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by Steve Passey

A father. A mother. A toddler. A gun.

In a dresser drawer in the master bedroom in a home bought with two good incomes. The income comes from government jobs, good government jobs, with pensions and benefits. In front of the home a tree. The tree came from the developer. There is a tree in front of every home in the crescent, a tree six to eight feet tall, a tree hale and green, a bright and living thing.

The gun is in the dresser drawer because it’s better to have it and not need it than it is to need it and not have it. Practice is necessary, time at the range. It’s hard to find time to practice, but it was bought knowing that someday, someone, something might come. It is a necessary thing to have. The neighbors look just like them, everyone here looks like them, and the future is secure, but still they think: What may come? So, the gun.

On a statutory holiday in high July heat, the neighbor and her sister, two beautiful sisters, hear the shot from across the street, and cover their mouths with their hands. Neither speaks, but both think:

Is that what we think it is?

Of course it’s what they think it is.

What of them, these two silver-haired ladies, walking down to the park in white blouses and light blue sweaters, holy sisters in white and blue, accidental and involuntary witnesses, innocents summoned by a sound? They stand straight now. They are tall for women, and they cannot move their hands from over their mouths. No one speaks, but someone will have to call.

A mother comes in from the garden. A father comes in from the garage. In the master bedroom, beneath an open dresser drawer, lie the ashes of this empire, and in them, a gun. Beside him, the gun.

A father. A mother. A funeral. A reading from the book of Psalms, the reading the thing that comes.

Steve Passey is from southern Alberta. He is the author of the collections Forty-Five Minutes of Unstoppable Rock and The Coachella Madrigals and many other things. He is an editor/reader for the Black Dog Review. Tweet to him @CanadianCoyote1.