Worried

“But, you have kids?”

Scott’s face scrunched up in confusion. “Yeah?”

“Doesn’t it worry you? With all the shootings and . . . everything?”

His jaw tightened. He held out the gun he’d been showing off. “Does it worry you?” Moving with practiced efficiency, he dropped the clip, showing it empty of bullets, opened the chamber, displaying the same. Finally, he pointed to the safety, which was engaged. “Trust me,” he said soberly, “I know what I’m doing. This gun isn’t in danger of killing anyone.”

“But . . . you have kids,” she repeated. “Aren’t you worried about—”

“Of course I am.” Scott spat. He holstered the gun, but kept his hand firmly on the grip. “Connor and Jamie know gun safety. I’ve taken them to the shooting range. They know what they’re doing.”

And they did.

Twelve days later, Connor deliberately unlocked the gun cabinet. He placed the bullets into the magazine one by one, inserted the clip into the gun until it clicked, pulled the slide loading a bullet in the chamber, then carefully released the safety. All was quiet. The gun was heavy and cold in his hand. But it warmed.

“Fuck,” Connor whispered. “Fuck everything.” He pointed the gun at himself.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Table

A creak, a figure in the doorway. He lunged for the table, for his pack, for the gun inside, but found a rifle pointed in his face instead.

“What are you doing in my house?” the newcomer asked.
“I didn’t think . . .” he hesitated. He couldn’t claim the home seamed abandoned when he had been caught stealing as much unspoiled food as he could carry. “I was hungry,” he said instead.

“You’ve been fighting in the war?” the other man asked.

His uniform was disheviled and discolored, but still recognizable. “Yes, sir.”

“And where’s your battallion?”

No answer.

The man behind the rifle studied the intruder: young, shaking, ashamed. “I see.” He gestured to a chair on the opposite end of the table from the soldier’s pack. “Sit.” The soldier complied. “Hands on the table.” Keeping the rifle aimed, he circled the table and stepped into the kitchen. Ignoring the scattered foodstuffs, he instead withdrew a tall glass bottle from some corner and set it on the table.

A confused expression. “But . . . you know what I am.”

A shrug. “What? Lost? Stupid? Scared?” The rifle lowered as he produced two glasses. “What are you? Are you my guest? Or my enemy?”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox