Harriet’s HandgunNovember 27, 2018
“What the fuck you staring at?”
Harriet wished she knew. Beneath the jagged metal and painted skin she wished she could see something familiar.
Nothing looked quite the way it should anymore. That was the feeling Harriet had as she drove to work each morning. From the moment she stepped outside her door, and the sunshine greeted her she had to face that fact.
It was a suburb, sure. The same suburb she had lived in for the last sixty years, and yet it wasn’t the same. Flagpoles that once flew the stars and stripes now flew white letter A’s on red backgrounds and lightning bolts across blue backgrounds. Rainbow flags, and green, white, and red flags, but no stars and stripes, at least not the normal kind. If she ever did see an American flag there would be something off about it, whether it was black and white or had a blue stripe across the middle, she never knew what it meant, or cared to know. She just knew nothing looked quite right.
Even the people weren’t right, as she stocked their bags she couldn’t help but stare. She had gotten used to men with long hair and women with short hair a long time ago, but as soon as she got used to something, it just seemed to change again. Now she couldn’t tell what anyone was, they all blended together. Children with tattoos, blacks with blonde hair, men in dresses, she couldn’t make sense of it.
Her little one-story house seemed to be an oasis of normality in a sea of strangeness. She kept her lawn tidy and always made sure that a seasonally appropriate welcome sign was nailed firmly in place above her porch. Not that it saw much use, few ever came not counting the salesman and charlatans. Of that lot, only one struck her as a decent sort. A little Asian man who told her the world was Satan’s domain and asked her if she believed in their lord and savior Jesus Christ. Mondays, and Wednesdays, and Fridays she could look forward to inviting him in for a fresh cup of tea and a nice little chat about anything and everything that struck her fancy.
She learned he was from Cambodia and had no people of his own in the States, save his church that he always tried to get her to visit. She would refuse and tell him that she could believe the Devil ruled the Earth, but not that Jesus had any love for her.
She wasn’t joking either. She had once believed in God, in beauty, being raised Catholic and marrying the best man the world had ever known at sixteen, why wouldn’t she? That was how she saw it. But three years ago that man had been taken from her, and long before that the world had denied her the ability to have children, to have a legacy. No, God, if he existed at all, had no love for her.
What did bring her comfort was her garden. In the front yard and the backyard, she made the bees happy. Flowers of every breed and color imaginable filled pots and planters and the ground itself.
One summer afternoon the little Asian man came to visit as she was watering her petunias in the front yard.
“Ms. Harriet, so nice to see you.”
“Oh, Mr. Khim, is it Monday already? I thought I was just joking about going senile.”
“No, no, it’s Sunday. Mass just ended.” He paused and watched the bees move from flower to flower for a moment. “I thought I should come to see you.”
“Well, isn’t that sweet. I think I’m out of tea bags, but there’s an iced pitcher in the fridge!”
“I’m afraid I can’t stay for tea. Not today…”
“Oh, why not?”
“I’m leaving the country. I have to see my family back home.” There was a pain in Khim’s voice. “There’s a lot going on there. I don’t know when I’ll be back and I didn’t want to just vanish.”
“How long did you know you were leaving?”
“A week. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. I hope in my absence you will consider visiting the church. I wish you the best, Ms. Harriet. I have greatly enjoyed our chats.”
With that and one more glance at the flowers, he was gone.
Harriet’s day seemed to go slower after that. Monday continued the trend, and then Tuesday, and all the rest too.
As she prepared for work in the morning she began to find herself packing one thing in her purse that she hadn’t felt the need for before. A gift her husband had given her when he went off to war so long ago.
“Now, I know you can take care of yourself, but in case you ever feel like you can’t, I want this to be there for you.” Those were his words, and she had never felt she needed it to be there before.
Now she did.
“Bitch, I asked you a fucking question? What you staring at? The fuck you staring at, huh?”
“Dude, are you kidding me?” The much younger woman who worked with Harriet tried to pipe in. “You put that much work into your face, and you don’t want people to stare? You ain’t proud?”
“I ain’t talking to you. This is between me and the hag.” The man grabbed Harriet’s left wrist. “Now you gonna answer me or I’m gonna snap your fucking hand off.”
Harriet didn’t speak. She looked up and down his face and focused on his eyes. They were black and without shine or shimmer. No reflection was to be found in those dark circles.
His grip tightened, and he continued to speak, but she didn’t hear.
With her free hand she reached into her purse and wrapped her fingers around her husband’s gift. The white grip was cold, and the light above reflected off its nickel plated barrel as she pointed it towards the man’s face. Pulling the trigger was easier than she though it’d be.
After it was all said and done, and he lay there dead on the floor, she couldn’t see much difference in the man’s face. It was still full of metal, and it was still ugly. Completely unfamiliar.by
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Joseph H. Stryker is a writer of lowbrow fiction, usually of the crime genre. Born in 1994 in Laguna Hills, California. He now resides in Lake Elsinore, California on the other side of the Santa Ana Mountains. His stories can be found on Near To The Knuckle and Out Of The Gutter Online.