An Ordinary Decent Criminal




I had a gun I didn’t want to use. It was a small, heavy thing of blue-black metal overlaid with a rainbow patina and stuffed shit-full with fattened copper bombs. It was hidden away in the right-hand pocket of my paisley dressing gown with my fingers resting gently on its butt. There were three men in my new home, one behind me with empty hands and two in front; one of those with a cheap hunting knife and the other with a piece of iron rebar as long as my arm. As far as I could tell, though, I was the only one with a gun.

“My wife is upstairs and pregnant.”

All three men laughed nervously but didn’t move. I was about a hundred percent certain I knew what they were thinking, but I couldn’t afford mistakes because my wife and child were upstairs. The three had been caught breaking and entering and hadn’t decided what to do. They could run or they could stay, and in either case they could hurt me or mine. That gave them three possible actions to choose from and two were bad, and that forced my hand.

“But . . .”

The hair on my arms went up as I made a decision. All three were wearing black woolen balaclavas with eye and mouth holes, and later I’d find out that the one behind me was also wearing a baseball hat that advertised Esso Gas.

“. . . I’ll give you all blow jobs if you’d like.”

Time slowed for me as the one with the rebar grunted with effort and swung, but I was already falling inside the arc of the blow and twisting as I went. The crack of the iron denting the table beside me was loud as I raised the gun and pulled the trigger. In the quiet house the gun was a thunderclap and it woke my wife and my son and my dog and my mouse.


The boy cursed shrilly as the bullet entered his belly to fragment against his pelvic bone and steal the strength from his arms and legs. Shards of copper and splinters of bone briefly shared the same velocity as they scythed through meat and muscle, but, meanwhile, I was rolling towards the middle of the room and switching the gun from right hand to left. The other two boys had started to move and I fired twice more while they were stunned by the noise of the first shot. In the dimly lit room, the shots were accompanied by jets of burning gas almost a foot long, a blinding light that drove the bullets through the air.

One boy catches the round in the left eye of his mask and the second is turning when his bullet catches him under an armpit and cracks his spine. Both are dying as they fall and by the time they land, their hearts have stopped and their brains no longer spark. The echoes of the shots are fading and I can hear my son crying, my wife swearing, my dog finally waking and barking, while my mouse rustles in its dry aquarium.

Claire, my wife, comes down the stairs with a bayonet off an old rifle, held in a fencer’s grip, and she is completely naked and gloriously full-breasted. She glares at the dim room and takes in the whole scene with a single glance and a narrowed mouth before moving into the kitchen with the blade held parallel to the ground at waist height, ready to stab or slash. The dog follows her but he’s young and still confused by the loud