“Take your gun with you. And a couple of spare clips.” I’d never forget Mom’s words, just like I’d never forget that day, when I changed forever.
I wanted to listen to a public speech by Diane Harris, the feminist. Mom tried to talk me out of it. “Son. There are nasty people in the world who try to stamp out what they don’t understand, what they are afraid of. They will be there, and they will try to stop her from talking.”
“I know, Mom. But I need to go. I need to show I support the free expression of thought. Besides, I like the things she says. She makes sense. I want to help her change the world.”
When she knew she couldn’t talk me out of it, she changed to Mother Hen mode, and started trying to protect me. “Take your gun with you.” She insisted on walking me to the front door, and watched me get in my car. “Be careful. Be safe.”
Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if she said, “Come home tonight.” I wouldn’t be surprised if she prayed, “God, bring my baby home safely.”
Everybody knew about the gun threats. “If Diane Harris gets to speak, there will be a massacre. We’ll kill everyone there.” It was one of those men’s groups. You know the type. “Men are superior. Women are subservient to men.” That kind of shit. Another group declared, “All you women, show up! We’ll take your picture, and hunt you down, and show you what women are for!”
Tommy, my best friend said he had to go. His girlfriend was going, and he had to try to keep her safe. Frank and Jimmy said the same thing. And my Dad told me, “You need to stand for something. Pick a side. Pick a cause. Pick something to believe in. And stand up for it.”
Yeah. I pretty much had to show up.
I patted my gun, under my jacket. Concealed, of course. Everyone had a concealed carry permit anymore. I’d never needed it. Never had to use it. But it made me feel safer knowing it was there, and I could defend myself if I needed to.
“Only an idiot would come here to shoot people,” I chuckled. With the Stand Your Ground law, everyone would probably be armed. If someone drew a gun, a dozen other guns would show up ready to shoot him.
And that’s exactly what happened.
First, one guy drew a gun. He shot the girl next to him. Of course, people pulled out their guns, to shoot him, and save themselves. He shot one of them, then another, They started shooting back. Yeah, they got him, and three or four people near him.
Then, a second guy drew his gun. And a third guy. I figure there were a dozen of them in the crowd, pulling guns, shooting at everyone. A guy in the row in front of me pulled out a friggin’ cannon. He pulled the trigger, and started mowing down everyone he saw, shooting merrily away.
So, I drew my gun. And the guy behind me shot me. In the back. “He’s got a gun too!”
It was hell on Earth. Bullets flew everywhere. People panicked. People ran. People died. Everybody screamed. It sounded like something out of a bad movie.
I don’t know how I’m still alive.
They tell me I was in the ICU for a week, no one knew if I’d wake up. They told me what happened. 56 people died. Yeah. 56. 109 wounded. I was one of the 109. Tommy and his girl were part of the 56. Jimmy was another part of the 109. He was recovering, but he’d lost his left arm. Got shot, fell down, got trampled. They couldn’t save it.
They tell me, with a little more technological advancement, I might learn to walk in a few years. Got shot in the back, remember. Spinal cord damage. My legs don’t work anymore. Oh, they’re alive. Blood flows through them just fine. But they don’t feel a damn thing, and I can’t wiggle my toes.
Mom cries every time she visits.
Dad tells me how proud he is, “You stood up for something you believed in! You’re a real man!”
Thanks Dad. Did I mention, I can’t feel my toes?
I keep hearing the numbers. 56 dead. 109 wounded.
The neighbors all sent get well cards. I hate them. Every card. I hate them. “Thank you for standing up for free speech!” “Get well soon!”
I keep thinking I should have gone to the beach instead of the speech. I’d have watched almost naked women in their tiny bikinis, and soaked up the sun. And maybe one of almost naked women would have asked me to spend the night with her. In her place. In her bed. With no clothes on. And I could have banged her.
Instead, I went to that damn speech.
A couple of police officers stopped by after I woke up. They asked me what happened. I told them. I asked them what happened. “It’s under investigation.” That’s all they said.
The nurses explained. No one got charged with anything. Except the first guy with a gun. He was dead, of course, but they’d charged him with instigating a riot. Everything that happened after he started firing was normal self-defense. No one got charged with anything. Even the guy that shot me in the back. “No hard feelings,” the nurses said, “He was only defending himself, standing his ground. It was just bad luck.”
Bad luck. He shot me in the back. I wasn’t looking at him. He drew his gun, and shot me. Crippled me. And he didn’t do anything wrong in the eyes of the law. Stand Your Ground, they call it. Defend yourself, and the people around you. Good, sensible law, ain’t it?
Did I mention I can’t wiggle my toes? I wonder sometimes. Do they itch?
The truth? Everyone went nuts. Everyone went crazy. And just started shooting. And they didn’t stop until they ran out of bullets. Yes, we defended ourselves. And we shot a lot of people defending ourselves. Most of them weren’t the bad guys. Most of them didn’t deserve to get shot.
I sure as hell didn’t.
Did I mention I can’t wiggle my toes? Hell, I can’t even reach the bottoms of my feet. For all I know, the nurses could have painted the blue.
56 dead. 109 wounded.
But we protected our right to free speech. And our right to bear arms. We defended ourselves. Yeah. We sure did that.
I wonder. If my toes itch, but I can’t feel them, do they still need to be scratched?