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This is my entry for this week of LJ Idol, Season 9. Please check out the entries of my fellow competitors and consider joining the therealljidol community. This week's topic was "Chekhov's Gun."



In real life, we are players who lack the outside perspective of an audience. If someone lays a gun on the mantelpiece, we fail to realize it may become important.

We believe we write our own scripts. We believe in accidents. We believe that nothing is foreshadowed, because the world is full of infinite possibilities. Instead of looking forward, we look back.

When the Invisible Man, in our third year together, broke up with me at an Otakon meeting, I was shocked. That day, he was wearing a weight vest, hard and unyielding as I gave him one last trembling hug. We swore we would remain friends, but even as I swore, I wondered, "Why did this happen?" If I'd only paid attention, the weight vest might have clued me in.

He'd started wearing it a couple months ago, as part of his fitness routine. At the time, we were both striving to get healthier. In addition to losing weight, I'd also been taking counseling sessions to deal with my emotional trash heap accumulated from prior abusive relationships. He was the man who had suggested I go, and I'd kept him updated on my progress. Maybe he'd finally felt I was healthy enough for him to break away. Or maybe he did it because, despite the fact that he'd only ever said he loved me when I was walking away, I'd recently shared my plans to move to his city. This long-term relationship was about to get real.

And so, in true Invisible Man fashion, this man, who had always shut off parts of himself from the world, closed himself off behind an actual wall of weights. In retrospect, I should have seen it coming.

Years before, after graduating with my MFA from Penn State, I was working as a pizza delivery driver in my hometown. One night, while reading between deliveries, the news came over the television about a Penn State campus shooting. One student was dead, another injured. As the details slowly dribbled out, with a chill, I recognized the shooter. We'd played a vampire LARP together while I'd been pursuing my degree. I thought immediately about something she had told me back then.

She had worked at a convenience store in downtown State College, ironically the same store where a different employee was later found guilty of killing a woman and leaving her body by a state highway. That place must have had bad juju.

Sometimes, I'd drop by on my way to my place, and since she worked second shift, a quiet time for convenience stores, we would chat. This particular time, we'd been alone, and she'd told me something that would later haunt me. She'd just bought a German Mauser, she confessed. I'd asked her why, because in the world where I grew up, in Central Pennsylvania, guns were either tools or collector's items. "Are you going to use it to hunt?" I'd asked her.

"I'm going to hunt people," she'd told me.

I'd laughed nervously, paid for my item, and left. Looking back, I suppose I could have told somebody, but who? I was just a walk-on character in her drama; I existed just for her to deliver that line. Could I really have changed anything, even if I'd guessed what would happen?

We walk through life thinking that we're in control. We think we know everything worth knowing about the people around us. And yet, I bring you our third and final scene, from this past weekend.

Since before our son was born, our little Kung Fu Panda has had an affinity for music. In the womb, when I listened to music, he would kick to the beat. He reminds me of my sister, who danced through her younger days, singing improvisational songs. And so, when I learned his preschool music teacher gave private piano lessons for ages 4 and above, I'd convinced my husband, The Gryphon, that we should sign KFP up.

For two months, I've attended weekly piano lessons with KFP, sat down with him for daily 15-minute practice sessions, even on vacation. Realizing my 41-key synthesizer was inadequate, I'd perused Craigslist and found a full-sized keyboard with pressure-sensitive keys.

The only thing I couldn't do was put together the keyboard stand I'd bought along with it. Apparently, three small but very essential bolts had ended up on the sidewalk when the two college students had taken it apart with a screwdriver in order to fit in our Ford Focus.

So on Sunday, The Gryphon and I went to Home Depot to find the replacement parts. He took charge of the part retrieval: perusing the nuts and bolts section before striking up a conversation with a store employee. Back home, he went to work on the stand, while I put away laundry in the next room, one ear open in case he needed help mounting the heavy keyboard on its narrow wooden stand.

Sooner than I'd expected, he was finished and trying out the keyboard. The noise drew KFP from downstairs, while I stayed in the bedroom, clearing out the suitcases, still unpacked from our recent vacation. Then, I heard something amazing.

Instead of just piddling around on the keys or playing a simple octave, I heard my husband playing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" while KFP sang cheerily along. He played it with the sort of facility you'd expect from someone who'd played the piano for years. And then I heard him trying to figure out another common tune, and I popped my head in and helped him find the last note.

"You never told me you could play," I said.

"I don't, really," he insisted. He told me he'd picked up a little from a girl he'd dated in high school.

Still, the knowledge bloomed in my head: after our eleven years as a couple and nearly seven years of marriage, he could still surprise me. I'm sure if I look back, I'll realize there were clues to his hidden, undeveloped talent. Perhaps a conversation where he'd dropped musical terms, or maybe his agile typing. But I'd prefer to savor that image: watching my son and husband bonding over an unscripted musical moment.


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Comments

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
halfshellvenus
Jul. 28th, 2014 10:31 pm (UTC)
The woman with the gun is so chilling. It's so rarely women who do things like that, who get a srew loose and decide to inflict their sociopathy on the world in such a violent way.

The ending, though, was a nice reminder sometimes, surprises are good. Play on, Gryphon, play on. :D

alycewilson
Jul. 29th, 2014 12:26 am (UTC)
I knew she'd had problems, but I never dreamed she meant what she'd told me that night.

