I wrote this short story three years ago. I posted it then, and I felt better. So I’m going to post it again tonight. I’m doing it because I was on Facebook and Twitter. And I am disgusted and disheartened by what Americans are saying to each other.
“Ban the Muslims, keep the guns.”
“My automatic weapon didn’t kill anyone today.”
“What don’t you understand about the 2nd Amendment?”
So. I am so man and so frustrated. This story is my fantasy. I wish I had the courage to really do it. If you like the story, pass it on. Maybe we’ll all feel better.
It was Friday afternoon, an hour after the last kid had gotten on the last bus. I was packing up some weekend work when my best friend, Betsy, popped her head into my classroom.
“Glass of wine before we head home?”, she asked hopefully. Before I knew it, we were seated at a table at Joe’s, a bowl of popcorn chicken bits in front of us, matching glasses of white wine in our hands. We started off talking about the week, as usual. Which kids were having trouble with the math, which kids were way behind in their reading and which parents were driving us nuts. We sipped and laughed and ignored the calories we were scarfing down in those greasy little blobs of chicken fat.
It was a typical Friday evening.
Then the news came on. We were sitting across from the bar, and the screen was in full view. We didn’t pay too much attention to the first couple of stories, but suddenly the screen was filled with the smirking face of Warren LaDouche, head of the American Gun Owners Gang. As usual, he was managing to keep a straight face as he somberly explained all of the reasons why it was necessary to arm public school teachers. I don’t know how he manages to avoid breaking into gales of maniacal laughter when he says things like, “If every teacher were armed and ready, they would be able to respond to these attackers in a timely manner.”
Betsy grimaced, and took a healthy slug of her wine as LaDouche went on with fake sincerity, elaborating on his plan to have armed guards standing at recess and loaded guns in every classroom.
“This guy is just sick!”, Betsy hissed, leaning forward across the table so far that she almost landed in the chicken bits. “I know!”, I hissed back. “I cannot believe that NO one out there is calling him out for this crap!”
“Its so obvious that AGOG just wants to sell more and more guns! They don’t give a damn who dies in the process!”
“Everyone knows that they are paid for and supported by the gun manufacturing companies. But the government just refuses to stand up to them!”
“I can’t believe that people are listening to this crap! They are actually thinking about making us carry guns instead of making the damn things illegal and getting them off the streets!”
We sat there for a while longer, sipping, eating, listening to the bullshit coming from the screen. The wine ran out just as the news report came to an end. We had lost our happy Friday night mood by then, and we were quiet as we paid the bill and headed out to our cars. I threw my purse onto the seat and turned to give Betsy a hug goodbye.
Uh, oh. I knew that look. Betsy was frowning and puffing out her lips in deep thought. She twirled one lock of greying hair around her finger in what I knew was a sign of concentration.
“Bets,” I began, but she put her fists on her ample hips and launched right in, like she always does.
“What if we do something ourselves? What if we take some kind of action that just cannot be ignored? I mean, this is just not right! I refuse to carry a rifle in my classroom!”
The image of Betsy, armed and dangerous, almost made me laugh, but I knew better. She was serious, and she was mad. And she was my best friend.
I sighed, and said, “I don’t know what we could do, hon. But if you think of something, you know I’m right there with you! I’ve got your back. Have a good weekend.”
By the time I got home and started dinner, I had all but forgotten the press conference and the conversation after it. My husband came home. We had dinner and talked and then I settled down on the couch with my knitting.
It must have been about 10 pm when my phone suddenly rang. Everyone who knows me knows that I am usually out cold by 10 pm on a Friday, and I was in fact already under the covers when the call came in. I would have ignored it, but I always keep my phone close by in case my kids need to reach me. I picked it up, located my bifocals, and saw Betsy’s name on the screen. What on earth…..?
“Hey, Betsy! What’s wrong?”
“I have a plan. Don’t say anything, don’t argue, just listen to me.”
I took a deep breath, settled back on my pillows, and listened to her.
And that’s why I found myself on my couch two days later, my laptop open and my credit card in hand. My heart was hammering away, and I could feel nervous sweat pooling under my arms. I had gone to several web sites to find the best deals, and now I was ready to order.
“It’s perfectly legal”, I told myself as I got ready to click “Add to cart”. The fact that what I was about to do was legal was the root of the whole problem. I sat up straight, gulped, and hit the button.
As promised, my purchase arrived within a week. I read the little “how to” pamphlet that came with the packages, and called Betsy to see if she had read hers.
“Sarah, this is ridiculously easy!! I can’t wait to try them out.”
“What?! You can’t try them out! Betsy, don’t!”
“Oh, I’ll be careful…..”
“Betsy! No! You’re the one who made up the plan! You said we’d wait until the last minute so no one would know!”
She grumbled a little, then gave a sigh.
