As I locked the front door of my home, I instantly felt the gun and its holster weigh down my purse as I walked down the winding front stairs to my car. Weird feeling, that gun nudged up against my side. Never before had I been that close to a fire arm and I’d never would have had one on me or in my house if Jake, my husband hadn’t convinced me of the need. “There is nothing particularly attractive about guns,” he said sarcastically some months ago. Then he shrugged and said, “I know guns are killing machines. But there also are people who will kill you for no reason other than wanting drug fix, or the cash to buy them.”
One morning, as he scanned the newspaper headline, he commented, without even looking up, “Too many home invasions in this area honey. I want to get a gun to keep in the house, just so we don’t become another statistic.”
I remember my reaction far too well; a cold chill that ran up my spine and I physically quivered. I hated the thought of a gun in my house, much less in my hand. I had been the type of child who never even played with water pistols.
I asked him plaintively, "Do we really have to have one?" "I’m not glamorizing or romancing guns, Lynn. I just want to be able to fight fire with fire, if necessary.” I nodded; affirming his wish and he burst out laughing. “Lynn, honey, don’t be such a weeny!”That I was. Everyone in my family knew about my gun phobia and wouldn’t pretend to be happy about my husband’s decision.
In Woodland Point, our sprawling suburban neighborhood, there had been three home invasions over the past year. One, we found out, had to do with drugs and money laundering, the others were what appeared to be random break-ins by thugs who thought they’d find money and valuables in homes with highly decorative facades. People got hurt in both incidents and one woman was killed.
It scared us silly. Although we believed we had a good security system, we also supposed it drew the interest of outsiders that we lived in a large, well maintained home and drove luxury cars. It made me wish for the days when we had more modest cars and less discretionary items and we were back in the day when no one looked twice at our Cape Cod house on a small square patch of flat land.
Today, however, I was off to the gun range to take my first class. It signaled a change in my attitude. Never before had I considered myself at risk, but times change and my husband made it clear to me that we needed to change with the times. Maybe this is the changing world order I was to respect, but I didn’t have to like it.
I hopped into my pale blue Acura and started the motor. But before I drove off I had to somehow rearrange the gun and its holster off my thigh in the purse that lay beside me. The damned nozzle of the gun in its leather holster poked hard into my leg as it lay horizontal in my handbag. It wasn’t going to let me forget what I was about to do and what I needed to learn.
What if the thing went off while I was driving? I thought. “It can’t, silly,” I actually said out loud. “The safety catch is on and you’d have to pull the hammer back and release it to make it fire.” What the hell was I doing with a gun?
The first bump against the back side of my car came out of nowhere and jolted me out of my thoughts while setting my adrenaline flowing. Who bumped against the side of my car and then flew off in front of me? In the few minutes I had to think about it, my car was struck again; this time from behind.
I rolled down my window and yelled, “Hey, YOU!” “What the hell are you doing?” But by the time I got my message out, the SUV had moved to the right, sped by me and became smaller as it gained speed
Damn! I pulled my car to the side of the road and got out to see what harm had been done. Shockingly, there was very little damage, or that’s the way it appeared at first. So I got back in my car and took out my note pad to write down the few things I noticed about the SUV that hit me. These were the facts I had to report to my insurance carrier. The SUV was dark grey in color and it had New York plates that began with the letter P and I think followed by the letter L.
Should I call the police now on my cell phone or go to the firing range have my lesson and get that over with first? I didn’t have time to make a decision before I saw the SUV through my rear view mirror, racing back in my direction. That bastard must have turned around and decided to do more harm.
I started up the car again and decided to head for the police station less than two miles from where I was parked. But the man in the SUV sped up behind me even faster and hit my car with more velocity than before. This time, the power of his car’s punch pushed my body so hard that I felt as though I was now ahead of the wheels that were spinning to get away from him and my airbag went off in my face and deflated. Powdery white stuff from the bag floated down over my head and onto my shoulders.
My own head was spinning with fear. I knew there was no time to pick up my cell phone and call the cops. I had to keep my hands on the wheel. This time, however, I took a good look at the license plate of the truck and placed it in my memory. No time to write it down.
