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Syndic Literary Journal

Syndic Story ~ Miranda Wright ~ Clayton McMillan ~ Part 1

Miranda Wright

Ironic Short Story About Gun Violence

Written by Clayton McMillan

Narrated by Iris Rhian

Published by LeRoy Chatfield

Part 1

 

Sororicide: the act of killing one’s own sister

Everything happened so fast. I was already pulling the trigger. How can you stop when your finger’s already on its way? I saw the red spot spread on your stomach and you looked down and put your hand on it and the hand turned red too. I saw you look up with that look of yours, like “how could you do this? Shoot your own sister,” and I thought for a second, “did I do it on purpose?”

******

What if, she asked herself, a cop comes nosing about?  The neighbors would undoubtedly mention the sound of shooting.  “Where?” he would ask. “What target?” Then he would find the dozens of shreds of photos by the fence. He would have suspicions, but only she would know the real story.

The commercial break opened with a Soma ad:  a frail little old lady sitting peacefully in her living room, a sound at the window, she looks up alarmed, a hoodlum slips through the window, tattoos, bandana, the works. As he turns towards her his expression goes from malice to terror, there’s a loud blast and he is thrown back through the open window with great force. Lacy curtains rustle slightly in the wind. The camera switches to the old lady: still holding her Soma .45 in her hand, a whisp of smoke rises from the barrel. She shuffles with her walker to the window and shuts it. Her calm face turning towards the camera, the voiceover says, “Everyone’s safe with a Soma.”

The Jimmy Kimmel show resumed. “We’re back with Amy Knott, the star of the hit reality show, ‘Ha, you’ve been plugged!’” Applause. Amy smiled broadly.

Far off in the Midwest Miranda couldn’t watch anymore. She shouted, “TV Off!” and it went black.

“Bitch.”

Outside of Miranda’s trailer home the neighbor’s dog barked. He was more agitated than usual which always made Miranda uneasy. She went to the drawer and withdrew her Soma .45 X, then peered through the blinds. It was dusk and she could clearly see there was nothing. She stood before the black TV for several minutes, the pistol under her arm as if it were a dish rag. The dog stopped barking.

“TV On!” The TV turned on. She set the pistol on the coffee table. It was the 40th anniversary broadcast of Jimmy Kimmel Live. He was getting a little on in years and at 43 the woman he was interviewing looked quite young next to him.

“We’ve got a surprise for you now, Amy. Do you like surprises? Look at this clip.”

She gasped as the screen switched to a set much like the one she was on, but rather dated. A girl and two boys, eight years old, sat on a sofa, with a much younger Jimmy Kimmel behind the host’s desk.

“Awww,” crooned the audience, as if they were kittens.

“Do you recognize this?” Kimmel asked.

 “It’s me. When you interviewed me after the shooting.”

“The Shady Nook school shooting,” said Kimmel.

“Jimmy! Do I look that old?”

“No,” he smiled with embarrassment, “No, of course not. Not a day over 25.” He turned towards the studio audience. “She’s not a day over 25, right?” Cheers and clapping. “You look great. Really. She looks great, right?” Applause. She blushed.

“It was Brady Brook. The Brady Brook Elementary shooting.”

“Ah, yes, and that was what, about 10 years later?”

“Eight. I was in second grade.”

“Well, if you don’t mind my saying so, you do look good.” Jimmy turned toward the camera.

Back in the trailer, Miranda made a sound of disgust.

In the clip from 35 years ago Jimmy Kimmel asks the three children if they remember what had happened.

“A man had a gun in our school,” one of them replied.

“He was mean,” added another.

“But my mom says that kids are resilient and that we’ll be OK,” said eight-year-old Amy, her legs dangling back and forth from the chair. She emphasized each syllable to get it right, “Re-zil-ee-ent”. The audience clapped when she got through it. “She’s so cute,” someone said from the audience.

Miranda shouted angrily “TV off” and it went blank.

Outside she surveyed the remnants of her most recent target practice. Shreds of Amy’s photos lay about, the edges punctuated by bullet holes. Of course the police would not come. No neighbor would think twice about it. Shooting in town had been legal for 20 years and one regularly heard shots, not just in the trailer parks, without incident.

