The Warning Shot

“It’s in the Constituition- the right to bear arms. It protects us from tyranny,” said Jack Williard, speaking as if he were reading a rehearsed speech from a conservative playbook. He took another sip of beer and rested his coozie against his t-shirt.

“No,” replied Alex, shaking his head in unacceptance. “That was written for muskets, not AR-15’s.” He was dressed in a nice tucked button down shirt and tan slacks.

“If a robber comes in my house, I’m shooting him dead,” replied Jack the stone wall.

“Well I would fire a warning shot, even if I had a gun.” Alex looked off at the ground beside him.

“I’m sick of arguing about this. You just won’t listen. Let’s go talk to Grandma Elizabeth and she’ll tell us who’s right.” Jack smiled a little too confidently, inspired from the beer.

“This is why I don’t like barbecues, because of all you conservative nuts, but sure, if you’re so into it.” pouted Alex. Reluctantly, he followed Jack over to the table where the older folks were sitting.

“‘Scuse me, Gram, me and Alex here were having a fight–“

“What sort of fight?” she asked quickly, jarred suddenly from her conversation of seat cushions and window shades.

“About guns.”

“Them again,” said Grandma Elizabeth, laughing. “Sit here a moment, will you, Alex?” She talked in a gentler way than Alex but much more authoritative voice than Jack.

“See, I know you’re a modern liberal. Believe it or not, when I was a girl, I knew someone a lot like you. They had ’em even way back then. This was about eighteen sixty when this event happened. I knew the man, James, his name was, when he was sixty or seventy. Back when he was a young man he had an expensive Standardbred horse that had won a few races in its day, and he used to take the girls on rides in his green surry. The most expensive one they sold.”

“Yeah,” replied Alex, a little impatient about the history lesson.

“So he was nearly a vegetarian, didn’t believe in violence, had a little trouble at school but got by in the end. His papa had a musket, he tried giving it to James, and James stuck it above the fireplace and then promptly forgot about it.  One night, believe it or not, a thief entered his property, hearing about the expensive horse. He brought a bridle and some carrots, enough to fool most horses. James got up, pulled a lantern off the wall, and took the musket off the fireplace. You wouldn’t believe how scared he was seeing some stranger putting a bridle on his most prized animal.

He had a real conflict of interest at that point. James would never be the sort to shoot someone, unless he was about to be shot himself, but he couldn’t just stand there and let his fortune ride away, either. So he acted like you would.

‘Get away from that horse or else,’ shouted James. The thief saw him with the rifle and tried hopping on the horse. He slipped off and fell on the ground.

‘I’m going to take a warning shot,’ informed the young man. He aimed the rifle in the thieves’  general direction and fired, terrified that he would hit his horse or the thief. Once the robber got on his feet again, he noticed James had fired his only shot, so he ran up and hopped on the horse. As the stranger galloped away laughing, James kicked himself and decided he’d had enough of warning shots and vegetarianism, and a year later about that time he was a pretty tough customer. The point is, in eighteen sixty, you didn’t have warning shots. Now ‘nigh everyone acts like he used to it seems. Way ahead of his time, but not so smart, that man was.”

Alex silently stared at the ground, processing all the information. He didn’t know what to say. There were a few moments of silence, then Jack started smiling and chuckling.

“Took a warning shot with a MUSKET,” laughed Jack obtusely. “What the hell.”


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