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by Jayne Martin

People were surprised when we told them that Dad blew his head off. Most thought it would be one of us he’d kill.

It didn’t take much for something to get under his skin: Overcooked eggs, a jacket — that he had paid good money for — left on the floor. A ring of crimson would appear at his collarbone and rise up his neck and jowls like lava until the top of his head would blow clean off and fly around the room like a hairy Frisbee. Then, after his fists had their fill of our flesh, it would settle back on his skull like that sort of thing was perfectly normal.

The first time my dad laid a shotgun in my hands, I was barely 60 pounds. He set a watermelon on a fence post, set me back about 30 feet and told me to “go on now.” The kickback cracked two ribs and sent me flat on my backside. He laughed his ass off.

The coffin was closed. On top there was a photo of Dad taken when he was young, before any of us were even a thought. He stands tall, straight, and proud in his crisp, new Army uniform. Dad liked to tell how he had blown off quite a few heads: Sand-niggers, camel jockeys, towel heads, but as near as my brothers and I could tell no actual people.

Our neighbors filed by to pay their respects to my mother and us kids. I can’t say he had any real friends or that a soul on this earth would miss him. After the service, I went to his gun cabinet, took out his prize Winchester single-shot and headed out to the back acre. The watermelon patch was in its prime with ripe fruit. I picked a medium size melon and set it on a tree stump, backed up a sporting distance, took aim and watched it explode sending blood, brain, and bone spraying into the western sky.

Jayne Martin is the 2016 winner of Vestal Review’s VERA award for flash fiction and a 2017 Pushcart nominee. Her work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Spelk, Literary Orphans, Five-2-One, Midwestern Gothic, Shotgun Honey, MoonPark Review, Blink-Ink, Cleaver, Connotation Press and Hippocampus, among others. She is the author of Suitable for Giving: A Collection of Wit with a Side of Wry, and lives in Santa Barbara, California. Find her on Twitter @Jayne_Martin.