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Syndic Literary Journal

Syndic Story ~ Miranda Wright ~ Clayton McMillan ~ Part 3

Miranda Wright

Ironic Short Story About Gun Violence

Written by Clayton McMillan

Narrated by Iris Rhian

Published by LeRoy Chatfield

Part 3

Amy had become a well-established Huxley scholar. Academics had never really come to terms with Huxley’s adamant support of Eugenics, and Amy felt that from her respected position she could effectively argue for setting the racist Huxley aside in favor of the intellectually balanced Huxley, much in the way one could separate the slave holding George Washington from the father of the country. She published a respected thesis that was well regarded by academics and even received some attention in the mainstream media.

She and her husband had bought a nice house on a leafy street in Cambridge, a short walk from her Harvard office. Their girls were growing into young women, and Amy thought that if Miranda came to stay with them for a while, things might get better. After many invitations Miranda accepted. She had been forced to give up her apartment due to a long drought in pet portrait commissions, and frankly, she had nowhere else to live. She bussed to Boston from the Midwest with just a few possessions.  

Things were going relatively well. Amy was welcoming and careful not to say anything that might be perceived as condescending, and Miranda pulled herself together. One night she agreed to join Amy and her husband at a cocktail party. Amy soon observed Miranda standing with three young men. “She looks good,” said Amy. “She seems happy.”

“She was always good at flirting,” noted Amy’s husband.

Amy joined them. “This is my sister,” said a tipsy Miranda, putting her arm around Amy’s shoulder.

“Ah, Amy Knott, nice to meet you,” replied one of the men, who clearly knew who she was.

“They’re waiters,” whispered Miranda to Amy, as if to show that they were already on intimate enough terms to have discussed professions. “I waitressed when I was in school,” Miranda announced proudly.

Amy nodded and did not mention that she knew who they were, and that they were from Harvard and had Ph.D.’s in Philosophy. Unable to find faculty positions, they had become waiters. There was idle, flirtatious banter. One of the men put his arm around Miranda’s waist and she leaned into him. “Things are going well,” thought Amy.

Unfortunately, there had been a shooting that day in California. The man with his arm around Miranda brought it up. “Problem is, everyone has a gun. Why does every moron need a gun?”

“I have a gun,” interjected Miranda, pulling away from him. “A Soma .45 X. It’s my constitutional right.”

“Everyone thinks he has a right to a gun,” said one of them reproachfully. “People cling to their rights, no matter how stupid they are.”

“I don’t have to justify it. That’s another right,” retorted Miranda.  The men laughed. Amy tried to change the subject, but an argument ensued. Miranda tried to reinforce her position by restating it more emphatically. It did not go well. She was quickly outgunned by the philosopher-waiters. Miranda blamed Amy. She felt Amy had stood by, probably happily, while she said things she shouldn’t have said. She thought of her Soma .45, how firm it would feel if she could run her finger along the barrel. That soothed her, but inside she still burned with rage.

The next morning Miranda angrily left Cambridge and that was the last time they saw each other until the final mass shooting. 

Shortly thereafter, Amy’s fame began to turn to infamy. Neo-Nazis deftly turned Amy’s critique of Huxley’s Eugenics into a manifesto for unapologetic white supremacists. No amount of denial or clarification on Amy’s part could dissuade the skeptical popular news media that she hadn’t meant it that way. Her idolization on social media among young white conservative males only served to reinforce the false impression. Some of them mixed up her physical attractiveness with her intellectual arguments. Amy was very pretty. Huxley was a Eugenicist, and Professor Amy Knott was too. Amy’s career quickly began to unravel. The unwinding took two years, but eventually she was forced to resign from Harvard in disgrace.

Out of the blue, Miranda reached out to Amy. Her emails had a sense of gloating, but Amy responded anyway, using the opportunity to try to mend the rift between them. Miranda quickly fell silent.

It wasn’t long before Amy was back in the news. Despite her fall from grace, she had many influential friends, including a TV producer. She ran into him at a cocktail party on a visit to New York. They both had been drinking a bit and got onto the subject of Amy’s miraculous survival of multiple mass shootings.

“What if there were a reality show set around mass shootings?” joked Amy, quickly adding, “uh, wait, that was in bad taste. Please forget I said it.”

The producer laughed, though, and they were soon speculating on how the show could be done, each detail being more preposterous than the last. It would be called “Ha, You’ve Been Plugged.” There were a lot of laughs and Amy went home very relaxed. The next day a very sober producer called her up and pitched the idea seriously. He had thought it over all night; it was brilliant, and she would be the star. At first Amy said no. How could anyone again ever take her seriously as an academic?

