As you ate your breakfast of cold biscuits and gravy, your shotgun and rifle propped in the corner under the coat rack, all you could think about was getting out to the woods, getting that doe you’d been aiming for all week, maybe a turkey or squirrel. Now, hours later, all you remember are the woods, how nothing darted across your path.
Blackness, then you’re back in the kitchen, there’s a bullet in your chest or shoulder—somewhere, you can’t tell—a woman bleeding on the floor, and you call 911.
You sink down, lean against the cabinet, the floor is cold. Drawing a breath feels like a broken beer bottle raked through your lungs. Sirens blare.
Your dreams remind you of the woods on mornings in November, mornings like this morning, of how shadows move and you can’t be certain if they’re deer or squirrel or nothing. You clutch your rifle, or maybe your shotgun, the one that’s sawed off. Just come in from hunting. The woman is there, in your kitchen—she looks scared. Was she your wife? There’s a fog around it when you wake, only certain parts visible. You can’t make yourself think.
After surgery, the police come in, want to ask you some questions.
“Why did you do it?” they ask.
“Do what?” you ask back. Or shrug.
The two officers, county cops in gray uniforms, look at each other, and shake their heads.
Later, when thinking becomes clearer, you wonder about those missing hours.
The kitchen, your guns. Her.
Can she be gone? Did you really—
No, you decide. What they told you was bullshit, trying to make you confess to something you didn’t do.
You probably went over to your brother-in-law’s after hunting, had some Bud and bourbon, and that’s why you can’t remember anything. Jimmy can put it away. You’re always near blackout when you leave there. You came home, maybe she shot you, then herself. Or maybe nobody was shot, maybe you imagined everything.
All you know is what they tell you, and you don’t believe them.
They say you went home after hunting.
They say she was cooking dinner.
They say you just cocked your loaded gun and shot her straight through the brain.
Between the eyes, like you would’ve got that doe if she’d emerged from the fog in the woods. A clean shot, no suffering.
They say you then shot yourself. That’s the one thing you do remember, the pain near your shoulder and chest, besides the flashes that appear as the morphine wears off. Fights over everything—her burnt dinner, your drinking—flashes of red that would blind you for a second, lately minutes. You always took hold of yourself, remembered she was the mother of your children, your love, your—
Your brother-in-law could clear your name. Where is he?
The doctor walks back through the door to give you more medicine. You tell him you want to see Jimmy.
The machine you’re hooked up to beeps, and your sleep is poor. You wake up and you have a visitor.
It’s Jimmy and his wife.
Face to face with them, with her, you doubt what you’ve told yourself. This wasn’t supposed to happen, you were never supposed to see them again. You failed at killing yourself. Shame, that’s the name of it.
You shake your head, look down at the white sheet covering your bandaged body.
“I don’t know what happened,” you say, and feel the panic rise like vomit in your throat, choking you.
Jimmy’s wife sniffles, drawing your attention. That’s when you see her in full light: his wife, your wife’s sister, and you stare.
“You look just like—” But then the sound of a shotgun goes off in your head, and your memories turn to fog.