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I ask, "Why?"
A cool wind rustled the dark green oak trees along the edge of the berm. On the range below, Isaac Davison rolled over onto one elbow and wiped the sweat out of his eyes with the back of his sleeve. “Feels good, doesn't it?” he asked his shooting partner Larry.
“It's gonna get real hot pretty soon,” he replied. “It usually does.” He pushed a ten-round magazine up into the well of his M1A, dropped his right cheek onto the stock, and began shifting to find his natural point of aim. Isaac sighed, lay back in position, and followed his example, inserting the clip of 30-06 into his Garand and bringing his sights on target.
After he finished his eight shots he unslung and pushed up his muffs.
“How you think you did?” asked Larry, doing the same.
“Not so hot. Two I called low and to the right. And I think my sling slipped on the last one there. You?”
“I don't think I did too bad. Let's go look.”
Isaac reached the target line first. “Whaddya mean not too bad? You didn't get one shot outside the 9-ring.”
“I mean I didn't get all Vs.”
“Right. Oh well, you won that round. There's my two 8s down there and a 7 up where my sling slipped. Shall we try again?”
They walked back to the 200 yard line and lay down. “I heard the CMP is having a sale on .22 match ammo,” said Larry.
“That so? I should probably get some. I don't know how much I have, but it's been a while since I bought any. And all the prices on ammo keep going up.”
“This stuff was a pretty good deal. I forget exactly what it was, but I was definitely going to pick some up. Say, are you going to the open carry demonstration up in Tennessee next Saturday? José and I were planning to drive up together, but we wanted to know if you were interested in coming along.”
Isaac looked at his friend in surprise. Rarely did Larry venture beyond the range, library, and grocery store. “You know, I'd like to, but Mary Ann and Bethany are coming over Saturday.”
“I forgot. Some other time maybe.”
“Sure. Tell José I'd have liked to come, but it just didn't pan out.”
Isaac sat with his daughter and granddaughter on the back deck, eating a late lunch and talking of their various activities.
“Granddad, can I come to the range sometime?” asked Bethany. Dad said he'd get me an M1 for my birthday, but I haven't shot my .22 in a long time and I want to practice some.”
“You shot it just before New Year's,” corrected her mother. “That's not a long time ago.”
“Well, all right. But it has been a while. May I, Granddad?”
“I suppose. I'd take you over this afternoon, but that would aggravate George. Does he have a weekend off from soccer anytime soon?” George was Isaac's twelve year old, soccer crazy grandson. He and his father went to practices almost every weekend.
Mary Ann thought for a moment. “Two weekends from today should be free,” she said. “You could go then. I'm sure he'll be thrilled.”
Isaac was sure too. George enjoyed shooting not because he enjoyed hitting the paper, but because he enjoyed making a bang. His muzzle control was atrocious, and Isaac often thought days on the range would be much more relaxed if someone would just give the kid a bundle of firecrackers.
“Patrick's invited too, of course,” he said, referring to his son-in-law, as he and Mary Ann began to clear the dishes. “If he cares to come.”
“I'll tell him,” she said.
Bethany had wandered down to the garden, and Isaac watched her walking between the rows, reaching down every few feet to uproot an weed that caught her eye. “She's growing up,” he commented. “Almost eighteen. I remember when you were that age.”
“And a rough age it was,” laughed his daughter.
The faint sound of the telephone reached the deck. Isaac pushed open the glass door, laid the plates he was carrying on the counter, and picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Hello Isaac? This is José,” said the familiar accented voice. “You know how Larry and I were going to drive to Tennessee for the rally, but then the thing with my wife came up and it didn't work out for me to go, so Larry went up by himself?”
“The man who organized the rally just called me and said Larry had been arrested.”
“What?” He must have heard wrong. Larry? What could they have arrested him for?
“Yes,” José was saying, “for something about starting a riot. Apparently it's something to do with crossing a state line.... I don't have all the details. Do you want John's number?”
“The man who organized the rally.”
“Yeah, give it to me.” Isaac fumbled for a pencil and copied down the number. “Thanks José. I'm sure it's some mistake.”
“I hope so,” said José, and wished him a good afternoon.
Isaac absentmindedly hung up the phone and turned around. Mary Ann was sitting at the table watching him. He sat down in the chair across from her and rested his head in his hands. Larry arrested? What a joke.
