Many people believe I never was a prophet, and I wonder myself sometimes. It all depends on how much you believe the angel Gabriel, though he may not really be an angel. I make no guarantees. Some people, especially a certain Psychologist, say that Gabriel is a… I forget the word but it means a figment of my imagination because my brain has PTSD. The Psychologist thinks I saw an angel or whatever it was because of how my brain got messed up by the Incident.
Well. You might as well say that everything I feel or think or do, including being a prophet and this book even, has to do with being post-traumatic. Which, to be honest, has its good points. Yes I have nightmares. Yes I still cry sometimes. Of course loud noises give me the fantods, though mostly I get angry. But the good part is, whenever I get in trouble for anything whatsoever, the reaction is always poor-girl-such-a-terrible-trauma. Which acts like a blameless cloak that makes people not see blame.
Anyway. The Incident.
It all began the year before last, on Halloween afternoon. It was a freakishly warm day for New Hampshire, with temps getting up in the mid-sixties, even though the week before it had been cold and even a little snowy. And the forecast said it was going to turn much colder again. Mary asked me to watch her little girl, Ruth, while Mary went shopping for school supplies over in West Etham. She packed us apples and cheese. Ruth and I carried them with water in our daypacks and went downhill to one of the beaver ponds on my land. The beavers are hyper that time of year. The water is usually low enough then, so that you can lie on your belly on the beaver dam and watch the trout fingerlings. We lied there—lay?—and stayed all quiet until one of the beavers came up, looked at us squinty-eyed and smacked its tail, ka-wump, and Ruth yelped. She shouted “Do it again!” at the beaver, and guess what, the beaver actually did! It smacked even harder and dove down to the underwater hole of his lodge.
Ruth yelled “Come back, Beaver!” but the beaver stopped obeying her after that one time.
We left our apples for the beavers and walked back up to play on the rope swing on the edge of the meadow. Then we went to the Stone Temple. This is where farmers many years ago piled a bunch of rocks next to a giant boulder maybe half the size of a house. The glacier dropped this big-huge rock when the Ice Age ice melted ten thousand years ago. You can climb to the top if you know exactly how. I helped Ruth up, and we sat and ate our cheese. Ruth pretended the top of the rock was a fairy forest because there were these mosses and ferns and this red fungus called British soldiers.
I was getting bored. “Let’s go to my house.”
“I thought we’re not allowed.”
This was true. Mother had very strict rules about staying out of the house in good weather until four o’clock. She said she did not want any stay-at-home girl who never got fresh air and besides, afternoons were her time for herself. Ruth was a little afraid of Mother.
I told Ruth, “I’ll just sneak in and get my slingshot.”
She said, “Take me home first. Mary should be there soon.”
Ruth called her mother “Mary,” which always seemed creepy even though Mary makes me call her that too.
I walked Ruth home only to find that Mary was not there yet. “You’ll just have to walk back with me,” I said.
She blew her breath out. “I don’t want to walk all the way back. Mary will be home soon. I’m big enough to stay alone.”
“I’m supposed to be babysitting you. Come with me.”
What I should have done was stay with her. But her whiny tone was driving me crazy. “Your funeral,” I said, then ran back down the hill following the old logging skid roads and wildlife trails. I went through the mud entry at home and then opened the door to the kitchen very carefully so it would not make a sound. It has an old iron latch that can make a clack if you pull it too hard. The door squeaked, but not too loud. I closed it very quietly behind me, walked through the living room, and detoured around a floor board that makes the old grandfather clock chime if you step on it. I was on a mission: Get in, grab the slingshot, get out, no one the wiser. And the ammo. Which yikes I kept in the squeakiest drawer of my bureau under my socks.
I tiptoed past Mother and Daddy’s bedroom very slowly. Using stealth. Kids at school call it Ninja-ing, but I do not need to play Ninja since I use my skills to sneak up on wildlife, which is real and does not mean pretending to be some Japanese person of legend. I set each foot down to see if the floor creaked. The door was closed. Mother asleep, I thought.
