“Shelter me from the powder
and the finger.
Cover me with the thought
that pulled the trigger.”
—Powderfinger, Neil Young
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“There’s been a shooting at RR 9 Box 42.”
I hung up, cutting off the operator’s question. There was nothing else to add. They’d know the details soon enough. The dead man was a local. I’d seen him around town. Maybe he’d seen me, gotten curious, started asking questions and heard answers that made him want to take a closer look.
They would all come: the off-duty cops and those who hung around cops; the ones who hovered all day over their police radios, hungry for something more interesting than a DUI or a theft at the Walmart. Those radios would be humming by now.
“I think that city woman killed someone, Dave.”
“I heard it, too. I’m headed out thataway.”
I have no doubt the man had meant to do me harm. He had no business inside my fence with its padlocked gate, no business walking between the long line of trees lining the long drive, no business being on my land. He got too close and he had something dark in his hand. (Didn’t he?) My ties here are thin, allies non-existent. I’ve kept to the outskirts. Foolishly, I now realize. I never mingled with the locals beyond pleasantries at the checkout line.
As I sit at the kitchen table listening for sirens, I should be planning for the critical moments to come. But I can’t. My mind won’t settle. It refuses to let me concentrate on the present. My thoughts keep turning back, inexplicably, to the summer after I graduated from high school when a friend and I went to a carnival near our hometown. It was raining lightly but not enough to have brought the rides to a halt. We walked to the gate of the Tilt-A-Whirl and gave the tall and too-thin bearded man our tickets.
The deep red of the clam-shaped cars was shiny with rain, the yellow clowns painted on the sides were sinister yet alluring. As the ride began, my friend and I moved ourselves from side to side, urging the car to spin. Before long the ride was in full motion and we pressed together and clutched at the wheel in the center. When it would spin, tears of laughter poured down our faces. We laughed so hard there was no sound to it. To the spectators standing around the outside of the ride, our smiles flashing by must have looked as maniacal as the grins of the painted clowns. To us, the bystanders were only colorful, water-smeared blurs.
The tall carny, seeing our efforts, worked his way towards us on the slick and undulating surface of the ride until he was standing in front of our car. He grabbed the side of the car and shoved it, sending us into a blissful spiral, but then suddenly he was gone, his footing lost in the rain. He had slipped over the edge of the ride. For a few moments more the cars kept spinning and the ride kept turning, mechanically senseless to what had happened. My friend and I strained to see him, our laughter stopped dead in our throats. We hoped to see him standing, unharmed, but when the ride stopped and we exited, he was not there. We never did learn what had happened to him. The joy in the day vanished. As we walked away from the noise of the carnival, my thoughts were a skipping record, playing over and over the image of the thin man disappearing over the side of the ride.
The afternoon light is soft and gray coming into the kitchen window. The house is so quiet. Soon it will be filled with strangers and the sounds that strangers make. I close my eyes and rest my hands on the table. Just at the edge of my hearing there is a wail of sirens. Opening my eyes again, I study my fingers. They’re thin and pale. They’re thin and pale and I pulled the trigger.
Pistol and revolver photos by Bluestem
Tilt-A-Whirl photos by ehrlif and mybaitshop via Deposit Photos
For photography, art, and words: Oklahoma Field & Flower.