Tom Dowding’s New Short Story – Bring Me My Shotgun

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I’ll never forget the Christmas of ‘68.  It was when my Uncle Eddie came home.  He’d retired as an army chaplain and was looking to re-acquaint with us before – “I grow older than the dirt I’m walking on” – as he liked to say.  I was only a young boy back then and needed a footstool to help my Ma finish decoratin’ the tree.  She would holler at me from the bottom of the stairs to come and fix the star at the top.  Though that tradition was observed in ‘68, well, I’d say it was just about the only thing I remember as comin’ close to normal.  For whenever Uncle Eddie was around, normality was an orphan of reality.

Around that time, many young men in our small town lacked a certain appreciation in the subtleties of courtship.  You might say there were a number of greasers around then, ‘n not all of them would quite do right by a girl.  The same could have been true of my older sister, Louise, had Uncle Eddie not intervened.  She’d been party to a scandal by telling us all one night that she was “in a family way.”  I’d never seen Ma quite so riled and Pa was roused into inaction like an old dog layin’ by a fireplace.

I remember it like it were yesterday, the day after Christmas in fact.  Uncle Eddie still hadn’ arrived.  Ma and Pa were havin’ conniptions wonderin’ what had happened to him.  It was just as we were settin’ down to eat that we heard a loud crashing noise outside.  Pa went to snoop at the commotion and told me, Ma and sis to stay inside.  We followed anyway.  An old Studebaker, badly painted red and white, had torn down a section of our fence before collidin’ with the big beech in our yard.  Ma gasped and held her hands to her chest.  Louise covered her eyes.  Pa went over to the door and yanked it open.  From behind the steering wheel, a vision of St Nicholas squeezed out into the open air with none of the nimbleness you’d associate with a man famed for jumping down chimney chutes.  It was Uncle Eddie.

“Merry Christmas!” he said with his Santa beard dangling off one ear.

I helped Pa drag the crazy old fool into the house.  He filled the front room like a bear in a bathtub.

“For God’s sake, Eddie,” my Pa said.  “Are you okay?  And where have you been all this time!?”

“George, I’m fine and for taking the Lord’s name in vain, you’ll refer to me as Reverend the rest of the day.  Sorry I’m late; I was detained yesterday morning in a place called Possum Trot, Kentucky.  ‘Sherriff there took exception to me for explaining to his son what polygamy means.  I had to buy him off by telling him I could bless his water tank and have whiskey coming out of his faucet.  Some people will believe anything.”

“What does polygamy mean, Uncle Eddie?” I asked.

“It means indulging in the worship of more than the one true God, Bobby,” he said poker faced.

Uncle Eddie took a seat on the couch.

“Smells like it’s time for dinner, but mercy sakes alive, it looks like Louise already gone ‘n eaten all the turkey.” Uncle Eddie saw the bump in Louise’s belly.

“Uh, that ain’t turkey, Edd – I mean, Reverend,” said Pa.

Havin’ been aided in his comprehension, Uncle Eddie’s face gurned like a twisted tree-root.

“Sweet mercy…how’d you not tell me?”

“Well, we didn’t want a fuss…” said Ma.

Uncle Eddie got up and towered over Louise.

“What’s the boy’s name, sweetheart?”

“Billy Haas.”

“And do you love Billy.”

Louise nodded.

“And does Billy love you?”

“He says he does.”

“And does he mean to make an honest woman out of you?”

“He’s workin’ up to it.”

“They ain’t reasonable, his folks,” said Pa.

Uncle Eddie left for a minute; on comin’ back he had his Santa sack full of presents over his shoulder.  He pulled out a copy of the Bible and a figurine of sweet baby Jesus, and handin’ them to me, patted me on the head.

“I’ve reacted calmly,” he said.  “But if the depths of my soul ain’t seethin’ with the fury of the righteous flock, then I’m as drunk as a Mormon preacher on a Sunday!  Follow me; we’re gonna fix us a wedding!”

We all marched to Billy’s.  When we got there, Uncle Eddie, sack in tow, charged through the unlocked front door.  We all filed in behind.  Billy’s family were playin’ cards in the front room.

“Merry Christmas, y’all,” said Uncle Eddie.  “Forgive the intrusion, Mr ‘n Mrs Haas but I’m here on the good Lord’s business and, like him, I’m a busy man with no time for foolin’ around.  Now, which one is Billy?”

Billy raised his hand like a sheepish schoolboy needin’ the commode.

“Well, son,” Uncle Eddie laughed, “you look as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, and I can guess why.”

Billy shrugged.

“I know what this is about,” Mr Haas said.  “See, Mr-uh…”

“IT’S REVEREND!!!” Uncle Eddie hollered.

“R-Reverend, we’ve all been meaning to visit y’all; we’ve been workin’ up to it,” Mr Haas said.

“I will not allow you to slight the Lord through my family!  You ever heard of a shotgun wedding, Billy?”

“No,” said Billy.

Uncle Eddie then dropped his sack to the floor and pulled out a shotgun aiming it at Billy.

“Billy, are you going to make an honest woman out of my niece?!”

Poor Billy stammered as Uncle Eddie loaded the gun.

“Come on, Billy: death knells or wedding bells.  What’s it gonna be?”

“Jesus, Eddie, not this way!” said Pa.

“IT’S REVEREND to you, George!  You’re gonna wanna marry her, Billy!”

“I-I’ll marry her, I swear!  J-Just let me live!”

Uncle Eddie relaxed and put the gun back in the sack.

“That weren’t so hard now, was it?  See, George, and I thought you said they was unreasonable.”

Uncle Eddie then hauled his sack over his shoulder and turned to leave the startled Haas’s.

“I’ll leave you folks in peace to discuss the nuptials.  Don’t leave town, Billy; the vengeful arm the Lord knows no bounds,” said Uncle Eddie pointing to his sack.

We all watched the mad old coot leave.  ‘Whistlin’ himself a ditty, he zipped down the icy road like he hadn’t a care in the world.


Main photo by DSFDAWG


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