Bandolero had been reluctant to agree to an interview, but Blacky convinced him it would be good for their image and make for sympathetic publicity among los pobres who loved, and often hid, Bandolero and his gang. But it had not started well. For one thing, the reporter showed up wearing a dress and insisted that his name was MIZZ Dylan. It had taken Bandolero a while to stop laughing. The two men now sat gazing at each other across the small desk in the back room of the town’s main watering hole.
“What have you done to promote D-E-I in the membership of your gang?” began Mizz Dylan.
“¿Como?” asked Bandolero.
“What standards have you adopted to advance D-E-I in the membership of your gang?”
Bandolero scratched his head. “D-E-I? Is that like in D-E-I-T-Y? We all pray every day to our personal deities. Of course, we do not require everybody to pray to the same deity, which would violate the Constitution, you know.”
The reporter laid his expensive looking pen on the table next to his cheap looking notebook and scratched his head which, being a wig, appeared to slide back and forth. Bandolero’s cheeks inflated as he clenched his lips and covered his mouth with his hand to stifle the laugh that tried to escape from it. His ears popped.
“I don’t think you understand, Sr. Bandolero. D-E-I. It means Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” He picked up his fancy pen and prepared to jot down Bandolero’s answer.
Bandolero brightened. “Of course! Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” They sat looking at each other silently for several seconds.
Finally, the reporter laid down his pen and scratched his head again. Bandolero’s ears popped again. “Um,” he began, unsure how to respond. “Well,” he decided, “what I mean is, what standards have you adopted to advance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the membership of your gang?” He picked his pen back up to write the answer.
Bandolero looked squarely into his eyes. “I thought I answered that.”
The reporter scratched his head again and then looked a moment at his hand as though he saw something he didn’t expect to see which was, in fact, his pen that he had not laid down before scratching his head. He looked back at Bandolero. “No, Sr. Bandolero, you did not.”
Bandolero looked squarely into the man’s eyes. He did not like to be accused of things, even though, or perhaps because, it happened often and sometimes for good reason although he did not think this was presently the case. He took a few deep breaths while gazing at the ceiling which, he noticed, could definitely use some work. Paint at least. While doing this, he retraced the conversation in his mind and had an idea.”Perhaps I misunderstood,” he offered. “Perhaps you could repeat the question.”
The reporter’s hand went toward his head once again, but halted before getting there, as it still held the pen which so far had not been used to write anything in his notebook.
“Really, Sr. Bandolero, I begin to suspect you are being evasive.”
Bandolero was, of course, quite experienced at evasion. He often evaded federales, rangers, sheriffs, and others who sought to arrest him for things he’d been accused of, unjustly or otherwise. However, the notion of evading a reporter was new and, he thought, ludicrous. “Evasive?”, he responded indignantly. “What do you mean evasive? I am here, am I not? I have not attempted to flee. Why don’t you just repeat the question?”
“Okay, Sr. Bandolero,” snapped the reporter without first scratching his head but, instead, pointing his pen at Bandolero and staring with what he considered to be his trademark journalist’s imperious stare. “This is your last chance. What standards have you adopted to achieve D-E-I in your gang?”
Bandolero stared back at the reporter, then passed his eyes around the room. He needed the diversion to keep from laughing at the man’s ridiculous attempt at an imperious stare. Additionally, he didn’t care for ultimatums, although this one at penpoint was relatively insignificant compared to those which demanded surrender or death at gunpoint. As he pondered the comparison, he thought he would prefer a gunfight to this. Meanwhile, several seconds ticked by. He looked back at the reporter, who he now suspected was motivated by some hidden agenda that did not have truth at its heart or, if not that, then certainly some sort of misinformation that would not be in Bandolero’s best interests.
“That’s a different question,” Bandolero observed with a steady voice.
The reporter started to utter a nasty retort but checked himself. During his pre-interview research he had read reports that there was something about retorts that especially set this Bandolero off. Or was it his partner, Blacky? He stared at his pen, twirling it in his fingers while he pondered the question. He couldn’t remember which it was. It had begun to dawn on him that he might do well to consider his next words carefully before speaking. However, Bandolero saved him the trouble.
“But I can easily answer either way,” offered Bandolero.
Before he could utter the expletive that had been ripening on his vocal chords, the reporter’s training in the science of journalism kicked in or, more likely, it was simply relief. He swallowed and, relieved, said, “Please do.”
Seconds ticked by. More seconds ticked by.
“What are you waiting for?” asked the reporter.
Bandolero sighed and rolled his eyes in disbelief. “For you to tell me which question you want me to answer,” he answered calmly.
The reporter’s hand went straight to the top of his head, scratching frantically for several seconds after which, upon ceasing, he stared at his palm for several more seconds. The sudden movement had caused the pen to disgorge ink. “Dammit!” he ejaculated, as had the pen. It wasn’t just an ordinary pen. It was his prized Mont Blanc fountain pen, made in Paris and imported only in limited quantities. Prior to the interview he had loaded it with a fresh cartridge of Royal Maroon ink, his preferred color for interviews. Not only the pen but the ink set him clearly apart from his peers or, rather, those who believed themselves to be his peers or, for that matter, even his superiors, at least in his opinion, which was not shared by either his peers or his superiors, although some wished they had thought of getting a Mont Blanc before he did. He was unaware that his prized pen had leaked considerably more ink on the top of his wig than on his hand during the frantic scratching thereof. His eyes scanned the tabletop for anything with which to clean his palm. There were no napkins or anything else suitable. For a moment he considered his pants or coat but it was indelible permanent ink and this was out of the question. He tore a clean sheet from the back of his notebook and used it to clean his hand as best he could.
