No Your Enemy
(a digital story, in several parts)
by Ken Cervera
I was nine years old when my father first instilled the importance of a short barrel shotgun. For home protection, as he explained it to me back then, there was no finer option.
Although Illegal to cut down a shotgun to a length less than twenty six inches, a sawed off barrel would make it easier to navigate the tight corners of an average sized home.
The longer the barrel, the easier it would be for an intruder to take it from you and make a real mess of things. As always, my father had a knack for putting things in perspective:
“Son, it’s either a five-to-ten year stretch in Leavenworth, or an early grave. Which sounds better to-you?”
“Leavenworth...I guess?” What the hell did I know about prison. I just figured death was worse.
“The law has no place when it comes to survival. You remember that.” He said.
To help illustrate his point, he laid out a cut-down Mossburg 500 pump, a Remington 870 semi-automatic and over a dozen shotgun shells across my bed. These home schooled, weapons and tactics lessons were my bedtime routine, and on more than one occasion would spill over into my dreams.
“Now, how do we prevail?” He asked, while knuckle-rolling a shotgun shell between his fingers.
"We prevail because we know our enemies faster than they can know us."
“Good, good,” he said with a half a smile.
My father was a southern man who wore his sleeves rolled up past the elbows; exposing years of scars, burns and unexplained lacerations. As he spoke, I could trace the roadways of his wounds and wonder how they’d got there.
"What’s the quickest way to know your enemy?” He asked.
"Find out if he wants your money, your body, or your life." I said, and waited for a response but his silence meant yes.
My father reached over, grabbed the Mossburg 500 pump and put it in my hands. I've never forgotten the cold comfort and heft of that weapon.
He tossed the shotgun shell my way, and I snatched it mid-air.
"Go-on and shake it." He said.
I put the shotgun shell to my ear and shook it until I was certain of what it was.
"Twelve-gauge, double-ought buck." I said.
"Good. Load it and cock it." He said, giving me a nod. I slid the shell inside and pulled back on the forestock. The bolt shut with a loud, metallic clank and filled my chest with a sense of purpose and fear. Blood rushed to my fingertips like a lightning strike and lingered for several seconds.
"That my son, is the sound of your intent. It crosses all language and creeds. Any intruder who remains is there to take your life, unless you take his first. You understand me?"
"Yes sir." I said, having no concept of the path my father had prepared for me.
“Who are you?” He asked.
“Joseph-Marcus Devlin.” I said.
“What do Devlin men do?”
“Indeed, we prevail.” He said.
It was 10:52pm and as I drifted between sleep and constant readiness, my father yammered on:
"When the world turns to shit, the twelve-gauge round is the ammo you'll scavenge for. It's cheap, easy to find at your neighbors house, and bout-as familiar as pancake batter."
The sociopathic underpinnings of my youth and all the
years aligned like a twisted prophecy as I wondered what life could have been like on other side.
I never imagined myself as I am now, standing over a dead body and into the empty eyes of a man who deserved it...