The Shotgun

A man entered our office with a shotgun. He wasn’t carrying a shotgun, but his swagger, his eyes, and his voice all said twelve-gauge pump, and he was pointing it at me. He said never to contact him again, or he’d return. He didn’t need to say “with a shotgun”—it was understood.

He was angry because his doctor had placed his account with a debt collection agency. He didn’t explain why he thought the account was unjust, but he must have believed so. What other reason would he have for asking for a piece of paper and putting his threat in writing, and signing his name?

He didn’t wait for a response.

I was relieved when he left. I wondered if I should lock the door behind him. I called the police instead and reported the incident. I gave them his name; his penmanship was top notch. They asked if he was gone. I said he was. They said a detective would contact me soon.

The detective called and explained that the man had committed a crime, a terroristic threat, and that I could file a complaint, and he’d be arrested. But, he said, maybe I didn’t want to.

They knew the man. He was unstable. He was easily provoked, but if I didn’t contact him again, he’d have no reason to return. And yet I worried. No one wants to see a shotgun coming through the front door. Perhaps I would escape. I’m no hero. Would I live with regret for not filing a complaint? Would it have turned out differently if I’d insisted he be arrested?

It’s years later now; he never returned. I wonder where he is. In jail perhaps. Does he still have a shotgun? Is his penmanship still top notch.

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