A story I wrote after reading in the news about an accidental shooting in a small neighborhood. It wasn't national news, but it rocked the community and the accident was something that might have happened in many of our homes. I chose to write from the viewpoint of the victim...
Instant anger flooded my awareness as the immense pressure of the bullet hit my chest. How could something hit me so hard and why? It was the hardest punch I could ever imagine and as the thud of it hit my senses, my body was lifted through the air and thrown back against some chairs. Sure I have seen this so many times in the movies; the good guy gets shot, falls back against the furniture that splinters into a million pieces, and then gets back on his feet to join in the fight. Television hides the real effects in its effort to provide entertainment for us as viewers. It is so far removed from reality. There was a huge, a massive…, no – more like an avalanche of information that flooded my brain in that one second and yet I was aware of each and every detail of the information. If you could imagine a computer printout of pages of code, that is what my brain felt like.
I was angry at the noise that hit my eardrums, silencing everything else around me. No voices, no birds, no wind in the trees just a large force that wiped out any ability of my body to collect more information. Everything was internalized in that instant. It was as though I was experiencing a bomb inside of my chest that wiped out all sound waves in my general vicinity, leaving me in a vacuum of silence, but a very loud silence. I was instinctively angry at the bullet for interrupting my normal level of hearing and wanted to turn time back and rid myself of the oppression of the great deafening silence.
My eyes seemed to ache with the pressure of the blast, losing their ability to focus as time seemed to have stopped. Although I could see myself being thrown through the air, it was not something that I was involved with and I didn’t have any worry about the pain of falling on hard furniture or hurting myself. I was simply going through the repercussions of the blast without expending any effort and was actually quite relaxed in my muscles. I think that my eyes closed as my body eventually succumbed to gravity and worked its way to the floor after knocking over one chair and then draping my limp body over the legs of another chair. Once the sound stopped, my eyes opened again and I noticed the white ceiling with swirls of paint. I wanted to stay right there and just stare at the swirls, nothing else, but I was still moving.
A metallic but bitter taste mixed with salt was on my tongue and I found it curious. What had I eaten that might cause such an aftertaste. Why was I having such a hard time remembering anything? What had I been doing and what day was it? My grandmother’s face came into focus and I remembered her offering me more corn when I ate dinner at her house as a young child with my parents. I could hear my grandfather’s chuckle when I would say something smart. My best friend in high school was smiling at me and I knew my brother was walking towards me to give me back the quarter he stole from me when I was eight. There was something nagging at the back of my mind – something I was supposed to do.
The white swirls on the ceiling were making me feel a little dizzy. I remembered my first job interview at the fast food joint down the street from my parents’ home and the strange and creepy man that hired me. I felt coolness moving over my hands and arms and I wondered what I had done with the sweater my grandmother had knit for me; I loved the shiny silver buttons on that sweater. Maybe I was dreaming and I was supposed to get up, but I couldn’t even try to move my muscles since my body was still sliding across the floor at a snail’s pace.
I needed to breathe. It was okay if I couldn’t move any muscles or hear anything and I liked the white swirls on the ceiling, but what was stopping my breathing? Who was stopping the air? Why couldn’t I just suck in a big chestful of air like drinking water? I was so thirsty for air. Someone needed to open a window or something so I could breathe again. Little black dots were starting to move over the white swirls on the ceiling and they were not nice. I wanted the clean white swirls again. Couldn’t someone give me a drink, I mean some air? Was I thirsty or did I want air? I was getting confused.
Somehow I was able to look down at my body without moving my eyes; my body was draped unnaturally over the chair, I saw the blood staining one whole side of my shirt and knew that I was probably not going to stay conscious much longer. Without the pressure of needing air anymore, I could see myself and was relaxed. I had no pain anymore and there was complete silence.
“Bobby!” I hollered at him as he stomped into the house in his boots. “You are getting mud everywhere. Take those things off in the porch.”
“Aw, Mom. That’s not from me. I just want a drink of water. I won’t make any messes, see.” He lifted up one of his boots to show me that there wasn’t any mud on the soles. Instead he saw that they were caked with mud.
I knew that some things were not going to change and one of them was getting Bobby to remember to take off his boots before he came into the house. He loved being outside and the focus of his brain was never on taking his shoes off in the house or keeping his things neat. I loved him dearly but he was a handful. His carefree attitude towards life was refreshing compared to my worries. His quick smile and spontaneous laughter made everyone around him happy.
“Can Jim come over this afternoon?” he asked as he tried to take long steps to get out of the kitchen without leaving too many more clumps of mud on the floor. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, waiting for my response.