Bam! He hit my car again and this time the impact shoved me off to the side of the road. It was plain and clear that he wanted me down and out. I wasn’t in the old west but in a small village in suburban New York.
Then I felt the less than subtle nudge of the pistol at my hip. Was this the time to use it? By now, with my head, neck and shoulders throbbing in pain, it seemed as though I had no choice as I pulled my wounded car to the side of the road and the driver of the SUV pulled up behind me.
Okay, I said to myself; I took a deep breath and knew that it was the time to pull out the gun. This was getting far too weird for me.
I took the gun out of the holster as my hands trembled to get the job done. Then I placed the gun in my hand with the safety on and jumped out of the car to face the driver still seated in the cab of his truck. I held onto my gun with both hands and hoped he didn’t notice that I was quaking and the gun wouldn’t hold still.
The man flew out of the driver’s side, brandishing a tire iron. He looked like any ordinary middle aged guy who hadn’t slept, shaved or changed clothes in days. Oh man, was I glad I wasn’t close enough to catch a whiff of the body odor.
“What the hell are you doing,” I yelled, trying to sound tough, but I squeaked out the words and tried not to let my voice tremble.
I motioned my gun in his direction as if it would fire if I got no response. “What the hell are you doing, following me, Trisha? He screamed. “Leave me alone! This is my kid too and I don’t care what Doreen wants, he’s my boy!”
Trish? Doreen? Son? Who does this jackass think I am? Would I sound silly if I asked?
“What boy?” I said as sternly as I could, clearing my throat. It started to crack because I was screaming, but who cared.
“You know, you stupid cow. I’ve got Sean now and I’m not giving him up to you, to your sister or to anybody,” he screamed.
By now I could hardly breathe. The air around me was filled with the white matter than had exploded from the air bag. That wasn’t the only reason I couldn’t breathe. This man had pulverized my car, shaken my senses and he was holding a little boy hostage, whose little tow head in the back seat of the van was all I could see.
What I knew for sure was that the boy's name was Sean.
“Listen,” I said, screaming louder than I ever thought I could muster: “I don’t know a Doreen and I’m not Trisha and I’ve never seen that child before, but it’s obvious that he doesn’t belong with you, so get him out of the truck and let him go.”
I surprised myself. I was telling this hardened criminal what to do with a child I didn’t know. Had the gun given me a false sense of confidence?
“Listen Trisha, I don’t give a shit if you and Doreen are getting along again or whatever, but you leave me and my boy alone. You don’t belong in this deal. Go home to your pig sty.”
Evidently, he mistook me for his sister in law—a woman who did not always get along with her relatives and lived in a messy house. He must be blotto from drugs or booze to mistake me for someone he knew pretty well, I assumed. As he raised the tire iron to either intimidate me or actually strike me, I reflexively unlocked the safety catch, pushed back the hammer and pulled the trigger. Thud! The recoil bounced me backward as the bullet hit the ground or the man. I wasn’t sure, as I stood there—both hands with a gun in them—helpless. What had I done? The sound of the shot—that thud—and the fact that it hit something with a deep bang made me want to vomit. But then, there was the boy’s life at stake and the man was obviously breaking the law. I realized I had shot him, that the whole problem had fallen into my lap…….and I threw up all over my shoes.
The man shrieked with pain and hopped in a circle trying to put his foot back on the ground. So I had shot him. I got him in the foot! My new gun, which had never fired before, had struck another human being.
With flat out stupidity, I said, “If you don’t let Sean go, I’ll blow your head off.” Who, in heavens name was a talking about? Me? The Weeny?
Here I was, worried about owning a gun, being forced to use a gun to protect myself and now feeling grateful for having it with me when it was needed most. So much for target practice today; who could have imagined that my gun and I would end up on the side of a road with a rageful man? Or that, with both my head and my heart pounding, I very easily could have aimed for his chest and, without even thinking, killed him.
I never imagined the power and the courage a gun gives you at a time like that and I felt sickened at my audacity and unleashed overconfidence.
Like lightening, the man yanked the child by the arm and threw him in my direction. I motioned with my free hand for the little boy to come and Sean stumbled toward me.
