GUNS

 

My mother had some strangely mixed ideas about guns and violence when I was a kid. For instance when I was very little she was always taking me to very violent war and cowboy movies, but she would not allow me to have any toy soldiers because she didn't want me playing at war. She did, however, buy me all sorts of toy guns (unasked) so that I could pretend to kill her and everyone else in sight. But then she must have been doing something right, because early on I developed an abhorrence for real guns and real violence. Of course I did still enjoy all the cowboy and war movies, but only because I understood it all to be pretend, just as I continued to delight in mowing down everyone around me with toy guns, as that too was just make believe. But to actually be in the presence of a real gun made me very uneasy as my mom discovered when she showed off her tiny 38 cal. automatic to me one day when I was about four years old. Her plan then, I assume, was to have me handle it to satisfy my curiosity then and there so that I would not later be tempted to bother it in it's hiding place. Well her plan sort of worked, for I was so squeamish at just the sight of it, that I not only would not touch it then, but also would not even go near my mom until she put the thing away. And forever after I also gave a wide birth to the old sewing machine where she had shown me it was hidden, avoiding it like a plague zone.

So, needless to say, I was appalled when my mom surprised me with a BB gun on my fifth birthday. It was a Daisy Brand, Red Rider BB Carbine with a thousand shot capacity magazine. At first though, I was delighted at the sight of it, thinking it just another pretend gun. But then my much smiling mom produced the two big cartons of BBs as she explained how to shoot it, leaving me aghast at her seeming irresponsibility. But more shocking still was when she next insisted upon my test firing it right then and there in the dinette where my birthday party was still in progress. Of course both Aunt Edna and Uncle Leland protested citing danger in such confined space, but my mom asserted that it would be perfectly safe if I shot into the crumpled over cardboard box that the BB rifle came in. So with my mom guiding my aim I did just that. Well that was fifty-six years ago, but to this day I can still remember vividly the sound of that single BB when it effortlessly tore through everything and proceeded to ricochet wildly all about the walls of that tiny dinette for a good half dozen or more times, while we all then scrambled down to the floor in terror while waiting for the BB to finally spend itself by burying deeply into the side of my birthday cake. Indeed a memorable fifth.

Following that long ago faux pas, my mom's interest in guns never really abated, but did become more circumspect, especially when around Aunt Edna and Uncle Leland. So it wasn't until shortly after I got out of the army in my early 20's that my mom again tried to stir up my interest in guns by giving me a 22-cal hunting rifle, for protection, on my twenty-fourth birthday. Unfortunately though, where I had been super wary of guns when I was little, I absolutely hated them after having been trained as I was with the use of many weapons and having seen first hand what they could do. So as I was searching my thoughts for a way to gratuitously turn down her gift without hurting her feelings, I was suddenly bemused to notice that she was absolutely beaming with love as she gazed upon the rifle while bestowing soft caresses on it. So with that the realization came, that although she had bought it for me, she has come to fall in love with the thing herself. So testing that judgment, I just told her directly of my lack of interest in guns in general and suggested it better if she simply returned it and got her money back. Well as somewhat expected, she took on a dazzling smile as she snatched up the rifle, and without preamble or hesitation announced that she would then keep it for personal protection, and then eagerly asked me to show her how to load it, which I did of course, while also greatly emphasizing the need to handle it safely at all times.

Well a few weeks had passed since my mom had bounded home that day with her new rifle, when I got a phone call from her with the news that she had bought a cleaning kit for it, and wanted me to come over to show her how to use it, which I then felt good about doing considering the sense of responsibility she was showing. But the good feeling soon vanished, when as I sat on her sofa waiting for her to fetch the rifle from its hiding place and she dashed through the doorway waving the gun wildly about and repeatedly pointing it directly at me over my continuous warning protests, finally only stopping when I dramatically somersaulted over backwards to take cover from her behind the sofa. Then much amused at my actions, she kept insisting that there was absolutely no danger at all, that she had already unloaded the rifle. However, after finally getting her to point the rifle at the floor, I wordlessly stepped from behind the sofa, took it from her hands, cocked the bolt back, and saw with dread as a live round popped out of the firing chamber, flipped in the air, and landed at her feet. And with that revelation my mom broke into sobs and announced that she didn't want it in her house anymore, pleading for me to take it and keep it somewhere safe.

Only a few days passed though before my mom called begging for the rifles return, citing that she needed it for protection because of the large number of burglaries occurring in her neighborhood then, and that she would be extra careful with it this time. Well as dubious as I was to the actual safety the rifle might afford her, I decided that the peace of mind the thought of its presence would give her would outweigh its potential danger, and so I relented. And for many months the rifle did rest in obscurity. But then one afternoon when I dropped by her house with a load of goodies from the market, she was a little too slow answering my knock on her door. Now her dogs went wild inside as usual, letting her know someone was there, and I could hear her shushing them, but she didn't call out an inquiry as to who was there. Instead I heard her open a cabinet and fumble around for something, which instantly gave me bad vibes. But then I should explain that my mothers hearing and eyesight were much in decline then so my thoughts at that moment concerned the danger of trying to identify myself to her and that damn gun. So moving quickly I dashed back out towards the street, and sure enough, as I passed her kitchen window I briefly saw her silhouette with rifle in hand going towards the door. And with that I felt it more prudent to go home. And as I later arrived I was amused to hear my phone ringing non stop, and when I answered it was my mom who breathlessly told me of the prowler her dogs had alerted her to and how she had scared him off with her trusty gun. When I explained what really took place though, there was a long silence and then with a chuckle she just dismissed the matter with a classic line, "Well no harm done." And again promised to be more careful in the future.

So it was about four months later that my mom had called asking me to drop by to see her on my way home from work that day for something or other. Well I arrived a little later than anticipated and being it was dark out, I went top her front door rather than the back, the lighting being better there. And as always, the dogs wildly responded to my knocks and ringing of the bell, and like that other time I could hear my mother moving about inside, but was otherwise taking too much time answering the door. So at that my feet responded to my internal caution warnings, sending me dashing way over to the inside of the neighbors garage just in time to observe my mothers front door creak open just a sliver to permit the rifle barrel to poke out, and then simultaneously with the challenge of, "Who's there?", she fired, the bullet dramatically striking the trunk of the tree in her front yard. And needless to say, as I later slightly shakily returned home, my phone was again ringing wildly this time with my mothers tale of her close call with a prowler so brazen as to come to her front door.

My mom's interest in the gun, however, did not completely die that day as she first insisted. Oh, several weeks of abstinence did follow before she again begged its return. And she did promise to leave it unloaded, which I assume she did, as she never shot at me agin on one of my visits.

But there's a little postscript to this story, for on my fortieth birthday my mom surprised me again, this time with a 12-gage pump action shotgun, that she said would be wonderful for protection. Well as I started to turn her gift down, I was startled to see that old excited glitter in her eyes while she lovingly pawed the thing. And with that comprehension, I must have disappointed her greatly when I then thanked her profusely for such a magnificent gift, which I kept, and later hid away to never touch again.

- Angelo