ONE MORNING EARLY, BEFORE MY FATHER DISAPPEARS, he shows me how to fire a gun. It was cold outside, my toes were tingly pieces of numb meat. Walking out there barefoot as he aimed at his weathered target he’d shot at almost every day. My hands tight under my arm pits.
Without looking at me or stopping what he was doing, he asked, “Why you up so early?” His voice coated with cigarette smoke and beer. Scratchy.
With a wave of his hand he says, “C’mere son, every man should know how to fire his weapon.”
“Fuck dogs.” He says, “I don’t care what people say. A man’s true best friend is his gun.”
After that he fires, that loud smack in the air that makes my ear drums pop, makes everything sound far away. Some early morning out-of-body experience.
Finally, he looks at me. His eyes distant, still coming back to reality from concentration. Just him and his gun. The only thing he really loves.
Out here, shooting all night again. You can tell from the deep dark circles outlining his eyes.
He puts it out toward me and says, “Here. Take it.” I do.
His arms, he wraps around me, his rough callused hands guiding mine. Gripping my hands gripping the gun. My cheek pressed firmly against the stock, cold metal. “Grab it,” he says, “like you mean it.” And I do, or try to.
Lifting it up, he tells me, “Its easy. Just like that cereal with the munchkins or whatever the hell they are; You snap it back.”
He cocks the firearm.
“Crackle . . . and Pop.” The metal shoves me into his chest and the butt of the gun hits my collarbone in a punch. A hit like brass knuckles. The area already bruising. Tiny blood vessels ruptured, seeping under my skin. I rub the skin, the bone, and hold back tears.
The rifle hangs from his right hand and he studies me for a while, then laughs. “Feels good. Don’t it?"
This hazy afternoon, my footsteps were loud and echoed down the halls of the school unlike ever before. It seemed empty. And a part of me almost wished it was.
The prescription medication I’d been on for some time, seemed perfect for the occasion. Xanax. Prozac. Klonopin.
Vicodin-left over from somebody’s surgery, just sitting in the medicine cabinet.
I thought, what the hell.
All the drugs were acting against each other and working together, creating a manic and lucid state inside me. The 8-ball of coke kept me alert. The other stuff smoothed it all out, made everything a little easier.
The rifle in my hands, my eye focused down the scope. The butt of it against my shoulder. The heavy piece of black metal in all its morbid beauty, makes me feel like a God. It’s easy to picture Bryan Rambo at the end of it, the gun warm inside my hands and poking the back of his throat so he gags and slobbers, thick wet saliva that runs down his chin with tears and snot. His pretty hazel eyes all watery. Just like a bitch in some low-budget porno.
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by Steven Gulvezan
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