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Trigger Warnings

by Mickey J. Corrigan

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Chapter 3: First Trigger

A few days later, I sat cross-legged on my dorm room bed. My roommate was out partying with her little gang of freshmen rejects. She would come home eventually and would be obnoxiously drunk. I would then be forced once again to deal with her late-night stupidity. The situation was hugely annoying. I was used to having my own room, my own peaceful solitude.

With my floral comforter over my knees, I continued reading The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. My mind wandered, and I thought about Austin. I wished he were here with me. He’d worked so hard at being smart. He had this intense inner drive.

“If you don’t make it on your own, you’re nobody,” he told me one afternoon while we studied together at the school library. He glanced up from his calculus text, his small eyes bright behind thick lenses. His hair was cut short, his white shirt starched. “I want to be someone. There’s only one way to make that happen, and that’s to do it myself.”

I didn’t pay much attention to him at the time. Mainly because I was lazy. Why bother pushing yourself when your parents will just step in and do everything for you, including paying for anything you want and giving you a place to live until, well, until whenever?

Austin’s sister was still at home and she was almost thirty. Where was her incentive to light up the world? Did she even need it? I mean, that kind of naiveté hadn’t done much for our parents’ generation. All they did was work and worry about money. They earned gobs of it, then spent it all. What a circle jerk. None of that interested me in the least.

Austin was different. He had short-term and long-term goals. To me, school seemed like just another big waste of time and money. But when I worked at it, I could do well. English was the one subject that consistently interested me. I did like to read.

As I read on in the assigned novel, however, my thoughts jumbled. The plot consisted of men talking in rooms, and a pallid love affair without any steam. Borrrrring. There was no animal wilderness, no violent nature. No dogs!

Darkness crept in and I had to get up to turn on a light. As I moved around the crowded dorm room, stepping over Sandee’s crumpled clothes and scattered shoes, I became increasingly distraught. I wanted to impress Professor Ivaniloff, but his assignment sucked.

I lay down on my belly and forced myself to keep reading. When I got to this one passage in the book, the weirdest thing happened. Suddenly I smelled cordite. You know, that burnt chemical odor a gun gives off after you pull the trigger. The pungent aroma invaded my room and filled my head. It made me feel kind of high and oddly powerful. Like if I wanted to, I could make things happen in my own life.

I put the book down and stared over at Sandee’s side of the room. Manolo Blahnik and Louboutin. Prada and Banana Republic. On autopilot, my mind tallied up the designer brands. Then, for just a moment, a fleeting passage of whimsical time, my mind was a blank screen. Across it ran a brief newsreel. Images. Headlines. Warnings. Ads.


I sat up. Hey, I thought. Why push myself to uncomfortable places? I didn’t have to do anything that did not feel right to me. I had options. My parents were paying for this college, for the dorm room, for my classes, for freshman English lit. I wasn’t legally bound by the government to attend. I didn’t have to be here. I should therefore have a say in what was pressed upon me. I was, after all, a consumer in the transaction. The administrators and the professors were, in a real sense, working for me.

And I was vulnerable. No longer under my parents’ roof, I was on my own now. I needed to protect myself from things that could hurt me. I had to be sure to take care of myself.

Like that, a simple plan unfolded in my mind. Like a plot in a novel I was writing, one I would live out to the last page.

When my roommate stumbled in later, I was in Denver with London’s assassins. I ignored her, my nose deep in the book. When she slurred, “Whaddareya laughin’ at?” I could honestly answer, “Not you, Sandee. Not you.”

She passed out, face down on her rumpled bed. Still fully dressed, her Ralph Lauren flouncy skirt hiked up around her thick waist. I could smell the keg beer that surged through her bloodstream. No doubt she’d flunk her midterms and her parents would have to come and pick her up.

I kept reading until dawn.

Proceed to Chapter 4...

Copyright © 2020 by Mickey J. Corrigan

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