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Syndic Literary Journal

Syndic Story ~ Miranda Wright ~ Clayton McMillan ~ Part 2

Miranda Wright

Ironic Short Story About Gun Violence

Written by Clayton McMillan

Narrated by Iris Rhian

Published by LeRoy Chatfield

Part 2

Amy was the first to marry, and their parents put on celebrations for three days, a magnificent wedding attended by friends from news agencies and universities around the world. Miranda was unable to attend the ceremony. Her career as the prima donna of gun art was floundering and she was now supporting herself painting portraits of pets. An important commission of a miniature poodle wearing a French beret, paw resting on an AK-47, was overdue for delivery on the day of Amy’s wedding.

Some months later Amy and her new husband received as a wedding present a painting of a pistol from Miranda’s unsold inventory, framed by empty shell casings welded together in the form of an ammo belt.

Soon Miranda announced her own intention to marry. She preempted any parental suggestions for how to celebrate. Instead, she staged her wedding on a culturally and geographically remote island. Expecting enthusiastic interest, there seemed to be no need to explicitly invite anyone. Unsure whether to invite themselves, no guests came.

She began to carry in her mind an image of Amy’s near royal wedding side-by-side with her own disappointing celebration: Miranda standing in a sand-fringed wedding gown on her wedding day, next to her soon to be ex-husband, alone on a vast empty beach on a cloudy day, flaccid waves lapping around their ankles.

When Amy’s daughter was born, followed  two years later by a baby sister, Miranda’s parents virtually ignored her so smitten were they with the grandchildren. Her own affection for her nieces was slowly overshadowed by some inexplicable rage whenever the whole family was together.

Jimmy Kimmel’s interview continued.

“Tell us how the show came about, ‘Ha, You’ve been Plugged.'”

“Well, after surviving the fourth mass shooting, or maybe it was the fifth… as you know, there had been a lot of press.”

“Like the Newsweek cover?” asked Jimmy.

“Yes, it was all rather distracting from my academic work. Somehow the tone in the press changed over time. I mean, it started out as horror that a single person would have been present at so many shootings.”

“Purely by chance, right?” Kimmel interjected.

“Yes, exactly. Then, I suppose to grab headlines, journalists started making it sound like some sort of game, like a sports event. It was disturbing.”

“And then…?”

“A producer friend of mine proposed the idea of a reality show.”

“By then there had been other survivors of multiple mass shootings, right?” asked Kimmel.

“That’s correct,” said Amy. “A few were close to my record. Robbie Tennenbaum was actually ahead of me.”

“The guy who died in the shooting in LA?”

“Vegas.”

“But it must be pretty horrible. I mean people get killed at these things. A lot of people, right? There’s screaming. And it’s messy. Obviously, the media does a good job of making the carnage into something even a kid can watch with her parents, but still, for you, I mean, you are actually there in person.”

“You get used to it. The human mind is extraordinarily adaptable. We’ve all really gotten used to it, haven’t we?”

“Well, I suppose so,” replied Jimmy.

After another commercial break Jimmy showed a few teaser clips of upcoming episodes of “Ha, You’ve Been Plugged.” To fill the gap between the unpredictable mass shootings, the show did sappy profiles of the participants, emphasizing their good sportsmanship and camaraderie with the other contestants through the mutual experience of adversity. A contestant who died in a mass shooting could look forward to a full memorial episode, a review of their life and good deeds that brought tears to the most hardened viewers. Miranda sometimes imagined what the memorial episode for her sister Amy might be like. There’d be scenes of their childhood together, of Miranda’s design works, and interviews with Miranda showing how much her deceased sister Amy had loved her.

Finally, Jimmy began his wrap-up, “Thank you for being on the show, again, Amy. It’s always good to have you.” He turned towards the audience and gestured towards Amy. “Amy Knott of the hit reality TV show, ‘Ha, You’ve Been Plugged.’  Before you go, Amy, what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from all this?”

“Duck.”

The audience exploded in laughter.

Miranda’s TV recognized Kimmel’s usual sign-off at the end of the show. It turned itself off, leaving her standing in the half-dark, Soma .45 still in hand.

******

The shooting at Amy’s elementary school when she was eight had proved to be a turning point in America. There was a lot of soul searching in the media, impassioned speeches, tears, impromptu memorials, cosmetic new security policies. Shootings that involved children, so many innocents… that was a line that couldn’t be crossed.   

The debate culminated on the “News Hour” with Judy Woodruff interviewing John Smith,  head of the fledgling Citizens for Responsible Exercise of the Second Amendment and Wayne La Pierre, long time President of the National Rifle Association.

