“Men’s Rights Activists Resurrect Charles Bronson,” by Austin Wilson

Apr 20th, 2023 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

“We’re men… we fuck… we’re powerful and tough… We’re men… we fuck… we’re powerful and tough…”

Charles Bronson’s corpse lay at the feet of four men in the Rest-Go back room. Their chanting covered the sound of the freezer humming to keep the ice cream sandwiches from melting.

The dead man was covered in a genuine WWII U.S. Marine coat they bought on Etsy and a pair of 1970s Levis from someone’s granddad. A .457 Wildey Magnum rested near the desiccated right hand. It was possible the smell was from the coat instead of the rotting corpse, but it didn’t matter. It was a masculine musk, Alpha as fuck.

Originally, the east wall of the room was plain white and forgettable. Now it took hold of your face and wouldn’t let go.

Charles Bronson posters overlapped, framed his knife-like features. It was a crisscrossing quilt of the Manly One’s visage. Although the productions ranged from the 60s to the 80s they could’ve all been created in the same week.

Those eyes accused you of weakness from every sheet. His perfectly trimmed mustache slashed darkness across his face. That jaw stayed clenched like a third fist. Smaller, but pasted in the center of the wall, a black and white photo showed Bronson walking next to a nameless Flower Child. They held hands, his chest and biceps taut. His shirt wanted to give up.

He was a Presence. There was no such thing as “personal space” when he was near. He owned it all.

“It’s time,” one of the chanters said.

Another crouched, pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket and picked the firearm up, keeping his skin away from its sacred surface.

“The world needs men,” he said.

“The world needs men,” the others repeated. “The world needs men… the world needs men…”

Rhythm took hold, their voices rose.

“We need a man,” the one holding the gun whispered as he placed the cold metal into Bronson’s skeletal palm.

Creaks and pops rolled through the corpse, like distant gunshots and grenades going off inside tanks. A Viking bellow sizzled in the chest. The group stared as the body writhed. They chanted faster, louder, manlier.

Charles Bronson opened his mouth and inhaled, a breath like fire across the rafters of an enemy stronghold. His hand flexed, almost dropped the gun. The finger knew home was near, sensed its closeness. The chanting stopped when that yellowing, dusty bone settled against the curve of the trigger.

“Mr. Bronson?” Asked the one who’d placed the weapon in his hand.

A faint voice slid through the door behind them, some asshole unaware the world had changed, disrespecting the moment with some bullshit. Bronson would kick his ass first.

One of the men stepped to the door, pushed it open and said, “Dude, it’s pay at the pump.”

“I don’t need gas. I want a lottery ticket.”

“Fuck you, how about that, huh?”

“Bro,” one of the others said, “forget him. Bronson’s alive.”

They looked down at the great man, then at each other.

“It’s time for people to understand some new shit,” one of them said.

Charles Bronson lifted his arm and brought the room to silence. He moved the gun to his face, although he had no eyes, no eyelids, only pits of black. Finally, he spoke with a phlegmy static.


The door swung open and a guy poked his head in and said, “–Mega Millions at four–hundred — ”

“Grab him!” One of the men said, and two of them did. They wrapped him in a headlock, told him to shut up, watch what all the pussies had coming their way, including him. Fucking bullshit lottery tickets, bullshit everything. Bronson was back.

Hisses, short bursts like leaking pneumatic hoses floated up from Bronson’s throat.

“Mr. Bronson, what–?” The one who’d given him the gun crouched again, tilted his head and lowered his ear near the Manly One’s mouth. He heard.

“…why… it was… was a song… why d’you bring me… it was a song…”

“What was, Mr. Bronson?” The man asked.

The lottery fan pissed his pants and fainted, went limp in the men’s arms. They dropped him and his head hit the floor like a bowling ball.

“What’d he say?” One of them asked.

And finally Bronson answered as he started weeping. No tears flowed from his flaking eye sockets but his sobs were unmistakable.

“Death,” he said. “Death was a song.”

He wept all night as the men asked him questions, gave him enemies’ names, told him to get up and beat someone’s ass. But he continued to weep, tears dried up forever.

The men’s rights advocates had to leave eventually, either to go to work or because they were tired. They locked Charles Bronson in the backroom of the Rest-Go where he cried and continued asking them to hear the song again.


Austin Wilson writes stories and interviews writers on his podcast Ledger. He loves Nora Ephron and James L. Brooks. After years of therapy and medication he has managed his doubt to bring you this bio. Find his work at www.austinRwilson.com.

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