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Protection

Protection - John Amory 4 Stars

“You have a sadness in your eyes, Jamie. But there’s a little glint of life there too, you know? And if there’s anything I’m a sucker for, it’s a guy with a story. So I came over here because I wanted to know your story.”
I read this short story twice. The second time to figure out why I was smiling after the first go-round. Because on the surface this is not a happy story. It’s really rather sad and lonely.
Jamie’s friends judge him. He travels too much, sleeps too little and smells like fireworks on the Fourth of July. They give him grief over his most unlikeliest of careers, a career that stemmed from a need he once felt to protect himself.
Jamie’s an expert marksman, taking the gold at the National Championships in Colorado Springs in free pistol. On a night on the town, he shrugs off the attention and praise he receives, evasive and joking about how he got to be so good at standing behind a line and accurately firing a gun at a target. He’s so good in fact, he’s earned his place with the world’s finest at the 2012 Olympics in London, England.
While Jamie admits to himself that he likes all the attention, the fanfare, the team events, practices and photo op’s with his fellow American athletes, he can’t help feeling he doesn’t deserve all the hoopla. It’s not like his event is even televised back home in Billings, Montana.
Forty-eight hours before the opening ceremony and feeling jittery, Jamie heads out of the hotel for some time alone. At a bar, nursing a bourbon on the rocks, Jamie gets a tap on the shoulder and a small voice gives him the corniest pickup line ever. The young guy’s name is Ben, he’s cute and eventually Jamie invites Ben back to his hotel room.
The next morning Jamie wakes up alone.
Of course there’s a whole lot more to the story. I liked how Jamie related the events of the past in his own voice, while the present was told from a third person POV. The conclusion? John Amory leaves off Jamie’s tragic story with a sense of hope, hope that there’s something more for Jamie and Ben on the horizon. And that was why I was smiling, because I hope it works out for them, too.
Highly recommended.