Community Stories. Get Inspired, Get Underlined


By @SJ_Rivers

Chapter 1. Of All Solutions

           “I’m gonna need to see an ID, sir,” the woman antagonized. We’ve been through this exactly three times this week. She’d gingerly ask for my ID, I’d place it into her wrinkled hands, she’d give me a once over two or three times, and then she’d start one of her usual pickup lines, “Was your father a boxer? Because you’re a knockout!”

           I stared back at her straight-faced, “I’m disgusted by your flirting, Barbara.” Her chipped tooth smile turned into an ugly grimace. “Looks like you won’t be buying any ammo today then.” Sighing, I spoke to her again, “C’mon, Barb. We’ve been through this too many times. How about you just provide me with some ammo?” She didn’t feel like giving in just yet, “How about you give me a kiss and I’ll getcha some for free?”

           I poked and prodded at the idea in my mind for a bit before I remembered who she was and what she did with her mouth. Word around Elwood was that she loved prowling on younger guys that came into the gun shop. Her father’s gun shop, that is. Everything about it screamed unsanitary and it didn’t help that Barbara ran the register. The inside was feathered with loose trash and tin and cigarettes, cast away from her own lips. When she’d finish a cigarette, she’d snuff it out on the countertop, which left faint black marks and ashes everywhere. “I could fill you with some of my left-over ammo. My treat.” My words were flirtatious, and Barb loved every one of them. To top it all off, I added a wink. She leaned onto the counter, effectively displaying her breasts. “Really?” She bit her cracked lip in an attempt to look sexy.

           As I pointed to the cello case resting to my left, realization grabbed her by her creased neck. I was talking about my sniper rifle. Pluto was her name, and the cello case just happened to be her bed.

           Barbara tossed my ID back at me with repulsion, “Mercury is a ridiculous name, by the way,” the sentence was laced with venom. Just as I was about to leave to find a different gun store, her father, Mr. Greene, came in from the back door and he wasn’t pleased, “I thought I told you we were never selling to this scum ever again!”

“I wasn’t selling anything to him! He just came to mess with us again!” She lied.

           “She’s absolutely right! She wasn’t selling anything to me at all. We were making a deal. She was gonna give me some ammo in exchange for ***.” Right as I finished my sentence I grabbed my ‘cello’ and ran. Because if I knew anything about Mr. Greene…

           Click clack, the sound of him grabbing his shotgun from behind the counter. He was trigger happy. Happy was an understatement. I grabbed a hold of the rusty door handle and flung it open, the metal colliding with the wall behind it, creating a devastating crunch sound, and made way to my car. Mr. Greene followed me outside and popped a shot at me that missed by a mile. He had never been a good shot. It’s baffling that he even thought to open a gun store with that kind of aim.

           When I got to my car, I quickly unlocked the door, threw the cello case in the back and made it to the driver’s seat. I shoved the keys in the ignition and raced away. A glance in the rear-view mirror revealed him waving his gun in the air, possibly yelling obscenities. “Hahaha. That was exciting,” I spoke to myself as I made my way down the cracked road, only slowing down when I was out of Mr. Greene’s sight. “Won’t be able to go there anymore,” I spoke to myself more. It was a thing that I did often because not many people enjoyed speaking with me. I was content with that because whenever they did it was insults or sexual conversations or, ‘Mercury you need to get your life together,’ and ’Mercury, you’re always focused on that gun and it’s scaring me.’ The last two were from my grandparents. 

           They were always so worried that I was going to explode and kill someone. Their reasoning was completely irrational. Whenever I was taken to the brink of no return, it involved fists, teeth, and steel-toed boots. It never involved guns… yet. The only reason I had Pluto was to blow off steam at the shooting range. That and when I was 13 my parents died at the hands of an armed robber. He had broken in in the dead of the night and began filling his backpack with random things like silverware. I always thought that silverware was an odd thing to steal, until I later chalked it up to him being a drug addict wanting to fund his addiction with just about anything he could sell.

