The Truck and the Gun
The first thing I noticed about the gun was that the black rubber handle was spotted with dried brownish blood. A closer inspection revealed random particles around the barrel, dried tissue no doubt. There also appeared to be a white cat or dog hair with one end attached to the dried blood. It turns out the police don't clean stolen guns; they just make them available to their rightful owners.
Ruminating on life's events sometimes makes coincidence seem more than happenstance and years before the gun―in1994, I bought a used Mazda pickup. It had eighty-two thousand miles on it and was well worn, but I felt it would serve my purpose driving in home health, especially for the fifteen hundred dollar asking price. It had some rust over small dings, especially throughout the bed, but it didn't appear to have been wrecked, and was comfortable to drive.
Nearly ten years later, when the truck stretched past two-hundred thousand miles, I retired it from my daily driving as a Home Health Physical Therapist. The truck had ferried me through hot summers, slippery winters, and to living situations I hadn't imagined existed before witnessing them. It had brought me good luck, or at the least had contributed to my sustenance, and in all those miles stranded me only one time when the alternator belt snapped while driving down the freeway. After that, I occasionally drove the old heap to the store on the weekends and to the nearby dump after cleaning my garage.
I had dreams of restoring it one day and passing it on to my son, as he had grown up with it, but after watching it deteriorate in my driveway, thought otherwise. By that time I had placed tin-foil to maintain the connections in the weathered fuse box, the rust was mounting, and the engine tended to smoke.
One day when an acquaintance was looking for a vehicle for his nephew, I let him have it for four hundred dollars. As the truck disappeared down the road in a cloud of smoke, I felt sad to see it go. I was going through a divorce at the time, and letting go of the truck felt somehow like letting go of my dreams. It seemed every loss of hope for the life I'd envisioned brought about some emotional reaction, and even an old truck could accomplish that.
About the same time, my neighborhood was racked with burglaries; some were armed robberies. Out of fear, I bought a Taurus 38 Special for protection. Later that same year I moved it to my office desk following a gang shooting across the street from my clinic and threats I received for calling the police, hoping I would never need to use it.
I never did, and I'd always been careful with it, but somehow forgot to remove it before I left on a trip in 2010 and when I returned I could not find it. I thought it might have slipped behind a drawer or I might have taken it home, but after searching everywhere I accepted that it was gone. I reported it stolen and forgot about it.
Several years ago I ran into the party who had facilitated the purchase of my truck for his nephew. It turns out the nephew didn't want it for very long and it ended up in some other family member's hands. I felt a moment of nostalgia, then hope, thinking perhaps I could still buy it back and restore it for my son. My anticipation elevated when I learned it still ran, but was just sitting in a yard somewhere, and was not being driven.
"Why?" I had asked.
"Oh, the guy that had it went out in the truck, right in his front yard, and took a gun and blew his brains out, and they've never moved it since," was the answer.
I pictured my little Mazda truck in a yard with brains and blood all over, and my desire to have it back disappeared. I wondered what the odds were that the used truck I purchased, and drove 125,000 miles in Home Health, would end up sitting in a yard, the chosen setting for someone to end his life with a gun. While the notion of the mess disturbed me, it was the association of the suicide, my truck, and my life's events that notched my spirit.
Following my divorce, my son was never too happy with me. A couple of years before the gun disappeared―when he reached sixteen―he informed me that he would no longer stay at my home fifty percent of the time. It seemed I was left with nothing but my dog and cat. There were moments when my life felt hopeless, moments of elation at the possibility of having a good relationship with someone in the future, and rare moments when I felt that ending it all might be the best course of action. Unfolding my emotions to the edge of life itself seemed to help me work through the loss of my earlier hopes and dreams for a solid everlasting family, but my conclusion was always the same. Now is the time to live; the time to die will arrive soon enough. Still, I sometimes wonder why certain people face the adversities of life without ever contemplating self-annihilation while others facing similar trials not only think about it, but also complete the job.
When I was young, my parents told us that our grandfather had been sick and died young, but they never told us that he had committed suicide. I learned this from my cousin when I was in my twenties because his father had finally told him. To this day, my mother and father have never said anything to me about it. I suspect it's because of the pain and shame they felt. That itself is a problem, because while it is their pain, it shouldn't be their shame, and I don't take it as mine. My dear Grandmother never spoke of it either, until shortly before she passed away. After all those years she gave me a reasonable account of her husband who had killed himself forty-five years earlier, and by that time I was in my early forties. Suicide in a family is haunting in ways I cannot explain, only that one fears one will become that person for reasons I don't understand.
Last fall, I received a call from my ex-wife and learned that my son, now twenty-four, was in the hospital after jumping off a bridge in a drug fueled state. He thought he was okay though; he had just been high, he said. I took the journey across the mountains, loaded him and his few possessions in my vehicle, brought him home, took him to a rehab unit, then made another trip to sublet his apartment and haul his vehicle home. That same week I received several phone messages from a detective in that town. Given the recent events, my imagination penciled every possible scenario and paranoia festered as we played phone tag.
