Tuesday, December 1, 2009

a life decided

The boy sits on his bed, his room erupting in red and blue lights. Wails of sirens roar up the street as the ambulance turns the corner. A bottle smashes against the wall as loud voices argue in the adjacent room. A hand lifts. A smack sounds. He hears his mother fall to the floor, crying, as his stepfather grabs her by the ankle and drags her into their bedroom. The door slams shut.

The boy leans over and slides a dinosaur puzzle box from under his bed. He shakes it, listening to the rattle of objects inside. His hands lift the cover as he stares at the colorful brontosaurus pieces he had put together so often when young that he could do it in his sleep now. He removes the gun sitting on top, checking the chamber to make sure it’s loaded. He slips his jacket on and walks calmly from his room, pausing to watch a little of the sitcom on television. He turns the volume up to hear it over the slaps and wailing cries in the other room. When the commercial featuring a talking gecko and car insurance comes on, he zips up his jacket and heads out the house.

The fall weather is picky. It flips from summery hot to wintery cold on a daily basis. The night has decided to take a more passive role, keeping the temperature even to where a person could either wear a coat if they wanted or go without depending on how late they plan to stay outside. The boy slips the gun into his pocket, fixes his collar, and heads out toward the business section of town.

Once reaching his favorite hangout spot, he leans against the wall with a leg bent and foot against the brick. He watches the shoppers. A mother hurries along carrying her child in arms while pushing the baby carriage filled with purchases. An older couple takes a leisurely stroll while doing more window shopping than interested in buying anything. The boy sees some old friends of his, high school buddies he once hanged out with before dropping out. The guys stroll by without recognizing him. His shoulders hunker lower into his jacket. He feels dejected and angry with the circumstances and the world.

In time an interesting sight begins to walk in his direction. Two young adults. The woman gabs on her cell phone. Her brother hurries behind with his hands filled with bags holding new clothes. They pay no attention to the boy as he pushes himself from the wall. They pay no attention when he starts moving in their direction.

They pay attention when the boy points the gun at them.

He asks for their money and valuables. The two adults stare incredulously at the boy’s gall: him standing there in plain view with so many witnesses on the street. They are amazed into speechlessness. Their minds freeze with indecision.

The boy assumes their silence as defiance. It takes a second for him to make a decision. So many options yet he chooses only one.

The gun fires. The bullet catches the adult man in the thigh. Someone screams. The world seems unreal for him now. The sight of blood and the smell of gunpowder frightens him. He dashes away, feeling naked and exposed as a hundred eyes glue onto his face to burn his features into their memories.

He gets home and slams the door. Silence covers the rooms. The smell of stale alcohol wraps over him. His parents’ shoes are absent by the front door. They had an appointment to meet Jim Bean and Jack Daniels at the local bar for the rest of the night. The boy hurries into his room, shoving the gun back into the childhood puzzle box. Placing it in there seems wrong, a contradiction in its own right. A wave of regret rolls through him. He doesn’t know why. He doesn’t know what it’s for while wondering whether the emotion deals with shooting the gun, with him running away empty-handed, or for not killing the guy who wouldn’t listen.

The feeling passes. The boy walks into the kitchen and fixes himself a sandwich. Then he plops down on the couch with his dinner and a soda as he flips on the tv news. He wonders if any reporters will talk about him . . .
Although the above story is fiction, something similar to it did happen. Back in October, my two cousins were walking home when a mugger confronted them. He shot my cousin in the leg before taking off. The police have finally captured the youth whom they will convict in an adult court for attempted robbery, attempted murder, and carrying a concealed weapon. My cousin is fine, although the doctors left the bullet in his thigh.

I don’t know if the boy’s life was like what I described in my fiction story. I don’t know what his personal circumstances were for him to decide to take a gun and try to rob someone. I cannot ever put myself in such a person’s shoes to understand what he did, not only to his life but to his own family.

With the holiday season upon us, many shoppers will become distracted with their gift-buying. The recession has hit many of us in hard ways, and there will be people who will make the same decision like the boy who shot my cousin.

Please take the time to keep yourselves safe during the hectic season.


  1. oh michelle i am so sorry to hear abotu what happened to your cousin. that's awful. i am glad he was not more seriously injured though and hope he makes a full recovery.

    that you can even begin to imagine what brought the shooter to the place where he committed this crime and put it into such a story speaks of your great capacity for empathy.

  2. MDGF:

    Thanks for this. It should go without saying - the 'keep safe' part - but being reminded via a more-or-less true story may bring the point home for some.

    There are lots of dangerous people out there, for a variety of reasons, and it always pays to be aware.

  3. Wow... fantastic writing, as always. The really sad part is all the circumstances that prompt such actions. Glad to hear your cousin is recovering.

  4. What Lime said. . . I'm sorry for what happened to your cousin, and glad to know that his injuries ended up being relatively benign. His guardian angel earned his pay, that day. . .

    And I admire your attempt to 'get behind the eyes' of the young shooter. But you'll never really know what his thought process was that led him to shoot your cousin. And some people are just mean bastards. . .

  5. Well, I for one, would like to hear more about the boy.

  6. Hey there,
    Season over, 2 more trophies in case, and miss the kids already. Great story and message. Not one to usually recomend a book, but try The Gift of Fear. Eyeopening to say the least. Learn to listen to that little voice. Great book for the ladies in my life. Three have already read it.
    Coach O

  7. I'm so glad you're cousin wasn't injured worse...wishing him a speedy recovery!

  8. Lime: I'm trying to give him an excuse. Truly, I don't know what the young man's mentality could have been to do this. Like Desmond said in his comment, the mugger could have been a bastard. Yet it's better not to hold in the anger for the situation.

    MLGF: More so during the holidays too. People get distracted, and might not take those extra steps to keep safe.

    Catladylarew: True. I would rather not have written the story to begin with then to have a family member experience something like it.

    Desmond: You're right. The mugger could have been an asshole from the very beginning. But I like to think that perhaps he has some good in him to change after all of this.

    Coltin: Perhaps I'll continue the fiction story at a later date...

    Coach O: Glad to hear you won! Congrats! I'll check the book out.

    Colby: Thanks for your kind wishes.

    Everyone, thank you for your kind wishes also!

  9. Wonderful insight, Michelle. Wonderful fiction, and great message. People are desperate, which makes them unpredictable.

    On a lighter note, I have a contest up. ;-D

  10. Great post, Michelle. I'm sorry about your cousin, but I think you captured the imagery of a similar situation rather well. I have thought about this from time to time as I write, wondering if I can really "get in the head" of someone like this. It's a challenge to be sure.

    Anyway, stay safe everyone and thanks for sharing, Michelle.

  11. Damn, that's some outstanding writing, Michelle. Great story, and yeah, it has that ring of "based on actual events".

  12. Demon Hunter: Thanks! And thanks for the head's up about the contest.

    Eric: Yes, I think it's always easier to get into the head of the characters we like versus the ones we don't. That's the biggest challenge writers face.

    Knucklehead: That's what I was looking for, that "realness." Glad you enjoyed it and keep safe.


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