Bill Petrocelli

Morrie Meets the Gun

At page 205, Davey, a retired cop, meets Morrie, a children’s bookseller, at a bar. He makes the mistake of leaning over the bar to order them both a beer:

. . .

“Let me buy you another beer.” He reached around to catch the bartender’s attention, but when he looked back Morrie had a look of shock on his face.

“What’s the matter?”

“There,” he pointed at his chest, “inside your coat. Is that a gun you’re carrying?”

He winced a little, not wanting to make too big a thing of it. Obviously, his shoulder holster and gun had taken this guy by surprise – and not in a good way.

“Yeah, it’s the pistol that I carried years ago when I was a cop. It’s no big deal. I’ve just gotten into the habit of wearing it. It doesn’t mean anything.”

But Morrie was up off of his stool, his hands in front of him in a defensive position.

“I’m sorry, but I just can’t be anywhere if there’s a gun around.”

“Look, I’m sorry.” He tried to tone things down a bit so the others in the bar wouldn’t overhear what they were saying.  “I’m not planning . . . “

“It doesn’t make any difference what you’re planning,”

Morrie’s voice wasn’t loud, but his words had a soft, intense bite.

“If there’s a gun somewhere, sooner or later it will go off. Somebody will be hurt or killed. It may be me – it may be you – it may be someone else. But that doesn’t make any difference. It will kill someone.”

“It’s just a form of protection.”

He repeated that line almost by rote. Did he mean that? He tried never to think about why he carried the gun, but he knew it was something more than just warding off attacks.

“You need to know what happened to my wife.”

He didn’t expect that, and it hit him like a slap to the face.

“Four years ago the ex-husband of one of Brenda’s co-workers walked into the insurance office where she worked and shot his wife. But he didn’t stop at that. He shot three other women in the office, and then he shot himself. Everyone knew he was mentally disturbed. He shouldn’t have been released from the hospital, and he shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near a gun. Nevertheless, he went to a gun show and bought an assault rifle. No questions were asked, nobody did a background check – he just gave the seller his credit card and walked out the door with his killing machine. The man who sold it to him had some remorse, but not very much. He later told the police that ‘gun-owners have rights.’”

Morrie paused for a second.

“But what I think he really meant to say is that guns have rights. When that attack was over, there were five bodies lying on the floor of the office. They were all dead, but the gun lying next to them was still working fine. It was full of life, probably ready for its next appointment.”

There was nothing more to say. Morrie was already at the door, heading out into the street. There was a sudden chill in the spot where he had been standing.