256 Words

The Marlin

Victor Smith

The old rifle had hung above Mr. McCafferty's fireplace, visible through the living room window as Jimmy walked to school each day. It was an 1890s vintage, lever-action Marlin, caliber 38-40. Jimmy had stolen it in the dead of night when Mr. McCafferty and his equally octogenarian wife were fast asleep, searching drawers until he found several rounds of ammunition---a more difficult task which involved more rooms, more time, more risk. But he pocketed a single bullet, in keeping with his father's admonition that a good hunter needed only one.

The rifle, no longer on display, had been hidden carefully in the workshop Jimmy's father had built next to the garage. The rifle had obsessed Jimmy for weeks, a useless trinket over the cold fireplace of an old man who no longer even noticed it.

Cootie had been the only person he had shown it to, allowing him to hold it and squint down the barrel at the girlie calendar tacked to the back wall of the workshop. But only Jimmy handled the bullet; loading it into the tube magazine, levering it in and out of the chamber, feeling like Marshall Earp.

Now Jimmy squints down the barrel, through the dusty workshop window and across the empty chill of the back yard. The forward sight comes to bear on the cross-hair mullions of his parents' shaded bedroom window as twin silhouettes become one, entwining tightly on this night his father spends driving to Omaha---on this night that Jimmy was to spend at Cootie's house.

Copyright ©2002 Victor Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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April, 2002
Issue #72

256 Words