Updated: Sep 2, 2018
My rifle flew to my shoulder, and the words sprang from my mouth before the filter of my mind had a chance to really figure out what was going on.
“Get back from the door, hands on your god damned head! Do it NOW!”
The man seemed more surprised than I as I moved to within six feet of him with my rifle pointed squarely at his head. His hands went up, his eyes went wide, and he started to speak.
“I may why the fortunes behold! Tell the Angels be they fortune or not! Scrap the yardarm! No yea not my troubles!? All is fortune or not! SCAB! SCAB! SCAB!”
He looked like a stereotypical crazy person from some deranged indie short. The kind of character that was so overblown as to be comical on screen, yet before my with all that I was contending with, he was strangely terrifying. I wanted to put a bullet (or three) into him as fast I as I could pull the trigger- but my safety clicked back on (not sure when I clicked it off) and my finger eased off the trigger. He was backing away slowly, his arms raised.
“Sure be so contend, never be no contend.”
“You, go away, comprehend,” I said.
He nodded, put his hands together and bowed to me, then took off at a disheveled run toward the gas station. I watched him disappear into the tall grass, and let the rifle come down. The adrenaline was still thumping in my neck, my heart spinning like a gyroscope as I signaled the girls to start getting stuff squared away. In ten minutes, everything was in the RV and more or less put away. The storage points under the floor were almost filled to the brim with food stuffs, and each girl had claimed a small section in the clothes storage as their own. Before long, Izzy had forgotten the old man as she started assembling things on the floor with her new Legos. Tammy plopped down next to her, and started building something with her, visibly shaken from what had just happened, and trying to work through it any way she could.
I leaned against the front of the RV, letting the adrenaline finish its push through my system as I calmed down. After a few minutes, Maybel came forward and leaned against the RV with me. We leaned in silence for a few minutes, taking in the field in the growing sunlight as the clouds receded.
"Could you teach me to shoot?"
I looked at her, wondering if she was serious or not. The look I was getting in return told me she was deadly serious. The tremors that she had when I first met her were still there, but much reduced. She seemed a lot better.
"I don't know," I said. I still had reservations about her trustworthiness given that we had only known each other a couple of days.
"Look," she said, "I'm not a military person, and I never wanted to be. I didn't grow up with guns, or anything like that. I mean, my dad had a pistol, but that was it. I never shot it. HE never seemed to want me to even-"
I drew my pistol. Her eyes went wide, and her jaw clapped shut. I dropped the mag, cleared the pistol, and handed it to her. She looked at it, then at me, then back at the pistol.
"Well," I said. "I can teach you the mechanics. How to make it go 'boom.' I can even condition you to kill another person if need be. It's not pretty, and I don't make promises that you're going to be a bad ass bitch when I'm done. But I can teach you. I just expect you to hold up your end when shit goes south."
It seemed reasonable to me. If she wanted to learn how to sling lead, I'd teach her. Hell- I NEEDED her to learn if we were going to be a team in anything. I had to know I could go about alone if need be and that she could take care of the rest in my absence.
Her attention stayed on the pistol like as if it were a serpent ready to strike. I could see the wheels turning in her head as she mulled what I said over. Initially, she had been all about it, but the pistol hanging out within arms reach along with the associated responsibility I had inferred knowing how to use it entailed seemed to give her pause. TO be honest, I didn't know what I wanted her to do. PArt of me wanted her to reach for the gun and accept her place on my team and what hat would entail. But part of me still didn't trust her with arms, and that part of me wanted her to bow out.
Finally, she nodded, a sly smile crossing her lips.
"Ok," she said.
She reached out and took the weapon from my hand, and something changed in her eyes. Before, there had been a slight uncertainty lying in wait below the surface. When her hand clasped the weapon, and took possession of it, that twinge of doubt- fear perhaps? It vanished in an instant. Before, where a scared recovering addict had been trying to make sense of the new world she was living in, a new woman was born. She locked eye with me, and the sly smile replaced itself with a confident one.
"What do I do first?"
"You could stop pointing it at me for starters," I said pushing the barrel to the side.
Embarassment flushed her face, and she faced away from me and the RV.
"Ok... What now?"
I was about ready to start giving her the basics of clearing the weapon when I noticed the old man in the weeds in front of us. I didn't know how long he had been there, but he was peering out at us with a curious look on his face. I hoisted my weapon up a little and against my better judgement, I motioned for him to come over. He reached down between his legs, and lifted from the ground a small bundle that had been concealed by the tall grass. He scurried from his place of concealment, dew dripping from his clothes, and crossed the concrete. He handed the bundle to Maybel, and without ever seeing its contents, my heart sank.
Maybel, a confused look on her face, pulled the wrappings away and drew a deep breath and dropped the pistol in her hand. I peered over her shoulder, and met the semi vacant stare of a very young baby. Judging by the size my best guess was less than six months. I looked up to where the old man had been, and saw only his blurred form moving through the grass toward the gas station. The baby cooed weakly. More of a mournful baby cry for help. If I didn't know any better, the baby was dying. My heart cracked open, and my eyes burned with sudden anguish. Maybel was openly starting to sob.
I hadn't for the life of me thought of all the babies out there who would be immune- whose parents might not be. All the little people, helpless, dying from unintended neglect. I reach out and stroked the hair of the child, and placed my wrist on its forehead. Warm, but not too warm. Not clammy. Dry.
I picked up the pistol, loaded it, and put it back in the holster. I took off my gun belt, and took the baby from Maybel handing her the belt.
"Put this on," I said.
She did. I handed the baby back.
"I'm going to go get us some formula." I looked intently into her eyes, the tears that had been welling there already drying up as I took on the mantle of the Dad. "Hold down the fort until I get back. Take care of our kids."
She nodded, a determined and tear stained look on her face. I nodded back. Hoisted my weapon, and headed back into the darkness of the super center.