Straight Through by Rena Willis

It’s illegal to shoot pigeons in the suburbs; maybe it’s illegal in cities too, or in counties, or maybe across the whole state.

Last night, when I still didn’t know if you were dead or alive, I sat at the kitchen table while Dad slumped on the sofa, his head in his hands. It was hot. It was late. You slammed the door on your way out. You wore fuzzy pink slippers with a hole in the heel. You were immense, enraged, unhinged, incapable of rational thought. Because I had been here before, I made a list of the pills you carried in your purse. I was a coroner before an autopsy cataloging your belongings. I ran my pencil down the list again and again. My stomach became a cauldron, bubbling over. My childhood was lost to me. No matter if I tore up my list, settled my headphones over my ears, and ignored the sobbing from the other room, it would never return.

Was it only this morning that you stood in this kitchen, glued to the phone, your smile bright, the room bright? I snuck past to check your purse, count your pills, and when you found me, you laughed. You grabbed my wrists and twirled about the room as if you knew my disapproval would anchor us. I clutched your hands, so you wouldn’t let go.

Eventually, you came home. You didn’t look at me. You didn’t look at anyone. No one asked why you left, or why you came back, or where you’d been. It was an unwritten rule. You were small, stooped, silent. Empty. I folded my list again and again until it fit in the palm of my hand. I clenched my fist. And though it hurt, I put you to bed, the silence a heavy blanket meant to comfort.

Now you pace on the front lawn, the sun sharp across your face, your feet bare. Your dirty house dress clings to your thighs. You wave a pellet rifle at the eaves, threatening the pigeons. A stoic policeman stands on the sidewalk, head bent over his radio, one hand on his holster. Our neighbors gather in their driveways. I see the boy who sits behind me in Algebra; he is standing next to his mom, eyes squinting, lips parted. I blink, and I am twirling, and we are twirling, and I am squeezing your hands, and I can’t hold on. This is the closest I will ever be to you.

Your fingers grip the barrel of the rifle and I want to know if a pellet can kill a person. I will count pills and pellets next time.  Pellets go straight through a pigeon – straight through, no regard for the law.

Rena Willis is a writer and an educator. She loves new ideas and encourages different perspectives. She is the Founder and Director for an International K-12 school in Costa Rica where her passion for writing and her love for learning intersect. She strives to make a positive difference in her community and in the world. She believes we succeed together.


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