The opening page of my memoir:
I sneak the shotgun. Load the three yellow cartridges with “Remington .20 Gauge” indents. Snap the action shut. Aim at items in my room: The lamp, my baseball card collection, a picture of my parents. Finger the trigger.
I am alone. Fourteen.
I ease the stock down from my shoulder and turn the gun back towards myself. Stare down the barrel. Tap my index finger against the hollow, producing a sucking sound. I put my mouth over the end, tasting the metal, feeling the air inside the barrel, the barrel’s breath on my tongue. I relax my lips and close my eyes. I can smell the invisible beginnings of rust.
The voice is not there. But the hum is. It slides, then pitches higher, a rush of warm air, the electric collision of a storm front. I nod my head, taking the loaded gun with me. Up and down. I put my hands around the single barrel, closing my fingers, steadying the steal in my mouth, against my teeth, lips sliding on gun oil.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, eight years old, in the middle of the night. Awake. Watching the wall. The wall is a machine. Ball bearings clink. Slide through chutes. Drop. The language of working metal. Rhythm in front of me, in front of my open eyes. A wall alive. I have a fantasy that a big dog attacks me. A Rottweiller. Its neck muscles are rolled telephone cables under the loose sweatshirt of its skin. Maybe I’ll go to art school and become a painter like my mother.
I open my eyes. Ease the gun out. The sight catches on my two front teeth and clicks. The hum exhales. I can feel the release of nervous animal sweat, the drip underneath my arms.
My father is coming home from work, from the hospital. He’ll check my math and science work. I unload the gun and sneak it back down. My mother is feeding applesauce to my baby brother Ellis in the kitchen. She doesn’t see me.
Before I shelve the gun in the basement, I hold it one more time. Loaded shotgun and no mirrors. It doesn’t matter that I am a fourteen-year-old home-schooled boy and five-feet-two-inches tall, that I’ve never kissed a girl. It doesn’t matter that I obey the voice.