My Life with Guns
The sound of a gunshot is surprisingly ordinary, more of a crack than a bang.
My Dad was an orthopedic surgeon. His dog, Otto, carried boulders in his mouth. Purebred Black Lab training to hunt. Otto was the sire and I got pick-of-the-litter. Bruno, asleep in the dog food bowl, more Ferdinand than Mufasa, more Mr. Rogers than Dr. Wright. Early and cold and wet, we all went hunting. Driving down an imagined dirt road, idealized Thermos, lid that’s also a cup, metal sides textured, tough like things used to be, bouncing on the bench seat of our International Harvester Travelall. Avocado green like kitchen appliances in the 1960’s, I loved that car. It smelled like hunting trips, wet dogs, dead things, gunpowder. Italian 12 gauge shotgun broken open so you could see down the barrels, hinged over my Dad’s arm. Bruno was on a leash. Otto was working. When my Dad shot the first pheasant, Otto, working, collected the bird that fell from the sky. Bruno ripped the leash out of my hand, ran through the tall brown grass to the parking lot. I found him hiding under our avocado green International Harvester. I loved that dog.
I wonder if I wondered if there was a place for me next to him under the car.
Pam and I were watching TV in the family room when we heard the gunshot. We had a family room, and a dining room and a living room which wasn’t actually for living. That’s where the piano was, the white couch, the deep white fuzzy carpet. Pam was the head cheerleader and I was the student body president. White and green letterman jackets. I wore mine always. I can feel how heavy it was, how it’s weight comforted me. Mom was in Dad’s office sitting on the desk chair turned 90 degrees away from the rolltop desk that Dad still has in his assisted living facility. I took the gun out of her hands. It was the gun that my dad used to start races at swim meets. It only shot blanks. It didn’t belong in the gun cabinet that’s in the game closet that’s in the family room.
She said she wanted to see if it was loaded. She was loaded. I lifted the carpet to see if there was a hole in the floor but I didn’t look to see if there was a hole in Mom. Later, Dad asked where I put the gun.
Doug first threw money on the playground, then he shot Jimmy. The next several shots went into the stucco above the heads of a group students standing outside the classroom at the end of the building where I taught English. I think I’ve always thought that the shock of actually shooting someone probably changed what he was shooting at. He was in a car idling on the basketball court of the old elementary school that housed our alternative high school.
The last shot went into his own head. He was in the driver’s seat. His broken body muscled his right leg forward onto the accelerator. The car screams. They clean up blood with kitty litter. Jimmy was small. He was running to pick up the money when Doug shot him. Was there a plan? Sitting in the screening room in my mind I see myself picking up Jimmy and carrying him into the back room of the school’s office. It says “Office” on the door. A vinyl sign with a wood pattern background and engraved white letters. I wonder if it was hard to peel off the paper to expose the adhesive and then make sure it was really straight before sticking it forever onto the door. I walk past the microwave and the refrigerator and lay Jimmy on the carpet previously stained only by lunches and printer toner. What was I trained to do now? The bullet went through Jimmy’s right thigh. Clean through. They say things like Jimmy was very lucky. Jimmy’s mom asked Jimmy to say thank you to me. A reporter talked to me. I hate him more specifically than anyone I have ever met
The sound of a gunshot is surprisingly ordinary. More of a crack than a bang.