Decisions at Gunpoint

June 5, 2008
By Sam Magnant, Essex Junction, VT

All I remember is he just dropped. I could feel the thud on the ground in my chest. My dad, my Uncle, and my Grandfather were all there, judging me. They didn’t care, so I guess I don’t either. It’s a sketchy thing to witness for a kid not tall enough to see over the counter to buy a comic book. The corpse just laid there, his eyes fixed on me, and he couldn’t look away. Their watchful eyes hit me in the back; I knew they were watching, to see what I’d do. Had to be tough, tough enough to take it. They didn’t care, so I pretended like I didn’t either. I held a straight face as long as humanly possible.
That night I ran into my bedroom, buried my head into a pillow and under a mountain of blankets, and cried. I didn’t want them to know, I’d feel like a wimp, they would think I was weak. I am not weak. I can take anything this world chucks at me; tough, gross, mean, anything.
“Babys cry, your aren’t a baby are you?” Dad always said to me.
That question stung, I was not a baby, and as far as I’m concerned never was. He called me a baby a lot, tough love I call it.
That tough love was changing then. I could feel it happening. Day by day my father grew more ancy, more angry. Every day as I left for school he would make his remarks.
“Go get your good grades, live your perfect life, leave your family behind.”
“…jealous” I would always convince myself.
I had a shot in life and it was something he couldn’t handle. Four Ivy league schools offered me scholarships for my SAT’s, I wasn’t a kid from the tracks condemned to a life of crime. My life looked more promising than his, and much cleaner. It was hard for him to deal with me being more than him.

Despite my grievances, prejudices, and ill temper towards my fathers disapproval, deep in my veins my families blood flows, and I cannot ignore my roots and my heritage. I love my family, my relatives. If I ever let them down I don’t think I could ever forgive myself. A look of disappointment on my fathers face cuts deeper into my heart than anything.

This steadfast love for my old man was both my blessing and my curse. I had been torn in two, ripped apart from decisions of my life, all starting in high school.

“When will you be back?” My father interrogated.
“Around five, why do you need to know?” I retorted.
“Got some things for you to do. You up for it?”
That worried me. He did not mean monotonous chores around the house. I would be lucky to receive that curse.
“Depends” I mouthed nervously through my two front teeth.
“A monkey got loose at pier 12, ill need you there to clean up, he crapped everywhere.”
Now obviously there was no monkey, there was no crap. This was code. There was a job that needed to be pulled, out on pier 12. Like lightning bolts of memory, I recollected the night I saw that body drop.

A large part of me wanted to say “Sorry Pop, got things to do,” but the family obligation and years of legacy was not something I could turn my back on. I didn’t need to say anything, a brief nod was all it took. As I turned to leave his raspy voice reached out and grabbed my attention, “This’ll be your induction, if it goes smoothly.”

Either it was bad luck or God was pissed at me for accepting the murderous job. Wind whipped past my face, all around, as I peered through the broken window of the weathered marina house I had selected for my shelter and cover from the elements. My left jacket pocket was heavily weighted by the 9 millimeter supplied to me by my elder. I had plenty of time before my victim left the houseboat and I would be able to corner him. You don’t go running into a scene like that. That’s how you get shot.

School sounded great to me right now. As I put up my tough front of a murderer, I glanced down to see both my hands were trembling. What I wouldn’t have given for a stack of text books and an uncomfortable college cot. Wimp thoughts. “Get ahold of yourself” I whispered.

I had a nonstop battle going in my mind. Bright college campuses with gorgeous chicks walking around, a future, safety. They were all so appealing to me, and within my grasp. On the other side, power loomed, captivating me. I knew if I were to pull that trigger tonight, nothing would stop me. I would be above everyone, a king, and a killer. There would be no turning back.

Dark. The lights coming from the 40 foot houseboat were extinguished He waltzed out, not a care in the world. I wondered what exactly it was that he did to deserve to die. He looked humble, not a killer. Maybe he was one of those business criminals, dooping my family out of thousands of dollars in stocks or something. All of a sudden this wave of hate and anger came over me. I rose, time to go.

The back door of the marina house lead to a pea stone path he would have to use to get to his car. Silent as a church mouse I hid just inside the doorframe, completely out of sight from his direction. Footsteps crunched on the crushed stone beneath his feet, betraying his position. I knew exactly when to show myself, and more importantly, the piece I had withdrawn from my pocket.

He looked up from jingling his keys and realized he was staring down the barrel of a handgun. He stopped dead, stopped breathing, moving, everything. I already felt the power.

“Down!” I yelled, making a swift kick to the back of his leg, making him crumble to his knees.

“Please, no! What have I done to you? What have I done?” His nervous voice was trembling, short hyperventilating breaths shot in and out of his mouth. His pleading tone grew louder and more desperate. Not genuine I’m sure, but what he said got to me. I had no idea what he had done, I wasn’t supposed to know, or care. Just kill the guy and get it over with. My hands started the trembling again, this time more intense than before, and I felt a drip of sweat fall off my brow and get sucked away by the wind. College or crime?
Just as I was about to pull away, and take a stroll down safe street, I glanced up. There, sitting in the street, was my fathers Cadillac. Judging me no doubt, didn’t think I had it. I knew it, he couldn’t trust me.
Anger filled my heart again, as my hand steadied on the hilt of my weapon. Easy street was farther away now. I was not about to prove my father right. I wouldn’t live with myself.
“Goodbye college” were the only words I could conjure, as my finger tightened around the trigger. The short blast from the 9 millimeter briefly ignited the night air. Just as I had remembered from my first experience with evil, the lifeless lump gained momentum towards the ground. He crashed down, alongside my education and college future. The dull glow of the moon showed the man lying facedown in the gravel, as I stood over him with a new found presence and power. I glanced up again at the street, and I saw a twisted grin of content light up my fathers face.

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