In Holy Days, in the chapter, “The First Shot,” Gloria comes up with a fantastic idea suitable only for a fantasy novel. One of those twisted tales that asks the question “what if” – What if certain privileged people had a duplicate being that lived only as a personal organ donor, in case they needed say, a kidney or a liver, after they had been in an accident or had trashed their own? What if women lived separately had no rights and only existed to procreate? What if society wouldn't let us read and firemen burned books? What if we were kept hungry and forced into combat for the amusement of an upper class? (Pause on that last one. It’s too real.)
Gloria asks herself – and society at large – what if an abused child could legally kill her abuser? What if, Gloria asks, what if women were legally allowed to kill?
In “The First Shot,” Gloria rushes out the door in the middle of the night to tell her new friend everything about herself; a sleepy June climbs out of her bedroom window and the two girls huddle on the curbstone to talk. After revealing to June what happened to her, even at risk of losing June forever, Gloria has an idea. This is what Gloria proposes: “I think a girl should get five shots, five legal shots at birth. She should get five pink bullets and a pink gun, numbered like a social security number, handed to her on her tenth, or maybe her eighth, birthday. If anyone bothers her, she has the legal right to shoot, but she has to decide, whether to use the bullets up or not. After her fifth shot, it would be murder. But, you see, the beauty of it would be, no one would know how many legal shots she had left! Men would have to be on their best behavior. And” - I added, considering that girls might need to be protected before their eighth birthday – “any woman who has a daughter, right in the hospital, she should be given a special mother’s gun with an undetermined number of shots, no one knows how many, not even her, to protect her daughter.”
Junie laughed, “You’re dreamin’!”
“I know, but think how careful men - and boys - would have to be! How - respectful! It would be hilarious to watch them cower!”
What Gloria imagines is a kind of pink mutually assured destruction. Sure, she’s dreaming. But, for one second, imagine like a teenager might, like a bitterly angry, stunned and frightened teenager who still believes violence can solve problems. Gloria lives in a world where might makes right. She also lives by the hero’s code. She thinks she should kill her abuser. But, she knows she cannot. For many reasons – one, she’d be arrested; two, she needs him for food and shelter; three, she loves him. However, she wants to save other children from what she’s suffered, so she imagines this threat of legal retribution, like a nuclear bomb hidden in her pocket, like the power of God coming down to intervene, to literally step between child and abuser, so that the child told to suck his dick can cry out, like Gloria does when, one fateful day, she commits murder to protect June, “Suck mine!” before shooting that legal, authorized, sanctioned pink bullet into his rotten heart. What if abusers knew they could be legally killed for what they were about to do?
Disclaimer: Holy Days is a work of fiction. I am not suggesting that we should arm our children. (Though, apparently, as I discovered when researching pink guns, many people would disagree.)
The idea Gloria has is that the threat of a child legally shooting his/her abuser will keep the abuse from happening and give power back to the child. Like mutually assured destruction - the threat of nuclear war keeps nuclear war from happening. We hope. Gloria is a dreamer. But, she's not the only one.
©Patricia Goodwin, 2015
Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, about Marblehead legends and true crime and its sequel, Dreamwater, about the Salem witch trials and the vicious 11-year-old pirate Ned Low. Holy Days is her third novel, about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation.