“Myrna, honey,” Taffeta said, softly dabbing her friend’s forehead with a moistened towel.
“Myrrrrnaaa,” Taffeta said in a low soft voice, quietly singing out the name and hoping her friend would come to.
From the time the clattering sound crawled through the line and reached her ear, it took about fifteen minutes for Taffeta to hang up the phone and get over to Myrna’s house. As the noise registered in her head, the burn of genuine fear and concern filled her chest, for even if Myrna dropped to the ground simply and directly, any fall at their age could be dangerous. It could mean heart attacks, and broken bones, and long convalescences, and pain, and… She shook the thoughts away.
Once she pulled into Myrna’s driveway, she immediately went around to the back of the house. Even though she could get a glimpse of her friend lying there in the middle of her kitchen floor, she knocked quickly, to be polite. When Myrna didn’t move, Taffeta tipped up the edge of a small potted geranium, slid out the extra house key made her way in.
Dropping her purse and the key as she entered, she ran over to the body as fast as she could without tripping, falling or having a heart attack of her own. She wouldn’t mind, but Myrna would mind a great deal if someone came in and found two ladies of a certain age lying next to each other, or however they ended up dead, on her kitchen floor. Most undignified. Scandalous even.
The handset of the phone lay on the floor next to Myrna’s head screeching the high-pitched buzzing tone you get when you leave the line open too long after the person on the other side hangs up.
Taffeta reached over and pushed the button marked by the small red phone icon filling the room with silence. Then she moved closer to Myrna, her movements torn between eagerness and trepidation. She inched her ear close to her friend’s face in the hopes of hearing a breath. Myrna obliged by exhaling a soft, thin, raspy whistle of a breath. Taffeta sighed, swallowed hard and allowed herself to draw a deep calming breath for herself. Myrna was alive.
And just as Taffeta was about to look for a potential head injury, Myrna countered the exhale with a robust and snarling deep snore that seemed to rattle the floor. Myrna was asleep.
Taffeta got herself up, got over to the kitchen sink, moisten a good corner of the towel that sat on the counter and returned to her friend’s side all before the next snore cycle completed itself.
“Myrna?” she said again, nudging her shoulder a bit. “If you sleep on this floor anymore your back will punish you for weeks.”
Nothing. Setting the towel down on the table, Taffeta reached over and lightly tapped at her friend’s cheek.
Taffeta jerked back uncontrollably at the speed at which Myrna’s eyes opened, wide with confusion. A lucky move, for at the same time, Myrna’s arms and legs shot straight out from their resting places and grew rigid, knocking Taffeta back further still. If she were close enough to take the full, direct blow Myrna might have knocked her across the kitchen and into the cabinets. She was not a large woman per se, but Myrna was sturdy and still had a lot of strength left for someone whose primary form of exercise seemed to be walking, worry and hefting the occasional bowl of chips to the couch when she watched her stories on TV.
Myrna’s eyes quickly darted back and forth as she tried to steady herself, tried to calm down, tried to recall where she was and tried to recall what the heck she might have been dreaming all at the same time.
“Oh my word,” she said. Catching sight of Taffeta rolling backwards, Myrna struggled around to her knees and reached out to catch her friend. Getting a hand on her jacket, she only succeeded in pulling at Taffeta in such a way that she spun away on the smooth linoleum causing her to now fall forward.
“Stop!” Taffeta yelled out at as kitchen whirled around her. “Stop! Stop moving!”
They both stilled themselves until the motion stopped and the two of them lay breathing heavily in a pile on the kitchen floor.
“Jesus, Taffy,” Myrna said now facing down. “You scared me to death!”
“Ha!,” Taffeta said in a puff while staring at the ceiling. “I thought you were dead already!”
“I guess I fainted.”
They stayed prone on the floor taking the time to get their breathing and the heartbeats under control, taking personal inventories on whether either of them might have actually hurt themselves.
“Whew,” Myrna said. “We must look a sight!”
“We do,” Taffeta said in a small laugh. “Who knew you could move so fast? You almost knocked me into the next room.”
“I’m so sorry Taffy. I should have been more careful.”
“How could you? You didn’t even know where you were.”
“Well, I’m sorry.”
“Oh, it’s fine. I’m fine. How are you?”
Myrna brought her hands up to the floor and raised her head. “I’m fine. I guess once I fainted, I must have just drifted into sleep.”
The two helped each other up and plopped down into chairs at the kitchen table.
“I didn’t sleep very well last night,” Myrna said. “The business of the gun and all seems to have settled into my head. It must be even worse for you. I don’t even have that horrible thing in my house.”
“Actually,” Taffeta said, rearranging the salt and pepper shakers on the table back up against the small napkin holder. “I slept great, like a log really. And you know, it’s not a horrible thing.”
