“I want a gun.”
All summer every conversation with my mother has included that phrase. No, she’s not homicidal, angry at my father or suddenly interested in skeet shooting. My mother wants to shoot the deer in her backyard.
I know that this doesn’t strictly fall into the topic of getting my MBA, but part of this life transition has involved some time at home. That means I get to see my parents’ obsessions and worries up close. Which includes the neighborhood deer.
My mother and the deer in her wooded neighborhood have co-existed peacefully for 11 years. The deer ate the shrubs, flowers and other outdoor savories (like the corncob pipe on her Frosty the Snowman all-weather statue) outside the fence and Mom planted her favorite flowers inside the fence, where the deer didn’t venture.
Then this year the deer shattered the detante and turned my mother’s lovely garden into their private smorgasboard.
They’ve clipped her tomatoes, razored her hostas, stripped a small tree. Every morning she discovers another violation. And that’s when she would call me.
“I want a gun.”
Well, today she got her wish. We went to Wal-Mart, one of the few places in America where you can buy a 5-pound bag of sugar and an airgun. We got both. (Pictures of the shopping excursion are coming, just as soon as I can locate my camera USB cable in my moving boxes.) She picked out an all-black model that looks a lot like the guns I’ve seen in movies, some Co2 canisters, a container of copper-colored pellets and a paper bullseye.
Now, let me clarify: We are not a gun family. My father is the only hunter among us and he hasn’t fired a gun in 35 years. He has a few old guns dusty and hiding in pieces somewhere in our attic. We do have a ten-point buck head mounted in the rec room, but my grandfather shot that more than 40 years ago. I don’t walk through the gun section of Wal-mart. I don’t even play paintball. The most dangerous thing I’ve ever fired is a Super Soaker.
So it’s weird for me to even watch my mother handle a gun, watch her practice her aim using my brother’s cardboard cutout of Indiana Jones as a target. She’s a good shot.
So, why am I uncomfortable? I certainly don’t think this is some descent into gun violence. My mom bought an airgun because she doesn’t actually want to kill the deer — and because it’s illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits. She said she just wants to sting the deer’s behinds a bit, make them associate our yard with pain. It’s a deer spanking.
I do worry that she may accidentally shoot out a window when she fires the thing at 3 a.m. Or that she’ll shoot a deer in the eye or the nose and cause some permanent damage. Or, worst of all, that she’ll shoot her eye out. And that’s at the crux of it — our roles flipped today. For a just a few moments, she was the little kid begging for a Red Rider BB Gun and I was the wary mom.
It was an odd place to be.