Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.
Author's Note: *Warning*
This story contains a description of a school shooting. It may be disturbing to some.
This story is meant to be read along with another of my articles. It is a poem called, Sublime, and touches on the same issue as this story although it offers a vastly different solution. The purpose of the two articles is to help us consider what the responses of society should be to these extreme acts of violence against innocent people.
I Killed a Man Today
I don’t want to go to school today. I have a headache, and I didn’t do my homework for algebra. But I don't want to miss football practice, so I have to go to classes. I walk along the sidewalk considering the unfairness of a system that won’t let a football player go to practice on a day he misses school because he’s sick.
School buses pull to the curb and open their doors. Students flood the sidewalk and head as one toward the entrance. Others park their cars in the student lot and proceed to the same set of doors. Once inside, they begin dispersing.
I open my locker and look at my girlfriend’s photo. On the back, written in her perfect handwriting, is the message, Trevor, I love you, Cristina. I really like her. We met at a school-sponsored party after I spent half the night trying to find the courage to ask her to dance with me. I see her coming into the building. She drives her own car to school. I head that way to say good morning. Her hair is long, blonde, and soft. I’m not the star of the football team by any means. If she wanted, she could be with the star of the team. But she chose me.
A guy I’ve seen around school but have never spoken to comes in behind Cristina. He’s a loner and more than a little strange. Some say he flunks every class. Others say he aces every class. Who knows? Normally his eyes are on the floor directly in front of him when he walks. Some of the guys tease him and push him around. Some of the girls act grossed out when he comes near. Today, he seems more animated, like he’s glad to be at school. What’s his name? I can’t think of it.
He’s looking wildly this way, then that. He opens his backpack and starts digging. I mean, he’s frantically digging for something. Then he stops. Whatever he was looking for, he must have found. He smiles and pulls his hand out.
“He has a gun!” someone screams.
I freeze. What should I do?
What would you do? Really, what would you do in this exact situation? You could do what so many are doing right now. They’re standing there screaming and pointing, screaming and pointing. I don’t know about you, but that just isn’t me. Another thing you could do is run like hell. Lots of people are doing that. It’s a much better choice than the first one. Some run farther into the building. Others are going back outside. That’s not me either.
He’s shooting! My god! He’s shooting right into the crowd! One falls, and another. No! This can’t be happening! The magazine drops from the gun. He reaches into his bag and pulls out another, crams it into place and points the gun again. Stop! No! Now more of the students are running. He fires again and again and again. Each time, another student falls.
The third thing a person could do is to stop the shooter. Is that you? Could you? Would you? People are dying. I can’t just stand here and scream. I can’t run away and let my friends die. I have to do something. But what is that something? I could call the police, but I can’t imagine a hundred 911 calls haven’t been made already.
I’m to his left. He hasn’t seen me yet. I look around. I can see people in the principal’s office peeking out through the window in the door. Outside the office is a single chair and a wooden table with periodicals on it. I see a Boy’s Life magazine. I bet there isn’t an article inside about what to do when shit like this hits the fan.
I dash across the hall and flip the table over. I kick at the leg. It loosens. I grab it and twist at the same time as I pull. It comes loose. I hold it in both hands like a baseball bat. It will have to do. I turn and run.
He doesn’t see me. He’s too busy reloading again. I stay as far back behind his peripheral vision as I can and loop farther behind him. Closer. Closer. He reloads and fires at the lingering students. Some just can’t seem to cope enough to get out of harm's way.
I’m standing behind him. He still doesn’t know I’m here.
He is one of the few guys in school with long hair. My plan is to crush his skull with the table leg. Could you do it? Can I? He’s firing again. Another falls. What is it like to kill another human being? He knows.
I pick my spot.
Like Smashing a Watermelon With a Baseball Bat
I swing the club hard in a wide sweeping fashion. I play baseball in the spring. I know how to handle a bat. This is a homerun swing. The sound is a dull thud, not at all like hitting a baseball.
A couple of years ago, two buddies and I snuck into a farmer’s field and smashed a bunch of watermelons with baseball bats. The guy’s head felt like that—like breaking a watermelon with a baseball bat.
The shooter is on the floor with blood pouring out in a pool around his head. The gun lies a few feet away. People are crying, screaming out in pain. It happened so fast that I don’t even hear police sirens yet. The principal still hasn’t come out of his office.
I bend down and check for the shooter’s pulse on his wrist. I place a finger on the side of his neck. I’ve never had to search for someone’s pulse before. I’ve felt my own, but that isn’t the same. I check again, but I can’t find his pulse.
I killed a man today.
But maybe I saved a few lives too.