A conceivable tragedy

A conceivable tragedy

This story appears in my forthcoming book A Creature Wanting Form available here.

We had to wrangle the kids and have them sit down in the cafeteria while the guy with the big purple head folded his meaty forearms back and forth across his tactical beer gut and talked about how to neutralize an active shooter. The guy had gone to school here years ago and had spent some time in the desert as he told us more than once in the briefing beforehand. He called it a briefing not me. You could tell he was nervous about having to speak to children because he was sweating a lot. Or maybe he was just damp like that. He had been or was a gunnery sergeant he said and he said we could call him gunny but none of us did.

Sorry I got red-assed about this guy here but I was remembering a story I read a few years ago when people still cared about this kind of thing where a guy who looked just like this in my imagination talked about how our boys down there would send local kids into alleys to make sure they were safe. The alleys would sometimes be boobytrapped this guy said and so what they would do was they would take a bunch of candy bars or a soccer ball or whatever and toss it down the alley they were interested in walking down and then wait and see if any of the starving kids milling around would go run after it. If they didn’t they knew how it was.

Sometimes they’d get an old guy and ask him to lead the way and if he didn’t move exactly right it was the same thing.

So the guy goes to the kids our kids not the ones over there I mean he goes if a bad man comes in with a gun and then he was turning to us teachers with a look like we talked about this before back me up here man and your teacher runs at them then you kids should all run at him too and jump on him. Take whatever is nearby he said and he starts looking around the cafeteria and goes take a lunch tray or a chair maybe and hit the bad guy as hard as you can and then he mimicked how you would smash a chair over a bad guy’s head. Down down down.

Most of my kids were all of eighty pounds.

No one has to be a victim the guy said and then he waited and said right and ten or twelve of the kids said right and maybe six of the teachers.

One of the kitchen staff poked her head out to see what the hell was going on out here and it seemed like she knew it was an alley she didn’t need to walk down so she turned right back around. They were going to be serving Salisbury steak today and honestly it wasn’t that bad.

After the assembly I asked my class what they thought of what the man had said and Luis raised his hand and said he would try his best to be brave but he gets very nervous when something scary happens and I wanted to pick him up in my arms like Superman and fly him somewhere safe but I obviously didn’t. I said we all get nervous sometimes Luis. Marcus was crying and trying to hide it but he was always crying so I didn’t know what I was supposed to do there. Marcus was a fucking pain in my ass basically every day of my life but he was a good kid.

In the teacher’s lounge later we were talking about the guy and the whole thing and then Linda said she heard that a seventh grader in Alabama or somewhere distant like that had brought a gun to school earlier today and killed three people so then I wasn’t sure if going forward I was supposed to be scared for kids or scared of them.

I heard about that Jesse said but then they figured out they weren’t talking about the same thing there had been another shooting like that a couple days ago.

I guess it was my job to die for these kids and I decided I would do it but I would really prefer to not have to if it were up to me.

I was having dinner alone on the couch later watching the weather and there was going to be some kind of big storm they said and then they said how many feet the water was going to rise. They had a reporter out by the storm wall with his big rain jacket on already and he seemed thrilled about the whole thing. I guess they must have waterproof microphones for these guys now.

We measure the damage of storms in feet and we measure mass shootings by the number of bodies but I wondered if it would do anything if we measured shootings in feet too. If you gathered up all the spent bullet casings at a specific shooting how deep would they be? Or if you lined up all the bodies head to toe like you were laying railroad tracks how far would they reach?

I got out some paper and started scribbling.

The average adult in America is about 66 inches tall. Around 40,000 people die from gun violence here a year. 2,000 or so of them are children or teenagers so they won’t be that tall but we’re doing rough math here.

66 inches per body x
2,640,000 inches

That’s roughly 42 miles of bodies a year.

Does that seem like a lot or a little to you because I guess I was thinking it would be more than that but then again I’ve never thought about it in these terms before so I have no frame of reference.

It would take you about an hour to drive from the beginning of the bodies to the end depending on traffic. Your kids would get bored and rambunctious on the trip in the back of the car and you’d have to turn around and be like alright you two that’s enough.

The average person would have a very hard time walking that far in one go. They’d have to make a lot of stops along the way and stay hydrated.

And that’s before we even add in the 100,000 merely injured by guns per year.

Hmm ok think of it this way maybe instead. If 100 people die from gun violence a day that’s around 6,600 inches which is 550 feet which is almost two football fields of bodies lined up head to toe every day. You couldn’t sprint that far without getting winded. You couldn’t sprint that far without falling down exhausted at the end gasping for air.