Tanner placed the shotgun in his little red wagon. Its weight surprised him. He couldn’t imagine carrying it through miles of snow-covered fields like Daddy. But Daddy was really strong. Tanner trusted Otis, his teddy bear, with making sure the gun stayed safe. He sat Otis near the stock. Otis watched the shotgun though one black button eye. Tanner felt bad about not having Mommy fix his other eye, but he was afraid.
Daddy had made Mommy angry. Daddy worked at the dog food plant for a long time. He got fired when they caught him taking tools home to fix Tanner’s swing set. He fixed it, but Tanner didn’t feel like swinging anymore.
“I can’t believe how stupid—“
“That asshole had been trying to fire me for years,” Daddy had said.
“And you gave him a reason, dumbass!”
“Get away from me, woman,” Daddy said. He laid down on the couch. “Go make dinner.”
“Go make it yourself.”
“You’ve got to feed the kid. Might as well feed me, too.”
“I don’t have to do shit.”
Mommy had slammed the screen door on her way out of the house. It didn’t matter. Tanner didn’t feel hungry anyway.
Tanner covered the shotgun with his blanket. He tucked Otis in like he was sleeping. Tanner didn’t want to get caught. He knew he shouldn’t touch guns. His Daddy had said so. His teachers had said so, too. If Daddy caught him, it would look like Tanner was taking Otis for a ride. He wouldn’t get caught. Daddy was asleep. He slept a lot.
School was out for summer break. Tanner had gotten up and woke up Mommy. She had made Tanner Cheerios. He sat on the couch and watched Spider-Man. Peter Parker got fired because he was too busy being Spider-Man to go to work. Mary Jane would be mad. Mommy went to work.
The DVD had ended. Tanner didn’t know how to work the player. He went to the bedroom and woke up Daddy. Daddy stretched and blew out smelly breath.
“What’s the matter, buddy?”
“Can you play Spider-Man again, please?”
Daddy had walked with Tanner into the living room. He pressed a couple of buttons on the remote control. He patted Tanner on the head and went back to bed. He still wasn’t up when the movie ended. Tanner didn’t wake him up. It was lunch time. Tanner got a loaf of bread out of pantry. He took a slice for him and a slice for Otis. Otis didn’t eat his. He gave it to Tanner.
Tanner rolled the wagon past Daddy’s bedroom door. The bent axel squeaked. Tanner stopped. He waited for Daddy to come out and ask him what he was doing, but he didn’t. Tanner rolled the wagon through the living room and out the front door.
The shotgun jumped as Tanner led the wagon down the three wooden steps into the front yard. Tanner worried it might come uncovered. Someone might see the gun. No one did. He towed the wagon through the thick, uneven, un-mowed lawn. The wagon pulled easier on the sidewalk.
Mommy had been more angry than normal on Saturday. She found Daddy’s socks in the couch cushions. She picked up more in the bathroom. She glared at the beer cans sitting on the kitchen counter. Tanner played with Otis on the living room floor. Mommy stomped past him to the bedroom where Daddy still slept. Tanner saw her throw the socks at Daddy before he looked away.
“If you aren’t going to do another goddamn thing all week, can you at least pick up your dirty ass socks?”
“I’ve been looking for jobs.”
“You haven’t been looking for shit except your pillow.”
“It’s not my fault—“
“Don’t even start with me. Not your fault. Not your fault you were fired. Not your fault you leave the house a pigsty. Not your fault that your lazy ass is still asleep. Nothing is your fault.”
Tanner tried not to listen. He tried to talk to Otis, but he couldn’t hear Otis over the yelling.
“Fine. I don’t give a shit. I needed to get up anyway. I’m going hunting with Butch.”
“Great. You sit at home all week and now you’re leaving me with all this.”
“I stay home with the kid.”
“You sleep and he takes care of himself.”
“What’s he doing right now while his mom is busy being a bitch?”
“I’m the only one pulling my weight around here.”
“Tell you what,” Daddy said. “I’ll get my shotgun and go kill something for dinner.”
“I’ll get that shotgun and shoot your stupid ass with it.”
“Woman, I’m done listening to you.”
Daddy had come out of the bedroom wearing his hunting gear. He grabbed his shotgun from the rack in the laundry room and headed out the door with it. Mommy followed him.
“I’m sick of your shit, you deadbeat asshole.” Mommy picked up a pot of flowers and threw them at Daddy. They fell short and shattered on the driveway.
Daddy had raised his middle finger at Mommy and drove away in his truck. When mommy came back into the house, she went to the bedroom. Tanner heard her crying.
Tanner stopped at the Mr. Willard’s gardening shed. A shovel set against the plastic wall. Tanner sat it in the wagon next to the gun and pulled the wagon down the street. He pulled it into the park, then down into the woods.
Wet wood chips marked the trail between the trees. The sun could not break the dense canopy. Tanner left the path. He dragged the wagon through the moist ground, leaving parallel trenches in the dirt where the wagon struggled to pass.
Tanner picked a small clearing. He set Otis on the ground and lifted the shovel. It was too big. It moved awkwardly in his tiny hands. Tanner dug into the soft but heavy earth. His hands hurt. He winced when he lost control over the shovel blade, scraping his knee. Still, he dug.
Tanner, exhausted and sweaty, lay the shotgun down in the hole. He kicked dirt over the top of it. He looked at his blistering palms. Tears filled his eyes. He looked around for someone to soothe him, but found no one. He was alone.
Tanner walked back home, dirty and crying. Forgetting his wagon. Forgetting Otis.