“Why are there so many shootings in America?” Woodruff asked Smith.

“That’s easy,” he replied. “People have guns, everyone has a gun. It’s a kind of drug. Whenever you’re feeling a little insecure, you get out your Soma .45 and run your fingers along the barrel and then you feel like everything is going to be all right. But then people find themselves in a situation, you know, a kid who thinks it’s a toy, an argument with the boss, or a spouse suspecting an affair. Things get heated and in a fit of rage a gun is pulled. Stabbing someone… most people could not do it, no matter how angry they are. It’s too close. But a gun, when there’s the anger, and the means and the distance… and if you’re really angry, and you hold onto the anger long enough, maybe it turns into a mass shooting.”

La Pierre scoffed. “It’s because there are so many criminals with guns. People have a right to protect themselves. If the other guy has a gun and all you’ve got is a butter knife…”

“The vast majority of shootings,” replied Smith, “the victim knew the shooter; they aren’t criminals, they’re ordinary people who lose control. And if they have the means, they use it.”

La Pierre rolled his eyes. He was obviously irritated by Smith’s calm, intellectual demeanor.  Things grew contentious. Smith questioned the need for the average American to own an assault rifle. La Pierre cited the Second Amendment. Smith wondered if the 20 first-graders who had been gunned down in a matter of two minutes might have escaped had the gunman not had an assault rifle. La Pierre cited the Second Amendment. He began to talk over Smith, citing the Second Amendment repeatedly, with an increasingly loud, sing-song voice, as if it were a rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance or a church hymn.

Finally, La Pierre cut Smith short. “It’s because of people like you that those kids died. If those teachers had had guns, they could’ve blown that nut case away, rather than standing there helplessly waiting to die. It’s your fault because you took the teachers’ guns away!” La Pierre then pulled out a Soma .45 on live television and fired across the table, hitting Smith between the eyes. Smith’s body flew off the screen. Judy Woodruff sat in stunned terror. There was blood on the camera lens. Wayne La Pierre calmly set the gun on the table, as if he wanted to keep it handy. “If we don’t protect our rights, we’ll lose them. Need I say more?”

La Pierre was arrested, tried, and convicted of manslaughter. People were up in arms. He was soon pardoned by the President, who died two weeks later when taking pot shots at a poster of the Speaker of the House that he had hung in the Lincoln Bedroom. A bullet ricocheted off the wall and hit him in the heart.

Ultimately the courts ruled that the right to carry a gun superseded the right to free speech. Smith’s death was his own fault for having upset a man holding a gun.

******

At one family dinner at their parents’ house things grew contentious. Amy and her family had planned a weeklong stay over Independence Day. Now divorced for several years, Miranda arrived alone, and as usual intended to keep the visit as short as appearances would allow.

Earlier that day Miranda had ushered her two nieces into the kitchen. “Girls,” she said with enthusiasm, “let’s do a little project together.”

She had imagined a full afternoon with the children imitating their favorite aunt’s artistic talents in that charming childish way that suggests unbridled admiration. But the children showed only polite interest, and when their grandmother called from another room to give them a surprise gift of teddy bears, Miranda was left sitting alone.  The room grew dark from a sudden summer cloudburst. Amy entered and switched on the lights, observing with sympathy, “They’re too old for paste and crayons. Lately they’ve been experimenting with oil paints.” Miranda demonstrably hit the light switch, plunging the room back into darkness.

By dinner Amy’s girls had devised an elaborate fantasy of the bears as inseparable sisters who were there for each other in the face of any adversity. Faces flush with anticipation after eating, they rushed out to continue with the game. Their grandfather and father stepped out on the veranda. Miranda and Amy and their mother were left sitting alone in the twilight, Miranda still picking away at the pile of fish bones on her plate.

“Those bears are so sweet,” said Amy. “The girls are so happy. Thank you, Mom. They remind me of the teddies we had as children.”

“I never had a teddy bear,” retorted Miranda.

“Yes, you did!” replied their mother. “I gave them to you together.”

“I only remember Amy had one.”

“You left yours in the rain. You didn’t want it. Remember, you wanted a gun.”

*****

(To Be Continued)

{Author Bio:  In addition to publishing a number of research papers about Artificial Intelligence, Clayton McMillan has also written two novels and a number of short stories}

{Narrator Bio: Iris Rhian is an Actor |Writer | Director  ~ https://www.irisrhian.com/}

Miranda Wright ~ Part 1

 

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