I learned to shoot at the sandpit; I didn’t aim at rocks so I was a natural. The first gun I shot was a fully automatic assault rifle. The second was a Glock 9mm pistol. You check the chamber before loading the magazine and make the same motion when you cock the gun. Your index finger rests gently on the side of the pistol until you’re ready to shoot. Cast off casings tend to be hot, so let them cool before you put them in your pocket. You should wear earplugs. I don’t remember much else in terms of gun safety, it’s all a series of repeated motions. My hands and the gun looked crisp. The line at the tip of the barrel was between the two at the back; finger from side of gun to trigger. Squeezed, red. Squeezed black, miss, red, white, black, miss, white, red.
I’m an uncanny shot. I enjoy loading bullets into a magazine and shooting them out; it makes the divorce feel better. Leader of a failed and hobbling nation, captain of the ship that wouldn’t sink, puppet-master, finally.
“Get to the middle.”
He put his foot on the canoe and shoved me off alone over the pond.
I wobbled away. He’d told me not to eat so I wouldn’t get a swimmer’s cramp. No one is swimming, I’d said. Now, the only noises were from the water I was paddling and other people not paying attention, their voices clear but quiet and delivered thinly across the space of the pond. I always learned things when no one was looking.
Dad said I couldn’t drown with a canoe under me, the boat was like Lazarus. It can’t sink. Over my shoulder, I watched him on the shore, far gone.
“Alright, jump out.”
I could feel the inside of my teeth.
The water was dead leaves and silt. Below me were the hands of dead men and deer, in the mud like frogs and fish in early spring, awake and done cupping the bottom of the pool. They drift up around thin legs and ugly knees, work their way up to the behinds, around the stomach and shoulders and then push down on the clavicles.
As if failing to climb, I put my hands on the boat’s lip, pulled it over and let it fill with gallons of murk. Once full, it hung no more than two feet from the surface, sunk and in stasis.
“Don’t lose the paddle.”
I swam for the paddle.
“Don’t lose the boat.”
I put my body over the boat and watched it.
“Stop floating over it, put your feet on the tip and push down. Push harder. Act like you’re jumping.”
The opposite end whaled its way out of the pond, dumping bad water and landing with a thud a few feet away. I swam over to look inside.
“Get back in.”
“But it has a lot of pond still in it.”
“It’ll work. Don’t lose the paddle. Get in.”
Once inside, I pointed the boat toward the shore, my father, and the party behind him. The hostess was on her way down the hill, bullying through the sun and haze of pollen. She was concerned that I was sodden. She asked to take me to the big house. She asked if she could give me a feather and a change of clothes. She wouldn’t look at my father.
I ran away from the rich bitch and joined the other kids chasing peacocks across the lawn into the woods.
“She’s my greatest achievement,” he said, and left without taking me with him.