“Yeah, I guess that would be okay.” He knew I would say yes as there wasn’t any good reason that he shouldn’t, but I hesitated. Jim was a kid from the neighborhood whose parents didn’t see the need to corral his energies in any sort of direction, leaving him to develop a rather reckless personality. Bob liked him and they laughed a lot in their times together. Yesterday, they spent most of the afternoon setting up empty soup cans on an old bench in the back yard and then competing with each other to see who could hit the targets with the least amount of rocks. Even though they were twelve years of age, I still worried about Bob more than my other two kids, concerned that his carelessness would lead to him hurting himself.
“Thanks, Mom,” he said, letting the screen door slam behind him.
I turned my attention to the stack of laundry sitting on the counter. I knew I shouldn’t worry so much about my children. I needed to give them space to make mistakes and just hope and pray that they didn’t hurt themselves too badly.
“Mooooom!” The screams fell on my deaf ears. “Help! Help me. Somebody help!” But I didn’t hear or I would have tried to help. He was my son and was terrified. He needed help desperately and was panicking. He turned to Jim who was standing next to the dining room table with a ghostly white pallor across his face. “Jim, help!” Bobby pleaded, but Jim was frozen in shock, his dark eyes staring at me lying across the broken chairs with my eyes staring at the ceiling.
Bobby was still screaming for help when he ran out the door. The sounds of another child screaming joined in the raucous as my little eight-year old Melanie saw me bleeding on the floor with Jim standing there as still as a statue, his gun still lying on the table near his hand.
Next, my neighbor, Mrs. August came running in the door. She was immediately shouting at the kids to get out of the room as soon as she saw me lying on the floor. Her fingers were pressing numbers on her cell phone as she knelt beside me, opening my shirt to see where I was bleeding.
“I need help,” she spoke into her phone as she grabbed some laundry from the table with an outstretched arm and pressed it over the hole in my chest. “It’s a gunshot wound. She’s unconscious and not breathing. No, I think it was an accident. There were only kids here. Please hurry.”
Bob was outside sitting on the kitchen steps with Melanie huddled beside him. Little Sam had toddled out after seeing the lady in the dining room, hoping to find comfort from his siblings but instead watched them cry in agony which caused him to start wailing even though he had no idea what had happened. The terse voice of Mrs. August inside only intensified their fears.
But I heard nothing and didn’t feel the pressure as Mrs. August started compressions on my chest while she tried to press the laundry over my wound. I wasn’t asleep because I wasn’t dreaming. I wasn’t unconscious anymore but not quite dead either. Just lying on the floor in that critical time between life and death waiting as the seconds ticked by, carrying me slowly away from reality.
Sirens entered the mixture of sounds, overcoming the crying of the children and Mrs. August shouting at me, but to no avail. The sounds were for the living. My ears were collecting no sounds. A plethora of uniformed men and women swarmed into the yard, some gathering the children and the rest taking charge of my care, leaving Mrs. August trembling and crying as she watched the chaos.
“What on earth are you guys doing in here?” I asked as I entered my bedroom and found Jim and Bobby kneeling on the floor in front of my closet. I dumped the armful of clean laundry on my bed and looked closer at them. Aaron’s gun was lying on the floor and the boys looked at me with eyes full of guilt.
“I’m sorry, Mom. I wasn’t doing anything. Just showing Jim Dad’s gun,” Bob almost stammered in explanation.
“Are you crazy? You are not supposed to touch Dad’s gun, much less show it to your friends!” I was almost beside myself in anger. “Get out of here right now! NOW!” I shouted.
Bob stood up to join Jim who had already moved to the door. “I’m sorry, Mom,” he tried to sooth my anger.
“Get out of here! No talking,” I shouted again, pointing my finger at the doorway. I knew the gun wasn’t loaded but I was still very angry at the mere fact that their curiosity hadn’t been curbed by Aaron’s and my stern instructions never to touch the gun. What were they thinking?
Later that evening, when my anger had dissipated a little and Aaron was home, I explained how I had found the boys in our bedroom. Aaron was also concerned but not nearly to my level of worry. He reassured me that nothing could go wrong since he kept the bullets stashed away in the spare bedroom closet. Supper was uncommonly quiet after Aaron talked to Bob about his disobedience in taking his gun out of the closet. We decided that he should be grounded for the week, which included him staying home instead of going out to the movies on Saturday with the rest of his classmates. We thought we covered the topic well and trusted that Bob had learned his lesson, he rarely rebelled against us.
