Life at 13
He gave me a gun when I turned 13. Loaded with sarcasm and stinging words, the dirty rite was handed over, tarnished after years of misuse. He poured himself another drink. It helped him deal with his own coming of age, helped him hold his own gun steady.
I was ecstatic and fearful, a world of power and control in my hands, a world of destruction and pain slowly beating its drums in my mind. The gun sat silent in my hands, cool and warm, glowing dull in the smoky air. It seemed to writhe until I gripped it tighter. Father always said to grip it tight. So I did.
I sprang through the door, shoving the torn screen to the side and reveling in the glory of the afternoon, whooping in the burning rays. I raised the gun above my head and ran for miles and minutes and hours and days and circled the acres which I inhabited in the summer and tended in the winter. I didn’t have anything to shoot but myself. It took me a few minutes to realize this as I scoured the thicket to the south of the sagging porch.
No birds chirped, no mice scurried through the small wheat patch, no squirrels stood watch in the trees. The dull buzz of a million cicadas and the summer haze took precedence as the ambience, just subtle enough to stop me from thinking too clearly. Beads of sweat dripped from my brow as I waved the gun from side to side. I couldn’t find a target.
Eventually the gun was pointed at my temple as I scratched away, unaware of the power I held in my fist. I tried to extract some hidden thoughts with the tip of the pistol. Touching the barrel to my ear, my forehead, the nape of my neck, I tried to communicate something gleaned from romping on my Father’s property. But I was never good with words. The gun was always better with telling people what Father wanted, and maybe it could tell me what I wanted to say.
Standing not fifty feet from a rotting cork tree, I waited, listening to the desperate cries of cicadas, and the buzzing of the heat reflecting back into the air. Long grass tickled my ankles. It rustled in the heavy, fat breeze that had just washed warm rolling waves over my shoulders and neck. The gun gleamed in the thick air. It was angled against my temple again, and somehow the light from the afternoon sun was reflected into my eyes. I shifted the gun to my left hand.
I’ve been on this strange plot of land since my aunt died. My mother hadn’t wanted me, but it turned out she was sick in the head. Or sicker than most. Everyone’s a little sick. My uncle had tried to raise me, but my father found me first. I was only 5 when he took me out of school, in a rundown neighborhood in Philadelphia. Now he was Father. Now I was in Tennessee. Things had changed a lot.
The rifle Father kept on his shoulder at all times was first cast by his father, when he didn’t have enough money to buy his own. It was a trusty weapon, fired thousands of times, killed thousands of things and people on occasion. It provided. That was the other thing Father called himself: Provider. He was awfully proud of himself, and his small dusty expanse of land. It was his. First his father’s, now his. Father liked to stress family ties.
I haven’t seen my uncle in eight years. His old hunting cap hangs in the parlor above the archway to the kitchen. There are several stains and a few holes in the brim.
The wind slowly crept up on me. It had been building all day, unable to lift the dense air, yet still growing in intensity. It had finally mustered the strength to move through the air as a formidable force. It crested on my shoulders and forced me down, gun still pointed to my skull. My finger also crept with the wind, inching its way to the trigger. My hand tightened around the stock, strangling it. The safety had worn away long ago.
The wind continued to strengthen, and eventually I was on my knees, gun poised to fire. My finger on the trigger. Body shaking in the air. Sweat streaming into my eyes. The sun beating down. My mind mentally beating itself. My thoughts running together. The gun had done its job well.
Suddenly, silence fell. Hard. The cicadas quieted down, the heat seemed to dissipate, and the sky began to grow cloudy. The wind went from lazy, heavy movement to swirling frantic motion, wrapping itself around my body and ripping itself away so quick I wasn’t entirely sure that I was clothed, that my skin was even there. My fingers spasmed, and mildly pulled on the trigger. Nothing happened; the gun remained silent. I shivered again, and my fingers clenched; the gun still said nothing. At 13, my hand still wasn’t quite strong enough to effectively use the firearm.
I tried to pull the gun away from my temple, but the gathering storm pushed it deeper in my skin. I now had a mark where it was resting. The wind howled, reaching higher and higher speeds as it tried to lift me from my knees and throw me face first to the field. The grass swayed, and then swished, and then whipped back and forth. My jeans were slowly stained green, and my shirt was discolored from the humidity in the air. It remained hot and heavy right outside the small cyclone that surrounded me.
I was in the center of a maelstrom. The gun began to speak, first in whispers, speaking of when it was first molded, to the murmurs of when it was first loaded, to the warnings of when it was first aimed, to the shouting and screams of its first taste of action. Father always treasured the screams. He said that they were satisfying every time. Father liked the power.
Power that was now coursing through the dull metal, as it heated up and quickly cooled, turning to ice in my left hand, trapping my entire arm in a permanent firing squad. I was finally nervous. I didn’t want to hear the gun speak to me. I didn’t want to know the meaning of its murmurs. I wish I hadn’t asked for it to be loaded first. My body spasmed again and this time, my index finger reacted in just the way the gun had been waiting for, and brought down holy lightning from the clouds above, newly formed in the sky. Spirit separated from body, and chunks of skull splattered across the field, the guilty bullet flying through the air stained wine red.
I couldn’t believe it. I had done it. I had expelled my thoughts into the void, showing the world my innermost intentions. The sparks that flickered in my eyes died down, to a dim glow that mirrored the gun itself. My arm dropped after almost being torn out of its corresponding shoulder from the force of a bomb going off in its palm. It lay limply in my lap. The fingers, the revealing fingers twitched once, twice, and then stopped. I remained at my knees. My thoughts began pouring out of my head for everyone to see. Whether anyone would come and find me to read the machinations of a slightly sick child was another thing. I was a little concerned with that.
The gun dropped to the field of grass, and drifted away on a bed of faded green and thatched yellow. No one would ever find it. I didn’t worry about this. I didn’t worry about anything. Father didn’t know I had left. He wouldn’t find me, I was well hidden. Subconsciously, I think I engineered it this way.
The wind had finally died down. The sky had turned to starry night. The air cooled and rustled the grass gently, caressing it back to sleep. My eyes remained open, unblinking. They watered in the wind. I swear it was because of the breeze.
My brains, blown out, lay behind me. They conferred with each other, discussing their freedom. The stars flew by overhead, racing to the horizon, diving past the edge of the earth. I was motionless for the night. I needed some time to form new thoughts, thoughts that I couldn’t express without the gun.
It was sick, in all honesty. Sick sick sick. I hate being dependent on anything. Let alone a gun.
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