When Your Day Isn’t Interrupted by a Mass Shooting

This morning, you went to a church and sang about a Good, Good Father. The pastor preached about the in-between, this space we inhabit, so ordinary, working and walking, singing and sighing, navigating our way around the grieving, who have just been struck by the reality of what we keep at arm’s length or farther. They are the length of a WalMart away, the distance from you and the person sitting at the other end of the pew. No one walked in and shattered stained glass windows. No one took shelter under a pew. No one screamed.

When you need some black beans for a potluck later, you send your husband to the convenience store. His only questions before leaving are about the number and size of cans, salted or unsalted. He doesn’t even say “I love you” because he’ll be home so soon, so soon it’s silly to say such things in this quick passing. The convenience store is brightly lit. It sells toothpaste and deodorant. Someone walks into the store to buy pantyhose before a wedding. Someone walks into the store to buy a birthday card. Someone walks into the store to buy a pack of Band-Aids. No one walks in carrying a weapon.

Maybe later you’ll go downtown to the local favorite spot, have some drinks, listen to some music and laugh with friends who have no intention of dying tonight. You’ll discuss the annoying and beautiful things your kids do because they are still alive, having missed out on becoming someone’s favorite gun-related statistic.

No one (we know of) has bought into the propaganda, no one (we know of) is following extremist bloggers on social media, no one (we know of) is hoarding weapons and prepping. There are a few people you remember who said and thought and shared crazy things once, but they support causes you don’t, and you don’t follow them anymore. They are out of sight and out of mind and almost out of your life. It’s almost like those threats just don’t exist, just couldn’t explode the ordinary life you live.

It’s just another ordinary day, and if we’re among the lucky, it stays that way, the TV spinning silently through another round of news, thoughts and prayers on automatic, just pull the trigger and they’re there. It’s some other town, another city.

And then distant friends mark themselves safe on Facebook, and for a second, maybe it’s just a little closer, now. Just a little closer. A little close. A little too close. So close. Too close. WalMart and schools and bars and churches in every town. Thoughts and prayers a pile of spent shells, the pew not quite so long.

Michael Murphy, Gun Country, (2014).

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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