“With all due respect, Amy, will you ever be taken seriously as an academic again?”

“No.”

The show was an instant hit and Amy became a household name. She continued to reach out to Miranda, without success. Finally, after Amy survived two more shootings, Miranda responded to her email, and they agreed to meet. Sure, it was OK with Miranda if Amy wanted to spend the money to fly to Miranda’s from Boston, but Amy shouldn’t expect anything from her. She didn’t want Amy to know that she was now living in a trailer park, so they agreed to meet in a nice restaurant that Miranda had always wished to try. She had never had the money, but Amy was buying.

The place was crowded. It was a higher-end Italian buffet-concept restaurant; all you can eat. There was constant movement, diners heading to the buffet, returning with plates piled high, bussers clearing the used plates from the tables.

It was mostly idle banter between the sisters. The tension was palpable. Miranda didn’t want to show interest in what Amy was doing and she didn’t want to admit that she herself was doing nothing.

“Do you remember when we were on vacation at that resort in California with Mom and Dad? When we saw a spider at the pool?”

“Yes.” Miranda’s expression softened. “You were six and I was three.” She smiled slightly. “And we screamed bloody murder.”

Miranda seemed to relax and so Amy relaxed.

“That thing was huge!”

“It sure seemed like it at the time, anyway.”

“Three feet long at least!” Amy laughed and then Miranda laughed.

They both stared off into space, as if savoring the reliving of that moment, and then Amy said, “And I grabbed your hand and we both ran around the pool towards Mom, screaming the whole way.”

Miranda’s smile faded. “I’m pretty sure I took your hand.”

“Ok, you’re probably right.”

“No, I’m definitely right. Why do you always have to be right? Why do you always have to be the one in charge?”

“Miranda, it’s OK. You definitely took my hand and led me over to Mom.” Amy smiled. “I remember you were dragging your teddy bear around by the neck in the other hand.”

“I never had a teddy.”

“Uh…” Amy seemed confused about what to say next.

And then the shooting began. The movement of the diners going back and forth from the buffet blurred into people diving for cover or collapsing from gunshot wounds. The clatter of dishes was joined by the systematic ping of gunshots. Dishes were dropped or were shattered by bullets. A bullet hit Amy’s water glass, which disintegrated. Miranda and Amy stood up. Amy’s instinct was to save her sister. She had been preoccupied all morning with meeting Miranda, and so had not consulted the statistical models that would have predicted a higher-than-normal probability of a mass shooting that day. She was off guard. It was a scene of horrible carnage with real people twisted on the floor and massive bloody wounds. Imagine it. Really imagine it. The trauma would haunt the survivors forever.

Miranda had fantasized about a heroic moment all her life. This was it. As always, she was armed. Many people found the arguments of Wayne La Pierre of the National Rifle Association compelling. We all have a responsibility as good citizens to protect ourselves, and others, and this meant being ready to shoot. Miranda’s Soma .45 X seemed to fly of its own accord from her pocket to her hand. She took aim and fired. The shooter dropped. More bullets flew until suddenly there was complete silence.

After it was all over the emotional trauma set in for Miranda. She suffered for weeks. But the healing powers of rationalization are miraculous for those who have it. Her initial shock that she had shot her own sister, and that in that moment it might have been intentional, soon faded with the conviction that, of course she hadn’t! What kind of monster would that make her? And was she a monster? Of course not! Fear that the bullet in Amy’s body might be identified as having come from Miranda’s Soma dissipated over time. There were too many bullets fired from too many guns. Dozens of victims died at the hands of well-meaning armed citizens firing in whatever direction they thought the real shooter might be. Miranda became convinced it was one of those bullets that had felled Amy, not hers.

******

I could have been a hero. I had a clear shot at him, I could have dropped him like that and then I would have been in the papers and on TV too. But no, as always, you stepped in the way. You stepped in the way and I could tell from the look on your face that you did it on purpose. You thought I wouldn’t shoot. And of course I wouldn’t have, even though… you were always the most-loved one. Everything happened so fast. I was already pulling the trigger when you stepped in the way.  The red spot spread on your stomach and you looked down and put your hand there and it was 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?” but of course I didn’t. Well, I don’t think I did. Of course I didn’t. I may not be famous but I’m a good person, dammit, you bitch. You dropped, it seemed like slow motion, and you blocked my clear shot long enough that someone else’s bullet hit the shooter and they became the hero. But damn, I am a good shot. I didn’t get a teddy bear like you, but I’ve got my Soma.

(The End)

{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/}

Part 1

Part 2

 

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