The first gun I owned was an over-under
twelve gauge with a Russian barrel and Chinese
stock. It was a product of communism
but was not made for hunting humans: deep down
shotguns are defensive instruments. It was
given to me before I knew how to tie
shoelaces. The idea of firearms is
inherited: one never has to learn to
shoot if born from a womb lined with buckshot.
The pellet gun on the porch was for scaring
Canadian Geese off the back lawn. I had
trouble with the hand pump and never used it
much. I would watch my brother put it to his
shoulder and breathe: his face looked how a birthday
felt. I don’t recall what happened after that.
My grandfather was a good man. In the late
thirties he was arrested for shining the
headlights of his car at animals. Each night
he struggled to hoist the length of his rifle
on an open truck door, he thought about the
meat he’d share with his community and the
beer he’d drink on the drive to the border. His
brother-in-law, a man I don’t know by name,
turned him in to the police. He stopped driving
home altogether after serving his time.
Friends said he still drank but slept in the backseat.
When the bus drove past my parent’s home, I saw
my father down by the lake with a garbage
bag, his mouth fixed as a plump of geese looked on.
I thought he was weeding the beach, forgetting
it was too early in the season for weeds
and retreated to the woods so I would not
have to help him. As he got closer to the
house, I noticed two more things in his left hand:
the pellet gun and a red shovel. I never
remember the sunset that day or the light’s
descent into night but the bag he held shivered
under a phantom weight and was a kind of
sable I’ve seen since, in an eclipse.