I eventually made contact with the detective and he informed me that they had recovered a gun that was registered to me, and that it had been used in a crime. Whoa! I was expecting my son's name to come up but it didn't. I hadn't expected to hear about my long lost gun. Was my son involved? Could my son have stolen this gun?
The detective did not share any details of how the gun was recovered, but did tell me the person had it in his possession for several years. He also told me that the department would notify me when I could recover my stolen gun.
Months passed with no word so I contacted the detective who informed me that I could retrieve my gun, but would have to drive to their police station. To me, the drive seemed worth it, if for no other reason than to clear up the mystery.
After arriving, A thirty-something, non-uniformed female police department employee escorted me to a small private room. On a table was a closed box marked "evidence." It appeared to be sealed in red tape. There was also a red sticker on the box that said "Caution Bio-Hazard." The woman took a couple of pairs of blue plastic gloves and laid them on the box.
She said, "Since this is a bio-hazard you will need to wear gloves." She saw the perplexed look on my face. "You know what happened don't you?"
"Isn't it just a gun?"
"It's a bio-hazard because the gun was used for a self-inflicted gunshot," she answered.
My mind raced. "What am I supposed to do with it?"
"You might want to have someone clean it up," she answered, sounding as if she just wanted me to sign the paper and get it out of there.
"I'm not used to this kind of thing. It was stolen from my office and it'd be nice to know what happened," I said.
"Well that might be difficult because the guy who had it is deceased," she answered, "but you can get a copy of the report. Just place a request at the front when you leave."
"If I had known that I might have just left it here," I said. By that point, I wanted to get out of there at least as bad as she wanted the gun out of there so I signed the paper, took the box, filled out a request for the report, and left.
I had a long drive ahead of me, and alone in my vehicle I pondered the box, worked the windshield wipers, fidgeted with the radio, pondered a little more, and glanced several times at the box as it sat on the passenger floor. In one of my glances I noticed that the red tape had been cut. I drove a little further and my curiosity grew. Hmm, maybe I'll have a peek, I thought, as I trundled along in the rain and heavy traffic on Interstate 5.
In the middle lane of freeway traffic I reached over and lifted the box onto the passenger seat, took a deep breath, then raised the cover. There it was, my Taurus 38 Special. As adrenaline ignited my heart, a quick survey revealed dried blood and particles on the gun. I couldn't resist several more glances as I held the wheel to avoid the semi-truck in the next lane. After a gaping breath, I wiped my brow, exhaled, and flipped the box lid down. The truck incident had toyed with my spirit, but today suicide had taken a pew right next to me with the gun, and now I could see it―feel it―smell it. Some rudimentary voice directed me to leave the box closed for the remainder of the trip.
I arrived home and began my own detective work. The box had the date and a case number written on it. In the town's obituaries online was a young Hispanic male that had died that day, with no mention of the cause of death. There was a memorial on Facebook for him where his friends had posted how sudden the loss was, but again no mention of the cause of death.
The box rested on my counter for several weeks while I awaited the report, anticipating some level of closure yet to come. I would occasionally open the box and visually inspect the gun. When the investigative document arrived, it included the original report where I had reported the gun stolen. With the gun next to me I read and re-read it until I could envision every detail.
It confirmed that the young Hispanic male I had identified in the obituaries was the victim. I learned that he was drinking alcohol, smoking meth and also marijuana with some friends. He was from Mexico and spoke very little English, and his family, except for one younger brother, was still in Mexico. His girlfriend was at work; her father was a policeman and was sent to intercept her before she returned to the apartment.
According to his friends, he pulled the gun out of nowhere and told them that he didn't fear death. He then removed all but a single bullet, spun the chamber and proceeded to demonstrate the game of Russian roulette. Before anyone could reach the gun he had it against his temple and the explosion propelled the bullet into one side of his skull, out the other side, and into the wall. The gun―my gun―landed on his lap, but his friend knocked it to the floor before trying to stop the bleeding with a towel while the other friend called the police.
I know the details of one day of the gun's five-year journey from my office desk, but the gun appears well worn. It now lies in the evidence box in my drawer with the police report next to it serving as counsel to the next taker. Exactly when and how the gun originally disappeared remains an enigma, but the real mystery that haunts me is that of why I am surrounded by suicide, and whether or not I'll be tinged by it again. I don't know this gun's future, but I do know that the police don't clean guns, and I hope no one ever has to wipe blood off this one again.
About the author:
Dale Funk seeks truths that drive the human experience and emotions. His writing reflects the challenges and pressures of life in contemporary society, and the subsequent effects that one's decisions and actions may have on another. When not reading, writing, traveling, or climbing mountains, he enjoys helping people recover from various physical injuries and impairments. Dale has completed one novel (unpublished), and numerous short stories, both fiction and non-fiction. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Washington and has a Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering, and a Bachelor's and Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy.