Joan of Anywhere
A cautionary tale
Joan had volunteered in every possible slot her children's varying schools had opened. She was never quite of the level of President of the PTA or even on the board, but when parties needed to be set up or taken down, envelopes needed to be addressed, copies needed to be made or children needed to be babysat during an event, she was there. Everyone smiled when they saw her, they were never quite sure of her name, but they knew she belonged. Belonging was really important to Joan. She belonged to a group at her church that volunteered their time to help out elderly shut-ins.
Joan belonged to a political party, she made phone calls and sent flyers, canvassing neighborhoods during election season. Joan, although none of her family was military, volunteered for every possible veteran, active military and family of military group she could. She felt that there was no other expression of true patriotism than fighting for your country. She came to this realization after the events of September 11, 2001.
Joan had tried to convince her husband that joining the military would be a great service to the nation. He had looked at her and simply said, "Ha, I would love to see you manage on $1,200 a month!" and that was the end of that. Joan also belonged to the local gun club. Guns made her feel important, strong, they made her feel as if she belonged. She made sure she knew everything about the guns she bought. How to clean, load and safely handle these weapons. She was never excessive, just a few small guns with magazines of 15 at most. When Joan wasn't volunteering, or taking care of her kids, she would find time to go to the gun range. There was something hypnotizing about shooting at a silhouette of a man, the blue silhouette against the tan background. Blue was the perfect color no individual was really blue – at least not that shade….
After the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre, there were of course the cries for “gun control”. Because, the liberals couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that what they were calling for was an infringement of the Second Amendment, the saner angels won the day. As a matter of fact there was an increase in gun sales. Joan was able to resell one of her higher power weapons for three times what she paid for it. Joan used that money to pay off some remaining bills from the divorce.
When the advertisement went up at her daughter’s high school that the district was looking for “armed volunteers” to patrol the school, Joan jumped at the chance. Joan was no shrinking violet. You see, asking her ex to join the military wasn’t her only reaction to 9/11. Joan had become terrified of losing everything she had to the terrorists. It was Joan’s fear that had really driven Steve away.
At first Steve tried to laugh it off like he had about the military. Then he tried to console her, he bought tickets to the Bahamas for their 15th Wedding Anniversary in 2002 thinking that this would get her mind off her growing obsession. She refused to take the trip citing all number of potential acts of violence that could occur. Steve was left holding $5,000 worth of vacation tickets, nonrefundable. Instead, Joan bought her first gun. Steve took her to the firing range in order to make sure she knew how to use the weapon she held in her hand. After that first day, Joan’s arm was in terrible pain. The act of holding and firing the weapon had taxed what little muscle she had. She committed the next day to a weight training schedule. The training became more and more or her life. Steve watched as the bills piled up. At one point he asked simply if she had tried to get a job at one of these places she volunteered. She had turned on him with such swiftness, “What are you crazy? If I work, then I won’t have time to train, and someone has to protect the kids!” Steve had tried to take her to someone. He had talked to their family physician. The problem was that without Joan admitting that her behavior was excessive, and coming on board with any treatment, their hands were tied. She was not a danger to herself or others, so having her committed was never an option. Steve did the only thing he thought would shake her out of it. He filed for divorce. Her parents said they could hear his heart break across the country.
After the divorce, Joan did settle down a bit, she had to. She did get a job at her gym, first handing out towels and cleaning sweat off machines. Then the local two year college offered a certificate to become a personal trainer. She took night courses and ended up being hired by her gym. Steve took care of the kids, the two oldest were in college and their daughter, Mandy had one more year of High School left. Joan was determined to be there for Mandy, whether Mandy wanted it or not.
Joan went to the district and filled out the application. She was one of the few women brought in to interview. She got the job of course. Her resume was extremely impressive. She was certified on practically every firearm, she was a black belt in Ju Jitsu and she had a history of volunteering with the varying schools which actually made her the perfect candidate. The school board was so proud of the fact that they had chosen a woman to be their first armed volunteer that they contacted the local newspapers and even got a spot on the local news that went National. Everyone knew Joan’s name now. The nameless volunteer had become the face of “citizen patrol”.