The boy was dazed and confused as he stood before me. There were tears streaming down his face mixed with the dirt from the rig. Although he was young, probably no older than five, maybe six, he had the good sense to know he was safer with me and my gun than with his own father. What a cruel set of circumstances to befall the little guy.
Then, with all the courage I could muster, I told the father to get back in his truck, pull off, and leave us the hell alone.
And he did.
I took a deep breath and watched him speed away.
Shocked that he listened and left, the boy and I watched his truck kick up dust. I felt my adrenaline fading and my body weakening. I sunk to my knees and Sean followed me downward. I looked at the boy and he stared straight ahead, almost in a military style of attention, not knowing what to do next. He was clearly afraid to look me in the face. I was afraid to look at the vomit on my shoes.
My hands were still quaking but I shakily put the gun away in the holster in my purse, making positive sure the safety catch was back on. There was nothing I needed less than an accidental shot to my thigh or any place on Sean.
We both sat on the ground, facing my car, not saying a word.
Finally, I turned my face to him and said, “I think I heard that your name is Sean.”
It was a weird way to start a simple conversation. It was like we were in my back yard, sitting lazily on my lawn, picking up blades of grass.
My voice felt very raspy after the screaming back and forth between his father and me, followed by the terrible boom from the gun. More tears spilled out of the boy’s eyes. I wrapped my arm around the boy’s shoulders, and we sat that way for minutes more.
And then, as if I knew just the right time I said, “Sean, do you want me to drive you to the police station so your mom can take you home?” His tears were free flowing now and he whisked his head around to look me in the face for the very first time and vigorously nodded yes. So I took his hand in mine and placed him in the backseat of my car and secured the safety belt around him. I didn’t have a child’s protective car gear because our children had long grown beyond the need.
I started the car up slowly, but I first had to punch down the remains of the airbag that blew up in my face when my car was bashed for the last time.
Only one mile to the police station, I kept repeating aloud as I watched for sightings of Sean’s father as my car limped slowly toward safety. I prayed my battered Acura was still able to get us there.
Every few minutes I looked at the control panel on the dashboard to see if there was something cooking up inside and I hoped Sean’s father was too injured to continue driving and I’d see him parked along the way.
When we pulled up to the stationhouse, three cops recognized my car from a report that had been called in and came running to my car to pounce on me and rescue Sean. I explained the story very quickly before they could mistakenly handcuff me.
Sean finally spoke. Well, damn. The kid has words...
I was beginning to wonder. Thankfully, he told our story and said, “This lady shot my Dad so I could go home.”
Sean and I were ushered into the stationhouse and I gratefully handed an officer my gun and showed them its authorization, registration, license and sales slip, explaining where I was headed before my car and I were attacked.
One cop was on the phone with the boy’s mother and the others interrogated me about the father and what he said and did. They asked me to repeat the story to be certain they had all the details. The second time I told the story, I felt more injured than before.
In total, I told them the whole story three times and when I was done they told me I was a hero. I actually laughed out loud. “Me? I’m a “Weeny! That’s what my husband and children say about me. I’m afraid of the raccoons in our backyard.”
That’s when I admitted to the police that the whole scenario scared me sick—really, truly sick and I pointed down to my shoes. The cops had already looked away as I tried to explain that the worst part of having used a gun was that I hit another person.
“That’s what guns are for, Ma’am. If only criminals had guns, Sean and you may not be alive now," a policeman told me, and explained that Sean’s father was a convicted felon. His latest charges were for aggravated assault and attempted murder.
"You could have been his first victims since his escape,” another policeman explained.
I didn’t want to cry in public. Sean had to be far more upset than I. As drank a bitter cup of police station coffee and ate a couple of Dunkin’ Donuts, the police made careful record of the incident, examined my car, which they listed as “totaled,” and they kept their documented possession of my smoking gun and the paper work, which was all well and good with me.
Minutes later, Sean’s mother burst into the stationhouse and grabbed her boy up off his seat. They both hugged cried and cried through more tissues than I could ever use in a week. The cops explained what had happened and how her ex-husband had mistaken me for her sister.
“You do actually look like her,” she said as she carefully looked me up and down and her eyes finally rested on my face, “but he’s thinking of what Doreen looked like when she was younger. He hasn’t seen her or any of us for years.”
“Then where did he get the SUV?” I asked. The cops explained he stole it from the edge of the prison grounds and had gotten a good head start until he stopped to pick up his son from the boy’s school playground.
“The teachers couldn’t stop him but they phoned and alerted us as to the direction he was headed. They also called his mom.”
I heard one officer issue an all points bulletin for Anthony McBride, the father of Sean and ex-husband of Doreen. Sightings were narrowing down their chase and the police told us that they’d have him in custody within minutes, thanks to the description of the SUV and the plate number.
So I was an actual hero for the first time in my life— a 15-minute hero—with a gun in my hand—the Annie Oakley of Woodlawn Point.
One cop said that our society is becoming more of a war zone every day. It seemed to me that my incident would be a once in a lifetime occurrence, but perhaps not…and I wondered what would have happened to me and Sean, if…
What would I have done without the gun? Would I have used my cell phone to call the police and not even stop the car at all or would I have tried to drive to the police station to out run the felon?
I guess I’ll never know. I was glad to leave my gun with the police detectives to match the slug that I fired with the one in McBride’s foot when they captured him. A pair of officers had driven to the spot where the whole thing occurred to recoup the bullet’s shell casing. This was something else I knew nothing about. In my mind, a bullet was a bullet—who knew about shell casings?
On my way home, I dropped my car off at our dealership for the repairs or demolition of said vehicle. The police had already filled out the “accident” report and I asked the service staff to call the insurance company for me. I explained I was just too overwhelmed to explain what happened to yet another person.
A salesman from the dealership drove me home and as soon as I entered the house, by instinct I thought about Jake, about dinner and the conversation we were bound to have.
But first, I needed to take a long, hot shower to wash the caked debris from the air bag off of me and to detach from the incident as well as the water would help me do that.
After I towel dried my super clean hair and body, I dressed and gathered the clothes I’d been wearing and threw them into a garbage bag—especially the shoes— that I tied tightly so as not to allow any element of the day to seep out to remind me. Garbage pickup was the next day.
Funny. I hadn’t been hungry at all throughout the afternoon, but I planned a nice dinner for Jake and began to take things out of the refrigerator and cabinets. Although I knew he wouldn’t be home for a while I wanted to stay on my feet and remain busy. Calling Jake now was out of the question since I didn’t want to get hysterical on the phone and force him to come home early, unnecessarily.
I made a beautiful aromatic stew; a mixed green salad with gorgonzola dressing and a warm blueberry crumble that I would top off with vanilla ice cream for dessert. All the while, I sipped cold chardonnay to calm my nerves and put another bottle on ice.
When Jake’s car pulled up, I poured two glasses of the wine. As he walked in the back door, he reached for me and the glass, and said, “Honey, where’s your car?”
I hugged my beloved husband very tight, then stepped away to look as his smiling face turned to concern. And then he quietly asked: “Did you actually hit the target at the shooting range today?”
Softly I replied, “Not exactly. But I used the gun and you’re not going to believe how I used our brand new weapon for the very first time.”
Jake straightened his stance and stood stock still while he stared at me, jaw dropping, unsure of what would come out of me next. But I surprised both of us. I sat down on the couch in our den, put my head in my hands and started to sob uncontrollably for the first time since the incident.
I cried and cried—hard and harder until I was too physically spent to heave for more breath.
“Please call the Village Police, honey.” I told him. “They will tell you everything. But for now, just hold me very tight and let me feel whole again.”
And he did.
But Jake would have to wait quite a while to hear the whole story from me: The tale of his shaken wife, our battered car, the criminal, the boy, the police, the child’s mother, and our new gun. And for that moment in time and for a long time thereafter, I thought and rethought about the deep, dark reality of owning a firearm and I knew that I would ask the police to keep it in the evidence locker room—for good. I didn’t want to have it back…no matter what Jake wanted. I was the one who held the gun, fired the gun and knew the dreadful feeling of absolute power and disgust at the very same time.
Since then, there are two things I know for sure: I am no longer a Weeny and it is time to move away from Woodlawn Point.