A Short Story of Hope: Part 3

In the hope of inspiring and in the attitude of gratitude, I want to share with you the tragic yet inspiring tale of Brian Collins, survivor of a church shooting. You’ve heard the stories before, but in The Shooting of Amy Rose, we find something new: a victim designing a real tangible answer, a solution to the problem of public shootings and the slaughter of innocent Americans.

When a gunman enters his church one sunny morning, with rage and homicide on the mind, Brian is shot. He survives, but suffers the loss of his beloved Amy Rose. Shaken and broken, he abandons his faith. In the aftermath he grows bitter and furious over the failure of lawmakers to protect innocent Americans. Tired of feeling like a victim, he decides to do something about it; he begins construction on a device that could be installed in every public building, a machine that could very well prevent anyone from shooting Americans in public venues again.

We covered the first chapter here. The second chapter is above. This is the third chapter of his story.

CHAPTER 3

On a balmy Wednesday afternoon—the sort of day that makes men wish they were women—Brian sat at his rugged 2X4 workbench in the garage, coiling a length of 24 gauge copper wire around a mammoth iron cylinder. It turned out that creating your own electromagnet was a heckalot cheaper than buying one.

A light breeze gusted through the open overhead door. Brian paused in his work to wipe sweat and to embrace the slightly cooler air.

On its current rode a scent. It was a familiar scent, but he still couldn’t place it.

Craning his head to look around the doorframe, Brian caught a glimpse of a plump black lady ambling up his driveway. Her heel caught in a small pothole, and she stumbled. Instinctively Brian set the wire down and rushed out to help her. As he grabbed hold of the woman’s arm and lifted, recognition dawned.

Another gust of wind blew her shadowy black dreadlocks around like discontented snakes.

“You’re . . .”

“I am,” the woman replied. “And I thank you for helping me up. Very Christian of you.”

Brian released his hold on her. “You don’t have to be Christian to do good works.”

“No,” the woman shrugged and smiled pleasantly. “But good works are often a manifestation of a Christian heart.”

Here it was; for the first time Brian realized he was on the other side of the believer/non-believer debate. He recalled how much the arguments of unbelievers used to aggravate him. Amy Rose had always been patient with them; she’d drop whatever she was doing and kindly share with them the gift of the cross and the hope of faith. She always made it look easy. All Brian wanted was to be left alone.

He turned and slunk back into his garage.

It soon became apparent that the lady was not leaving without having her say. She lingered courteously just outside his garage, watching him with a gentle smile.

With the heavy wire in his lap, Brian sighed. “Why are you here? And how did you find me? Oh wait, wait don’t tell me. God told you where I lived.”

“Nonsense,” the lady replied. “I looked you up.”

The wire slipped, nipping at his hand. Brian grumbled and winced. “And how did you know my name, then?”

With a shrug the lady said, “God told me.”

He looked up at her now. She smiled. “Fine, have it your way,” Brian said at last, giving up his sour tone. “And why did God send you?”

“To give you this.” In a supreme and surprising act of simple kindness, the lady held out a plate of cookies. “I understand you lost someone close to you. I always find that cookies help me more than spoken sentiments do. They do make you a bit soft in the middle, I suppose, but that’s never bothered me much. As you can see, I am quite familiar with loss.”

Looking at this strange woman, reflecting on her odd method of mentioning the pain of losing loved ones, Brian’s heart reached out to her in an emotional mirror to his earlier physical aid. He swallowed back the sorrow and stood to retrieve the plate of cookies.

“Thank you.”

The lady nodded. “You are quite welcome. I will see you around, Mr. Collins.” Her shoes tapped a beat down his driveway, avoided the mean pothole, and diminished as she strolled down the street.

As he watched her leave, holding his plate of cookies, Brian noticed that she did not carry a purse.

By that evening the plate sat on his bench, empty but for a few crumbs, and Brian lay on the cold concrete floor, guiding the electromagnet into its cavity as Stephen lowered it with an engine hoist. After feeding the half-inch diameter 220 line through a drilled out hole at the base, he then maneuvered the object into its cement cradle. Things were proceeding on schedule, so much so that Brian was dreading the next step, which was to take his device public and gauge the response.

Successfully completing the device (hopefully a week away) was one thing. Convincing a city school to let them install it was an entirely different matter. They’d need to close off a main entrance for a couple days at least, tear up a four foot by two foot section of floor, install the device (which was gaining weight daily, nearly up to 600 pounds), and have a professional electrician run the 220 line into the school electrical wiring.

“Okay, it’s in.” Brian allowed Stephen to help him up. He guzzled water while his partner disconnected chains and a safety harness. With the magnet in place, the bulk of remaining work lay in wiring and software. “Oh, I forgot to tell you, the computer came in this morning. It’s inside on the coffee table.”

