‘Those self-defense karate classes for women are worse than a joke because they …just piss the guy off. But five rounds to the center of mass will make almost anybody lose his erection.’
By FRED REED
Years ago I went in winter annually to Denver to visit friends and get in a week or two of skiing on the Front Range. I was a tolerable blue-slope skier but no more. Sometimes on weekdays we went to the Loveland slopes, utterly empty of people, chill blue sky stretching forever, long, easy runs in the cold, absolute silence except for the hissing of the skis. You could almost believe the world was a good place.
One year we went in the evening to Boulder to visit Donna Duvall and Jim Graves, who had been editors at Soldier of Fortune magazine years before when I had been on staff. We were sitting around a big kitchen table and remembering the crazy times when the doorbell rang. In came Shere Khan, as we later called her. I forget who had invited her.
She was tall, maybe five-nine, slender, of a slightly olive complexion with high cheekbones and long, straight black hair. She was not conventionally pretty, but…attractive. She turned out to be quiet, though sociable enough, and had a direct, unwavering gaze that was not hostile, not challenging, but just…well, she was looking.
In the way of old friends of mottled pasts, the only kind anyone at SOF ever had, we remembered the strange places and stranger times and this adventure and that, and I chatted a bit with Shere Khan. She said that she might come through Washington so I gave her my address, more from courtesy than any expectation of her using it.
Many months later in my condo just outside of Washington in Virginia, there was a knock at the door. I opened. There was Shere Khan, in jeans, with a serious backpack and her son Cody, maybe twelve. It took me a few seconds to remember who she was.
For a then-single guy having such a phantasm appear at the door is a positive thing, certainly in the case of Shere Khan. I invited them in. She said she wanted to stay a week or two in DC, the implicit question being could they do so at my place. They could. I put them in my second bedroom, also office, with a large mattress on the floor which they quickly inhabited. I sensed that if anything else was going to happen, it would be sometime when Cody, who seemed to be a nice kid, was asleep.
The days went by. Shere Khan turned out to be smart and good company. We went several times to the Café Asia across Wilson Boulevard from my place where the waitresses were Far Eastern types, Malays, Viets, suchlike, mostly studying computer security or wide-area networking. Asians are Asians. She mentioned almost having married Larry McCray, a blues singer I had never heard of. Sometimes she cooked, a relief from what bachelors eat.
Like many who come to DC, she wanted to go to the Smithsonian. I instructed her in Metro’s mysteries and she set off with Cody, saying, as she had before, that she wanted to see the Native American Museum, or whatever they called it. I wondered why so much interest in Indians, and then, dolt that I am, realized: She was one. Slightly brown, high cheekbones, straight black hair. As it turned out by anatomical evidence, probably pureblood.
Early on she said that she and Cody were on their way to hike the Appalachian Trail. That explained the backpack, which was not quite an expedition pack but wasn’t a bookbag either and had an experienced look. With long legs and no extra weight, she was built for the AT.
I knew somewhat of the AT because my friend Robin and I sometimes did week-long, 85-mile hauls. This was slow by trail standards, 12 miles a day. Serious trail guys, the ones who were doing the whole 2,000 miles at one swallow, tended to be built—well, like Shere Khan, and they just sailed along. Last time out, we had met Hungry Bear—the long-hauls like to take trail names—maybe twenty-five, 6’3, lean as an ax handle, and took long, long strides that made me think of an Ent going to war. Shere Khan might have kept up. Cody, not yet, but he had the right mother.
The time came for them to head out. The night before, she sat on the floor in the living room, making her pack. She knew what she was doing, everything squoze down, put in order of when it would be needed. Surprised, I noticed the butt of a pistol. It was a lady’s gun, maybe 25 caliber, seven shot. Long thin fingers might have had a hard time managing a full-size Sig or Glock. Firearms are very illegal on the AT. Why the gun, I asked. “You never know who you might run into,” she said, in the same tone she might use in wondering where she had put that spare pair of socks.
She had a point. Backpackers are decent people, but there could always be an exception. A strong man could have tied her into a bowknot. She just wasn’t designed to fend off men, especially if there were two of them.
When I went for my concealed-carry permit in Virginia, you had to take a two-night course in how to use a pistol at the NRA headquarters on Waples Mill Road. The instructress was a female FBI agent who told the women in the class, “Those self-defense karate classes for women are worse than a joke because they would just piss the guy off. But five rounds to the center of mass will make almost anybody lose his erection.”
I think Shere Khan had this figured out. Given that serious gaze, not humorless, not drab, just…serious, I thought she would use that gun. If anybody had wanted to rape her or, God help him, touch Cody, I think it would have been seven rounds in the gut, maybe drag the body out of sight in the undergrowth and, miles down the trail, throw the gun far into the woods on in impassable downslope. I don’t think it would have bothered her. There were some things you didn’t do, and she and Cody were two of them.
I never saw her again, but I got a letter thanking me for the hospitality, enclosed with a CD by Larry McRae. Which was damned good blues.
Fred will be on vacation at the beach for a couple of weeks, but will resume his scurrilous and seditious maunderings on his return.
Read Fred’s Books! Or else. We know where you sleep.
FRED REED describes himself as [previously] a “Washington police reporter, former Washington editor for Harper’s and staff writer for Soldier of Fortune magazine, Marine combat vet from Viet Nam, and former long-haul hitchhiker, part-time sociopath, who once lived in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the Yankee Capital.”
His essays “on the collapse of America” Mr. Reed calls “wildly funny, sometimes wacky, always provocative.”
“Fred is the Hunter Thompson of the right,” seconds Thomas E. Ricks in Foreign Policy magazine. His commentary is “well-written, pungent political incorrectness mixed with smart military commentary and libertarian impulses, topped off with a splash of Third World sunshine and tequila.”
FRED’S BOOKS ARE ON AMAZON, HERE
FRED’S ARTICLES ARCHIVE
Hardboiled is back! (The exclamation point is to arouse wild enthusiasm int the reader, a boiling literary lust.) Gritty crime fiction by longtime police reporter for the Washington Times, who knows the police from nine years of riding with them. Guaranteed free of white wine and cheese, sensitivity, or social justice.