He later made it to my parent’s room but was caught when my mother woke up suddenly, startling him. You can guess what happened from there. I always thought that since we lived in a suburban neighborhood, that we wouldn’t be subjected to things like that. But ****, was I wrong, and it haunted me for a long time until I turned 18 and got myself a gun. From that point on, I promised to never let me, or my loved ones get caught off guard again if I could help it. My grandparents were touched by my initiative at first, but three grueling years went by and now they talk to me like they regret me. Like they wish they would have put me up for adoption instead of taking me in.

I knew that was what my grandfather thought of me for sure. Day after day I could see the exhaustion and resentment setting in his eyes whenever he caught sight of me, and it made me more angrier than anything. Sometimes he’d scold me for small things, like having a half-empty water bottle in my room. Other times he’d just stare at me judgingly and sigh. Even thinking about him resenting me, irked me. I didn’t even notice how angry I was becoming until I had almost crashed into the back of another man’s car, stopped at a stoplight. He horned at me unceremoniously and jumped out of his vehicle.

He was yelling before he even got to my window, “What are you doing driving like a bat out of ****, you moron!” He stopped when he noticed me, “Oh. It’s you.” He recessed back into his vehicle and drove off, disregarding the red light. What can I say? Elwood was a small town, so any rumors or gossip spread around fast. The rumors about me were that I was a troublemaker who killed my neighbor’s cats (all five), and that I had been around the block many times. Technically, the last part wasn’t a rumor. I solely admit to being nasty. No regrets. Girls like what they see, and I like what I can get.

When the light turned green, I sped off to the next gun store. But upon my arrival, the clerk turned the open sign to closed. “We’re closed until you leave, Mercury.” I placed my hand on the handle and forced the door open anyway, “I need ammo.”

“We can’t give you any of that!”

“Why not?!”

           “The owner said he doesn’t want to be responsible for anyone’s death!” I sneered at the ridiculous response. I wasn’t the only person in town who owned a gun, so I wouldn’t be the first or last to kill someone with one. “Let me speak to the owner then.” The clerk looked reluctant, “He… He’s not here right now.” I could tell when someone was lying to me and this idiot was failing to do so. “Do I look stupid to you,” I peeked at his nametag, “Gary?” Gary shook his head vigorously, “I’ll call the cops if you don’t leave.”

           With a violent growl, I turned and left. At this rate, I was going to have to integrate with Barbara, which is not something I wanted to do. “I’ll just have to buy some online.” Making it to my car, I decided to find my way home. As I navigated the roads I took in some of the scenery. Elwood was made up of small buildings and houses, mostly tan or somewhere along that spectrum. Most of the lawns had thick green grass and decorative flowers. The roads weren’t perfectly paved, but they were usable. Overall it was a beautiful functioning town, minus all the locals and the weather pattern. The skies loved to cry rain over Elwood at any given time. Because of this, almost everyone carried an umbrella.

           I worked on the second floor of Coffee Cave, so whenever I peered out of one of the windows on a rainy day, there would be a beautiful canvas of different colored umbrellas displayed before me. The view was truly calming and serene and it was the only thing I looked forward to when I worked.

           A few more twists and turns on the road and I was home. But something wasn’t quite right. My grandparents were waiting for me on the side of the driveway as I pulled in. Curiously, I rolled down my window as they walked up.

           “Hi, grandson,” My grandmother spoke first. But it wasn’t her usual tone. She sounded like her heart was heavy with despair. “What’s going on? Did something happen?”

“We just got a call from Mr. Greene.” I wish I could say I was surprised. But that would be a lie. I could feel the incoming scolding I was about to get, “Let me come inside and get comfortable before you guys start reprimanding me, then.” At that my grandfather scowled, “You won’t be coming inside, Mercury.” This was sounding a lot like what the clerk just told me. “And why won’t I be coming inside?”

