The World at Large

A gun rests on my passenger seat. It’s a pistol—a.38 revolver, Smith and Wesson—I paid cash for it at the pawn shop an hour ago, even registered for a safety class while they did a background check.

It sits snug in its holster, a box of bullets on top of the receipt like a paper weight. All that’s left is explaining it to my wife. Lucy hates guns, and flat out refuses to let me bring one into our home. She calls them instruments of death, which they are, I didn’t buy it to compliment the new throw rug in the living room.

Is this because of the raccoons?

Her voice in my head. I’ll tell her again that it wasn’t raccoons. And no, it wasn’t an impulse purchase, unlike her with those throw rugs. I’ll say that I’ve been going back and forth on it for a while—since the baby—and that last night only made the decision easier.

Last night we’d been asleep when the dogs started barking and going crazy. They woke Henry and he joined in with the crying. It was a little after one in the morning, 1:09 according to the alarm, when Lucy rushed to go check on Henry and I scrambled to the window to see what the all the fuss was about outside.

Police cruisers throwing red and blue lights into the night, swirls of light bouncing off windows and cars along the street. At least three of them down at the Coleman place. I stepped outside, the ground cold and hard, sharp on my bare feet while the breeze cut through my thin t-shirt. Police officers with flash lights traversed the street, checking the shadows, the woods around back as Old man Coleman, looking roused in his robe, barked at a younger officer. The focus seemed to be on the dark slope behind the houses. A strip of woods with a creek at the bottom.

Our street runs past the college so sometimes there’s music and loud kids up and down the road. Occasionally a wallet or phone gets lifted out of a car, but never anything serious that I can remember. I rubbed my arms, thinking about all the recent crime I’d seen on the news lately.

An officer greeted me in the street, explained that Mr. Coleman had seen four or five teenagers breaking into his garden shed then messing his back door. Said they were still “at large.” Coleman had come out with a shotgun and they’d scattered off into the woods. The officer assured me they had a few guys on the chase. He was maybe my age, or a little older, with graying temples and a good old boy accent. He advised me to lock up my cars, deadbolt the door.

I stared into the woods. In the late fall you could usually see the lights on in the houses through the trees, but at that hour it was all black. I lingered around as the police packed up and the cruisers sped off one behind the other, leaving our street quiet and unguarded. Back inside I checked the windows and locks, found my old wooden baseball bat in the back of the closet. Henry was still fussing, so Lucy brought him into our bed. I never did get back to sleep.

A deep yawn as I drive off from the pawn shop. Last night robbed my sleep. I’m tired of being defenseless. I look over to the Accu-grip of that .38 peeking out from the belt clip holster. Now I can rest assured, even if all I know about guns I learned from cartoons. War movies. TV shows and being a kid. But I need to protect my family. Bcause to me right now, it seems the world’s at large.

I keep thinking about those teens. What if they break into our house? Will I pick up this gun like old man Coleman had, squeeze the grip and put bullets in their bodies? Right now, in the sunshine, no, there’s no way. But last night, in all that darkness, breaths shaking and hands trembling, I can’t say.

After things had died down last night, Lucy lay beside me with Henry to her chest. She said it was probably nothing, maybe a dog or a raccoon rummaging around back there. Mr. Coleman couldn’t hear all that well anyway. I told her how we needed to get better about locking doors and our windows. She stroked Henry’s head, cooing softly to him until he slept.

It’s dusk as I pull into our driveway. On the radio is an expert on world affairs, talking about the possibility of nuclear war with Russia. Lucy’s car windows are down, a gaping invitation, broadcasting to the world that we are easy pickings. The kitchen light glows. I glance down to my seat. Not anymore we aren’t.

I’ll have to find a safe place for my instrument of death. I can ask my friends who have guns. Shotguns and hunting rifles, those complicated Glock type handguns. I’ll talk to them, see what they do for safety. Where they keep their instruments. I’ll have to remember to tell Lucy about the safety class.

Lucy doesn’t get it. She still takes the world at its word. She doesn’t listen to the news, doesn’t understand what’s going on out there in the darkness. She trusts people. She trusts me.

I sit back against my seat, not so sure as I was at the pawn shop. Russia has a buildup of warships in the Mediterranean, with newer, bigger, annihilating bombs ready to go. The U.S. doesn’t have as many bombs, because of all the treaties.

The expert is of the opinion that Putin is flexing his muscles. I glance at the gun on the seat. Flexed and ready to enter our home. I’m about to walk into the house armed for a fight with my wife. She’ll have our baby, I’ll have this gun.

And yet, I’m overmatched.





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