Last Tuesday evening, Ray and I were sitting in my living room with local singer/songwriter Becky Reyes and her blues harpman husband Scott Muhleman. I had mentioned to Becky how much trouble I was having with the guitar and since she’s practically just down the street–that’s country talk for less than five miles away–she graciously offered to come over and give me some pointers.
They were going to bring their son along so he could splash around in the pool while we worked on my chords but at the last minute, he decided not to come so the four of us retired to the living room and started plucking away. Normally, I like to be out on the back patio but it was kind of hot and it’s much easier for me to play guitar on my couch than an outdoor patio chair. The arms get in the way.
Becky’s enthusiasm was infectious. She made me a CD with simple songs as well as printing out the chords and lyrics on paper. Scott perfectly tuned my guitar with a really nice tuner. I have a super-cheap tuner that runs out of juice in a matter of days if I don’t unplug the battery after I’m finished with it.
I had become discouraged with the guitar and now my desire to learn was reinvigorated by Becky and Scott’s gesture of much-needed musical assistance. We were all having a really nice time. It was a truly perfect moment. Then something not-so-perfect happened.
A small crash followed by a rapid “pa-ting” ricocheted out on the patio. We all walked out there looking around for what might have made the strange sound. On the far right side of the patio was a hole in the ceiling and some debris scattered on the ground. The four of us were collectively trying to wrap our heads around what had just happened. Did a rock hit the patio and bounce up through the ceiling? If so, how? We live on 16 acres. Where would it have come from?
What about a meteorite? Seriously! On June 14th, a 14-year old German boy was hit in the hand by a pea-sized meteorite on his way to catch the school bus. What else could have caused a hole in the ceiling? A gun?
A gun . . .
Becky and Scott had to leave for another engagement. We said goodbye and watched then disappear down the long driveway. I turned on a heel and went to get the ladder. I didn’t care if had a few drinks in me and was sliding around in a pair of flip-flops, I had to see the roof.
Ray steadied the ladder as I climbed up. I poked my head over the parapet (we have a multilevel flat roof) and looked in the direction where the hole was. It was dusk so I couldn’t really see anything.
I yelled back to Ray, “I don’t see anyth–no, wait. Hang on a sec.” and hopped over to the roof. There was something. A small perfectly round hole. I could see the patio right through it. Ray called the Sheriff’s Office.
I had my camera with me on the roof (naturally) so I got a bunch of shots. Back down on the patio I snapped some more. There was an indentation in the concrete below the hole in the ceiling. Based on the angle, I would guess that the gun was fired nearby and straight into the air–well not straight–straight but straight enough for the bullet to form a minimal angle from the ceiling to the concrete.
Having acreage and finding a few old rusty horseshoes had prompted me to buy a metal detector. It was somewhere in the bedroom closet. Once retrieved, I was out near the area scanning back and forth as the Sheriff drove up.
He came in and took a look around as he started to fill out his report. He was talking to Ray while looking at the hole in the ceiling and the dimple in the concrete. I gave up with the metal detector. The sun had gone down so I got a flashlight and started scanning the gravel. “This is impossible” I thought. Here I was looking for a bullet in the gravel with a flashlight.
“Holy shit!” I yelled, “I found it.”
Ray and the Sheriff ran over. In the gravel next to a big boulder by the Marguerite plant lay a lone bullet. Some motherfucker shot a gun in the air and it hit my home. The thought alone sent my mind reeling.
What if we were on the patio and the shooter’s arm was positioned just a teeny bit to the left? What if Becky and Scott’s child was in the pool and the gun was just a smidge lower? What if someone got killed? What if it was Ray? What would I do if Ray was murdered? (That would be murder in my book. Any fucktard who shoots a loaded gun in the air in an area where there are obviously people are murderers if they accidentally kill someone.) What if it hit me? Fuck! As if having half my ass carved out like a Halloween pumpkin wasn’t enough! Now I’m dodging random bullets from the sky!
The sheriff finished his report and left. He said my photos were much better than he could do with his camera and I agreed to send them to him. Ray and I work for our county and had called the county sheriff. Mayberry folks, Mayberry.
Even though it was getting on into the evening and I had already had a couple of drinks, I filled a large cup full of ice and sloshed a heavy load of vodka in it before slithering into the pool. I looked up into the sky and my heart sank.
Now I knew. You really can’t get away from it. It being the horrors of the world. There’s a reason we live on land in the middle of nowhere with a house tucked way back on the lot. After growing up in the greater Los Angelels area and going through 9/11 during our ten years in Chicago, I realized that the world is a scary fucked up place and, up until now, I thought I’d be safe in Arizona where no one can find me. I guess I was wrong.
I looked up in the vast Arizona sky and imagined a lone bullet appearing out of nowhere hitting me right between the eyes as my body slips into the crimson water. That could happen. That could actually happen.
Ray, on the other hand, found it exciting which exemplifies that amazing thing about people and perception. I really think a single event in a room with four different people is actually perceived as four entirely different events with a few commonalities that string it along.
Ray saw this as a completely random thing. Some shithead shot a gun in the air near our house. It’s that simple, whereas I wonder; who would do this to us? Why our house? Why?
Ray: Good thing no one was hurt.
Cobban: But what if someone was hurt?
Ray: But no one was hurt.
Cobban: But someone could have been hurt.
Does Ray ever fear what his life would be like if I were killed? I almost don’t want to know the answer to that one.
As for me, I’m liberated. Yep, that’s right, liber-fucking-ated. I’m now so afraid of life that I have become numb to it. I now know that it doesn’t matter where you are, the bullet will find you. It will plummet out of the ginormous Arizona sky and plow right through your skull if it wants to–and it’s going to pierce your fucking roof and get you even if your inside where it’s safe so you may as well pour a stiff drink, go outside and enjoy the pool for as long as your heart keeps beating.