Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Things That Kill

I have been going through my portfolio, partly in an attempt to see what I have that I can submit to various anthologies and magazines and maybe even put together a collection of my flash stories for kindle. This is a story I wrote a while back for a contest on I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 The Things That Kill
by Lisa McCourt Hollar

 My step-dad kept a gun under the bed. We all knew it was there. We also knew we would get the shit beaten out of us if we touched it. He kept it loaded. “What good does a gun do, if the bullets aren’t in it,” he would say when my mom complained. “If some dickhead breaks in and I have to take the time to put bullets in it, we might as well kiss our asses’ goodbye.”

Mom didn’t argue too much with Jones over the issue. The one time she did, after catching my sister lying on the floor, staring under the bed at the gun…but never touching, he’d pulled the gun out and pointed it at my mom. It was a rifle and the barrel of it scared the crap out of me, seeing him point it at her. “One more word out of you and I’ll shoot you myself. Then you won’t have to worry about whether or not Ashley shoots her foot off.

One day Jones decided I was big enough to go hunting. I was only ten and by law, supposed to go through some kind of training for kids. Jones said that was for a bunch of wusses and pansies and no kid of his was going to be taught how to shoot by dickless assholes that thought guns killed. “Guns don’t kill, people do. Now let’s go kill us a deer.”

And that was the end of that. Mom was still sporting a black eye from the week before when she’d tried to suggest he should cut back on his drinking, so she wasn’t about to suggest that I might be too young to go hunting. 

We were out all day, starting before dawn and coming home after dark. We hadn’t seen a deer anywhere, but Jones was a patient man, at least where hunting was concerned. He said we were going out again in the morning.  My mom must not have been thinking about the black eye because she reminded him that I had school in the morning and couldn’t go hunting. He let her know that I could and gave her a shiner on her other eye to match the first.

I hated him. I hated my mom a little more for letting him treat her like a human punching bag.
The next day Jones dragged me out of bed while it was still dark. For the second time I rubbed deer piss on me, but it was getting me out of school, so I kept my mouth shut.

We sat in the cold again most of the day. Jones brought along beer and cracked one open. I was surprised when he passed it to me.

“Go ahead,” he said, “your mom don’t need to know.”

“I didn’t really want to, but out there, alone in the woods with Jones, I was afraid not to. 

Swallowing I grimaced; I didn’t care for the taste. Jones laughed. “Grow hair on your chest,” he said, taking it from me, drinking, and then passing it back again. Reluctantly I took another swig.  That one didn’t taste so bad; future alcoholic in the making.

Most of the day went by without a sighting, then, just when we were about to call it a day, we saw a big buck in a clearing. I was tired and just wanted to go home, but Jones wasn’t leaving without his prize.  Jones knelt down next to me and held the gun out. I just stared at it dumbly. He had said never to touch the gun.

“Take it you moron,” he said. 

I took the gun, the shape of it foreign in my hand. He showed me how to hold the butt against my shoulder. Then he helped me aim it at the buck. 

“Now all you have to do is pull the trigger.”

I stared at the buck, sweating in spite of the cold. My hand was shaking. The creature looked so beautiful and regal.

“Pull the trigger you wuss,” Jones said, his voice rough. I felt the communion he and I experienced that day fading away.  “PULL IT!” He didn’t shout; so much as emphasize his anger at me. Closing my eyes I pulled the trigger. Pain shot through my shoulder as the rifle exploded backwards. I heard Jones cussing as he yanked it from my hand. Opening my eyes I saw him aiming at the fleeing buck. The deer managed to escape into the woods before Jones could get him in his sights.

I arrived home black and blue from the beating he’d given me. He walked in past my mother and shoved the gun back under the bed. My mother took one look at me and started crying. Some sort of motherly instinct seemed to take over and she threw herself on Jones as soon as he reentered the room. She was pummeling him with her fists and screaming that he was NOT to touch her children. Ashley was in the corner crying. Jones slammed his fist into my mom’s mouth. Blood exploded everywhere. He knocked her down with that punch and I saw her head hit the table and bust open. Something inside me snapped.

Rushing to their room I pulled the gun out from under the bed. Returning to the living room I pointed it at my step-dad and told him to get out. He laughed. 

Grabbed Ashley off the floor, he shook her like a rag doll. “Give me the gun,” he growled, holding her in the air.

Shaking my head, I aimed the gun at Jones and pulled the trigger. I didn’t close my eyes this time, so I saw him move, putting Ashley in front of him. In slow motion I saw the bullet hit Ashley in her stomach, and then pass through, slamming into Jones’s heart. 

When the police arrived, the gun was back under the bed. Jones was right. Guns don’t kill people. Bullets do.

Copyright© 2011 Lisa McCourt Hollar.  All rights reserved.

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