And yes, sometimes surprises are good, especially when they involve either The Gryphon or KFP. :)
eeyore_grrl
Jul. 29th, 2014 03:03 am (UTC)
Holy shit on the gun confession. I'm assuming this is real, not fiction, cuz I very vaguely recall that news story. Anyway, that part of the story hit me viscerally.

I think most of us have some sort of connection like that. Some, like yours, closer than others. I highly doubt you could have done anything. And I totally understand how that could haunt you.
alycewilson
Jul. 29th, 2014 12:47 pm (UTC)
Sadly, it is nonfiction. What can I say? I've known some pretty shady characters in my time, but I truly didn't believe she could have meant what she said. I'm not even sure that telling the police would have done anything.

millysdaughter
Jul. 29th, 2014 02:33 pm (UTC)
Like threats from an ex, the standard police answer is "we cannot do anything unless they actually hurt somebody."
tatdatcm
Jul. 29th, 2014 03:48 am (UTC)
This is the second entry I've read that makes me think Chechov's Gun is more about hindsight than foreshadowing.
alycewilson
Jul. 29th, 2014 12:48 pm (UTC)
That's the direction I chose to go with it, in part because I thought most people would deal with foreshadowing. And then, brainstorming with my husband, I discovered these three stories which I felt related.
mistearyusdiva2
Jul. 29th, 2014 04:21 am (UTC)
I literally went OMG with the woman with gun story. Its tragic that people actually think of hunting down people. The third story of being taken by surprise was cute. Just makes us realise we really never completely know another human ... just when we think we know them .. they surprise us all over again :)
alycewilson
Jul. 29th, 2014 12:50 pm (UTC)
I was horrified, too. Part of the reason I didn't believe her was that it was such a foreign concept to me, the idea of lashing out like that. I couldn't believe anyone could be serious about such a thing.

That said, I would react differently if someone told me something similar today. :(

And so true about your last point, never knowing someone completely. It's nice when the surprises are good ones.
roina_arwen
Jul. 29th, 2014 04:46 am (UTC)
I like the way you tied three completely disparate stories together so well!

So how is KFP liking the keyboard and music lessons?
alycewilson
Jul. 29th, 2014 12:53 pm (UTC)
For various reasons, I didn't want to tell any of those three stories on their own. I thought the Invisible Man story could come off as "woe is me" and the gun story was shocking but predictable, given the topic. The third story, alone, would have been seen as too lightweight, I thought. But put them together, and they unite to illustrate my thesis of how we don't believe in foreshadowing in our daily lives, even when it's there.

KFP is liking the music lessons. His teacher is soft-spoken and laughs a lot, and I know he loves learning new things. He's not always excited about practicing, but I'm trying to instill in him the idea that practicing is an important part of learning. :)
bleodswean
Jul. 29th, 2014 03:04 pm (UTC)
This is a great essay - a perfect exploration of the idea of the prompt.
alycewilson
Jul. 30th, 2014 12:38 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! That was what I was striving to achieve.
eska818
Jul. 29th, 2014 07:17 pm (UTC)
This is put together well, despite being three different stories - you managed to make the flow feel natural, and I liked the varied concepts between each of them. Well done.
alycewilson
Jul. 30th, 2014 12:38 am (UTC)
Thank you. I felt they were stronger as a unit than they would have been individually.
anyonesghost
Jul. 29th, 2014 07:38 pm (UTC)
I liked the flow between the stories here. And I appreciated the piano especially. :-) I think it's always good to remember that people can surprise us in good ways.
alycewilson
Jul. 30th, 2014 12:39 am (UTC)
So true! He's enjoying the lessons, and it's nice to finally have a keyboard in the place that will let me play some real music!
adoptedwriter
Jul. 30th, 2014 12:12 am (UTC)
I hD a high school friend foreshadow re suicide, but was too naive and clueless at the time do think anything about her remark. I thought she was just being a drama queen because she was sad about graduation and missing friends. Luckily, her attempt failed.
AW
alycewilson
Jul. 30th, 2014 12:40 am (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear that happened to a friend of yours but relieved to hear it failed. Comments like yours make me feel better about not taking action.
jem0000000
Jul. 30th, 2014 12:23 am (UTC)
Awww, what an adorable moment. :)

As others have said, there's really nothing you can do about people like the woman with the gun; unless she was threatening you with it, they won't do anything until she hurts someone, and by then it's more or less too late. *hugs*
alycewilson
Jul. 30th, 2014 12:41 am (UTC)
Thank you. My husband was a little afraid of what sort of reaction I'd get with the second story, but I told him that I felt like I wanted to write it and trusted people wouldn't judge me too harshly. Glad to see that so far I'm right.
suesniffsglue
Jul. 30th, 2014 03:23 pm (UTC)
Wow! I'm echoing everyone else, but the gun story really is incredibly chilling. And then it becomes so touching, with your son and husband. Nice job!
eternal_ot
Jul. 31st, 2014 02:26 pm (UTC)
As I say..it always makes sense in the hindsight..and sometimes something just mentioned randomly or jokingly become true..A great take on the topic.. I really liked it!
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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