It’s Not Happening Here

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The good sniper spends the first twenty
minutes talking about himself, how he takes
his numerous toddler sons to the shooting

range as soon as their fingers tire of baby
scissors and popsicle sticks, how he teaches
them to find the fastest exits in daycare centers

and dentists’ offices, up from the deepest
of couches, and onto the thin roof he installed
that divides shame from action. At his house,

the guns have their own seats at every table,
occupy spaces hollowed in anticipation of
their images under mattresses. He says we can

think only of action. He asks us questions,
tells us to believe what we already do: our students
hate us. People are planning to kill us. He tells

us that if we become victims, it’s only because
we lacked plans. Carry a solid dinner plate or
phone book with you everywhere. Be sure

you always stand next to file cabinets. We must
believe this isn’t happening here, but we must
believe that it could and that it already must.

Something is better to do than nothing, he says,
reminding us we’re lucky that so many gunmen
will kill themselves anyhow or least immediately.

Perhaps, he says, if we die, having saved others,
the one who interrupted us will also be interrupted in
the ejaculatory moment of his rampage, he, Sniper

Sergeant McNabb will bring him down, explode
his own short message into his face, onto his wide
cheeks. We watch footage with him of past massacres.

We see bodies and fried chicken swept together, an orgy
of crunching meat and tiny crispy bones. We are told
to report people in grocery stores who walk the aisles

without buying things. We should know they are
plotting our executions. If we die, we have become
victims of our own making. We are writing the history

of our futures each day. “Vacate, don’t vacillate.”
This is not what he told us. If I tell you, where
can I hide the next time?

IT’S NOT HAPPENING HERE by Erica Bernheim


Photo used under CC.

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About Author

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Erica Bernheim was born in New Jersey and grew up in Ohio and Italy. She holds degrees from Miami Univesrity, The University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, and The University of Illinois at Chicago. She lives in Lakeland, Florida, and directs the creative writing program at Florida Southern College. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in The Iowa Review, Boston Review, Court Green, Columbia Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, and Gulf Coast, among others. The Mimic Sea is her first full-length collection.

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