a barren field in fall with empty hay wagon

Guns in the Living Room

Beyond the lot, there's fields that freeze over night and soften just before sundown. The land is flat and rutted from the last harvest. There's stuff stuck in the upper branches of a single row of trees that separates this field from another.

Joe usually spends his long Saturdays building plywood ramps to jump puddles with a neighbor's bike, if he can find a kid willing to let him ride. Most other times, he's making another kite and trying to fly it in the field. Scraps of things caught in branchs, dried stalks of corn, plastic bags and the general drifting garbage. Collecting and repurposing old rags and advertisements for makeshift flight in the sky. He shrugs and says he'll do anything to stay out of that stuffy, smokey trailer.

The trailer is on a small lot of land; only 8 feet wide and 14 feet long. On the days Joe comes here, he always finds Arnie's kid digging in the dirt near the trailer's front door. The kid's usually making mud pies or recreating a construction site with his Tonka "dull-dozer" and other miniature yellow CAT equipment trucks. The boy makes a low "rummmmmmmmm rummmmmmm" sound with his trucks and says nothing more. Dirt mixes with his saliva and trickles down his chin. He's much older than he looks and old enough not to act that way. Joe's staring at his feet, head down as he makes his way into the living room.

Arnie's kid knows to enter the trailer when the street lights come on. Funny calling them that, considering there is not a street in sight, just a pile of dirt in the middle of nowhere with some trailers. There are feed fields in every direction, as far as the eye can see. And more beyond that. They call them that on account the corn they grow is for feeding livestock, not humans. The acres of fields have small clusters of trailers that once housed the farm help. Now, with the fields run by corporations instead of the families who are mostly still here, these trailers have all sorts of people that don't work on a farm. There were many manufacturing jobs in the area. Good wages, job stability, community. But it's all long gone. Most good jobs here didn't require a high school diploma, let alone an expensive college degree. But that's all gone now. So you get jobs where you can, live where you can. Joe reckoned nowhere comes with street lights sometimes and solemnly takes his place in the living room.

There's a tv in the corner and its ornate cabinet of worn honey-stained oak clashes with the wooden gun racks mounted on every wall in the room. Guns of all sorts. Rifles. Pistols. Colts. Remingtons. Each with a story. Guns for hunting. Guns for shooting. Guns for 'just messin' around'. Guns for killing. Just right there on the wall under the mounted buck, guns. Sometimes someone would prop a gun in the deer's antlers. Some were maybe loaded. Some were spent. All within quick reach. There's six old brightly colored margarine tubs lying around the room full of shells and bullets placed like candles or decoration around the room. Joe could sometimes find enough spare change to get something to eat when he went to town. Spent shells and new ammo were mixed with whatever else they dumped from their pockets into the tub after at the end of the day.

Everything was right there on the walls. Wooden walls on wooden gun racks on wooden handled guns. Guns for hunting. Guns for shooting. Guns for threatening. Guns for killing. Guns for fun. Guns within reach. Guns in the living room.

Joe shrugged. You just don't touch them, he said glancing up at them from his spot on the floor. Kids sit on the floor here, he said quietly.

Arnie's kid sits just a foot away from the tv on the floor. He's making the same sounds with his matchbox cars as he did with his Tonka trucks. Dirt mixed with saliva is still drooling down his face and disappering into puddles within the orange shag carpet. He's at least eight by now and he's still drooling. He sits almost directly under six guns mounted above the television on the wood-paneled wall. Sometimes the kid fishes bullets from the margarine tub on the end table and keeps them in his pocket to fidget with. Soon he'll be playing with the guns in the living room. They'll start shooting cans and rodents first, then move on to larger targets. Until then, his toy cars will jump over the bullets or crash into them on the floor while making low "rummmmmmmmm rummmmmmm" sounds.

I’m open to new opportunities.

If you're looking to connect, let’s grab a coffee and chat!

Here's some of what I'm listening to.

crosswalk shot across from the sfmoma with painting that reads think outside the building.