Monday, April 21, 2014

30 Days: "The Gun" by B Y Rogers


The Gun
B Y Rogers

“I remembered the day you were born, mostly because you were my first grandchild. I had been out of state for several weeks, traveling for my job. You were almost two months old before I finally got to hold you. Your Mom had you all wrapped up in a pink blanket Grandma had made. I cried.

“The world was turning sour back in those days. Before you were born, I remember hearing of the occasional shooting, if that is the correct and proper way to define what was happening back then. I don’t remember much, not really, but I do recall that once or twice a year some disgruntled man, it was never a woman, would lash out at their family or co-workers, killing as many as he could. Most times, it was only a half dozen; even one was too many. But like everybody else, I had a life to live and I moved on.

“Columbine High School buried the most in the beginning. I remember that one because it shocked everybody, even me. Then there was a Baptist Church killing in Texas somewhere. There were others. The popular term that was spread around was that someone had gone postal. It was happening more and more.

“Of course, eventually, the big political killing of 2001 climbed to top. I guess you learned about those when you were growing up. While that was the worst, it was really impersonal for most Americans. Oh, we did get all fired up and blamed whomever and bickered between ourselves, but still, unless it happened to you, it was this far away massacre that was soon forgotten unless you went on a plane ride.

“The little ones got to me. Every couple of years you would hear of one. Then, just a year or so before you were born there was a whole litter of them. And it wasn’t just in the schools or at local factory. These crazies would go off the deep end and kill at home and then they would go to the mall or high school, all armed up with weapons they had stolen from their parents or grandparents. Sometimes they would plan the shooting for months, hoarding their ammo like it was food in a famine.

“I do remember one, the same year you were born in fact, where an Amish school was attacked by some asshole. He killed some kids and that one got to me cause you were so tiny, just a few months old and I remember holding you one day and fighting back the tears, wondering what I would do if someone came into your school and killed you and nobody was there to protect you.

“I don’t like guns, never had. My father had several, all rifles. I don’t remember seeing a revolver in the house growing up, just rifles. I did go hunting with my father when I was about fifteen. I got sick. Not from the hunt; hell, I was raised on a small farm and did my share of separating chickens from their heads. That never bothered me. I got sick from breathing the exhaust from my father’s old Willey Jeep. It was much older than I was and had rotting floorboards. I had to sit in the way back, over the exhaust pipe so the men could sit in the seats. I threw up a lot that morning.“I remember firing a 22 rifle in Scouts when I was about thirteen or so. I fired it maybe five times. Somewhere along the line, for who knows what reason, I just never felt an affinity with guns. I wasn’t against them mind you, just never had an interest.

“Then suddenly the shootings got closer to home. When you were about a year old, there was one in a mall, in the city. I think four or five were killed in that one. A couple of months later, a big one happened at a university in Virginia. By now, I was getting inured to it all.

“Then, when you were in kindergarten, another school shooting changed my mind. That was a terrible year, that year. Time after time, almost every month, somebody somewhere, a mall, a theater, a café, someone was shot to death. It was horrific. Then, there was this case in New York. Over two dozen children in a kindergarten class were murdered. They were your age. I snapped then, it was too much.

“I bought a handgun a few months later, a Smith and Wesson .40. I hate guns. I really do not like them. Still don’t like them. While I did not have nightmares of you being killed while dressed up as a ham in a school play or shopping for candy for Halloween, I worried, God how I worried. In my daytime I could see you lying on the floor at school, or on the grass in the park, dead because somebody went postal and I was not there to protect you. I felt helpless.

“So I got the handgun and a concealed weapon permit and practiced, practiced, practiced. I was never that good, but I wasn’t bad either.

“While I was practicing to protect you, I lost you. We all did. By the time you were in high school and I was getting better at shooting paper targets, you ran away. Your parents nearly bankrupt themselves trying to help you, but you would not be helped. By the time you were fifteen, you had seen more time in juvenile detention each year than at home.

“The world became crazy while you were gone. I suspect you knew more of it than I did. I gave up. I turned off the television finally and the radio. I didn’t read the newspapers any more. I canceled the Internet. I just read my books and wrote in my journal. I think the world got really bad the older I got.

“We lost track of you. You left home before you were eighteen and where you have been, I had no idea. Grandma died while you were gone. I don’t know if you knew that or not. I live alone now. I miss her something terrible. Your mother wants me to come live with her and your father, but I’m still able to take care of myself most of the time. I haven’t told them no. I haven’t said yes either. Now, I guess, they won’t have to worry about it.

“I’m old. I feel it every time I move. I am sitting here, on the driveway, in the dark. The concrete feels as cold as I do. My butt can’t take this kind of sitting anymore. A cop gently pulled my hands behind my back and put handcuffs around my wrists a few minutes ago. He apologized, said he hated doing it but times, such as they are, it was policy and I had to sit down. So I sat down on the driveway. I don’t care anymore. I’m not scared.

“You are still just inside the doorway. I can see your feet from here. The lights from the cop cars are dancing over the sheet they put over you. I can see the soles of your shoes. What am I going to say to your mother?

“I hate guns. I never wanted to pull mine on anyone. I never have had to. But when I heard someone at the door after I had gone to bed, trying to get it, I got scared. Whomever you were with must have put their shoulder to it and hit the door pretty hard. I don’t know. By the time the door tore from the hinges, I had the gun that I brought so many years ago to protect you and was aiming at the first person that came in.

"Now, I am sitting here, on the cold driveway, crying, wishing the cops would give me my gun back."

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8 comments:

Laura Roberts said...

Wow! This is definitely not something I'd expect on a children's writers website, but I'm happy to see a story from our fearless Iron Writers leader here. Thanks for sharing.

Danielle Zwissler said...

Good God, Brian, you are a wonderful writer. I went through so many emotions reading your story. Great imagery.

Brick Marlin said...

That is one great story, very compelling, Brian. The ending was not what I expected it to be.

Julie Daines said...

For some reason, I think I've read this before. But I love it. So evocative and full of emotion. I love stories like this because they sit in my mind long after I'm done reading. Nice!

Dani J Caile said...

Great story, Brian!
But I expect no less from an Iron Writer!

Anonymous said...

Sad and almost inevitable. Can see the piece presented to parents and school teens, to be discussed.

Marion C Steiger said...

Loved and hated this. Beautiful, haunting, and too true, too often.
Thank you for sharing.

Yamile said...

This piece echoed so many of my thoughts and emotions, not only as I read, but as I too heard of one more shooting in the news. Wonderful writing. Lots of material for discussion,