I recall a day, back when I was ten years old, that my father came home holding a beautiful silver box in his hands. He sprung through the front door with a big smile on his face and told me to get my mother because he had something to show us. I thought for sure that this pretty box must be filled with something special, so I wasted no time running to call for mom in the backyard. When she came inside, dad positioned us both strategically in front of him in the kitchen while he held out the box and built the excitement up. “Are you ready to see what I have?” he said. My tiny voice let loose and proclaimed “yes!”, but my mother seemed skeptical. I was disappointed in her melancholy, for once dad was doing something nice for us. He moved his hand over the lid, slowly raising it to give us just a peek. I only saw a bit of blue velvet inside before he slammed the box shut and laughed. Mom was growing more irritated and I was growing more fascinated. If there was velvet then it must be something really good. Finally, he wrapped his fingers around the lid and pulled it all the way open. My excitement melted into a pile on the floor. There, nestled in the center of a blue velvet cushion sat something that I had never seen up close. This was the stuff of movies or TV, only bad guys and police were supposed to have this. Why on earth would dad think I would be happy to see a gun?
Mom started to cry and I stood stunned. He pulled it out of the box, waving it around to show it off, telling us about the great deal he just got. I somehow doubt he actually bought the thing, it was more likely part of a weird drug deal, but he couldn’t stop talking about it. My mother was upset and repeatedly asked him why he needed a gun in the house, which turned into a yelling match between the two. Needless to say, she didn’t win that argument. The gun stayed and that silver box went somewhere in dad’s den. Den is just a fancy term for the spare bedroom in the house that was off limits to anyone but him. It was his domain where he played music, did drugs, looked at pornographic magazines and did god knows what else. Now he had a gun to play with, too.
Even at age ten, I knew this was a terrible idea. When he wasn’t at work, dad was drunk and usually volatile, and these were the days when it was growing evident that he was doing something else, too. I remember a few times that he was obviously hallucinating. One night, he called me into the living room where I found him sitting up on the couch with his feet off the floor and in a panic. He was trying to fight off the giant rodents he saw crawling across the floor. He kept pointing and shouting “Did you see that? Oh my god! Did you see that?” When I kept denying it, he grew angry and wouldn’t let me leave the room until I “stopped lying” to him. I was frightened and thoroughly confused, but I finally gave in and admitted to seeing something. I even made a little game out of it by jumping around like I was running from the massive rodents that were in his head. So yeah, this man being in possession of a gun didn’t seem like such a brilliant idea. (For the record, every time I see The Princess Bride, I think of this moment. Good ol’ rodents of unusual size.)
One evening after the gun came into the home, dad thought he heard the doorbell being rang repeatedly and he was sure it was a neighborhood kid playing a prank. There was no doorbell, there was no sound at all, but he ran to the door over and over and grew more agitated each time. I remember my mom trying to calm him down and assure him that he must be hearing something else, but he wasn’t having it. A few minutes later he came barreling out of his den with that gun in his hands, running to the door screaming about that “goddamn kid” and “I’ll show him” while my mother chased behind him. He ran out the front door and stood shouting and waving it around in our driveway at no one, then mom locked him out. When he heard the door shut, he ran right back to it beating on it and yelling for her to let him back in. She called through the door that she was going to phone the police and with that, his tune changed completely. He quieted down and started apologizing and pleading with her to let him back in, which she didn’t waste much time doing. I don’t think either of them wanted the embarrassment of the police showing up.
Sometime after this event, it was a Saturday night and the madness escalated. The weekends were always the worst. Dad would come home from work on a Friday already half loaded from the beer he picked up on the drive home and would carry on until late Sunday night. Saturdays were when he hit his peak, as he definitely did on this night. He was in his den when something fired him up. I could hear him yelling and throwing things around in that tiny room, followed by a loud and unfamiliar clicking sound happening over and over again. Mom and I stood in the kitchen and through her frightened eyes she told me that the sound was him cocking the gun. I didn’t really know what that meant, but it terrified me. It was relentless, the sound seemed never ending until I heard the door to his room open. I looked to mom to do something, but she was frozen as he turned the corner with the gun in his hands and a wild look on his red and sweaty face. I don’t even recall what it was about, or if it made any sense at all, but he started yelling at mom and I was so afraid that he was going to shoot her. While he screamed and she cried, I felt responsibility to handle the situation and had to find a way to make it stop. In my ten-year old brain, I guess I thought I needed a weapon to do so and I grabbed the first thing I saw on the counter next to me. It was a large, metal garlic press. That’s right folks, I was going to stop the big man with a gun with a garlic press. I jumped in front of mom wielding my new weapon and screamed as loudly as I could for him to stop and to leave her alone. Things grew silent for a moment while dad looked confused, I thought he might even start laughing at this ridiculous scene in front of him, but no such luck. Instead he proceed to yell at both of us. Mom tried to silence me but I kept shouting right back at him, raising that garlic press high in my hand because I was ready to fight, if necessary. Then he lifted the gun and pointed it right at my head. I can still clearly see the weapon staring me in the face, I can hear my mothers screams, I can feel my heart race and then everything goes blank. I can’t remember a single thing after that.
I have no idea what the outcome of this was and like many other events, I’ve never talked about it with my mom. I’m quite certain it was never brought up by anyone after that night. But I do know this, that gun never made another appearance that I’m aware of. My assumption, or what I like to believe, is that dad was so frightened by his drug induced behavior and that he could have killed his wife and child that he got rid of his prized toy kept in the shiny silver box.