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Part of the effect of "The Killers" is attributable to the fact that the sort of thing that happened to George and Nick could happen, and actually does happen, to ordinary people all the time. You might go into a convenience store to buy a can of Coca-Cola at the same time that a man comes in and pulls a gun on the clerk. You might be standing in line at the bank when a group of men enter with pistols or even AK47s and make everybody lie face-down on the floor. This is the modern age we live in. These things are happening all the time, and sometimes they happen to you, if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. We see these things in passing as we drive through the city. We see a lot of black-and-white cars pulled up any which way with their red and blue lights flashing and we wonder, "What was that all about?" But we will never know. Every day the newspapers contain articles about kidnappings, robberies, homicides, rapes, accidents, and so on. They are all happening to somebody and usually involving witnesses and participants. Many of them have one common characteristic, which is that they happen at random when people least expect them. Hemingway's story opens with an appropriate sentence:
The door of Henry's Lunch-Room opened and two men came in.
That's just how it happens. George is behind the counter, Nick Adams is just sitting there on the other side. Sam is back in the kitchen cooking the special dinner. The two killers have driven all the way from Chicago. And now all five of these people are brought together in a life-or-death situation. It's just an event in modern life. Most of us have not been involved in such a dangerous event, but all of us have been involved in events which were similar in coming unexpectedly from out of nowhere. It's just a matter of luck. As Sam Spade tells Brigid O'Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon:
He, the good citizen-husband-father, could be wiped out between office and restaurant by the accident of a falling beam. He knew then that men died at haphazard like that, and lived only while blind chance spared them.
Good things can happen too--but maybe not as often.
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