It reminded me that I have had, fortunately, only one occurrence with gun violence in my life. I wrote this piece in my memoir and figured, why not share?
To give some backstory, my family had just inherited some donated money from Starbucks (only a couple hundred bucks) and were using that to live off of instead of stealing and dumpster diving.
Word of our new inheritance spilled across the parking lot from van to van, unfortunately by my naïve tongue. The trouble hadn’t come yet, but a bitter smudge was in the horizon. This money wasn’t for celebration, it was for pure survival. If it were edible we would eat it.
All was fine and dandy until the black van started to inch closer and closer to our parking spot each night. Like chess pieces on the board, we would rotate away from the Black Knight every move he took. He showed up in the parking lot a few weeks earlier, keeping close to our group, but never showing his face. Vet and Pat would park next to us for protection, on either side like a pair of pawns.
But one thing the game of chess doesn’t have is a gun.
Our dance of vehicles ended with our van in the middle of Pat and Vet’s. We cuddled in the back and wrapped ourselves in piles of blankets. Delilah stretched out on top off us, a giant blob of pug. We cracked our windows and the ocean breeze trickled in to sooth our slumber.
As silent as the night was, two gasoline-yellow headlights blared into the back of our van. Delilah woke up and grumbled. She woofed and her hackles became erect. We shushed her in our dopey mumbles but her growls grew louder, aggressive and manic. She smacked her face right up against the back window and her breath fogged up the glass.
Then came the shriek; a bullet pierced our back window. Delilah ran to the front of the van, and we weren’t far behind her. My mother started the van and my sister kept my head down. We backed out of our parking spot and screeched onto the street, not looking back, not looking for help.
My mother drove like a mad woman along the coast, frantic and trembling. We settled our nerves with day-old donuts on the beach, silenced by the shock.
We returned in the morning to Pat and Vet safely tucked away in their vans. The black van was gone, he never came back after that night, but our trepidation lingered.
The parking lot was our territory; we had our own rules and they ultimately backfired. One call to the cops and my sister and I would have been taken to child services, my partially mute mother imprisoned for child neglect, and our home impounded in a junk yard.
- The Diligent Gypsy