By James B. Pepe
Read by Kris Johnson
I shrugged my shoulders and leveled the .44 cap-and-ball at its plaintive face. The squirrel thanked me, got up on its hind paws, put the metal in its mouth, and suckled on the long barrel like a caged guinea pig taking water from a bottle.
I cocked the hammer. The annihilating thunderclap, the blue smoke, the oddly gentle kick, the spray of blood, bone, and fur on my boots — all one blur, one true moment, a thing of terrible clarity. Deafened, ears ringing, I tucked my head into the crook of my arm, dropped to my knees, and wept. The buzzing in my head, the buzzing in the forest, dopplering off the sugar maples, oaks, and corpses of long-dead Dutch Rotted elms. The buzzing was everywhere. Beneath my palms, the dead leaves on the forest floor vibrated in time to that all-pervasive power station hum. The buzzing was everywhere, and I wept.