A Carnival World

You do not reply. Your hands are shaking. You watch him as he walks away, listens to the click of his expensive shoes. They reverberate in your ears.

Click, click, click.

You can still hear your uncle walking as he turns the corner.

***

“You have to know how to use one of these,” your father says, holding the pistol up to the light.

“Why?” you ask.

You are standing in the backyard.

“There are things on earth that you don’t understand yet,” he says. “One day you’re going to grow up, and you might want one of these. I don’t want you hurting yourself because I never showed you how to hold a gun.”

You are ten years old.

He puts the gun in your hands, shows you how to hold it, how to load it. You push down with your thumb.

“I want you to understand to never use one of these on a human being unless you have to.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Dying is the end of the world. You hear me?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You don’t ever pull that trigger unless you can live with the end of the world.”

Click, click, click.

All guns have fingerprint scanners. The moment you pull the trigger, your name will be uploaded to the federal database. This will remain on your record forever, no matter what your bullet hits.

Bang.

He looks proud of you when your small fingers manage to hold on to the heavy piece.

“I love you, boy.”

It’s the only time he’s ever said it to you. You never forget.

***

Your mother is sleeping. You sit there next to her. You sit in the chair where your uncle must have sat. It makes your skin itch. The candle won’t be lit. It has broken in your hands from holding on too tightly.

Your fingers ache. The words are still ringing in your head.

“He’s not my father.”

“But he’s family.”

“Not my family.”

That hurts one of you. It’s alright. You know she will forget it later.

“Claud will look after the empire.”

“It’s my father’s empire.”

“Your father’s dead.”

You know you should stop. But she will forget.

“It doesn’t have to be him who takes over.”

“No? Should it be me? Will our customers come to buy from my bedside? Will I print them receipts so I don’t forget to charge? Will I write policy and design blackmail as I take my pills?”

“It could be someone else.”

“Someone like you?”

The words hurt. The way she said them hurt. You will not forget.

You look at your mothers sleeping face and watch the gentle rising and falling of her chest as she breathes. You can’t bring yourself to wake her up again.

You understand what needs to happen.

***

“You new in town?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Ma’am. You’re sweet. How you like our little town so far?”

You’re sitting in a small roadside diner. You’ve been driving in New York state for five hours now. The town is buried in the Adirondack Mountains.

It’s been a long time since you’ve been outside of Canada. So far, you’re surprised by how many confederate flags you’ve seen flying in the countryside this far north.

“It’s very beautiful,” you say, feeling like that isn’t enough. “Cozy.”

Welcome to Lake Placid! the road sign had said as you had crossed a small bridge. Population 2,500. You grew up in a city of millions. You feel like you’ve driven off the edge of the world.

She smiles. She is a round, blond woman. The dimples on her face make her look younger than you’re sure she must be because she carries herself like someone who has been on the job a long time.

The diner is called Lucy’s. You can’t help but wonder if the woman pouring your coffee is Lucy, and you feel stupid for thinking it.

“We don’t get a lot of tourists this time of year.  Mostly people show up in the summer, for the lake and the woods.”

“I like fall better,” you say.

on Jun 15, 17 by

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