“OK. Then I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
The next morning, early, I kissed my sleeping husband on the cheek, and grabbed my very heavy bag. I placed it carefully in the back seat of my car, and headed out to pick up Betsy at her house. I had told my husband that I would be away for the next few days, the first part of April vacation, relaxing with my dear friend. I had lied.
After Betsy placed her own very heavy bag in my trunk, we headed onto the highway. As we headed south, she reached over and squeezed my hand.
“We are doing the right thing, Sara. Someone has to do this. They haven’t left us any choice.” I nodded, but kept my eyes on the road in front of me.
We reached our destination without any problems, in just under 5 hours. We parked on the street across from the surprisingly modest house. We waited. We ate the last few M&M’s in the bag between us.
“I need to pee.”, I complained.
“Hold on, hold on. He’ll be here soon, I’m sure. I called his secretary this morning, remember? I told her we wanted an interview, and she said his last appointment today was at 4.”
“What if he goes out to dinner?”
“Oh, just hold it, will you? Sheesh. You’re a teacher, for God’s sake. You can hold off for hours.”
Just as I sat back to wait, a big gray car pulled into the driveway.
“It’s him!” Betsy clutched her chest, breathing hard. “Oh, my God, oh, my God!”
“Calm down! We have to get over there, quick!”
We piled out of the car, straightening our skirts and pulling down the backs of our sweaters. As we hustled across the street in our sturdy Dansko clogs, each of had a big “teacher bag” over one shoulder.
We looked like two middle aged elementary school teachers. Because that’s what we were.
We were also two angry old ladies on a mission.
And we were armed.
As we approached his driveway, Warren LaDouche cast a wary glance over his shoulder. I smiled with every ounce of fake cheer I could muster.
“Oh, my goodness, Betsy, you were right!”, I squealed, “It really IS Warren LaDouche!” I waved my free hand as I scurried up the long drive.
“Mr. LaDouche! Oh, my goodness! Please, can we have your autograph!” That was Betsy, huffing and puffing with excitement as she hurried up behind me.
Just as we had predicted, ole Warren was so full of self-appreciation that he fell for our story right away. What could be less threatening than a couple of chubby older ladies? He smiled at us, showing yellowing, uneven teeth.
“Can we have your autograph? Please? We’re teachers! We’ll just be so excited to show your signature to our friends back at school! You’re, like, the hero of the schools!” As we chirped and fluttered around the smiling man, we had maneuvered him closer to his back door, and the car was now between us and the neighbors. It was nearly dark, and we knew that there was very little chance that anyone would see what was about to happen.
I gave the signal that we had agreed upon. “Let me just grab a pen from my bag!”
Warren still stood there smiling as Betsy and I simultaneously reached into those big canvas bags and pulled out the semiautomatic handguns that we had purchased on line. Mine felt like it weighed a thousand pounds as I swung it up into the shooting position that I had seen in the pamphlet. My arm hurt already, and I was pretty sure that I was about to have a heart attack and wet my pants, all at the same time.
“Open the door and walk inside, Warren.” Betsy sounded slightly less panicked than I felt, but I knew that this was the key moment. If he believed us, we could pull this off. If he laughed in our faces, it was all for nothing.
The thought of having spent almost $2,000 for nothing sent a jolt through me. The thought of this man allowing ever more deadly guns to be brought into our schools sent a wave of rage right behind it.
I surprised myself by jabbing the muzzle of the gun right into Warren’s pudgy midsection.
“Open the damn door, Warren. NOW!”
He was breathing fast, and his beady eyes were scanning the street, but Warren reached for the door. He inserted a key and took a step. I kept the gun firm against his waistline.
“You two have no idea what you’re doing.” I was gratified to hear that Warren’s voice was shaking.
“Oh, you’re wrong, LaDouche. We followed AGOG’s advice to the letter. We have our guns, two bags full of ammo magazines and all the time in the world. You were right! It does make us feel more powerful to have these things in our hands.”
As we had planned, I held the gun on Warren while Betsy checked him for weapons (ew…..). We were slightly amazed to find that he was carrying a handgun under his jacket! Yikes!!! He hadn’t even tried to reach it! We exchanged a look of terror as Betsy emptied the chamber and put the gun in her bag. I pushed Warren into a kitchen chair, then Betsy pulled his arms behind his back, and attached him firmly with two pairs of handcuffs (also purchased on line without a problem).
We stood looking at each other, our eyes huge, our mouths hanging open.
I was still flooded with adrenaline, but I was starting to shake.
Betsy dropped into a chair that matched Warren’s, her gun clanking against the table.
I suddenly remembered my earlier problem, and gasped, “Betsy! Keep the gun on him! I gotta go!”
Somehow, I managed to find the bathroom and use it without shooting myself. I washed my face and made my way back to the kitchen.
Warren was sitting quietly, looking steadily at Betsy’s gun. He looked smaller cuffed to his kitchen chair than he had on TV.
For a moment, I just stood there. All three of us seemed slightly stunned by the events of the day. But time was moving on, and I knew that we had a lot to do. I gave myself a little mental head slap, and turned to Betsy.
