Christmas eve, Fishersville, Virginia. Every year, we eat fried oysters, brown beans, corn bread, and fried taters for Christmas eve dinner. The wife and my Dad clean the table while I sniffle into Kleenex. The family has killed off a bottle of Freixenet champagne. Since my modeling debut, it?s now the family favorite. Dad has had several drinks tonight.
“Got a couple things here,” says Dad, “when your mother and I are not around anymore, I want y?all to have. Really, they all yours anyway, John.” He goes into the second bedroom, rummages around in the closet, and returns with a semiautomatic pistol. He peers at it and pulls back on the trigger.
“Look here,” he says. “Takes rifle rounds. Yer ammunition goes into the clip here.” He presses a button on the pistol and it spits out a clip, which clatters to the kitchen floor. Now the safety is?” He trails off, as he presses a few switches on the side of the gun. The barrel of the pistol waves past my wife?s head and she ducks.
“What kind of gun is that?” I ask.
“Pistol,” he says. With some effort he shoves the ammo clip back into the gun and engages the semiautomatic trigger.
“Now look. Here?s the safety. Click here, pull back the muzzle, safety?s off. Click here, safety?s on. Wait a minute, I?ll get some ammunition.” He heads back into the bedroom and returns with a box of rifle shells. “Remington bullets there. Feel how heavy that is.” He pulls a bullet out of the box and puts it into my hands. “That goes in one side of ya, no big deal, but it makes a bigger hole goin out than comin in.”
I dry-fire the pistol into the ceiling a couple times. “Come here,” he says, walking into the bedroom. “I got a couple other guns in the other closet.” I drank the rest of the Freixenet and left the pistol on the table. My wife eyed it nervously. I followed Dad into the bedroom.
“How come you keep your guns in the closet?” I ask.
“They?re not my guns, they?re yours,” he says.
“But you have a gun rack,” I say. “You should keep your guns in the gun rack.”
“This way, a burglar won?t be able to find the good ones though,” Dad says. He rummages around in the closet and pulls out several rifles, and he throws them onto my bed. Then he hands me a particular burnished blue shotgun. “Look at this one. Friend of mine offered me five hundred dollars cash for it, but I turned him down flat. Remington model twelve. Look at that patent. Must have been made around 1912. You know when this gun was made?”
I Google the serial number on the gun. “That gun was manufactured in 1927,” I tell him.
“That?s about what I thought,” he says. “That gun is worth some money. And this one, if my grandson ever wants to know more about his granddad, he can have this here gun. It’s a good gun.” He arranges the two shotguns on my bed.
“Now look here,” says Dad. “Something else to show you.” He shows me a makeup case in a dusty corner of another closet. “Lift that out,” he says. I can?t lift it. I?m only able to drag it out of the closet. Dad opens it. It?s full of wrapped coins.
“Are any of these coins special?” I ask.
“Well, some of them?s eagles and some of them?s states,” he says. I unwrap some of the coins: it?s true, some are eagle-head quarters, and some quarters have states on the back.
“Well, each one?s worth a full twenty-five cents,” I say.
“Not all of em,” says Dad. “Some of em in there are wheat pennies.”
“You know, Dad, there?s this thing called inflation,” I say. “It means that if you leave your coins in the back of your closet for a year, that five hundred dollars worth of loose change will be worth about four hundred ninety-five dollars. And next year, four hundred ninety, and so on. You need to take that money to a bank.”
“It?s not my money. It?s your mother?s. It?s her fur coat fund,” he says.
“You need to invest that in a money market account,” I say. “Or U.S. savings bonds at the worst case.”
Dad laughs and hollers at Mom. “Tena, your son thinks I don?t know how to invest your fur coat fund. He thinks I should be putting all that money in a bank,” he says.
“What!” yells Mom.
“He?s tellin me to put that money in a bank!” yells Dad. He collects the shotguns off my bed.
“That?s right!” yells Mom. He wanders back into the kitchen and sits down at the table. The pistol?s still on the table; the wife hasn?t touched it.
“Isn?t this how people get shot at family events?” I say. “Fooling around with guns and such at the dinner table? Don?t you always read about how family members always get shot around Christmas due to family stress and such?”
Dad blinks, thinks for a moment, and says. “Oh. But we’re not fighting.”
We put away all the guns. Then we all watched some college football on TV.