Getting shot doesn’t hurt that much. The body has a way of dealing with it. It goes into shock. Getting shot by your mother, on the other hand, has a bit more of a sting to it.
That kind of shock, the emotional kind, has no procedural handbook to, step-by-step, get you out of it. No instructions to stabilize you until the medics get there. All the ice packs and elevated legs in the world are not going to set you back straight again, after the person that worked so hard to bring you into the world had to work so little to send you back out again. A cock of the hammer and pull of the trigger, six rounds in seven seconds, followed by a cigarette. It was that easy.
“Encore! Encore!” Hap shouted. He curled his thumb and forefinger into a circle and whistled loudly. Fabulous! a cigarette ash falling from his wildly clapping hand.
He stomped a couple of times on the floor as if to bring on a repeat performance and then he clutched his chest and gasped. This time, not in awe of the show he had just loved, but in resolute horror.
My mother, Sug, had let her head fall back, elongating the wrinkles of her neck into pliable cords. She was watching the long, straight stream of white smoke she had just exhaled with fascination. One of those rare exhales that you could take the time to savor. That you deserved, could luxuriate in, after a job particularly well done. These moments came when you knew, as an interpreter of a script and judging from the reaction of the audience, that you had hit your mark. That you had reached well within yourself and pulled that deepest truth up though your every cell, your emotional instrument oiled and functioning at it’s peak. You knew that you had just delivered a performance that appeared, to everyone watching, to be so alive, so absolutely real that they would question, for days to come, did that really happen? Was it smoke and mirrors? They would take their murmured analysis from the lobby and it would move with each of them to their pillows at night, where they would lie, re-running the final scene, marveling at the sheer talent. Delivery beyond mere technique. Wishing that they too, could do something great in their lives, had they the courage to work that deep.
That was the kind of exhale Sug was enjoying. Head still back, waiting for a few more hoots and hollers.
She didn’t want to hear, “My God, Sug, I think you’ve killed her!”
That was a downer. A killjoy.
Sug huffed, “Isn’t it just like you, Hap, to ruin my high?”
She jerked around to jam the lit butt of her cigarette into a broken saucer, her moment over.
It wasn’t the Booth Theater. There was no dressing room filled with long-stemmed roses. No line of tear-stained fans begging for autographs.
There was an audience of two. One was the once impressed but now distraught, father of the daughter that lay leaking vital fluids onto the green linoleum of the trailer floor. The second was the daughter, me, that lay bleeding, looking up at the increasingly blurry, now pulsing, image of my father’s pleading eyes.
My daddy, Hap smacked me on the cheek, “Please Slim, wake up! Please, honey!”
He grabbed the sides of my face as his, “Please wake up” turned into a scream.
His head jerked around, “My God, Sug, don’t just stand there. Help me.”
My head fell limp to the right, where a floors-eye view took in a pair of red high heels, stomping towards me. Two knees hit the floor near my nose, tearing huge holes in the stockings. I felt my mother’s sweaty, smoke drenched hands reach for my neck to search for a pulse, her long nails jabbing my delicate skin so hard that I almost let out a yelp. But I didn’t. I was strong willed enough not to betray the fact that there was still life within me.
While the chaos of their frantic bodies, dripping their sorry tears and sobbing their, “Oh, no’s” and “Now, what do we do?” hovered above me, I held tight. I slowed my breath and gurgled inaudibly, rolling my eyes up to reveal only a sliver of white under fluttering eyelids.
As my parents laid their heads onto my chest, as if to say their last good-byes, it was safe enough for me to grab a peek over their heaving backs. I stared towards the corner of the room, searching for the glowing green LCD light, indicating that the video camera was still on, it’s single wide-angle eye taking in all of this mess. The camera caught me as I oh, so slowly pulled a piece of short pipe from under the sofa that I had deliberately landed next to. The camera then recorded me smashing them both on the back of their grieving heads. I lay there a moment before I slowly pulled myself out from under them, sliding my way over to a small dinette table where I reached up for a cast iron frying pan. Three or four strong whacks with the pan managed to still in them what little writhing was left.
I must say, as I dragged myself away from my family, streaking swaths of blood across the green tiles, that my mood was a bit self congratulatory. Taking that my mother being a lousy shot into consideration was smart planning on my part. Never trust a floozy to be too worried about such minor details as aim. I was only hit by three of the shots fired, so I still had the strength to wrap the camera up in a plastic bag and pack it away before I pulled myself up and out of the trailer. I pulled the door shut and jammed a two-by-four, which I had hidden under the cinder block stairs, up under the knob.
I took a single look back and felt just terrible. The fierce jabbing pains from where I had been shot were not at all pleasant, the escaping blood was worrisome. But, it was the emblazoned image of the messy scene of my parents lying there, crumpled in each other’s arms, all dressed up in their finery and full stage makeup, that evoked the dull ache in my chest. And sadder than all of it; the injuries, the broken family, the tragic lives now split apart, was the fact that there was no stage crew to clean up after such a damn good show.