They say you don’t see the bullet. They’re wrong. The shooter pulls his trigger, time drags to a crawl. I see mine. It flies toward me like a bee to a flower.
Before, children squeal delight at the sight of the zoo across the busy public square. Teachers remind Margot for the millionth time to hold her partner’s hand, stay in line. Bitty humans approach, guided by chaperones. “Stay together,” they call as they go.
I thought about teaching years ago. Life’s trajectory carried me elsewhere, but a child’s laugh still triggers joy in me.
Screams differ from squeals in their pitch. Their immediacy. Their urgency.
The first report ricochets off plaza statuary. Opens my eyes. People drop. Some voluntary. One not.
I close my eyes, listen to the surrounding burble.
Zoo-goers pass my bench, caught in debate on their way to the entrance. Which animal first? Lions. No, elephants. No, monkeys.Behind me, tourists climb the city center memorial, scuffing feet on old marble for a keepsake photo.
The hot dog vendor rumbles past, her food cart rattling across brick pavers. It’s almost lunch. Soon, she’ll have a queue. Already noshers shadow her, eager to be first.
Some huddle, cowering behind fortunate cover.
I straighten. From my bench, I cannot see the shooter.
The second report scatters the brave. Sends them running. Moving targets. Another falls, slides forward. Stops.
Cyclists ring through the plaza crowd. Biker right rear. Biker left rear. The ding-ding-ding reminds me of ice cream trucks. I never hear those any more. Are they gone? Visible only to the young? It’s been years since I sighted one.
The field trip is well past me now, their voices downrange. A couple walks by, mumbling around mouthfuls. Wedding plans garbled by some treat.
Someone, nearby, on a mobile. One side of a heated argument.
I scan the plaza. More people bolt. Teachers aim panicked children toward scant bushes. The third report drops a runner. Hot dog lady snatches her queue into her booth, closes the window. The door. Human sardines. Safe, for now.
Fourth report. Fourth victim, and I see. A man. Pale pink skin. Ball cap on backward like a disjointed duck’s bill. Fatigues. Shrouded in rifles.
How many could he need?
Tourists squat behind the memorial. Children and teachers hide in shrubbery. I sit atop a sea of abandoned pavers. No cover. Me and my bench.
Warm sun soothes the ache in my aging bones. I come here to bake away years, but I should find shade soon. Brown skin burns too.
It’s nice, though. Sitting. Listening. Being still.
He hasn’t seen me yet. I’m a stone in a moving flow. My skin matches the color of wood in my bench. My dress though. Blue as the sky. I speak to god. Here I come, I say. Does she hear?
The pale man turns to the hedge. To the children.
My legs lift me, propel me forward.
He closes on the shrubs. Strafes the zoo-goers.
He didn’t get them all. He couldn’t.
My feet pump and I barrel toward him like a fresh clay pigeon. “Hey!”
Shooter spins. Sees me. Grins.
Muzzle flash licks out of metal like the tongue of a thirsty dog on a hot day.
Trees and shooter and sky and the fallen shimmer, haloes around their forms like rainbows in mist. The bullet—my bullet—shines, too.
I pitch backward through its light.
A sound follows.