Kids With Guns

One thing I have always struggled with as a writer - well one of the things - is Setting. I’d argue to myself that it is artistic choice that has me glossing over details. I’d say I didn’t want to influence the reader too much so they could play it out as they want. Of course now I realize that’s all rubbish and I was just being lazy.  Details in the scene, specifically the setting just escape me. But I need to move on and challenge myself. Along with the homework of reviewing all my old Literature Anthologies for their thoughts on Setting, I will also be re-reading a few of the examples they give. For now, I am giving a self-proposed writing prompt with the explicit purpose of focusing on the Setting. The landscape in this prompt is key to the action of the scene so try I might, I need the setting painted.  

It wasn’t just the gun pointed at his chest that made him sweat - though that certainly added to the tension - it was the misty gusts blowing up from the canyon below that swayed his body beyond his control.

He was far outside the city limits, even the county limits, yet he knew this area well. The grass which barely grazed his knees when the wind seized its howling for a moment to catch its breath, seemed much shorter than when he had his adventures here as a child.  He and his buddies would play up here when everything seemed so simple. They crouched through the imagined Savannah grass hunting herds of wild elephants and zebras. They saw themselves in safari gear from the pocketed khaki vests to the Winchester hunting rifle he took from his father without permission. It was always the smallest, slowest kid who became game. Those summers had crawled with the slowness that only the young can suffer. Now as the man with the gun moved closer, time slowed one last time.

“Let me go. Please.”

The heels of his boots hung off the eroding cliff, so that every time he shifted his weight he heard the bits of gravel breaking off and skidding down an almost vertical drop. The afternoon sun provided no relief from the terror that engulfed the man, if anything he wished for darkness so that he could not see how far he would plummet.

Another blast of wind shook the pleading man to the core. The groans of the force grew louder as high tide waves pulled it closer to shore, collecting momentum to thrust it up the cliff wall. His legs shook, toes gripped in their only defense as the wind screamed warning of his death.

Behind the assailant the sun sank engorged from the day, obstructing his face for the man on the edge.  Only through squinting could he make out silhouette of a nice suit and fedora.

“I have a family. Please won’t you let me go?”

The well dressed stranger tilted his head to the side as though he didn’t understand the other’s futile pleas.

“Why are you doing this to me?”

There was no room left for him to back up, he could only try and delay the inevitable.

“I’m sorry okay. I haven’t been a nice guy, I can change all that. I will turn my life around.”

When only the howl of the wind burned his ears in response, the desperate man nearly surrendered to his death until a flicker of recognition changed everything.

“I know you from when I was a kid don’t I?”

The gun shook, wobbling from heart to lung.

“I was a kid. Jesus I’m sorry okay. I didn’t know it was loaded.”

He drew a hand to his face to wipe the tears from his face, from regret or ocean brine he did not know.

The stranger remained quiet.

The final sliver of the sun slipped below the trees and it took the man a moment to adjust to the soft, new light. As he blinked the man with the gun came into focus.

“No, no, no.”

It was shock that sent him over the edge. As he fell, he thought not of the fact that these were his last moments, he did not see his whole life flash by, he didn’t even attempt to make good for his next destination.

The only thing he saw before his body crashed against the jagged rocks, was the image of himself pointing a gun, with a twisted sneer of content.


Current Song: "Kids With Guns" by Gorillaz