In the closing scene of the premier episode of Justified, a television adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole,” Deputy Raylan Givens sits in his ex wife’s kitchen, their old kitchen, drinking one of her new husband’s beers. His wife’s current husband, startled by Raylan’s presence (he’d “let himself in”), asks that Winona take Raylan outside for their talk.
Raylan had, over the course of the episode, put a “shoot on sight order” on a Miami drug lord, then drawn him into a seated quickdraw, shooting him through the heart; shot an old acquaintance who’d turn arsonist and white supremacist; bludgeoned a thug with the butt of his own shotgun; and made threats against the longevity of half a dozen different criminals and suspected wrong doers.
Throughout the episode, and the show in general, Raylan doesn’t give off the air of a conflicted man. He is one who knows right from wrong and is certain of which side he firmly stands.
On the porch with his ex-wife, Raylan remarks, “I suppose I’ve never thought of myself as an angry man.”
“Raylan,” Winona says, “you’re the angriest man I’ve ever met.”
Mary and I spent more than an hour arguing over music. Not in a sophomoric sense, not what bands were good and weren’t, but over something perhaps even more foolish. We argued over taxonomy, and classification, of language and shifting meaning. We each grew more passionate as each of us became more convinced we each were right.
At the end of nearly two hours I was cutting through the first three gears in the fifty feet of parking lot before reaching the back road, onto forty miles an hour and the fourth gear before the alley’s end, dedicated to abandoning the coffee shop, of amputating our evening together.
It took a long time for me to return to something like calm enough to articulate myself without the want of putting my fist to or through stone.
“You’re the angriest person I’ve ever known. I feel sometimes like if you ever directed your anger fully at me I’d burn away to nothing. I think the way you just get angry at people, at things, is the way normal people feel when they swear off enemies for good.”
I never think of myself as an angry man. I don’t see any excess in my feelings, any over exuberance in my enmity. I feel justified in my sentiments.
But that might be the point, the problem.
Raylan feels himself equally justified.