“You hear what happened in Colorado, at that movie theater?” The carpenter working on my Mom’s house stood there looking at me and dangling his paint-smattered hammer.
I said I did, then internally questioned whether I looked like the type of person to ignore national news in favor of reading People Magazine. Probably my hair. Anyway, we were standing in the middle of the living room with my Mom. She had just told the carpenter that I was leaving today, making the move from Boston to Colorado for a change of scenery that I’ve thought about making for a long time.
“Let me tell you,” he started, planting his feet apart on the paper-covered wood floor. “Those shootings never would have happened if there were tighter gun laws in this country. It’s ridiculous! Any Joe can go down to Walmart and pick himself up a [insert gun name here -- frankly I don't remember what type of gun he was referring to but I remember using Context Clues to understand that he was talking about a gun].”
I could see that he wanted me to agree with him, because that’s what people on vague/poorly researched political tangents want you to do.
Instead I decided to say what I was thinking.
“I don’t think gun laws would have stopped him, I think he’s just crazy. If he didn’t have guns he probably would have found out some other way to kill a bunch of people.”
The guy had that glassy-eyed, far-off, ‘the-government-is-screwing-us-those-sons-of-bitches’ look that I’ve grown accustomed to as a child of a giant, Irish, middle class family. I knew that face well, and there was no way to reason with it.
Later, I said goodbye to my hair elastic-obsessed cat Ponyo and filled up my water bottle in the kitchen sink. My Mom and I hugged and walked out the door, said a 20-minute goodbye in which she scheduled me to come back for New Year’s, then I had to run inside to get a banana I had left on the kitchen counter.
I bumped into the carpenter in the kitchen. “You know what you need to do?” he said. “Buy a gun.”
I laughed. Then straightened my face because he was serious. “Are you serious? Why?”
“Colorado isn’t like it is here. You go hiking, there are mountain lions and black bears everywhere in those mountains. You need to protect yourself. I’m telling you, buy a gun. And you never know what type of situation you might get into out there when you’re all alone and female.”
I said I’d think about it, and silently appreciated his flexibility concerning gun laws, which apparently should be adapted to different situations.
Looking back, I now realize that the carpenter had painted my Mom a beautiful picture of me being ripped to shreds by wolverines and velociraptors after I innocently decided to hike up a mountain without a gun. Or getting beaten up in a dark alley somewhere, gun-less, and crying out “WHY DIDN’T I LISTEN TO HIMMMM!”
Just to let you know, Mom, the most intimidating animal I’ve seen so far out here while hiking has been a chipmunk with no concept of personal space. At one point he did try to bite my toe, but I came down the mountain unscathed. And yesterday, something bit my right ankle. I’ll admit, after I got bitten I spent the next half hour waiting for the spider/rattlesnake’s poison to travel up to my heart and paralyze me. But it ended up being a red ant bite (so someone told me). You can tell the carpenter that I’m doing just fine without a gun.