The first months of the school year there were a few incidents which caused the police to come on campus with drug sniffing dogs. Each time the police were called to the school, Joan would saunter up with her hand placed casually on her hip holster, caressing the handle of her gun. The cops would nod or raise an eyebrow at the sight of Joan with her well developed biceps peeping out of her short sleeved shirt and the bulging thigh muscles seeming to want to break free of her yoga pants. She would brush her hand across the bill of her baseball cap in a sort of salute as if to say, “don’t worry guys I’ve got the campus covered while you take care of this.” As Joan walked away the cops would snicker and shake their heads.
Mandy and her friends had been hiding behind one of the buildings at the back of campus. Mandy was not her brothers and she didn’t give a damn. She was smart enough not to get caught, but she had tried pretty much everything that a high school in a rich suburban area had to offer. It had begun with drinking during her parent’s fighting. During the divorce, prescription drugs, oxycotin was her choice. She liked the idea it was called “hillbilly heroin” and began dressing as if she was a hillbilly. She knew she was utterly irresistible to Jesus, especially when she wore her short denim skirt with her long lanky legs bare to mid calf and ending in the cowboy boots she “borrowed” from Country Outfitters. There were five of them hanging out back there. Jesus and Mandy were entangled in each other’s arms, while the three others, whose nick names stood for what they brought to school, stood by. Val, Cody and Taylin had just lit up when several of the boy’s La Cross team ran around the corner.
Joan had decided it was time for her to try out her new serpentine route. Her day included a series of concentric circles. She would begin on the outside, then step in about 20 feet and then circle again. She would continue until she reached the innermost circle and then she would start again. Some days she would begin in the center. She had been advised strongly not to be so consistent, and she had tried to mix it up today. In fact, in her “normal” schedule of rounds, there were areas of the school she actually never went. This was because the layout of portables did not allow for this concentric circular route. Today, however, she believed she would see the entire campus.
Eddie’s mother had been so ridiculous this morning. She had woken from a bad dream, the details of which had flown from her mind the moment she opened her eyes. His father had driven him to school that morning shaking his head and they had both laughed at the silly woman in their lives. He confirmed with his father that there was a game this afternoon and he wouldn’t need to be picked up until after six. He felt good. He had found a sport he excelled at and was able to be a part of his new High School. It was a beautiful day, he had his team, he had friends and he knew they were going to win today’s game and head into regionals.
Coach Peters, a new hire brought in late in the season, looked at the mass of teenage testosterone and thought about the two hour bus drive that lay ahead of them. Although the bus was waiting and they were on a bit of a tight schedule thanks to that bastard Principal who demanded that the team stay on campus through lunch, Coach demanded that the boys run the campus and touch every building. In order to make sure that it was done, he followed along. It was one of the things that ingratiated him to the team, he never asked them to do anything he was not willing to do himself.
It all happened so…….Mandy looked down to see Jesus’ dark brown hand squeezing her pale white thigh, then she was on the ground and the new kid, “Eddie” they called him was on top of both of them. His turban brushed her face. T’lyn, Val and Cody were on the ground too, with other guy’s from the La Crosse team piled up upon them. Then Coach Peters rounded the corner at the same time as Joan.
All Joan registered was a pile of bodies on the ground, and a man she had never seen before, as black as tar standing over them and reaching for something. Her heart began to beat too fast, her eyes blurred and she fired.The 9 millimeter had a 15 shot capacity. Mehti, the one everyone called “Eddie” couldn’t help himself and in his fear he fell back into Pashtu, screaming for Allah to protect them. The turban and the language caught her eye and she turned her gun to the speaker. She sprayed the outstretched figure with bullets.
It wasn’t until she was sitting in the squad car that she learned that Mandy had been on the bottom of that pile.
© Copyright 2016 midlife writer. All rights reserved.