“Damn,” he said, and died.
“That’s an understatement,” said the teenage boy kneeling next to the dead man. The boy hung his head, exhausted. There was a dull ringing in his ears, and blood on his hands. He tried to wipe the blood off on his pants, but he only succeeded in spreading the dark blotches, like leprous sores. He jerked away from himself, repulsed by the vision, but succeeded only in scooting backwards. He looked around. The living room appeared alien to him. He felt like he was on stage after the final act of Hamlet. Where was the applause? Was this really his home? Nothing made sense anymore.
His gaze was finally pulled to the shotgun lying on the floor by the hearth. How did that get out here? he thought. He glanced back at the stranger lying dead on the floor next to him. The boy remembered seeing the man before. He was watching me at school, thought the boy, He remembered the uneasy feeling that prickled his spine when he noticed the man’s focused attention. But why was he here now?
The doorbell had rung. The disjointed memories began to return. And then his parents were shouting. There had been another voice, a desperate voice, and it had come from inside the house. Something is wrong, the boy remembered thinking, then he had slipped out of his room into the hall.
There was a man in the living room, and he was shouting at the boy’s parents. His father was trying to get the man to leave, but the man resisted. The boy’s mother was threatening to call the police. The boy could hear the fear in her voice. He slipped into his parents’ room. The shotgun was behind the door.
The boy remembered the sudden silence when he strode into the living room with the gun, demanding that the stranger get the hell out of his house. The boy was shocked by the sadness in the man’s eyes, a sorrowful longing that hit the boy like a wave.
“But I’m your real father.” The man had implored.
“This isn’t Star Wars, you freak!” the boy had shouted back. But the man suddenly raised his hand and took a step towards the boy. And the gun had gone off.
The man took the blast in the gut. He was knocked backwards and landed hard on his butt. He sat in the middle of the room like a stuffed doll, legs spread out in front of him. He didn’t move. He just sat there, while gravity patiently disemboweled him. I don’t remember taking off the safety, thought the boy. I don’t remember pulling the trigger. But I do remember what he said.
“What have you done?” The words from his mother struck the boy as if she had slapped his face. On the periphery of his consciousness he began to process the implications of this man’s presence and the meaning of his words. His father advanced towards him to take away the gun.
“Is it true?” screamed the boy, rage saturating his vision as he began to understand exactly what he might have done.
The gun had fired again. “Is it?” screamed the boy at his mother. Through her sobbing she confessed the truth to the boy she had called son.
The gun had fired a third time. “How many fucking shells are in this damn thing?” he had shouted in dismay, pulling the trigger repeatedly. The clicking of the empty gun answered him with a hollow laugh. He had flung the spent weapon away, and collapsed to his knees at the side of the dying stranger.
The boy looked away from the gun. His former parents sat awkwardly together on the couch, staring blankly at the vacuous commercials playing on the television. “Damn,” said the boy, echoing the stranger’s last word. What a moment to realize your parents really weren’t your parents.