Movie Night, a short story by Murray Dunlap.
Midnight, and it's the Thursday murder movie that's got you started, all nerves and nervous laughter, and of course, there's the pistol on your nightstand. Your father died and there it is; what to do with it? Not quite ready to sell his things, not quite sure how to live with them. Your wife thinks a gun is a good idea for country living. And then the dog barks his head off at something down the dark driveway, an unseen animal crashing through the woods, and you're back inside like a shot, dead-bolting the doors and flicking window locks all over the house. But it's late and time for bed and the dog is calm and your wife is already asleep, so you get under covers and try to think about what you might do if you won the lottery, or if you had married a woman who didn't walk all over you, or what your dog might say if he could, and just when your head is filled with talking dogs and endless riches and sleep is creeping in, it's headlights in the driveway that jerk you to the window. A car pulls in and stops with the engine still rattling and coughing, headlights filling the room and before you know it the holstered pistol is in your hand. You make for the front door and turn on the lights and stare through the glass and the dog is barking bloody murder by the time the driver of the car realizes he's at the wrong house and begins to roll backward, crunching gravel and shrinking from view. So you laugh it off and hop in bed next to your motionless wife, pistol back on the nightstand, and you're almost calmed down enough to sleep when you remember the trash truck comes tomorrow and you don't want another fight, so you're back up and dragging ass along the driveway, flashlight in hand, big blue trash can rolling behind you. At the street you look up and down the road, long and dark and deserted this far out, and then you hear glass break and see lights flipping on and off in the trailer across the street and then it's yelling and the man is backing out the door with his hands up and the woman is throwing spatulas and forks in her underwear. The man gets in his diesel truck and guns it out the drive, but still takes the time to wave at you as he peels past. The woman is standing in the doorway, a thick silhouette bobbing with tears, but you don't know her name so you turn back down the drive and listen as she says fuck you too as her door slams shut. The unseen animal crashes through the woods again and your heart stops, sending you running for the house and fumbling with the locks, and then you hear your name called, your wife screaming for you from the bedroom, and when you open the door it hits you like a swarm of biting bees in the chest and you look down at the blood and up at your wife and she's got the pistol and this look on her face that says I knew it was you all along and then she starts shaking and the pistol drops from her hand and while the whining dog crawls under the bed you think I'm not dead yet, so you walk over and pick up the gun. For the first time you see it out of the holster and it's a tiny .22 caliber loaded with bird shot, which is exactly the same as facing a firing squad of little boys packing Daisy Red Riders and then you understand that you're really not dead, not even close, and you look at your hateful wife and that's when you start laughing hard, raising up the gun to her bare feet and pulling the trigger, because all you can think of is how much better that movie would have been if they'd only thought of this.
Murray Dunlap, a native of Alabama, received his MA in Creative Writing at the University of California, Davis. His fiction has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, The Hook, The Greenbelt Review, and is forthcoming in Red Mountain Review and Night Train. One of his stories received a nomination to Best New American Voices. Book reviews by Mr Dunlap have appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review and New Delta Review. His first book, "Alabama", was a finalist for the Maurice Prize in fiction. He lives in rural Tennessee with his wife and dog.
This is Mr. Dunlap's first appearance in Offcourse.
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