The screen door screeched as Miranda went back inside. The TV turned itself on, misjudging as always what Miranda wanted it to do.

“So, how many mass shootings have you survived?” Kimmel asked Amy.

“Eight.”

“And you need how many more?”

“Two.”

“Tell us how that works. I mean, how do you end up at these shootings? I know they happen all the time, but still, they must be pretty unpredictable.”

“Yes,” replied Amy, “but they aren’t as unpredictable as you’d think, and I use some statistical models to help me decide where to spend my time to increase the chances I’ll be there when it happens.”

 “And you made these models yourself?”

“God no.”

“But you’re a Harvard professor…”

“Was.”

“In math?”

“I’m a Huxley scholar.”

“What’s a Huxley?”

“You know, the 20th century author. A Brave New World.”

“Never heard of it.” Kimmel turned towards the audience. “Has anyone heard of it?” Silence.

“It’s been out of print for a while.” Amy said.

Miranda had heard of it. She had heard of it a lot at family dinners when they were in their early twenties. At the time Amy was working on her Ph.D. in Huxley Studies and Miranda, her younger sister, had now finally been accepted at art school. She had ambitions and would be famous one day and couldn’t understand how Amy could waste all her time in obscure and musty and empty academic buildings, shrouded in thick ivy that choked the light out of the windows. Their parents were skeptical of art school and encouraged Miranda to turn towards something practical. Like, well, like Amy was doing.

Mass shootings had already been a regular part of the evening news cycle when Shady Nook happened, and then the one at Amy’s elementary school, Brady Brook. But at that time, they still had the capacity to shock and traumatize, to elicit outpourings of prayers for the victims and their families, to engender tearful debate about what to do. People were only beginning to become hardened to the near daily headlines, and most were still willing to allow themselves to imagine what it would be like, and to be fearful that it might happen to them.

When, years after the first Kimmel interview, Amy emerged unscathed from a library shooting at the University of Chicago, her third, she was starting to become well known. Both for her Huxley work – she had written several well-regarded papers as an assistant professor – and because of her apparent immortality. Surviving them had ignited an image of a near legendary figure, and there was much speculation as to whether she would have the bad, or perhaps good, fortune to be present at a fourth.

Miranda had enjoyed promising fame herself, appearing in a local newspaper showcasing an exposition of her works at a gallery in town. Her mentor at the art college had advised her to, “above all, find your own unique style.”  Miranda had always admired the popular 20th century motif of bold fluorescent colors on black velvet featuring dogs playing poker and smoking cigars. She chose to adapt this style to a 21st century theme, featuring portraits of guns in profile, a pistol or semi-automatic rifle also in fluorescent colors upon black velvet. One of these paintings, of a Soma .45, had won second prize in a regional contest. She received lukewarm enthusiasm from her parents and other relatives, and even from her own friends; however, when she passed around photos of the exhibition at gatherings, everyone wanted to talk about Amy.

After the Chicago shooting, Amy appeared in interviews on national television, and indeed, on broadcasts around the world. Miranda slowly, unconsciously began to embellish her own story and could greatly exaggerate the fame surrounding her gun portraits as if she believed it herself. It was not a regional contest she had won, but a national art show. No, actually, it was an international show in Paris, the most prestigious, and her Soma .45 painting had drawn praise from Victor Hugo. The pop artist, not the famous writer.

Amy was soon offered and accepted a position on the faculty at Harvard.

“So, what’s Amy doing?” People would ask Miranda.

Each of the sisters visited their parents a few times a year. When their visits coincided, there was tension.

“Psychologists say that the middle child is always unloved,” said Miranda once.

“But… are you saying you’re unloved? There are only two of us. Do you mean that you’re the middle child?” replied Amy, perplexed. Miranda blushed with rage.

“No matter what I say you have to contradict me,” Miranda snapped. “If I even open my mouth, I know it’s going to be used against me.”

There were also good times, sitting on the patio on a warm summer evening as the light dimmed, talking late into the night after their parents had gone to bed, Amy drinking chardonnay and Miranda whisky.

(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/}

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