Anthony Self’s New Short Story – Bring Me My Shotgun

BRING ME MY SHOTGUN

shotgun-shells-sit-on-an-old-wooden-joel-sartore

Maybe I should have put the suit on at the time. Perhaps, for some inconceivable notion, if I’d actually believed the voice in my head, things would have been different. Doesn’t matter now though.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

It’s been two years. The kids are at Patricia’s now; for the past week they’ve probably been running around the house, trying to wrap tinsel around Bruno. Damn dog. Tried to call earlier in the day, but when I heard their voices in the background when she picked up I couldn’t bring myself to speak and quickly jammed at the END button on the phone. Two years.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there

Even with the bourbon, the memories still linger in the recesses of the mind, pulling up dark and twisted images with each passing minute. I howled at the oven a little over half an hour ago. It started out as trivial conversation…the usual pleasantries, but things escalated quickly, as they tend to do around this time of year. Ended up kicking the glass out.

‘How was your day?’

‘Not bad, made you a cheese on toast earlier, didn’t I? Highlight of the day. How was yours?’

‘Okay, I guess. I haven’t killed myself yet.’

‘Well, that’s good Nick, old sport. Jolly good stuff. Fancy putting something in me with a little more relish, next time?’

‘Maybe. Not hungry at the moment.’

‘But what about the kids, Nick? You haven’t forgotten the kids, have you?’

‘Shuddup about the damn kids. They’ll all get whatever they want.’

‘No they won’t. You know they won’t. Not this year – not even the year after. Or the year after that!’

‘You’re an inanimate fucking object. Go away.’

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads

There’s mistletoe hanging from one of the ceiling tiles. Don’t know when it was put there. I wonder if Patricia has fucked someone in the last six months? I gulp down the contents of my bourbon and pour myself another. Two years. It was late – I remember that. One of those chilly evenings. It had been snowing the week earlier. You could see your breath when you exhaled outside. Patricia was angry that I’d had a few too many with the guys from work and hadn’t helped wrapped any presents for the in-laws. They were down to see the kids tomorrow. Wouldn’t look good if I was hung over. Not with the whole Janice incident still fresh in their minds. I didn’t say anything – just shrugged and kept quiet. A mask of feigned nonchalance. It had taken many years to perfect that particular look, in order not to reveal the true shame. The true guilt. She’d grown accustomed to it, though. Saw right through it. A guy who’s been shamed too many times can come up with that look in an instant; you can’t teach that kind of stuff.  I think she was about to slap me before we heard it – a dull THUD on the roof.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter

Shrieking. Won’t forget the look on her face easily. For some reason my focus was on the fairy lights that had been laboriously coiled round the drainpipe. The kids and I did that at the beginning of November; they always liked to decorate the house early. I’d said it would ruin the magic of the month, but it seemed to make them happy. A wisp of smoke from the shotgun rose from the barrel into my line of sight and the fairy lights became a blur.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer

What was left of the body lied motionless on the lawn. Face had been completely torn off. Couldn’t tell where the colour of the suit began and where the blood ended. Hadn’t I given the nut job fair warning? What was he doing crawling on the tiles anyway? Looking up, there was a damn sleigh on the roof. Sixteen animal eyes looking forlornly at me. Patricia screaming…kids were probably awake. Way out here, we never have to worry about neighbours. I think the shock subsided for a moment, and I knelt down to examine the body.

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread

A sudden wave of nirvana hit me when I touched the corpse, of wondrous things I’d only been able to express as a child. A voice in my head soothingly told me to put on the suit and that everything would be okay once I changed. I laid the shotgun down and I was undressing the guy when Patricia starts hitting me with her fists clumped into tiny balls. It jolts me from what I’m doing and I question my sanity – maybe this is what psychopaths do? Dress up in their victim’s clothing? Patricia went to see the kids; I took the body out far enough from the house and buried him. When I got back the sleigh had disappeared. Two years later and everything’s changed.  Maybe I should have put the suit on at the time. Perhaps, for some inconceivable notion, if I’d actually believed the voice at the time, things would have been different. Doesn’t matter know though. I think it’s time to talk to the toaster about it.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

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Main photo by Rachel Stevenson

Story photo by Joel Sartore

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