“The gun?” Myrna asked. “The gun, your ‘sub-machine gun’ is not a horrible thing?”
“It’s a thing Myrna. It can be used in horrible ways, but all in all, the thing itself is just what it is. Like a car, or a kitchen knife or a hair dryer, it’s a thing that only does what we do with them.”
“A hair dryer?” Myrna asked. “How do you lump a hair dryer and a sub-machine gun in the same class?”
“People have done horrible things with hair dryers. What about that incident in Cardington where that woman killed her husband by throwing the hair dryer into the tub with him?”
“Oh my Lord, why would you think of that?”
“I’m just making the point,” Taffeta said.
“And I don’t think it was a hair dryer.”
“No,” Myrna said. “I think I remember it being a toaster.”
“Hm,” Taffeta said. “How did he not see that coming?”
“Who keeps a toaster in their bathroom?” Taffeta asked. “I think if I saw a toaster in the bathroom, I’d have to ask some questions.”
“Young people,” Myrna said shaking her head. “Who knows what they are into these days?”
“I guess,” Taffeta said. “Look, about the gun.” She decided the pepper looked better on the other side. “Now that you’re sitting, I meant it. I want to learn how to shoot it.”
“Ugh,” Myrna said, rolling her head back. “Why on earth do you want to do that? It can’t be safe. I mean, it looked like an antique!”
“I think it is.”
“Well, there you go! Another reason not to shoot the thing! Guns, especially old guns are not something people should mess around with.”
“Guns,” Taffeta said, “Especially guns of ‘a certain level of experience,’ can still have a lot of good use in them.”
Myrna trained her eyes on her friend. “What ‘good use’ can you possibly see for an antique sub-machine gun?”
Taffeta met her gaze for a moment, but turned back to her work with the condiments. “I don’t know. Nothing I guess. I just think, I mean…it’s a feeling.”
“Yeah, I mean, why do you think I got it?”
“It might be that your brother, God rest his soul, might have been… a little insane. No offense,” Myrna said. “I’m thinking that if you want to go around shooting that relic, and please don’t take this personally, because you know I love you and my only wish for you is health and happiness, but frankly, that seems a little insane to me. Sorry, but there, I said it.”
“I love you too,” Taffeta said reaching for Myrna’s hands across the table. “You know I do. I appreciate your honesty, really, I do, but I’m not insane. It’s just a feeling I have. I look at it and I know that it’s OK. And while I think it’s been through some stuff, I don’t think it was ever used to kill anyone.”
“How can you possibly know that?” Myrna said squeezing Taffeta’s hands hard enough to urge her message through them. “Because we are here, and because this is between us, I can tell you that the things you’re saying right now sound a little more crazy with every pass.”
“It’s a feeling, that’s all I can say.”
“Right,” Taffeta said. “I’m going to teach myself how to shoot that gun. I feel like I have to.”
“You have to?” Myrna asked.
“Yes, I feel like a have to.”
They sat in silence as the small table in Myrna’s kitchen with their arms stretched out toward each other and their hands clasped tight.
“Well then,” Myrna said, after a deep and dramatic breath while squeezing her friend’s hands with each word as if to underline her intent. “I cannot in all good conscience allow to do such a fool thing on your own. If you are going to go through this ridiculous exercise, you must must promise me that you will include me every step of the way. If you don’t, I will call the police, no…, the FBI and tell them that my friend has gone off her nut and is planning on shooting up the civic hall bingo center.”
Taffeta smiled. “You hate bingo.”
“I do,” Myrna said. “And frankly, I wouldn’t mind if you ran every one of the…how many bullets did you say you have?
“And frankly, I wouldn’t mind if you ran every one of those 2,o0o bullets through the place – provided nobody gets hurt of course, but the FBI doesn’t need to know that. They just need to know about the crazy lady with the antique sub-machine gun who is out looking for trouble.”
Taffeta squeezed her friend’s hands and smiled. “That is just about the nicest thing I’ve ever heard you say.”
“I can just imagine,” Myrna said. “You’re out there, God knows where, shooting your gun and something happens to to you. You’ll need me nearby just to call the ambulance.”
“I mean, God forbid you shoot yourself,” Myrna said. “Or worse, somebody else!”
“I agree,” Taffeta said. “It will be better to have you along.”
“You could end up igniting some international incident. People will think you’ve gone and joined a gang!”
“Who would think that?”
“I don’t know,” Myrna said. “I didn’t think any of all this so far could have happened and now instead of calling the FBI or trying to talk you out of this foolishness right now, I’m talking myself into going crazy with you!”
“You’re a good friend.”
“I’m an idiot.”