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Chips and Salsa

by Christina Parmelee

I woke to the sounds of whistles and young children screaming. I rubbed my eyes and groaned, must be Saturday. Every Saturday one of the blasted schools near my apartment plays one of its silly games. One minute I felt normal and thought about breakfast, the next something inside me snapped.

I got up and went to a chest of drawers where I keep my dead father’s things. He had an old hunting rifle in here. I wasn’t sure I knew what I was going to do with it, some force inside me simply instructed me to get it out of rest and load it.

I threw on a pair of jeans, a light cropped sweatshirt, and a hat over my long dark hair. I went out into broad daylight with the gun held tightly against my chest. I ran with a sense of urgency toward the school. I thought at first I was heading toward the playing field. But then something steered me toward the school library. I knew there would be more kids there, even if it was Saturday.

The library was disappointingly empty, just a few old biddy librarians and a few kids doing extra credit projects. I managed to dart in without being seen and I went up and down all the aisles. What was I searching for? What the hell was I doing? The gun was getting heavy and this bizarre need inside of me was growing.

Old biddy No. 2 saw me as I was exiting her library, she called out something. Did she see the barrel of the gun? I didn’t stick around to find out. I headed across the courtyard. I ran from building to building for what seemed like hours and I thought my pathway was leading me home.

When I got close to my apartment my path changed and I found myself heading toward the other school near my home. A distant whistle reminded me of my reason for leaving the apartment. It was a big, privately funded dream school built only five years ago. One of those schools you have to get your kid on the waiting list at least a year before you plan to have one.

I passed a group of buildings and once again found myself heading toward the library. I could see from the outside that this one was heavily populated by people of all ages. I couldn’t possibly walk in without being noticed.

I entered a magnificent glassed-in foyer that just screamed money. Elevators to my right led me to my final destination on the second floor.

The music playing in the elevator was an old Turtles song I couldn’t remember the name of. I took off when the doors opened and ran into the library behind a woman and her young son. I tried to find an unpopulated corner but it was too late. I was spotted by this woman that looked like she just stepped off the set of "Happy Days." I quickly hid the gun on top of a stack of books and walked away. I could tell she was being careful. She told another woman to go over by the gun. I beat her to it and grabbed the gun just as a security guard bigger than a linebacker tackled me. I heard the screams of patrons echoing all around me. The guard hauled my ass up and painfully pulled my arm (with me attached) to the front checkout desk.

People kept firing questions at me until I was ready to scream. One woman told me if I told the cops I was going to commit suicide I might be let go or committed to a hospital for a spell. I thanked her for the tip. "Happy Days" lady told me the faculty member in charge was on his way.

The faculty member, aka Coach Ryan, oozed charm and was a dead ringer for Sam Neill. I think he liked me right away for some strange reason. Of course, I didn’t mention that I was coming to his playing field that day with an old hunting rifle. He told the other staff present that he wanted to talk to me alone for a while before anyone called the cops. He made it sound like the exact perfect thing to do and no one lifted a finger to stop us. We headed up a beautiful marble staircase to a loft area that served Mexican food. Now I had seen wealth at its most gluttonous, a school library with an attached Mexican restaurant?!

The loft was all about light and big windows. The windows were covered by an apparently thin layer of paper. The tables had yellow lamps. They were low to the ground, room for one person to sit on a big red pillow and for the other to sit in a tiny white plastic chair. Coach Ryan sat on the ground and told me that even here, sitting on the ground made him feel closer to nature.

It almost seemed that the only reason he called me up here was to have someone to talk to. He talked about his ex-wife, his kids, his job at the school, the kids he coached. I was a captive audience, hell it sure beat jail. As he talked he ate chips and salsa. We didn’t even look at a menu.

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