucks and kicked up mud as they sped for the back roads, others chased after the prisoner. Jessup ran into the woods, grabbing his rifle and vaulting over a dead tree trunk. Three robed men had cornered the woman. Jessup screamed and slid to a knee. The men turned toward him as Jessup brought the scope up and paused his breathing. Time stood still. He squeezed off a round. The bullet ripped through the hood’s eye socket. The man covered his bloody face. By the time his friends realized what happened, Jessup was on them. One got a rifle stock to the face. The other received a kick to the throat. He removed the woman’s gag.
“Holy shit,” the woman said.
Jessup reached out his hand. “Come with me. I’m not with them.”
“Yeah, no shit.”
They made it to his trailer without more interference. She rubbed the rope burns on her wrist as Jessup peered through the window. Hooded figures circled the trailer. Jessup headed toward another room.
“Where are you going?” the woman asked.
“I’m going to need something bigger.”
“How many are there?”
“About twenty, I reckon.”
“What are you going to do?”
“My uncle Johnny taught me two things: how to make the finest cinnamon moonshine this side of the Mississippi, and how to protect your land,” Jessup said, returning with a kitchen lighter in one hand and a tube for potato chips in the other. A fuse poked out of the top of the repurposed canister.
“Are you crazy?” the woman asked. “You’re going to get yourself killed.”
“As Lau Tzu said, ‘A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.’” Jessup pulled a dirty hat over his head that reads: This is my Lucky Hat. “And as my Aunt Verna always said, ‘Freedom don’t mean shit if you can’t blow stuff up.’”