Norella had not been at the church the day my dad had collapsed. She closed shop and took Sundays for fishing at Porter’s Pay Lake. During revivals she would sometimes close Saturday, too, for lack of business, and camp at Filler’s Dam and surely forget the town ever existed.
She wouldn’t have seen my dad pitch forward over the Silvertone and spread out across the floor, still-water eyes now turned inward, pulled inside a blazing skull full of scorched nerves so that all that was left on the outside was a wasted man, broken and lost. But I was sure she had heard about everything later – how his brothers carried him to the ambulance and followed closely all the way to the hospital. While counting out cash for pawned wedding rings and shooing kids away from the gun racks, Norella had heard about the five weeks at Kingston, the therapy and how the church had prayed for weeks afterwards to run the devil from his mind, and then later the deeper demons of heartbreak after my mother left with the other man and his good, Christian parents took me in when no else could.
By the time my dad showed up with the Hummingbird tucked under his arm, she had heard enough to know there was nothing to do but accept it. Even more than the desperate and senseless, the heartbroken were not to be reasoned with.
Norella dipped her arm up to the elbow inside the glass case and pulled the gun from the second shelf and placed it between them where it sat quietly atop the thick glass, black and oily, no fight or flop. I left the store with the gun wrapped in a worn and thin dish towel and a box of shells in my back pocket and the palm of my empty right hand tingling like the creased and pinched end of an amputated limb, itching through to the dirty fingernails.
The Hummingbird might have swung just a touch from its peg when I closed the door behind me.