I’m not an avid gun handler. I mean, I grew up lugging around a BB gun and could take out a Budweiser bottle as well as any filthy boy next door. I blew away ant hills and sabotaged unsuspecting spruce hen deep in the woods of Alaska late in the fall of my childhood. But if I ever have to take out a bear at a full charge, you’ll not be reading about it in the first person. I’ll be history.
I carry a gun on my hip, comfortably, in the woods and on more than one occasion have had to unholster. But to be honest…it’s more of a self-security feature than an absolute. It may just weigh me down as I fled in pure panic whatever was in pursuit..
So three nights ago when menacing dog growls sent shivers through my knees and the generator had died leaving us at the mercy of flashlights and courage, I tried to ignore the tiny hairs at attention on my neck. I sat in the main room, dimly lit by my laptop screen. It’s unsettling, being silohetted by a bright bulb. A target. To see my reflection in the window and know something could be standing on the other side of the glass, hidden by my own face. I was in the middle of freaking myself out when Anthony barreled out of the kids bunks insisting something had slowly scratched down his window, horror movie style, only the kid has never seen a horror movie. Not to look like a weenie to the frightened boy, I rolled my eyes, climbed the ladder to my loft, and retrieved a pistol. For the sake of the boy, of course. I crept down the dark hallway, Anthony trailing behind, the beam of the light bouncing off plywood walls. I clutched the forty-five in my best Charley’s Angels stance, pressed my back to the wall nearest the door, flipped the safety and opened the door just enough for three frightened dogs to slip out of the darkness into the safety of cabin walls. Wimps.
And then, hands fluttering, I realized I’d not chambered a bullet. So much for protecting my family against the unknowns of the night. If a creature of the dark had lunged through the door after my cowardly dogs, I’d have been nothing more than an appetizer, my children…the main course.
When I went up to bed that night, three dogs blending inconspicuously into couch cushions as if I wouldn’t notice, I tucked the forty-five under my pillow. Why? I don’t know. I’ve never done that before. Normally it’s holstered and stowed. But my nerves were on end and somehow under my pillow felt right.
Until four-thirty, a.m. when in my sleep, my right hand fumbled around the bed in search of a flashlight. We don’t have power in the bedroom yet, so everything is done by the yellow glow of a Mag Light. Still completely asleep, incoherent and groggy, I found the flashlight. But it wasn’t right. It felt odd.
You know that not-quite-awake-feeling when you are aware of what you are doing, but don’t seem to have any control over it? Yah…that was me, fondling a loaded weapon under my pillow in the wee hours. By the time I realized I was clutching a gun, I had rolled over, pulled it from under my pillow, and had a finger on the trigger…but the gun was aimed square at my pajamas.
The safety was on. The bullets were not engaged. But…they could have been. I could have forgotten to lock the safety. I could have remembered to ‘Chachink’ the bullets into place and left it that way, stashed ‘safely’ under my pillow.
My pajamas could have been annihilated.
And people would have said, “well…it’s no shock…have you met her children?” Or, “she did seem pretty stressed out lately….” And nobody would have ever known what happened. I’d have been an unsolved mystery, profiled on Cold Case Files twenty years from now.
Time for a refresher course in gun safety and a renewed realization that people who know all the rules… who are comfortable and confident and think they’ve got it all under control…can get too relaxed. And that is when accidents happen.