“You won’t be living here anymore.”

           I was out of the car before I even registered my body moving, “Why not?! Because I antagonized Mr. Greene?! His daughter has been trying to get me to have *** with her every time I walk into the shop!” Grandmother gasped at my reveal. My grandfather didn’t have the same reaction, “It’s not just that! Recently, you’ve been insufferable to live with! Nearly everyone in town is calling us about your behavior! You’re too **** old to be acting like this and your too **** old to be living with us!”

           “You’ve felt like this for months! This isn’t recently! You were just looking for something to kick me out for!” I growled out. “Please don’t argue.” My grandmother chimed in, solemn. She continued when we quieted down, “Mercury, this decision was made by the both of us. We’re both so very, very tired and it’s time for you to spread your wings.”

“Where am I supposed to sleep? Did you think about that before you made this decision?” Honestly, I was angrier at the fact that they didn’t give me a warning, but grandma answered the question. “I did. Although Luthor,” Luthor was my grandfather, “didn’t agree with it, we got you a small house on the edge of town. It’s got a lot of wilderness and things you can shoot at with that gun of yours.” She smiled, softly. The statement should have made me feel better, but it didn’t, “You didn’t spend your retirement money, did you?!”

“It don’t matter what we spent! The house was cheap and you’re getting the **** out of here!” I jumped at the word cheap. “What’s wrong with the house?!”

“The only thing wrong with it is that you’re not in it!” He bit out.

           My grandmother spoke before I could retort, “The house is a bit old, but it’s just fine. I insisted on visiting before we bought it, so you could be as comfortable as possible. The only thing you have to do is pay the utilities.” Her response sounded faulty to me, “Why wouldn’t anyone buy the house prior to you guys?”

“For God’s sake, Mercury! We just got you a new **** house and you’re nitpicking! You don’t have any other choices!” His face was scarlet with anger now. So instead of giving him a heart attack, I chose to comply. “Fine then! Let me at least pack my stuff.” Grandma cut in, yet again, “You won’t need to. We hired Moe’s Mover’s and they came over first thing after you left for work this morning. They moved all your things to the new house.” I wanted to argue some more for letting random men touch my things. That was something I’d rather do myself, but I let it go. “Where’s this new house at?”

“Finally, you’re asking the right questions!”

“Luthor!” She chastised him, “We’re going to have you tail behind us, so we can show you.”

           “Well, don’t bother. Just give me the address and I’ll be on my way. I don’t want anything more to do or say to the both of you.” The words hurt her soul, “Oh, Mercury! Don’t be that way!” She said, but at this point, I was ready to leave, “I just want the address. I’ll put it in the GPS.” Her eyes began to swell with tears and for a second, I felt horrible. Until my grandfather opened his mouth again, “3241 River Blight Ct. I remembered it because I was so excited for you to finally leave!”

“3241 River Blight Ct.” I mirrored his words and disregarded his insult.

“You’ve got it!” At his confirmation, I quickly typed in the address on my phone and jumped into my car, once again. Grandma came closer, “Can I have a kiss before you leave?” My mind explored my options. Love and understanding or harsh and unforgiving… Harsh and unforgiving it was. “No. I’ll be on my way,” I turned the keys in the ignition, “And grandpa?” He looked at me in curiosity, “It wasn’t the neighbor stealing your expensive, stupid French cookies you had imported. It was me. They weren’t that great, by the way. I was just hungry.” His eyes blew wide and I took that as my cue to leave. I reversed quickly and irresponsibly out of the driveway, before he gave me another earful, and drove off down the road. I couldn’t help but think that what they did was irrational. Of all solutions they had, they chose that one. To kick me out without fair warning, and to pick a home for me. I may be acting dramatic, but anger was the only emotion I could feel in the moment.

I was angry that the town’s people judged me, not so accordingly. Angry that my grandparents let the same people sway their opinion of me. And angry at myself for not giving my grandmother a kiss before I fled.

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