I felt powerless…and chickened out at what was supposed to be my defining moment. Instead, I was a coward who backed away five minutes into grasping destiny with a finger on the trigger.
Methodically, I stripped the rifle with disgust, placing the parts neatly into the gym bag. I slung it over my shoulder and crossed the abandoned warehouse floor, taking the stairs in lieu of the freight elevator. I left by the double doors leading to the alley’s loading dock, crossed the brick street behind the warehouse and threw the bag into a storm drain, kicking it into the hole.
I looked at my phone and realized I had three minutes to escape unnoticed. The police sweep would arrive, and I needed to leave the area.
I was two blocks from the subway entrance. I took a quick step and tried to be furtive about it. Then I realized that this was nothing but self-conjured drama. No one would be looking for something I just decided not to do.
As I passed a pile of uncollected garbage on the street corner, I considered it reflective of the debris of my life that I intended to end with an act of valor—sacrificed to a mythos of martyrdom, rewarded that someday history would absolve me. Streets would be renamed and statues commissioned, even in my hometown. Stamps printed with my portrait.
The glory that was never to be; only an empty warehouse window and a blue nylon gym bag holding the stripped-down remains of a very expensive sniper rifle lying in several inches of tepid sewer water.
Maybe the rifle will eventually be found and, with that, an investigation might ensue. It won’t be traced back to me, though. I am clever enough to see to that.
I contemplated that my future would be between anonymous drifting and a new life I had yet to ascertain. I thought I had decided how it would work out.
At the subway entrance, I passed the crowd moving toward the parade route, alone going to the underground as the masses rose up the stairs into the light.
While waiting for my train, I felt I was young enough for a second chance while standing on the platform. I considered getting myself straight and working hard toward something else.
Maybe. Perhaps. Okay. There were better options to cease being a singular figure teetering on the periphery. When the subway train arrived, I no longer had an excuse to make. Just the truth, I chose against attempting to act out on behalf of self-delusions and contrived wounds. I realized I am responsible for my actions and the future of my life. I suddenly chose a different path.
When I got off at my stop, I felt the chill wind of the October autumn. The first leaves had begun to fall around me as I headed to my apartment.
I promise I will show up on time to work tomorrow, but on the way, I will pick up a course schedule from the community college. Begin again. This time I swear I shall succeed.
One day in the future, revealing a young life of aimlessness leading to an attempted political assassination may make an excellent story to tell yet-to-be-conceived children. They would never believe it.
A parade float rolled by. I leaned against the pine crate to steady my elbow. Excited and nervous at once. I adjusted my Zeiss scope.
Behind the float was a banner. Eight people carried it, chanting, but their voices were drowned out by the marching band following.
The target marched at the center, grasping the banner with both hands, defenseless.
I focused, turning the scope until my vision became sharp. Then, in a flash, I thought again of picking up that course schedule, autumn leaves floating around, me starting a new life and, eventually, a story to tell my unborn children.
I held my breath. Attaining a defining moment turned out to be easier than I thought.
I squeezed the trigger.