By Jack Keillor
I’ve never been a religious man.
I’ve tried on countless occasions, I’ve prayed, I’ve sinned, I’ve hurt others with my carelessness but no matter what I do to get His attention, nothing ever happened. Even He must know I’ve tried. As a boy my parents tried to instill Christian values in me, as many parents do, but like many young boys I rejected the notion of a higher power. The last thing I needed was another figure of authority lording over my actions. I already had two colossal authoritative failures living with me, telling me what to do, and a third wasn’t in the cards for young Jack. My mother was an alcoholic, my father something much worse. The idea of adding another to let me down wasn’t even an option as far as I was concerned. Later in life, however, when it was my turn to call the shots, I felt myself wanting for someone else to be calling the shots, fictitious or otherwise. When I had children of my own that depended on my successes, my failures as a father and as a man I wanted nothing more than for someone to take some of the slack where I was failing, somewhere other than the mirror to point the blame. But it was too late for me. I owned my failure and my lack of success. I had no choice but to own it and the burden was too much to bear.
So when I found myself in a McDonald’s parking lot at 2 A.M., loading my Colt Single Action Army and ready to take aim at the first six things I saw moving, know that I did so knowing full-well that this was on me. It was Jack Keillor doing this and nobody else. How it came to this, I couldn’t tell you. Even up until the moment I stepped out of my car I didn’t know why. I had nothing against these people, these strangers. They were just trying to get by in the world same as me, seeing the same injustices, doing what they could in the face of a cold, heartless world that cared not for the sensitive souls but for those that were just as cold and as meaningless that it itself was. They didn’t deserve this and I knew they didn’t but I was ready to do it anyway, ready to spread my pain around a little bit. Ready to take my turn spreading the cruel, random, pointless misery of life around for myself for once. To take control of the misery. To play God, even if He didn’t have the guts to do it himself.
When I stepped out of the car and walked to the door I made no effort to conceal my weapon. This was the end for me. No reason to hide who I really was anymore; disgustingly man. I walked into the store without incident and made it all the way to the counter before anyone noticed what was happening. I pointed the gun at the cashier’s head without comment. She was a young woman, probably under 18, younger than any of my daughters even. It didn’t matter, her screams or the screams of those around her didn’t matter. I pulled the trigger all the same.
At least I thought I did.
When I squeezed my finger nothing happened. I thought that perhaps the gun had just missed and I didn’t hear the shot over all of the screaming, but there was also no recoil. I pulled it again and again, nothing. I then took aim at the man bolting for the door and tried again. Nothing. It wasn’t the gun, it couldn’t have been, I’d had it for 25 years and it hadn’t failed me once, even earlier that day when I took it to target practice to make sure it worked. Then I took aim at the man with the mop bucket near the bathrooms and once again nothing happened. It didn’t make any sense. I tried firing into the air. It went off.
It wasn’t the gun, it was me. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t hurt these people. Sure I’d killed before, plenty of times, but that was either on the Force, in self-defense or in a few cases even revenge. But I couldn’t hurt these people. I thought that I could, but I couldn’t. Something I didn’t understand in myself just couldn’t do it. Maybe that was the God I was looking for? I didn’t have much time to think on it as I heard sirens approaching and my fight or flight instincts took over. It was clear that I wasn’t up for a fight, so I went with flight, though not before I hopped over the counter and grabbed a Big Mac resting on the heating tray.
If I was going to die that night I felt I deserved a last meal, and there’s no better last meal than a McDonald’s Big Mac. With its two meat patties, three pieces of bread and just the best damn sauce you’ve ever tasted in your life. There’s some tomatoes, lettuce and pickles in there too, I guess, but that’s not why you come for the Big Mac. You come for a mouthful of that sweet, sweet sauce. Eating a Big Mac was, before that night, the closest I had ever felt to God. Maybe that’s what drew me there in the first place for my final disgrace to humanity, I don’t know. I did know that as far as last meals go, you’d be hard-pressed to do better.
It was half-gone by the time I got to my car. Since I didn’t know how long it would be before the cops shot me dead, I didn’t want to risk it. By the time I was out of the parking lot it was gone and by the time I hit the freeway I was already hungry again. Guess I should have grabbed two. The cops were right on my tail but I didn’t care, this was how it was supposed to be. My final moments, chased by the very precinct I’d spent over thirty years working for with a healthy helping of that sweet, sweet sauce smeared across my face. Every time I licked my lips was like another taste of a Heaven I would never get to see for myself. I knew it was over before I even walked into the store. Hell, I knew it was over before I even left my house. You’d think that at that point I’d have regretted what I’d done, especially considering I hadn’t even really done anything, but I didn’t. It felt good to know that I wasn’t that man, I wasn’t among those that brought evil into the world. I was just another trying to get by and that even when I snapped I could not and would not hurt innocent people, at least not on purpose. That felt good, great even. I’m not saying what I did was good, but to know I could take it that far, throw my entire life away and still not be capable of hurting others just for the sake of mitigating my own pain a little bit was something I needed to know about myself before I died, and I was ready. I was more than ready for death.
After a few hours on the freeway I decided to call it a day. I pulled over to the side of the road, as to not hurt anyone, and as the police surrounded me I looked at Spakowski, who recognized me, and I gave him a little smile and a wave as I put the revolver in my mouth and pulled the trigger.
But nothing happened.