This scares me more than I can say.

Instead of lecturing about how essential to a civilized world I think gun control is, instead of marshaling preachy arguments about how guns enable unspeakable violence, I want to tell you a story about a girl, her dog, and a gun.

Obligatory content warning for gun violence.

But, first, a picture of a cat. She’s lovely, and I clearly fail a cat discipline because instead of shooing Isobel off the dining table, I went for the camera:

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Let’s say it’s 1994, November. There’s a girl and her dog. There’s also the girl’s father and his gun, one of two hunting rifles kept in the basement. The dog is old, and he’s been this girl’s friend for years.

Her father is working nearby. Maybe he’s changing the oil in the pickup. Maybe he’s tinkering with the tractor. Maybe he’s just sneaking a cigarette and a few minutes alone. Maybe (probably) he’s had a long, hard day.

The girl is petting the dog, not saying much because she doesn’t have to. She’s pretending her father isn’t nearby, that it’s just her and the dog, that she doesn’t have to be aware of every change in the feel of the air, that it’s not possible for things to shift from peaceful to not in one unpredictable second.

Until it does.

Something happens. Something is said and done. Even years later she’s never been sure exactly what was said. She’s pretty sure that, whatever it was, she forgets herself and answers back. Her father is suddenly looming over her, and she cowers. The dog stands between them, hackles raised. Her father smacks the dog away, hard.

The girl is pinned to the side of the barn.

Don’t move. Don’t even breathe.

He’s gone and back in seconds (she thinks). The dog is once again standing between her and him, but now the dog looks at her, big eyes and white muzzle. There’s a crack and a whimper. A twitch and another crack.

Don’t move. Don’t even breathe.

Later that night, once she’s unfrozen, she helps bury the dog on the edge of the wheat field.

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