In the morning, I made breakfast as usual, a little later than during the school season but still at the decent hour of seven o’clock. The smells of toast, scrambled eggs and some bacon filled the kitchen, bringing all three kids scrambling down the stairs ready to eat at Aaron’s call. We had a happy family with our three children. Bob was twelve and tall for his age, with Melanie at the age of eight constantly trying to catch up to his height. Our baby, Sammy was only two but very much at the heart of our home with his curly hair and contagious laughter. Of course, as busy as breakfast was with three children, I didn’t spend too much time pondering over them. My time was spent teaching Bob to show good manners for Sammy and for Melanie to use her fork instead of her fingers and so on with my never ending lists of do’s and don’ts. Aaron drank his coffee in relative silence, interjecting his two cents as necessary or when I glared at him for help.
Bob was assigned the job of straightening Aaron’s workbench in the garage. Since he was grounded, he was not allowed to go over to Jim’s house but we did concede to Jim coming over in the afternoon if they wanted, but only if Bob got his chores done. My morning was quiet after Aaron left for his work downtown in the city. The kids played well and I enjoyed finishing up the cleaning and straightening of the house. I planned a fun dinner of tacos to brighten the evening after the last dinner of reprimands to Bob.
It was several hours later when I saw Bob playing with Jim in the backyard around two o’clock and decided to make sure he had finished his chores. I went in the garage and saw that although the work bench looked much better, there was still some work to be done.
“Bobby!” I called.
He came running, “Yes?”
“I think you need to clean this up a little better before you hang out with Jim this afternoon.”
“I thought I got it done.”
“No, look closely. There is still trash in the corner, you left some of the tools out and you need to sweep it off when you are done.”
He sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “Okay, I’ll tell Jim to come back in half an hour.” He went outside and I left them and went back in the house.
I didn’t pay too much attention to the time as I pulled some of the ingredients out of the refrigerator to prep them for dinner. I wanted to have things ready early so dinner would be easy. I heard Bob and Jim come into the dining room.
“Did you finish the garage, Bob?” I called over my shoulder.
“Yes. All done,” he answered. “Jim brought his dad’s antique gun over to show me, do you want to see it?”
My brain didn’t want to hear those words and I had to ask, “What?” more in shock than to really hear them again.
I turned immediately and went in the dining room. There on my table was an old rifle and both boys were excitedly looking at some fancy engraving on the side.
“Are you crazy? Didn’t you learn your lesson yesterday when Dad and I lectured you about his gun!” I couldn’t believe that Bobby was standing there looking at me with a sense of innocence. “You are not supposed to be playing with guns. Don’t touch it!” I raised my voice.
“But Mom, you just said not to touch Dad’s gun, not other people’s guns,” Bob tried to reason with me.
“Do we have to list every name of the people’s guns you are not allowed to touch! No guns. No one’s! Can you understand that?” I was getting mad again.
“I am sorry, Mrs. Moore. I’ll take it back home,” Jim spoke up sheepishly. He went to pick up the gun and grabbed the middle of it as he swung it to go out the door.
There was an explosion of sound and time seemed to stop.
I had to wake up. I was so thirsty but I didn’t know where I was. There was a warmth about me that felt good, but a huge chunk of pain across the upper half of my body. I realized that my ears were working again and there was some beeping that didn’t stop. Maybe that’s what woke me up. Couldn’t someone turn it off? I tried to breathe but felt such a pressure on my chest that I couldn’t do more than a slight breath.
“Her heart rate is dropping,” I heard a voice close to my head say. Where was I?
“I am trying,” another man’s voice said. “There’s just so much damage, I can’t stop the bleeding.” I could hear sadness and frustration in his voice. I wondered who they were talking about.
I could smell a strange plastic-like smell close to my face, specifically my nose. “This must be the hospital,” I thought to myself. “I wish someone would bring me some water.”
A long high pitched noise filled the room and all the other sounds seemed to go quiet.
“That’s it.” It was the same sad-voiced man I had heard before. “I am calling it at four thirteen. Sorry folks.”
I was getting so sleepy again and little sounds drifted in and out of my brain. I sensed movement and then I was in a cooler place. I didn’t feel like opening my eyes anymore but was content to lay still and listen to the little sounds as they came.
After what seemed like many days, I heard Bobby talking but I couldn’t understand him. My eyes didn’t do anything and I felt like a very small person. I could smell Melanie and somehow I knew Aaron was there with Sammy. I had such a nice family but that last observation was more of a feeling than a thought and I stopped trying to understand. Only quietness remained.
2015 copyright. Use only with permission.