True to His Word
Illustrated by Joey To
His coffee grew cold as he feverishly read the morning paper, phrases popping off the page. Three killed. A dozen wounded. High powered rifle. Lone gunman. Masked. Suspect fled the grounds before police arrived. Interviewing witnesses. Canvassing neighborhood. Persons of interest.
The sun was breaking the horizon of another bitterly cold day, a subtle light beginning to mute the effects of a bulb above the kitchen sink. The man looked athis hands and realized they were shaking. He knew it was only a matter of time before the police made their way to his door.
After exhaling deeply the man rose from the table and went into his den knowing what he must do. On his toes he could barely reach the stein on the shelf that held a single key, which he used to unlock the tall gun cabinet in the corner of the room. He withdrew two handguns, a rifle, and several boxes of shells. The pistols he shoved into his belt after checking both breeches. The man almost expelled a grim laugh as he noted the care with which he slipped the high-powered rifle into its long case, avoiding any movement that might jar the meticulously sighted scope.
Zipping up his camouflage jacket, the man turned out the lights and carried the rifle case out to the garage where he popped the trunk to his car. He paused in the driveway, noting the silhouette of his modest ranch before driving two blocks west past the ballparks. He then turned south and passed the high school, auto body shop, and slew of fast food restaurants that lined the streets until he turned west and entered the onramp to the highway that skirted the river as both wound out of town.
The sun created a glare on his windshield challenging his vision, and the man briefly imagined police and paramedics fishing him from a ditch armed to the gills. He pulled into the construction sight he’d been working and removed the rifle from the trunk. The forms were all in place for the day’s scheduled pour, and the man wasted no time in gouging out recesses in the gravel with the same rake he’d used to smooth it the day before.
Reluctantly, he tossed each pistol into the modest gravel troughs along with the boxes of shells. The stock of the rifle felt smooth, and he held its cool grain tohis cheek as he looked through the scope one last time. All he could see was scattering students, panic and fear masking a multitude of young faces. He saw this even after closing his eyes, the image only receding as he raked the gravel over the top of the hunting rifle his father had given him some thirty years earlier.
He lit a cigarette and sat wearily on a stack of lumber as he awaited the concrete trucks, preparing to make good on the promise he’d made himself the next time a school shooting took place in this country he no longer recognized.