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“Asleep for Days” by Peter H. Z. Hsu

Asleep for Days

by Peter H. Z. Hsu

Day 1

A man is driving a full-size luxury sedan on the I-15. He attempts to pass me. I speed up. His car is faster than mine. I gun it, but he pulls ahead of me and cuts me off. I could have pushed my car to keep up, but I chicken out because I’m afraid of either damaging my engine or getting a ticket. This thought upsets me. I’m not a chicken, and I want to prove it.

I follow him to his exit. At the off-ramp, I draw my gun and begin shooting at the man.

He has a gun. He returns fire.

A bullet hits me in the shoulder.

It’s painful, but I survive, and I learn a valuable lesson: In a world where everyone has a gun, you can’t expect to shoot at anyone without being shot in return. 

Day 2

I’m in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. An older woman accuses me of cutting. I did not intentionally cut. She does not believe me. I refuse to apologize, and she accuses me of being entitled. This pisses me off because I am the furthest thing from entitled. I am down-to-earth and considerate to a fault.

I go to my car to get my gun. When I return, I find that she’s also retrieved her gun, as have several of the other people at the DMV—including a 15-year-old girl getting her learner’s permit and the man who takes our driver’s license pictures. I realize I’ll be shot if I try to shoot the older woman, so I decide to put my gun back in my car.

When I return, the older woman offers to let me cut in front of her. I accept. We’re now dating. 

Day 3

I sit down to eat my dinner, which consists of three chili cheese dogs and a large order of chili cheese fries. I am very hungry and have a vague concern that I will still be hungry even after I eat it all.

My sister takes one of the fries from the basket. She has not asked permission. She’s been doing stuff like this since we were kids. She’s greedy and selfish and should not be allowed to get away with it.

I draw my gun and shoot at her. I miss, but I tell her it’s a warning shot. She runs to her bedroom and returns with her gun. She asks me to put my gun down. I carefully weigh my options and decide that it’s better if I put my gun down, and I do.

We then share the food. It turns out that there is more than enough for the both of us. Once I’m full, I’m no longer angry. We have a good laugh about the whole thing.

In a moment of seriousness, I make a toast.

I say, “Thank God you had a gun. Otherwise I might not have a sister anymore.”

She hugs me, and I cry tears of joy. 

When she sees that I’m crying, she starts crying too.

Day 4

I like to collect pinecones along my local hiking trail. There is a sign that says, “Do Not Remove Pinecones from Trail.”

A park ranger tells me to stop.

I tell her, “I will not stop.”

She says, “If you don’t stop, I’ll have to write you a ticket.”

I say, “This is outrageous. I pay my taxes, which we all know are far too high, and therefore I am a co-owner of this trail and these pinecones.”

The park ranger ignores my argument and writes the ticket.

As the park ranger turns to leave, I decide I’m going to shoot her in the back. As I take aim, I notice that she has a gun tucked into the waistband of her pants. It’s not worth the trouble of shooting her, since I’ll be shot in retaliation. 

Additionally, when I realize that the park rangers have guns, I stop collecting pinecones.

Day 5

My husband and I are fighting. We aren’t sure what exactly we’re fighting about, but we are furious in the way that couples with a long history can be. In a general sense, he is resentful that I don’t seem to find him sexually attractive anymore. I’m annoyed that I’ve dutifully gone along with his questionable financial decisions, which have now caused moderate cash flow problems.

At the pinnacle of our fight, we both grab our guns. We are about to shoot each other when our young daughter comes into the room with her small caliber target pistol. We both know that her gun is unlikely to kill either of us, and that we can easily overtake her with our guns (not to mention our superior tactical skills), but the sight of her pointing her gun at us makes us swell with pride.

We drop our guns. 

We hug her and kiss her all over her face and tell her that we love her and that she is our hero and a true patriot. 

