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He kept a loaded gun in the closet

It starts with the screen door slam.

Not in a sun's going down, the kids coming inside, summer fun kind of way.

No, there are no visions of Mary's dancing and her dress waving.

Ominous is the word.

Ominous is the rusted cry, the foreboding squeal, the swing of the door that signals the arrival.

Or maybe the departure.

The hard clap of old wood, dried, neglected, colliding into it's counterpart.

Has he left for work or returned home after the long day?

Is it his exit or his arrival that forebodes? Or is it both?

he kept a loaded gun in the closet

I remember well the evening the questions first arose. Long had I listened to the music and, I suppose, I always wondered a bit about that gun.

But as Doug Poole, the most charming man I'd ever met, and Margaret, my companion in adventure and mischief, stood in the unfinished remnants of the century old dining room, I realized just how deep those words ran and how occupied a piece of the back of my mind had been with them.

and another one in the dresser drawer

just in case the one in the closet didn't make a big enough hole

We stood over a fourteen dollar boombox, holding our beverages, some of us staring at the ceiling, some of us staring at each other, some of us staring into the back of our eyelids.

Pressing the back and repeat button over.

And over.

The squeal and the slam. The deliberate pick of guitar strings. The slow, painful wait for the first words, for the indication of where we were headed.

But that was the point, I suppose. Slow, painful, and waiting were her days. Or perhaps his.

Who was the gun for?

For her, I opined. He left it for her. Ever the optimist, I professed a tale of love and concern. And action, preparation. Sure, of twisted motivation, drawn from a well of sadness and anxiety. But he left it for her. Out of love.

Because maybe one day, she would realize how important she was. And how that importance put her high above him, so high that she couldn't be there, that he didn't deserve her.

The gun was her exit.

There was silence. And I realized the stares were now focused on me.

“So...he wanted her to shoot him so she could leave? Hasn't he ever heard of divorce?”


“Well. Maybe. Marriage is for life and maybe, in his mind, obviously twisted, I mean, he's obviously not seeing clearly, but maybe in his mind it's til death do we part and all that. He's trapped her, see. He knows it. So he's shown her an exit.”

“Maybe the gun is for him to use on himself when she inevitably leaves him.”

“Couldn't it just be he was concerned a burglar might come while he's gone and he gave her the gun to protect herself because he loves her...”

Murmurs of possible agreement.  More discussion.  More theories.  It would go on for hours, never to be satisfied.  The one conclusion: the story was one of hidden fears and things never communicated.

What did the gun represent?

Escape, it seemed?  But for her, a trapped and lonely housewife who could do better?  If that's even who she was. Or for him?

What made him so afraid?

And was that even a screen door?

he kept a loaded gun in the closet

and another one in the dresser drawer

just in case the one in the closet

didn't make a big enough hole

she had his breakfast ready every morning

and his lunch in a box

sitting out by the kitchen door

she'd make sure he had everything he needed

and hug his neck and tell him tell how much she loved him

and it was beautiful

you should have seen it

and she'd make herself a pot of coffee

just the way she liked it

and sit down and enjoy the quiet of the house all alone

but, by two o'clock or so

every afternoon

the quiet would start to get to her

and she'd watch the clock until he came back home

and she understood just what he needed

when he came home every evening

was just a couple of beers

and a couple of minutes

to cuss about his day

so she'd fix him a nice hot supper

while he ranted and raved about one thing or another

and she never once told him

what he's going on about didn't add up to a thing

and she never touched that gun in the closet

it was his and it was there just because he wanted it to be

she didn't get out much

so she never knew what it was that made him so afraid

most women today would say she was a disgrace

most men would say she wasn't much to look at

and they'd all say she'd be a lot better off

if she cared a little more about what they all think

she'd have a life of her own if she had a little pride

some silicone implants and another man on the side

but she's got a loaded gun in the closet

and it's there anytime that she wants it

and her one and only man

he knows it

and that's why he put it there in the first place


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