American Contemporary Suspense

Word count: 1,105 words


It was a sunny day, perfect weather in the 70s, and summer had just arrived.  I stepped out into the sunshine onto my patio, on the way to my mailbox in front of my building.  I felt happy and my steps were light.  I had just been hired for a new job at a gift shop where they sold artifacts of history.  I lived in Boston and this gift shop celebrated the Revolutionary War.  The woman who’d hired me had liked me right away, and I liked her - she was laid back and older and mature, as I felt myself to be.  

I felt lucky that I was about to start a new job - I had bills to pay and not a little debt, and the gift shop position would be welcome after a year of being unemployed.

So I stepped outside, into the sun on my way to the mailbox.  There was a package for me waiting on the front steps, presumably dropped off by UPS.  I knew what it contained - a white pointelle-patterned sweater I’d been waiting for, for a week, from my favorite online retailer.  I’d bought many items from them before, but what awaited me in the package completely took me by surprise.

When I opened the package in my apartment a few minutes later, I was shocked.  Packed in with the sweater, amidst tissue paper and bubble wrap, was a boxed Colt revolver - a gun! - that I never ordered and whose origin from the retailer I couldn’t imagine.

Stunned, I took the gun out of its case.  There were no bullets in the gun or in the box.  Why had someone packaged this gun with my sweater?  Did they imagine that in desperation as a steady customer of theirs, facing unwanted long term debt, that I wanted to kill myself?  Or that I wanted to kill someone else?

I wore the sweater that day but kept toying with the idea of the gun in my swirling mind.  I didn’t know what to do with it, and contacting the seller of my sweater didn’t occur to me.  I couldn’t imagine how in a clothing warehouse someone had packed a gun in with my purchase.

A week later I was sitting at my dining table, examining the small weapon, and actually held the gun to my head, imagining what it would be like to try to kill myself.  But I have never been a depressive type and never had thoughts of suicide,  and I laid the gun carefully back on my dining table.  Didn’t one need an ID to buy guns?  Wasn’t there some protocol for buying weapons?  Where had the gun come from, if not directly from my retailer?

Then I started thinking about safety in my own apartment.  I started thinking about how I’d always taken my safety for granted.  Maybe, in case of an intruder, it would be good to have a gun at the ready, with real bullets.  I’d never used a gun before but having one started to seem like a good idea.

On another sunny afternoon a few days later, when I was drinking my breakfast coffee, I ordered a gun catalog by which to order bullets.  I’d started to plan for an intruder.  I placed my order when the catalog arrived several days later, and waited for the bullets in the mail.

About ten days later they arrived, and, reading the instructions, I loaded my Colt revolver.  Again, imaginatively testing it out, I placed the revolver to my head and imagined dying a gory, bloody death, with all my relatives crying over what I had done.  

My dog seemed puzzled by my actions.  He sniffed at the gun, and when I took him out for a walk that day he stayed close to me.  Was he worried about my mental health?  Luke, my dog, has always been very loyal, and they do say that animals sense things about their owners that their owners are oblivious to - like illness and danger.  

It made me nervous having this revolver in my house.  My dog and I kind of avoided it - it just sat there all the time, waiting to be used in a moment of violence.  

A month later, weary of looking at the loaded gun on my dining table, I decided to bury it in the backyard.  I dug a hole two feet deep and a foot wide with a shovel I normally used for snow, and deposited the revolver and box of bullets into the hole.  Suddenly I felt relieved.  Now I’d no longer be tempted to kill myself - as if that thought had ever been in question - and if there ever was an intruder in my apartment, I’d find a better way of getting rid of him.  Maybe I’d cook him breakfast and talk him into turning himself into the police.  I’d heard of a housewife doing that once when she was surprised by a man who broke into her kitchen.  Surely I was smart enough to handle a burglar that way, rather than using a gun.

Now that I’d buried the gun and bullets, I was glad temptation was gone.  And the mystery of how a Colt revolver got packaged in with my sweater, from some warehouse in the midwest, was never resolved.  I probably should have reported it to the police.

But I have never been one for undue alarm and I can live with a little mystery.  My dog Luke is settled at my feet right now and seems calm and not worried about me anymore.  Dogs, not greedy retailers, really are man’s best friend.  And I’ve stopped shopping for clothes so much online.  That unexpected gun in my package put a scare into me.

My job at the gift shop is going well.  I never told any of my co-workers what had happened.  Who, really, would believe it?  I just feel happy to have a new job and be paying off my debts.  And if I ever did take the drastic step of committing suicide, it wouldn’t be by using a gun and blowing my brains out.  I’d starve myself first, or maybe slit my wrists and slowly bleed to death.  I wouldn’t do something as sudden and abrupt as pull a trigger on my own, careless brain.  I’d choose a method that was less drastic, less violent.  But that’s another story, for another day, and right now I’m about to step out into the sunshine again - but this time not to pick up a package.  This time, I’m going to walk my trusty and faithful dog.


June 24, 2021 11:07

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