Shepard disgorges ideas like a drunk or a junkie, streams of images described in visceral prose that essentially numb you to their force. An anaesthetic effect is present in stories like "Life of Buddha" (1988), in which a heroin addict provokes the transmutation of a male transsexual into a perfect woman. Shepard's characters crave freedom and transformation; the narratives over-reach and become baroque in their pursuit of it, and so lose some of their power. They express the central paradox of Shepard's work: his acceptance and celebration of claustrophobia and the "feeling of stricture" (as in "Griaule"), and his desperate raging against it.
The itinerant gun show draws together many subcultures from the margins of society: survivalists, Aryan brotherhoods, and the team of Rita Whitelaw and Jimmy Roy Guy, dealers in collectible arms. Rita has made Jimmy an exception to her general disdain for whites—"not your typical Caucasian," as she describes him—for Jimmy's got a storytelling ability that borders on mystic vision. When Jimmy makes an agreement with the widow of Aryan martyr Bob Champion to broker her husband's infamous Colt .45, he and Rita run afoul of "the Major," Champion's spiritual successor. However, they're not intimidated by the Major's veiled threats. The gun has launched a story, and when Jimmy begins a story, one way or another, he's bound to see it through. (For mature readers.)