Day 6

I’ve been expelled from my Ph.D. program. I believe this was done for political reasons (read: The Patriarchy). I am very intelligent, but I happen to be a woman in a field dominated by men. Despite the injustice of my expulsion, I swallow my pride and try to plead my case to my [former] advisor. She will not listen. She says that I was fired for ethical violations. I provide ample evidence to the contrary, which she refuses to consider.

I go home. For several days, I obsess about the bad treatment I tolerated at my [former] school, even while going out of my way to be an efficient, conscientious, and rule-abiding student. I feel like a dupe as I think about how I’ve followed the rules for so long. I get very angry. I write angry letters to my [former] advisor and the department chair and the university president. I don’t send these letters.

Instead, I go back to school. I intend to shoot my former advisor and anyone who gets in my way. As I begin shooting, several of my former colleagues draw their guns and return fire. Due to either residual loyalty on their part or dumb luck, I am only shot in my legs and arms.

I survive, but my arms and legs are amputated.

After a brief stay in the hospital, I’m sent to prison for two years. In prison, I learn how to do things without my arms and legs. I can now write, paint, and even drive a car. But I’m no longer able to fire a gun, which I regret because I worry that someday a madman with a gun will try to hurt someone I care about, and I will be unable to step in and prevent it. 

Day 7

I’m at home, cleaning my gun. I unintentionally fire a bullet. The bullet goes through my hand, through my dad’s television set, through the wall, through my neighbor’s wall and into my neighbor’s house. In that house a baby is nursing in her mother’s arms. As the bullet makes its way to the baby, the baby draws her gun and fires twice at my bullet.

One of the baby’s bullets hits my bullet and knocks it off its path.

Her other bullet travels through the wall and back into my house, striking my other hand. I look at my hands, which now have matching bullet holes in them.

I think that this must have religious significance.

I tell my dad to call the Vatican.

He calls an ambulance instead.

Day 8

My stepson is jumping on his bed.

I tell him to stop.

He doesn’t stop.

I shoot him dead. 

He is unable to defend himself. His mother will not allow him to have a gun.

Day 9

The Government has decided to take all our property from us so that they can subsidize programs that have no direct benefit to most of the population. In order to do this, they mobilize their military. They start on the West Coast because they assume that the West Coast people will not be properly armed and thus will be unable to protect themselves from the Government’s unlawful and immoral seizure.

They are mistaken.

The people of the West Coast are all armed. Even the ones that claim to be Gun Abolitionists have guns. The Abolitionists, it turns out, have the biggest guns of all.

I watch on television as the military confronts the people of the West Coast.

The Government decides to call off their plans because they figure, “If the West Coast is this well-armed, can you imagine what we’ll find in the South?”

Day 10

I have not had any food for three days, but I do have a gun. I shoot a small animal and eat it.

I walk in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Two men attack me. They have guns. But I have two guns.

I go to shoot my wife and the person she is sleeping with. They both have guns. We end up having a threesome.

I am a serial killer. I don’t have a gun, but it doesn’t matter because I use a knife.

I am a teacher. I store a gun in my classroom. It suits me well, rounding out my role as instructor, nurturer, and protector.

I am a marriage counselor. I keep several spare guns in my office. On the rare occasion when one member of a couple is unarmed, I give that person a gun. This usually solves the couple’s dispute.

I am a child. I have several guns. I am trained in military tactics. I spend a lot of time outdoors and have no use for video games.

I am a cop. I spend most of my workday watching Game Theory videos on my phone because guns have made crime either non-existent or self-policing.

Day 11

The man I love decides to leave me. When he tells me this, I am immediately taken with the desire to shoot him, but I know that he always carries a gun, so it’s pointless to shoot him unless I also want to die.

But then I realize that I do also want to die.

I draw my gun and point it at him.

He draws his gun and points it at me.

I wait for him to fire first, but he doesn’t.

I say, “You shoot first.”

He says, “No, you shoot first.”

I say, “No, you.”

He says, “You.”

We both fire at the same time.

Peter H.Z. Hsu is a 2017 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow. His fiction has also appeared or is forthcoming in The Margins, Pinball, and Your Impossible Voice. (Photo by Tyler Coleman.)