They Might Be Violent
Her first memory is her father shooting her mother with a water pistol in the front yard. Fourth of July. Pre-fireworks. So when a professor asks her to write about her first memory, she writes about this and how her parents were not yet Quakers.
Until she was eighteen, she sat in Sunday morning services as quietly as a phone dropped in water. She waited for the occasional burst, a human ringtone from the congregation dubbed “Friends” in Quaker-speak. They sat in a circle waiting for the spirit to move someone, anyone. She liked to think of this spirit embroidering in a corner, stirred suddenly by a pin prick, the spirit’s yelp disturbing the nearest “friend” who would stand and break the silence.
Because they were layperson-led, anyone might speak at any time. At each service the anticipation mounted and when no one’s voice came, so came disappointment. If she were honest, she lived for the squeaky wheel, the grinding gear.
Two former-marines-turned-lovers sat snug on the front row in cushioned chairs. She recalls one saying, “Fighting helps you understand how terrible fighting is.” The only words uttered that week, they convinced her soldiers make the perfect Quakers.
The water pistol seems an odd topic for her first essay in college, but guns are all the rage, or at least there’s rage among people with guns. She supposes plenty of hunters enjoy what they do rage-free but wonders if this isn’t worse. Maybe, she thinks, we are all predator and prey.
She turns in the essay the next day. It’s two pages, written decently as far as she can tell. That evening, her dad phones. “We just bombed Iraq,” he says. He uses the words “shock” and “awe,” which he claims to have heard on the news. “The Friends,” he continues, “have called a special meeting.”
She knows her dad and the others will conscientious-object. She recalls the marine’s words from years ago and understands the need for peace, especially where countries are concerned, and yet she can’t help but ask, “Would you shoot someone if they were going to kill me?” She’s been thinking more about family since she left for college.
There’s a long silence and then, “I ought to say no.”
She feels safe and warm knowing her father would defend her. Her shoulders relax when she considers her mother might be violent, too.
“I’ll call you later, sweetheart,” he says. Her handset flashes and dims, and she returns it to its cradle.
She wishes she could retrieve the essay to write what she imagines now. Her dad is pointing the water pistol. Sun gleams onto its translucent red plastic. Her parents are playing at war and laugh when her mother is shot. She toddles in grass soft with life toward the exploding laughter, toward her mother’s freckled skin. Her mother dies laughing. Her father fires again.
Ramona‘s fiction has appeared in The Southampton Review, Ninth Letter, Pembroke, Jabberwock Review, Yalobusha Review, Gris-Gris and others. She was the 2018 winner of the Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize from Jabberwock Review. She currently serves on the board of A Room of Her Own and lives in Texas. More about her and her writing is available at http://www.ramonareeves.com.
Cover Photo by Dean Hochman