Bandolero watched patiently and curiously while this all transpired, wondering if he should say something about the red ink on the man’s wig. He decided he shouldn’t. The reporter tossed the crumpled red-smeared page into a waste basket at the side of the desk. He looked back up at Bandolero.
“That is not an answer, Sr. Bandolero.”
Bandolero sat silently, his eyes fixed on the reporter. The seconds ticked by. Finally, he said, “That is not a question, Sr. Reporter.”
Seconds ticked by.
The reporter, without scratching his head, looked around the room, waiting for inspiration as to what he should say next. He looked back at Bandolero. “Sr. Bandolero?”
“Will you please answer the question, sir?” asked the reporter, whose face was clearly reddened by the effort he put into the requisite self control needed to forego leaping across the desk which something had intuitively warned him might be a fatal mistake. The tone in his voice betrayed his agitation.
Bandolero looked at the ceiling and rolled his eyes again. His face was not reddened. He continued to sit, his legs and arms crossed but not his eyes which were now fixed squarely on the reporter’s face, which continued to redden even further as more seconds ticked by.
Finally, Bandolero took a deep breath and said, “This is getting us nowhere. Do you have any other questions?”
Suddenly the reporter’s face flushed all the red and turned white with rage. He sprang from his chair, slammed his exquisite Mont Blanc writing instrument on the desktop, and pointed his index finger squarely at Bandolero’s face. “You!” he shouted, and certainly intended to say more until he spied the fresh blotch of maroon ink that his exquisite Mont Blanc writing instrument had just spat upon the front of Bandolero’s theretofore clean white shirt, as fountain pens are wont to do when treated harshly as this one had just been.
Bandolero didn’t notice the blotch which spread before the reporter’s astonished eyes from the point of impact just above the pocket of the all-cotton shirt which was one of Bandolero’s favorites due to the coolness of the cotton fabric. He did notice the frozen aspect of the reporter’s body, his finger still pointed but his mouth agape with no words coming from it.
Suddenly, the door burst open and Blacky strode in.
“Sorry I’m late fellas!” he boomed, and in the same instant his eyes fell upon the red blotch on Bandolero’s chest and the reporter’s raised arm.
No seconds ticked off. Blacky’s reaction was instantaneous and instinctive as muscle memory developed from years of experience as an outlaw took command of body and mind.
“¡Díos mío!” shouted Blacky as he drew his pistol and shot the reporter in the head. The explosion from Blacky’s firearm reverberated in the small room. The Mont Blanc on the desk vibrated and oozed red ink from the nib. The odor of burned gunpowder permeated the air.
Most men would at least have flinched, if not jumped, in surprise, but not Bandolero. Such entrances by Blacky were not unusual. When his ears stopped ringing, which took but a moment or two, Bandolero stood and gave Blacky an inquisitive look.
“Why’d you do that?” he asked.
Blacky quickly strode around the desk and threw his arms around his compadre, exclaiming, “You’re alive! You’re alive!”
“Yes, I am,” agreed Bandolero, “but he is not,” he said, pointing at the dead reporter on the floor. “Why’d you shoot him?”
The word “him” momentarily struck an incongruous note in Blacky’s mind but it quickly subsided. He released Bandolero from the bear hug, backed up a couple of steps, and pointed to the maroon blotch on Bandolero’s otherwise clean favorite white cotton shirt.
Bandolero looked down and gasped. “He shot me!” He clasped his hand over the spot, frantically searching with his finger for the bullet hole, without success. “A moment,” he said to Blacky. Seconds ticked by as Bandolero re-traced in his mind the recent events which ultimately led him to see, in his mind’s eye, the reporter suddenly jump up and menacingly point his finger at him and shout, “You!”
Bandolero laughed uproariously. “The dumb-ass tried to shoot me with his finger!”
Blacky also laughed uproariously. “And his bullets worked no better than his gun!”
A few seconds ticked by while their laughter eventually subsided. They looked impassively at the corpse.
“Why’s he wearing a dress?” inquired Blacky.
“No idea,” answered Bandolero.
A few seconds ticked by as their eyes rested on the deceased Mizz Dylan.
“Let’s get a beer and celebrate my escape from death,” suggested Bandolero, reaching for his sombrero on the hat rack.
“Might as well,” agreed Blacky as he holstered his gun. “It doesn’t look like we’ll be celebrating a good write-up in the paper!”
At the bar, over beers, Bandolero asked Blacky, “You ever hear of something called D-E-I?”
Blacky thought it over for a few seconds, scratching the stubble of beard on his chin, his eyes toward, but not really focusing on, the ceiling. “I don’t think so,” he answered. “What is it?”
“Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” answered Bandolero.
Blacky took a swig of beer and gazed a few moments at his reflection in the mirror behind the bar. “Well,” he replied, “sounds pretty harmless. What’s it good for?”
“Beats me.” answered Bandolero. “That reporter made it sound like we should have some kinda standards about it for the gang members.”
Blacky took another swig of beer and another look at himself in the mirror to think. This surprised Bandolero. Blacky was ordinarily not fond of thinking much, although he did enjoy drinking beer and looking at himself in mirrors. Finally, wiping beer foam from his mustache, Blacky asked, “Do you think we need some of these D-E-I standards for membership in the gang?”
It was Bandolero’s turn to take a swig and look at the mirror to think. “Don’t think so” he answered finally. “Only thing that really matters is whether they can hit what they shoot at. Don’t matter what kinda D-E-I they got.”
“That’s true,” agreed Blacky. “Well,” he said, setting his empty mug on the counter, “let’s hit the trail.”
And they did.