“Dad?” he heard his daughter asking. “Dad, are you all right?”
He looked at her blankly. “Yeah. I'm fine.”
She looked at him quizzically, than seemed to realize he wanted to be alone and went to the porch door. “The garden is certainly doing well,” she commented.
“Um,” grunted Isaac.
The door swung shut.
Lady Gaga was crooning her latest hit when the alarm came on at 5:30 the next morning. Isaac rolled out of bed and quickly switched it off. He dressed hurriedly, buckled on his pistol, ate a bowl of instant oatmeal, and headed for the truck. Within a few minutes he was on the freeway, headed east toward Tennessee.
By eight he was driving around downtown Nerrad, trying to find directions to the county jail. Of course it had to be Sunday, so the courthouse was shut up tight, and even the two loiterers sitting on the bench in the town square couldn't -- or wouldn't -- tell him its location.
Isaac rounded the corner and found himself in the parking lot of the police department. Someone here ought to be able to tell him where the jail was. He tossed his camo jacket over the Garand lying between the front seats, walked up the cement steps to the dilapidated brick building, and opened the door. A chime sounded, and a middleaged, heavyset blond looked up from her magazine behind the desk. “What can I do for you, Sir?” she asked.
“I've got a few questions. First off, what do you know about Larry Balarn?”
“That guy they brought in yesterday for disturbn' the peace? He got took down to the county jail as of last night.”
“Arrested for disturbing the peace? You know anything specific he did?”
“Sure don't.” The woman shrugged and looked about to return to her magazine.
Isaac sighed. “Could you tell me where the jail is?” he asked.
“Where the jail's at?” The woman seemed elated at the prospect of ridding her office of this intruder. She briskly pulled out a map of the county and a pen and showed him how to find his way to the main government complex several miles north. “And the jail's just up on the left,” she said cheerily. “You can't miss it.”
Isaac couldn't. The razorblade barbed wire, the tinted-window surveillance towers, and the drab block walls all served to make the Nerrad County Jail unmistakable. He parked and walked into the jail.
“No weapons,” said the guard behind the desk, pointing to Isaac's hip.
“Sorry about that,” said Isaac, and walked back out to put his pistol in the glove compartment.
When he returned, he showed his I.D., emptied his pockets, passed through the metal detectors, and was led down a narrow cement corridor to a room with three grungy couches.
“Wait here,” ordered the guard, and disappeared through another secure door. Isaac remained standing. A security camera stared down from the corner, and an air vent hummed from the ceiling. The secure door swung open again, and Larry walked in ahead of the guard.
He sank dejectedly into one corner of the couch nearest the door. Then he sat up straight and grinned at Isaac. “I sure didn't expect to get arrested coming up here,” he said.
“What'd you do?”
“Oh, we were all talking about how the government is overstepping its bounds and ignoring the Second Amendment and all the rest of the Bill of Rights, and I said something about how I'd fought for this country and would do it again, and any government that would try to take away my rights would deserve to be overthrown, and ought to be, even if it pretended to be our own. Well, then they came and arrested me. Accused me of intent to incite a riot or some such nonsense.”
“Well, that's the story.”
Isaac exploded. “Talk about the government overstepping its bounds. Intent to incite a riot indeed! There's this thing called freedom of speech I guess they've never heard of.”
“Careful,” said Larry, “or they'll have you in here for causing another ruckus.”
The blue lights flashed out of the thunderstorm onto his rearview mirror just before he reached the Tennessee/Georgia border. Isaac pulled onto the shoulder, turned off the engine, and sat watching the raindrops roll down his windshield. Thunder pounded somewhere off in the distance. He glanced at his mirror. The door to the patrol car was opening now.
What idiot would call at two in the morning? Bethany rolled out of bed and tiptoed down the hall. “No,” she heard her mother say. “No, it can't be.”
Bethany's birthday dawned oppressively hot and still. The ceremony was short, a good thing because of the armies of mosquitoes and gnats that buzzed around the mourners. She watched from the edge of the parking lot as they lowered the coffin. She could hear her mother behind her, telling it again. “-- and they say they thought he had a gun drawn, but when they searched his pistol was in the glove compartment, and --”
She didn't need to hear it again. They'd killed her grandfather. She clenched her fists. She had her rifle now. A Garand, just like his had been. She would keep his memory alive. She would.