by Niles Reddick
When Sandy heard the gunshot, she called 911 and told the dispatcher, “I know it came from my neighbor Sam’s house next door. He lives alone. His wife died a few years back from cancer, slow and painful.” She gave the dispatcher the address.
“We have an officer on the way.”
Truth was, Sam was dying but not from a gun and not from a terminal illness like his wife had, but from boredom, loneliness, and apathy. Some cracker barrel-type philosopher who was a roofer once told him, “When you realize how meaningless it all is, you just give up and leave.” It was true when his wife passed. She had told Sam, “I’m tired.” He held her hand, and it was as if a dam broke, and a river of cancer flooded everything in her body, drowning her in the process.
Sandy put on her flip flops and opened the blinds until she saw the blue lights. She went out the front door, her kids asleep in their beds, and waved at the officer. She told him that she was the one who called and reported the gunshot. The officer went up to the front door, but Sandy stayed back in case there was an intruder.
Sam apologized to the officer, told him a bat had come through the chimney, and he’d shot a hole in his bedroom ceiling trying to kill it, and now, he couldn’t even find the bat and knew it was likely rabid. The officer didn’t suspect fiction or foul play and didn’t ask to see his gun permit, like he would have to youths downtown.
Sandy was glad to get an update from the officer and thankful Sam was alright but hurried back through the dewy grass to make sure her flue was closed in her own chimney. Sam put his pistol back in the filing cabinet in his closet and locked it. He can’t believe he shot a hole through the ceiling and didn’t go through with suicide, but this was the first time he’d been so close and had the courage to pull the trigger. He knew if he tried it again, he’d have to be successful, or he’d have to come up with something as good as the bat story. He’d tried to think of a reason not to shoot himself but couldn’t really think of any. He was tired, ready to move on, and no illness had come.
Sam recalled summers with his grandparents, how they dragged him to church, and how he’d shivered at their Pentecostal preacher they called Peanut screaming about hell. He didn’t believe in their hell, but he still worried about the hell they feared, especially if he killed himself. Sam believed it was as bad as having done it, and if he wasted time and his life, it was no worse than killing himself. The pistol’s grip in his palm, the sweat, his hand shaking, and the smell of smoke after played in his mind over and over, and he struggled with whether this was his decision to make. Sam decided to think about it some more and wait a few days.
© 2021 Niles Reddick All rights reserved.