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Trigger Warnings

by Mickey J. Corrigan

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Part II: Spring 2016

Chapter 10: Howl


After taking several months to recover from my injuries, I returned to school. While I was at home, I read in The Beacon Beacon that Professor Ivaniloff had gone to Ukraine on a leave of absence. So I signed up to repeat the class I had, understandably, failed.

Ivaniloff’s replacement was an adjunct professor with long blonde hair and black frame glasses. A young woman fresh out of grad school, Dr. Kendall dressed in tight pants and a leather jacket. Like a hipster.

“Listen up, people,” she said. “I’ve made some changes to the syllabus. In my classes, I don’t include any reading material I regard as racist or sexist.”

Was she looking right at me or was I imagining it? The fluorescent light bounced off her oversized glasses, making it hard for me to tell.

“We will be reading novels by Hurston, Walker, and Morrison. Poetry by Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath. And we’ll be writing, too. Not just critique but fiction and poetry.”

My grin must have attracted her attention, because she smiled, first at me, then at the rest of the class. She said, “I hope you’re all as pleased as I am with these changes. I’m a big believer in participatory education.”

After class, I went straight to the college bookstore. Back in my room, I lay down on my bed, Ginsberg in hand. My roommate was gone; she’d flunked out as expected. So I could read all night if I wanted.

I read Howl, and it was fantastic. So I read it again.

Dr. Louder woke me up.

I opened my eyes and looked around. He wasn’t in the room. In fact, he had dismissed me from his program soon after my “accident.” Yet, there he was, his booming voice like a pipeline into my ear. Or into my brain, I wasn’t sure.

“Listen up, Springfield. Mr. Trigger is in town, he’s speaking Friday at noon. Downtown, at the Church of the Republican Leaders. I think you should be there.” His ghostly voice paused. “This is a very attractive hard-core opportunity.”

I rolled over, pressed the pillow to my head. I could still hear him.

“You’ve changed, Springfield. You’re your own person now. You need to take a bigger stand now, a global stand. You must make an abrasive action that defines who you really are.”

Dr. Louder knew me. He had helped to make me into me. I was becoming who I really was because of him. How could I not do what he asked?

I sat up and said in a loud voice, “Go away. I make my own decisions now. I’ll decide what’s right for me.”

My head pounded and I felt nauseated. I lay back down but I couldn’t sleep.

Two days later, I bought a gun in a private sale in Arlington. If you know how to use the Internet, you can get anything. And I was on a hard-core mission. I knew I would be identified and caught, arrested and sent to prison. But this was about something bigger than myself. This was abrasive action that could change history!

I felt justified in my choice to make the next hard-core move. This awful man, my next target? He was stupid and dangerous. He triggered everybody! No way should he be allowed to beat up on everyone like he did. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t American. He simply could not get elected to the highest office in the land. Not if I had something to say about it.

And apparently, I did.

On Friday morning, I hefted my backpack onto my shoulder. It held nothing but the loaded Glock wrapped in a damp hand towel. Skipping public transportation, I walked across town. The day was mild, the sun faint but friendly. When I arrived at the street for the church where the candidate was speaking, however, the sun ducked behind a bank of dark gray clouds.

The area had been cordoned off. Cop cars and city policemen were everywhere.

A large crowd of vocal protesters stood across from the church, clustered behind wooden barricades. They held up hand-printed signs. One guy with a megaphone shouted progressive slogans. I did not join them.

Outside the closed church doors, reporters and photographers milled about, surrounded by a handful of burly men in dark suits with wraparound sunglasses. Additional security clustered inside a roped off area leading to a line of sleek black limos.

Trying to look like a fawning rightwing fangirl, I maneuvered myself as close to the transport vehicles as I could get. Then I stood there, waiting for my next hard-core target to exit the church.

Beside me, a woman around my parents’ age looked me up and down. She said, “It is good to hear someone say the things we think but don’t dare speak.” She had a heavy accent, possibly eastern European. “The kids your age, they do not understand what freedom means. You think Internet means freedom.” Her face was heavily lined, haggard. But when she smiled, her dark eyes lit up. “This great man, he could not run for office so many places. See, this is democracy. Freedom.”

The man next to her said, “You got that right, lady. And he speaks for the people. Regular people.” He ran a worn hand through his buzz cut. “He may be a fatcat, but he knows how tough it is to make a buck. And keep from handin’ it all over to the government.”

An old guy in ear muffs said, “Amen, brother.” He looked my way. “If he gets elected maybe, when you’re my age, you’ll have something to show for all your life’s work.”

I faked a smile, but I felt like a phony and an interloper. These people had put their faith in a truly dangerous politician. They were foolish but hopeful. I felt sorry for them because I was about to blow it all up. Right in front of them.

The sun peeked out and warmed my face. I no longer hid inside a hoodie; shy little Snow White was long gone. That was good, but I’d neglected to wear a hat or sunglasses. This meant I would be easily recognized after being filmed by journalists and the rest of the crowd around me with their cell phones out. Armed security guards were less than a hundred feet away. There was no way I could shoot and escape. The minute I fired the handgun, I would be signing my own life sentence. The cops would grab me instantly.

I thought about that as the crowd began to cheer. The church doors had opened. The candidate was about to exit.

I slid my backpack from my shoulder and reached inside. Carefully, I pulled out the towel-wrapped pistol. It was so heavy. So powerful.

I dropped the towel and took aim at the man under the goofy red hat. He looked like such a clown. Was he really that much of a threat with his ignorant tweets, his dumbbell slurs, his juvenile memes? What could he even do to a country like ours? We’d be safe. Wouldn’t we?

Maybe not. It was too much of a risk. So I stood my ground. My heart beat steadily, my mind remained clear. This was what adulthood, real life, the big bad world was all about. Why get triggered? Anything could happen in a world like ours. Pandemics, economic catastrophes, world wars, violent hostilities, authoritarianism. There was no way to protect yourself from such a reality. In the real world, a racist, sexist, elitist conman could become President of the United States of America.

But not on my watch. Before anyone could stop me, I took my shot.

Copyright © 2020 by Mickey J. Corrigan

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