"Armed" by William Samuelson
Ella walked quickly from her front door to her car with her hood up and her eyes alert.
She scanned up and down the street, searching for anything amis.
As she was nearing her car, Ella saw movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned
slowly toward the source, her hand simultaneously reaching toward her jacket pocket. No sudden movements, her mom would’ve said, and look threatening, but don’t look like you want to pick a fight with someone.
The source of the disturbance turned out to be the guy who lived next door, who had
paused just like Ella, next to his car with his hand near his pocket. Ella had never met the man
After a tense few seconds where neither of them moved, the man gave Ella a customary
nod, which she returned, as was the courtesy. Without taking his eyes off her, nor moving his
hand away from his jacket pocket, the man used his free hand to unlock his car and climb in.
Ella didn’t dare do the same until the man’s car turned off the street.
To drown out the sounds of distant and close gun fire as she drove, Ella turned on the
radio. A grave sounding voice reported that once again the rate of gun deaths in the US had
increased last year. In response, legislation had been passed to amend the Mandatory Firearms Possession Act. To allow more citizens to contribute to collective safety, the age at which people were required to carry a firearm had been lowered from 18 to 16.
Ella slammed on the breaks, her car skidding to a stop in the middle of the deserted
residential street. She swore under her breath while rubbing her forehead, the way she always did when she was stressed. She hadn’t thought that she’d have to buy her 17 year old daughter, May, a gun for another six months. At least a gun and ammunition would end up costing less than groceries. Plus, the old mandate for costly firearms training had been revoked years ago.
Ella would buy the supplies later that day. She had to stop at the grocery store for
dinner anyways. She’d get what she needed there.
The alternative, Ella told herself as she drove on, would be prison for her 17 year old
daughter. Then again, maybe it would be better for May to go to prison. After all, prisons had
the lowest rates of gun violence.
It was time for Ella to swear again when she heard the sirens and pulled over. Keeping
her hands displayed on the dashboard, Ella saw the cop in her rear-view mirror as he left his car in full battle armor with a rifle pointed at her car.
He didn’t have to tell Ella that he’d pulled her over to solicit a bribe. Without a word,
she handed him the money she kept in the cupholder for this reason. It was generally understood that if you failed to pay a cop a bribe, it meant a bullet. After all, since all people carried a gun, all people could be easily reported as “aggressors” after the fact.
Once the cop drove away, Ella restarted her engine, but she shut off that annoying voice
on the radio. She drove on.