A meticulously planned day comes to a screeching halt when Anna decides to shoot her boyfriend Ezra in the left arm.
He lies, sprawled on the pavement, his terribly cut almond hair sticking to his pale, sweaty brow. Why he’s sweating, Anna can’t understand. He has a bullet lodged in his left arm, an action that required no physical exertion on his behalf.
He wails as red escapes, slipping into little cracks along the pavement. Anna is barefoot; it’s a warm day. She notes how the warmth of the sun has been sucked into the skin of the pavement. It warms her cold feet, like the little droplets of blood that have inadvertently splattered her legs.
Perhaps she should have worn trousers, or shoes at least. She realises: it’s too late to go home and put on shoes, as the pavement has become uncomfortably warm under her bare feet. It’s not that home is far away. She lives on the corner of Murray St, the big house where her parents Mr and Mrs Drewby run a coffee shop. Mr Drewby shoots pheasant on the weekend. Had he known of Anna’s intention he might have thought twice before leaving his shotgun in an unlocked drawer.
Ezra wails again. Right arm clutches at his left and he stares at Anna, face contorted like a tea towel after it’s come out of the washing machine. Should I go home? Wonders Anna. What is the protocol with leaving a bleeding boyfriend on the pavement? Ex-boyfriend would be more apt. He just dumped you, didn’t he?
The thing of the matter is this: Anna had decided at school the other day that she quite loved Ezra and perhaps they could get married one day and make beautiful babies. So she told Flora who told Meghan who told someone else. It then came back to Anna from an unknown source that Ezra had been shagging Kathleen, known to her close friends (not Anna) as Kat.
This fact quite upset Anna because last Thursday after school she had decided she was ready to have sexual intercourse with Ezra. It was a messy affair that she didn?t think much of, nor felt an inclination to revisit, but she read in a magazine that this now made her a woman and was in fact quite good exercise.
Which brings her back to thinking about why Ezra was sweating so, after having done nothing but lie there, wailing.
Eleanor Fox, the old dame with the whiskers on her chin, appears. She doesn’t look pleased.
“What on the Good Lord’s earth – ” and then she’s off, wailing quite like Ezra. What a pair, Anna thinks. Perhaps he’d like to shag her too.
The cacophony attracts more onlookers and soon Ezra is peeled from the pavement and Anna is sitting at the back of the police car. She notes that the pavement is in quite a bloody mess. Anna wonders whether they’ll clean it up or just leave it. She considers asking them to stop so she can mop it up herself. It seems quite rude to leave the street in such a state.
Ezra’s going to be just fine, they assure her. However she?s not that worried for his welfare, considering she was the one that saw to the bullet entering his left arm. A lawyer advises her not to share these observations she?s been having, even better, don’t talk at all.
You’re a strange kid, he says, and he shakes his head, wondering if law was the career for him and perhaps he should have gone against his mother?s wishes and tried his hand at acting. Everyone knows all the best actors were lawyers at some stage. Maybe he’ll take his leave of the bar and try his hand at acting. Maybe he’ll take his leave of his wife and four kids while he?s at it.
Anna doesn’t quite understand why any of the above was important, in fact, it all seemed quite irrelevant. Like these court proceedings. Now Ezra is standing up in front of a crowded room, filled with people that surely have much better things to do than to sit there gawking like demented seagulls.
Ezra caresses his bandaged left arm and speaks quietly, tears threatening to break free from his beady-buttoned eyes. Those eyes flicker to Anna, and for a moment they are smug. Smug and cruel, he?s enjoying the attention. Anna curses herself, bother! Why left arm? He doesn?t even write with his left arm. Effectively she’d shot him in the most inoffensive place possible. If she’d had her wits about her she could have taken off his left testicle, thus affecting his ability to procreate. Shame.
At the insistence of the courts and their parents, along with community service and 100 hours of anger management, Anna is now meeting Ezra for coffee. Ironically, this coffee is taking place at the corner cafe run by her parents, Mr and Mrs Drewby. Also ironic is that this is where their first date took place. Ezra notes this irony with a wry smile, sipping from his flat white.
You’re a flat white. Anna says. But not out loud. The statement doesn?t really make sense, and that lawyer did say to keep her thoughts to herself.
They say it’ll make a full recovery. Ezra lisps, through a mouth of foamy white milk. He caresses his bandaged arm. Yet again someone thinks Anna would be concerned with the recovery process of Ezra’s left arm. Again, she put the bullet there. Perhaps it’s because she had to swear before the demented seagulls that she was deeply remorseful for her impassioned actions.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Ezra smacks his lips together as he speaks, milk resting on his bottom lip, about to slide down the precipice and onto his chin. “That Kat and I are now dating.”
Anna’s anger management classes have told her to redirect her feelings to another source: Pottery, sewing, non-contact sport. Anna thinks carefully, and redirects the swell of emotion in her belly to the painting on the wall: an inoffensive Pre-Raphaelite painting of a girl on a swing. That girl is ridiculous, Anna muses. She’s not even real. Life may be poor and unkind at times but at least I’m real, unlike you, little girl in the painting. You exist only in the second dimension and whilst the demented seagulls can gawk and squawk at you, you can do nothing back. You’re perfectly pointless and what’s more, you’re a $2 reproduction someone brought back from a Sunday market.
There, all better.
Ezra’s coffee is finished and he stands up, ready to leave.
“This has been nice Anna.” He says, his beady-button eyes sneer at her, drinking in the moment to be coughed up later for his friends. “Real nice. I want you to know that I do forgive you. No grudges here.”
Suddenly the girl leaps out of the painting and uses her garters to strangle Ezra. He falls to the ground, trying to wail like the last time, but voice impeded by the strangulation taking place.
Anna looks up from the painting and Ezra is gone. She sticks her head out the door and sees Katherine (Kat to her friends, not Anna) waiting on the corner. She’s cut her hair short and dyed it a shade of red not dissimilar to Anna’s own.
Anna decides that redirecting anger is pointless, as is violence. She decides, instead, to focus her attention on education, or something equally useless.
Years later Anna will look back at this chapter of her life. At dinner parties small-talking guests will label the experience as formative. They will enquire after Ezra and the health of his arm.
Again, Anna will wonder why anyone thinks she should care.