First Night on Bean Alley
When Artemis moved into the house on Bean Alley, she brought only a few of her most precious belongings: her grandmother’s Singer sewing machine, an old Chinese hook rug with pink and powder blue flowers that she had bought at Goodwill even though it was worn down flat, a set of dishes with gold leaf and pink roses and the white chenille bedspread, also from Goodwill. She had no bed and no chairs so she spent the first day making giant purple and blue striped pillows that she threw on the living room floor.
In the alley by the house she found a large Mountain Bell telephone cable spool that she could turn into a coffee table. All she needed was a good saw. She also brought the orange lamp with the macramé lampshade, the one she and Miguel kept by the bed.
And, oh yes, she brought the gun.
The gun was given to her by her soon to be former father-in-law. It was a Smith and Wesson Colt .45 and it looked like it belonged to Wyatt Earp. It could be argued that the old man had given the gun to Miguel but it also could be argued that he meant it for her, for her protection because as he explained, Tucson was the rape capital of the United States of America, and you were more likely to be raped in Tucson than in Detroit, Michigan or Washington, D.C..
“And here,” he said, “you might need these. I hope not, but maybe.” He handed her the box of bullets while Miguel’s eyes drooped like oysters.
Now she wondered if Miguel would insist on getting the gun back. What would she do then?
The Colt .45 was wrapped in a piece of soft black velvet. She sat on the floor, took the gun from the moving box and unwrapped it. She polished it with the soft cloth until it shined.
Then Artemis did something that would shock anyone who knew about guns. She put the barrel right up to her left eye and looked into it like you’re not supposed to, if the gun is loaded.
She pulled the trigger.
The gun wasn’t loaded, but pulling the trigger while her eye was up against the barrel made her heart pound fast. When she put the gun down on the hardwood floor, she heard her heart still thumping and visualized the blood pounding against the walls of her arteries like in the film they showed her in high school all those years ago in health class.
Artemis then took a deep breath and reached for the bullets. She held one bullet in between her thumb and forefinger and she looked at it very carefully before she began to load the bullets into the cylindrical firing chambers, one by one. When the gun was loaded, she spun the cylinder that held the bullets around like she watched Miguel do so many times, and then she slammed the gun shut.
Artemis set the gun aside. She looked at it; the pearl handle struck a nice contrast against the hardwood floor. She made a mental note to photograph it when she got her camera back, and reached for the gun again. This time she unloaded it and wrapped it up in the black velvet cloth and put it away in one of the empty kitchen drawers.
She noticed a big red broom, probably left by the former tenant, and decided to sweep the kitchen. She methodically made her way to the living room, all the while wondering if she would ever be capable of using the Colt .45 if she had to, like if the mad rapist broke into her home, now that she was alone in this house that looked like the wooden house that the big bad wolf huffed and puffed and blew down in the story of the three little pigs that her dad told and retold, so many times, so many years ago.
It was dark now and Artemis was tired. She needed sleep and she needed more of her stuff. Tomorrow she would go to the apartment while Miguel was at work and get some more of her things. Her Pentax K1000, the yellow towels, her coffee pot and the toaster.
Tonight she would sleep on the giant pillows and wrap herself up in the white chenille bedspread.
Artemis opened the kitchen drawer and took the gun out again. She loaded it and laid it next to her as she got ready for bed.
When Artemis went to switch the orange lamp off, she could see through the woven twine of the macramé lampshade and there, draped around the metal stem that held the light bulb was a giant moth. She watched it intently as she tried to decide the best way to get the moth outside where it would be safe from her rubber flip flop. She hated to kill harmless creatures, no matter how creepy. As she stared at the moth, her eyes felt tired and heavy, and she thought about Miguel and how he would dispose of the moth, with a paper towel or a handkerchief, or just simply by reaching in and grabbing it and throwing it outside. While she was mildly missing Miguel and thinking about what to do with the moth, a flash of movement shocked her out of her sleepy stupor. A wolf spider, the largest she had ever seen had come from nowhere and attacked the moth. In a matter of seconds the moth was barely visible as the spider consumed it.
Careful not to make a sudden move, Artemis got up from the floor and reached for the red broom. She tapped the lamp with the broom and the lamp fell on its side. The spider lurched out from under the lampshade in a slow but deliberate motion.
With the flat side of the worn out broom, Artemis slammed it down so hard on the spider that her hand hurt from the impact. She flipped the broom over to make sure there was no sign of life and saw the slimy substance that confirmed the death of the spider in the fibers of the tattered broom.
She took the broom out to the rickety porch and leaned it up against the wall.
And the desert night was quiet except for the sound of crickets.