But then I heard a groan. And then a grunt, definitely not Mother’s. And the bed rocking. I am not naïve or stupid. I thought: Daddy must be home. I had not seen his truck, since I had come through the back. Now I was in real trouble if I got caught. I thought about turning back, but the sounds from the bedroom were getting louder. I tiptoe-jogged into my bedroom, got the slingshot from a shelf and put it on the bed, then carefully opened the top drawer of my bureau and felt through the socks. Nothing. The little can of bb’s was missing! And then I remembered that the day before I had put it under my bed pillow. I had been trying to shoot the bb’s through a drinking straw after bedtime, and Mother came in wanting to know what was all the racket. I found the bb’s with the straw still there under the pillow. The box rattled and I shushed the bb’s and felt silly.
It got really quiet. The noise in Mother and Daddy’s bedroom stopped. I wondered how I was going to get out alive. I could climb out the window maybe, but getting the screen off was almost impossible even without trying to be quiet. Should I go now? Or wait for them to go to sleep? Or would they go to sleep? I sat on my bed, unsure.
Someone went to go to the bathroom. This was my chance. I got up and started tiptoeing out of my room when I heard the back door open. Mary? But the footsteps were not hers. They were heavy and slow. Maybe just somebody dropping off something in the kitchen, which happens sometimes. If you leave anything in the mud entry, red squirrels chew it.
The grandfather clock chimed. Somebody was sneaking in!
I am no coward. But I was already feeling a little hyper with the thought of getting myself in trouble for interrupting naptime. So without thinking, I ducked very quietly into my closet, smooshing myself down among dirty laundry I was supposed to take down to the basement. Now I was going to be in even more trouble, not only home during nap time but in the middle of not doing a chore. Even worse, the closet door never latched right. It swung open a few inches by itself.
Hearing the footsteps get closer, I crouched farther down. Through the opening in the closet door, I saw a pair of legs in dark green pants and running shoes—Nike, which is not the brand Daddy wears. I was crouching, so I could not see much above the waist. The person was holding a shotgun. Double barrel. Daddy’s gun. I held my breath and closed my eyes.
I did not hear the boom. I just felt the end of everything. Like everything fell into my heart and my heart had me inside it. I did not make a sound, the sound made me.
Then my ears gave this electric ring like radio waves going right through my head. I am not ashamed to tell you, my pants were wet. I did not cry but I wet my pants and this happens even to adults when they are scared. I stayed in the closet, not wanting to see or hear. Just stayed and stayed with my eyes closed and my hands over my ears.
After what must have been an hour or more, I heard somebody shout “Police!” I took my hands from my ears. My arms were asleep. I tried to say something, but could only croak a little. I pushed the closet door open, and a policeman came and found me. He was wearing the Smoky Bear hat of a statie. A policewoman wearing another statie hat came in and helped me up. I felt dizzy and really thirsty. She helped me change into clean clothes then walked me out of my bedroom while the man ahead of her quickly closed the door to my parents’ room.
I never saw Mother again. And Daddy was nowhere to be found, even though his truck was parked at our house.
The policewoman asked if there was someplace I could stay, and I told her Mary’s. But she did not answer her phone, so the policewoman and I sat there together while her partner made tea. She asked me some questions very quietly and told me I did not have to answer them right away, but I said I could. Every now and then, we heard another gunshot and I jumped every time. The shots were coming from different directions, all toward the trailers of people from Massachusetts who come and shoot on weekends.
Mary came after an hour or so. Her hair was a mess and she looked upset. She ran and hugged me, crying. “I’m fine,” I said, though I really was not fine at all. The policeman took her into my bedroom to ask her questions, and the policewoman asked me some more. I told her about the green pants and the shotgun and the sound. Plus I remembered the gunman was holding a hat. A purple wool hat, with an angry bird and a B in the middle.
“Like for a football fan?” the policewoman said. “Baltimore Ravens?”
I said I did not know anything about Baltimore ravens.