NA Contemporary Thriller
My dad has a gun he thinks I don’t know about. I found it yesterday in his bedroom. Technically, the place was supposed to be off limits, but I’m not too good with imaginary lines. I snuck in when he was out. Golf and midday bourbon keeps him distant most afternoons. Those are the golden hours—makes sneaking around a cinch, and I like life easy.
Dad stepped out at around noon and by the time he’d dragged his ten irons out the front door, I’d bobby-pinned my way into his tamper proof lock. He had it manufactured special, senators-with-expensive-secrets special, but I could pop it open in about twenty minutes on a good day, and yesterday felt like one of those—for a little while, at least.
I didn’t start off fishing for firearms, just snooping for secrets. Dad keeps Washington’s for a living, but lately he’s been bringing some home. Late nights, long benders, and less booze around the house meant trouble.
Dad keeps me on a need-to-know basis, which usually involves a sentence or two of un-juicy details, and a quick “don’t worry about it,” to close our conversations. But over the last week, he's been dead quiet, so whatever it was he thought I didn’t need to know, I planned on finding out.
So, like cat burglar Alice in a Washington Wonderland, I snuck through the looking glass. She and I have a long-standing love affair, mainly ‘cause her story's crazy, and when you’ve been as curious as I’ve been lately, crazy seems pretty exciting. Maybe it’s the magic doors and rabbit holes. I liked the idea that life came with those things—little doors and rabbit holes.
Don’t get me wrong—I don’t believe in magic, but I do believe in secrets, especially when they’re hiding in my house.
As expected, his bedroom was compulsively pristine, not a book out of place, not a drawer left unlocked, everything perfect— but only almost. A small stack of usually signed and stapled papers had slumped and spilled down onto his impeccably clean wooden floors. Passable? I thought not, because spills meant his world was off center. So I dug around for a real life rabbit hole on the off chance that I’d find one. And I did.
Not an actual rabbit hole, but a place in the floor vent behind his desk where he took off the grating one too many times. I jiggled the top, popped off the smooth metal covering, and there it was—a shiny new vault big enough to keep the vent grate from fitting into the ground.
I ran my fingers over the sliders, and clicked through every possible combination, until the lock popped open on my mom’s birthday. He’d deny that if you asked him, though. He denies a lot of things lately.
Anyway, that's how I found it—the gun in the vent grate with “Re-election Day” etched into the steel. And as fast as I found it, I left it alone. Couldn’t risk getting caught, but neither could he. For a publicly anti-gun guy, a brand new pistol was anti-common sense. But at least I knew what his secrets looked like—dangerous.
But maybe it was normal. Eighteen-year-olds find crazy stuff in their parents’ rooms all the time. My dad’s wasn’t out of the ordinary. Maybe it was a collector’s item. Maybe it wasn’t, ‘cause he seldom brought home hobbies for pleasure, just solutions for pain. I tried un-freaking myself out about the whole thing, but when weird things like gun stashes show up, you're supposed to pay attention. If you don't, you pay for it later. I’ve watched a lot of movies so I know these things.
I had a gun stuck in the back of my head for the rest of the day. Dad came home, dinner was awkward and silent, but it always is. He doesn’t pay attention to much of anything, so the tension didn't even register.
After thirty minutes of dry steak and burnt potatoes, I skipped out on reruns of Gossip Girl, popped a couple Benadryl and knocked out early. Otherwise I wouldn’t have slept, ‘cause secrets aren’t easy to sleep on. The most you can do is try and forget them, so I did just that. But bad things happen to forgetful people, and bad things happen when you don’t pay attention. But maybe that’s just a movie thing. Fingers crossed.
I got to my feet, nervous enough to outdo Jiminy Cricket on crack, and grabbed my phone to punch in our private line to the Metropolitan Police Department. Dad had friends on the force, friends who’d take care of a break into a senator’s house without all the press. But on the off chance that I was wrong, and dad was making a very violent breakfast, I’d be the girl who cried criminal, and I couldn’t risk that. Not today.
I had a house to leave, a summer to start, and three beautiful months with the better of two parents waiting for me on the other end of a southbound Amtrak train. In a couple hours, I’d back in green and gorgeous Virginia, celebrating my future at UVA, and a maybe robbery, wasn’t going to ruin it. When you hate a place long enough, the goodbye isn’t bittersweet, just bitter—the sweet part comes once you’re miles away. But without dad and his driver to take me to Union Station, I’d stay bitter.
The house was eerily quiet when I started the upstairs search for my dad. I tiptoed down the hallway, balancing on the balls of my feet till it hurt, and reached his wide-open bedroom door—which he never left open. Ever.
I peered around the frame, pulse pounding my ribs to pieces, and found his almost perfect room in perfect chaos. His king canopy had exploded into a disaster of crumpled sheets and duvet covers, pillows were scattered in every which direction, and his clothes hung like jungle vines on the lamp rungs.
He’d either turned into Donkey Kong, or hit the bottle harder than usual. I kept my fingers crossed for the former. Even if he had been drinking, it was unlike him to be this messy. He was a quiet drunk with quieter problems. Clutter wasn’t his thing. Neither was stink. The carpet reeked of cheap liquor. He was a blue label man, and didn't spill. So I followed the stain trail till I tumbled over one of my mom’s old vials of lipstick lying in the doorway. He’d hardly touched her things since she'd left; at least, that’s what I thought was the case before this morning. Something was awry in the Anderson house.
The kitchen apocalypse started up again, even louder this time than before. I thought about escaping the house through the nearest window, 'til I remembered Dad’s ugly little secret. I ran right back into the rabbit hole and hopped out with a handgun.