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Fifty-four years ago, in the opening paragraph of a column about a baseball game with an unlikely ending, Red Smith wrote, "the art of fiction is dead."
Bill Littlefield found an item in the news this week that led him to the same conclusion.
In Kissimmee, Fla., in a building recently occupied by a restaurant, you can pay some money and engage in the recreational shooting of machine guns. Of course, not just anybody can do it. You can't be younger than 13.
You can buy a shirt there with a big target on it, and around the target are the words: "I shot at Machine Gun America." If you like, after you buy the shirt, the proprietors will put it on a target, and you can shoot it full of holes.
In a video advertising Machine Gun America, a 14-year-old boy who has done just that holds up his shirt, which is full of holes, and announces that the legend on it is "I got shot at Machine Gun America." The boy's name is Max, and he says he's going to wear the tattered shirt to school.
His father, who is standing beside Max, does not say, "No, you're not."
Nobody in the video — or apparently anywhere else — felt it was necessary to correct Max's misreading of the sentence on the shirt.
You can buy another T-shirt that says "I shot zombies." Or perhaps you'll choose the one that features the rendering of a whiskey bottle and the words: "Machine Gun America: 100 Proof." There is a target version of a bullet-riddled Osama bin Laden on the wall, but you can also shoot at zombie targets, or targets representing gangsters. You can "unleash your inner Femme Fatale" by hammering away at a pink target with an MP5, an M4, or a Glock 17. Whichever weapon you choose, "our Automatic Divas experience is sure to hit the target for first-time shooters and firearm fans alike." It says so on the website.
Just so there will be no confusion, Machine Gun America is not the creation of Carl Hiaasen, the novelist who has made a career of chronicling the foibles of south Florida. Mr. Hiaasen may wish he could invent Machine Gun America, but it is too late, because it is there in Kissimmee, and according to one newspaper story about it, if you're looking for the place, once you're in the neighborhood, all you have to do is follow the sound of gunfire.
In that story, which was written by Steven Lemongello and appeared in the Orlando Sentinel, a man from Brazil named Sergio Armelin acknowledges that he was attracted to Machine Gun America because "in Brazil, you cannot shoot like that. You cannot have these kinds of machines. It's very different."
Yes, Sergio. It is.
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