Martha purchased the revolver on a whim. The particular gun caught her eye because of the cross seal on the grip. For carrying it, she bought a leather case, a custom-made holster with her initials, M.W., engraved on the side in silver lettering. That way, in case she forgot it at work or on the bus, they would know where to return it. She lived on Blair Mill Rd, right across from the baseball field, and would wipe the firearm down with silicone cloth each time she watched a game.
On the muggy day in early August, she had been out front watering her garden, M.W. poking out of her waistband near her butt crack. She was just a minute away from going inside to mix a pitcher of sweet tea when she heard a growl. She said, I really thought it was my stomach at first. I hadn’t eaten since the night before at the food cupboard.
The growl was not Martha’s stomach. It was a 900 lb. brown bear that had wandered out of Fairmount Park, and trekked 16 miles to her doorstep. She cursed under her breath at the sight, dropping f-bombs repeatedly in awe of the animal’s girth. The animal was not picky, and started eating all of the unripe tomatoes.
She fell over her oversized yellow boots and into a rosebush, which knocked the revolver loose. Pulling her blouse down from over her head, her eyes fluttered open to see the bear’s muzzle no more than a foot from her own. The gun was just out of reach. Martha was sweating bullets. Even if she lunged for the pistol, there was no telling if her wet hands could grasp the handle. But she dove anyway, tumbling as she hit the ground, and fired six kill shots into the bear.
A week after being awarded the key to the city, she felt the sadness. It was unnerving, how she was capable of such brutality. She went to church every day for a month, though services were only held Sunday and Friday evenings. She prayed for each endangered species individually. But even in those quiet moments, she always kept M.W. by her side. When she recited the rosary, she would rub the cross seal, and hum.
The gun sat with Martha at her first annual vegetarian Thanksgiving, with Mr. Potter, a veterinarian who was helping her cope. It’s just one of those freak things, he kept saying. He even brought her a gift of organic recipes and wine made at his brother’s vineyard.
The two started dating, and for a while things went back to normal. Mr. Potter got drunk a lot, but it was a happy drunk usually. They would have picnics in the park on weekends and spend late nights on the pier, watching the boats drift. Few days went by though that Martha did not think about the bear, and what it felt like to take a life.
On their six month anniversary, she nearly killed again: exploring the backstreets of the city at Mr. Potter’s request, into an alley that smelled like hot beer. Then she saw a pack of dogs wrestling over a T-bone, and lost her balance when they turned on her. Pit bulls, nobody really likes them anyway, but what if she missed—there were five dogs and six bullets. Luckily Mr. Potter was sober enough to hoist her off the ground and into a dumpster, where they hid for an hour until the dogs lost interest. They sauntered back out to the street; she looked back at the hounds, something beautiful in their ruggedness. Mr. Potter suggested they get dinner at the bar.
The next morning she lay in bed until past noon thinking about the bear. She thought about its thick coat, the short sneeze it gave right before she pulled the trigger; the reverie made her feel hungover, a sour stomach and a migraine, the sensation shared by her boyfriend who fell asleep on the couch watching Roseanne.
My head feels like it was slammed by a tractor-trailer! Can you make me some coffee?
She mixed it with ginger and a hint of cinnamon.
That afternoon was her first time in the garden since the shooting. There were still a few shallow ditches that she recognized as paw prints. She unfurled the long green hose from the side of the house and watered the soil. Then, as she bent over, there was a sudden very loud bang that filled her with dread.
She heard, and then felt a hot sensation against her tailbone. Reaching around, she yanked a fuming M.W. from her pant leg, a large hole in the denim. Mr. Potter leapt outside yelling, “What the hell was that?” only to find her standing there with the gun smoking under the sun. She was looking at it curiously.
About the Author: Benjamin DeVos is an interdisciplinary artist living in Philadelphia. He is a creative writing student at Temple University, and self-taught music producer under the name Ulalume. His work is forthcoming in Bop Dead City, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Pantheon, and more.
Story Song: “You Got Me Wonderin’ Now” by Parquet Courts
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Clem/Poppy and Pinecone
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