It is a Very Nice Gun

January 5, 2008
By Ashley Chang, Encinitas, CA

It is a very nice gun.

Jack coughs, holding stalwart Pain in his hands. His fingers stroke the cold, heavy metal and leave impossible prints on the lackluster surface. He, the small and petulant boy, can’t help but feel some hint, some taste, some minute, subtle, overwhelming suggestion of power with this black weapon of choice asleep in his sweaty palms. Such an elementary machine, small, simple enough to use – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or even a fifth grader, to understand that one flex of the finger means something final and concrete. Jack’s pulse begins to give him a headache for the tempo at which it throbs; his forehead gathers a film of lightly salted water; the muscles in his arms and chest twitch out of sheer excitement as he thinks of telling it ok go. How effortless. Like a thin, blue, grocery store rubber band that snaps. How easy. Fire. Boom. He can do it. He will do it. He thinks about Jill and how stupid she is.

Jill is trying to forget. She can’t tie the weedy little flowers, the California chaparral, together – her fingers are too cold and adamantly refuse to listen properly. Time for a time out. Jill swallows as she rolls onto her back and decides that she doesn’t care whether or not anyone sees her panties. She feels guilty; she probably shouldn’t have punched Jack in the stomach so he cried. And she hadn’t even apologized. An ugly, muddy nightmare churns in her tummy, acidic and reproachful. Perhaps he’ll forgive her, and they could pretend like it never happened, just like that.

Jack wants to do it.

Jill wants more than anything in the world to say sorry, because Guilt is making her sick. She will not, however, be the weak one here; she will not so willingly, so readily, so earnestly and optimistically throw her ego out the window, letting it roll down the dirt path and splinter as it hits a strategically and tragically placed stone. She cannot do it. She will not do it.

Jack knows exactly where Jill is.

She doesn’t want to, and no one can make her.

It’s called the Hill. They play there, sometimes. But not today, not right this minute.

So there.

Jack laces a weedy finger around the trigger. Jill deserves this, and Jack would be a sinner if he didn’t serve the girl in braids her just desserts. Deep down, though, he almost feels ashamed of himself for seeking petty revenge, for prolonging their problem, for his keenness to be just as much at fault as she, a second culprit. Oh well. He pulls –

I hate you.

Jill screams. It isn’t because of the magnificent crack, nor because of the erupted cloud of charcoal smoke littered with firework debris, nor because of the pleading, possessed glint in Jack’s eyes and the fever painted into his ruddy cheeks. Blame it on the shell, the pellet, the bullet, the metal virus that rips her freckled skin, cutting flesh, splintering bone, bleeding blood, stealing the wind from her lungs and slapping her face, throwing her down, down, down to the bottom of the Hill in less than a moment, a fragment of time. He gets her good. He gets her damn good. He makes her cry, and now they are even. They name the children Fair and Square.

And then she realizes that this – this – is all her fault. Jill sobs so hard she weeps. She started it; she is a bad person; she needs to make things better.

The chaparral bends beneath her toes, and a chilled, white laundry scented breeze flirts with the hem of her paisley dress. She glances, he glances, they look away. And, body stiff but relenting, Jill holds her best friend close. She forgets how to breathe and lets the seconds pass. Jack watches them stumble by, resigned, and feels the fabric of her skirt on his skin.

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