“OK, kiddo. Get the iPad out.” She looked at me blankly for a minute, then smiled. Betsy loves new technology, in spite of her age, and she was excited about the video we were about to make.
We spent a few minutes arranging the items on Warren’s kitchen table, finding a good spot to prop the iPad so that the sound and visual quality would be as clear as possible. We sat ourselves at the table, with Warren in view behind us. We had explained our plan to him, and that’s when he had finally come out of his stupor.
“You stupid bitches!”, he had snarled, “You can’t do this! No one will believe you. You can never outmaneuver AGOG!” We finally had an excuse to do what we had been hoping to do all along. We were teachers. We had been teaching ten year olds to recognize and appreciate symbolism in literature.
We gagged ole Warren with an ugly green dishtowel. How’s that for a metaphor?
At last we were ready to go.
Betsy started the recorder and I began.
“Hello, my name is Sara Williamson, and this is Betsy Manchester. We are elementary school teachers with the Braxton Public Schools. We are armed.” (The camera cut to the two guns, and the huge pile of ammunition clips and magazines beside them.)
“We have just kidnapped Mr. Warren LaDouche, chairman and spokesperson for the American Gun Owners Gang, commonly known as AGOG.” (Betsy moved the iPad camera to Warren, who by now looked both ridiculous and apoplectic.)
“This…….man…..is trying to convince the American people that we will all be safer if we allow every citizen to own as many weapons as he can carry. He wants you to believe that by carrying a weapon, you’ll be protecting yourself from so called bad guys.”
I held up the gun and clip that we had taken from Warren in the kitchen.
“Well, he was carrying this when we grabbed him. We pulled out our guns before he pulled out his, and that was the end of his resistance.
Being armed with a dangerous weapon did not do one single thing to keep Warren here any safer. As you can see, we took his gun away, and now he’s handcuffed to a chair. We can shoot him time we want to.”
That last line made me gulp a bit, but I grimly went on. Betsy was handling the filming, saving each clip and keeping the camera pointed accurately.
“Ladies and gentleman, you can see that Warren LaDouche and his friends at AGOG are full of….” I paused to find a proper word. After all, I am a teacher of young children. “Full of horse manure. They are lying to you.”
“Let’s think about background checks, shall we? AGOG and its supporters feel that there should be fewer required background checks. We are here to tell you that even the ones we have now are not anywhere close to sufficient.”
I held my gun up to the camera and said, “No background check can keep you safe if guns like these are out there in public. We bought ours from a licensed gun dealer online. We both went through the required background checks. We passed with flying colors. You see, we have no criminal history and we have never been diagnosed with a major psychiatric illness.”
Now I stood up, gun in hand, and walked over to Warren. I pointed a shaking finger at him.
“This man wants you to believe that we should bring guns into our classrooms! He wants you to believe that we can kids keep safe, we can keep our families safe, we can keep our movie theaters and grocery stores and neighborhoods safe as long as there are guns flooding all those places. As long as we run background checks to look for criminals who intend to do harm.”
I was working up a head of steam now, thinking about the little ones in my classroom, thinking about those babies at Newtown, thinking about Aurora and Columbine and the streets of every city in the nation. I held up my gun one more time.
“I’m here to tell you, right now, that more guns will NOT keep you safe. Background checks will NOT keep you safe. Anyone can get mad enough and desperate enough to use one of those guns for its intended purpose. Even two aging fifth grade teachers can get angry enough to buy guns and use them to kidnap and threaten someone they hate. We passed the checks, we paid our money, we bought these guns legally. And we can use them right this minute to blow Warren LaDouche to bits.
Think about that when you consider whether or not we need to ban guns like the ones that my friend and I are holding right now.”
I nodded my head to Betsy, and the camera went off. I started to cry. Betsy came over and put her arms around me. We held each other for a few minutes as we cried. Our guns lay forgotten on the kitchen floor.
Three hours later, Betsy and I walked into the police station in Warren’s home town. We had spent the time at a local Starbuck’s, fueling up on lattes and scones. Betsy had spliced and edited the movie clips into one short film, running for about two minutes in length. Then we had uploaded it to Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo and Twitter. We had emailed copies to all of the major news outlets, including CNN. We finished our drinks, ate the last crumbs of our last desserts as free women, and headed out the door.
As we entered the police station, we were recognized almost immediately. We held our heads up high as the buzz raged around us, and the Captain was summoned. We remained silent as we handed him our note, giving the location of one angry but unharmed Warren LaDouche and telling him that our guns were unloaded and stored in the trunk of the car. After he had read the note, the Captain scratched his head, told his men to go get the guns and free LaDouche. Then he escorted us, fairly politely, into his office.
“Weren’t you ladies scared about what you did? Aren’t you worried about the consequences?”
I gave him a withering look, and smoothed out my wrinkled skirt.
“Captain, we teach fifth grade. Nothing scares us.”