Back inside, while Brian flicked on lamp lights, Stephen unpacked their $3,000 computer and proceeded to scrutinize it, muttering all the while in his incoherent engineer-speak.

Finally the big guy set down his toy. “Brian, there’s something I’ve been wanting to say. I want you to promise not to get angry.”

Oh great, thought Brian, another setback. First it was the prohibitive cost, then the difficulty in obtaining an electromagnet, then it was trying find a large enough (an sufficiently pure) iron bar for their purposes, then it was finding an investor to cover the cost of their computer and other equipment, and finally Stephen had pointed out just three days ago that their original projections of power were incorrect, and that they would need to hardwire the magnet into a 220 line, run separately from the computer’s 110 power source.

What was wrong now? Was the unit too tall? Was the software not working out, making the whole unit useless?

“I’m not sure we’re going to be able to convince people to install your device.”

Brian froze.

When he at length reanimated himself, he began to pace the living room, feet shuffling over an already worn and faded path in the carpet around the coffee table. It was quiet in the house. It was always quiet these days, except for out in the garage—which was why he spent most of his free time out there. Whenever he wasn’t doing his engineer work online for his firm, or out taking walks, he was tinkering on the device. Over the past few weeks it had become clear (especially ever since Millie had suggested it) that his work on the unit was a sort of homage to Amy Rose.

It had never once occurred to him that no one would want it.

“Brian,” Stephen continued, looking nervous. “It’s just that there haven’t been any public shootings in almost two months. Maybe the shooting wave is over. Maybe the gun control laws we mocked are actually helping. Maybe the device is no longer necessary.” He closed his maw and sat back, ignoring the exorbitantly expensive computer.

Cool night air rushed in through an open window and circulated through the room.

Its refreshing kiss was just the nudge Brian needed to take the edge off and bring him back to the present. He settled down beside Stephen on the couch.

Both men were quiet a long time. That’s the way it is sometimes between men, as Brian had discovered their long hours together in the nights, after Stephen would return home from a shift at Target and lope over to his garage in jeans and an MIT sweatshirt. They could work for hours without saying a word. It was peaceful.

This was a different kind of silence, though. They faced a wall. But they both knew the wall didn’t matter, not really.

“I say we finish it, anyway,” Brian declared.

And that was that.

In the days that followed, Brian rigged up a security camera that would continually feed into the computer’s CPU, because, as Stephen pointed out: “Once the shooter finds himself unarmed, he’ll run, and the police will need an image to go off of, or the shooter might try to take his rage out on another school.”

It wasn’t until they were installing the CPU in the upper cavity of the device that Stephen slapped his forehead and cursed himself for being a ‘crying lughead’.

Brian lowered his arms. “Why are you a crying lughead?” He had to wait a few minutes while his neighbor/partner puttered around the garage, muttering under his breath and slapping his forehead. Brian was starting to worry that other neighbors might look in and see the two kooks.

“Okay enough already,” Brian snapped after three straight minutes of muttered pacing. “What am I missing?”

Stephen stormed right up to him and spoke in a furious hiss, his lips mere inches from Brian’s. “We were so worried about dealing with shooters, that—stupidly—it didn’t even occur to us that the people we want this device to stop are going to be armed. Don’t you get it? Once word gets around about these things, shooters are going to just shoot them on sight, before they even get close enough to let the device do its thing.”

Like a crying lughead, Brian had to let that sink in for a minute before he realized their mega faux pas.

After kicking the couch for a while and swallowing a mouthful of curses (Amy Rose would be proud), Brian stood facing his neighbor with his arms propped up on his hips, his cane abandoned on the couch. “Okay, let’s think this through rationally. We need to cover the entire device in some kind of bullet-proof skin. Uh . . . iron would be too heavy. Steel?”

Stephen shook his head. “Still too heavy. And not tough enough. If we’re going to do this I think we need to think about some sort of synthetic material.”

“What do you mean, like Kevlar or something?”

“That’s exactly what I’m thinking.” Stephen belched as he stood. “Only, I have no clue where to get that stuff. It’s not like we can just go to the store and pick up some Kevlar.” He picked up a trinket, a small wooden object scrolled into the word ‘BELIEVE’, a relic of Amy which, even in his newfound hatred of God, Brian could not bring himself to discard. Stephen set it back down and looked up. “You’re going to need to speak with Joshua again. Maybe he knows someone who can get us a supply of hard Kevlar. I’ll write up some measurements for the casing that you can bring to him.”

Taking the wooden BELIEVE knick-knack, Brian tucked it behind a brass-framed photograph of Amy Rose. “That stuff has got to be pricey. I can’t lie to him, either; I’m going to mention what you said earlier, about there not being many public shootings lately. About how there might not be a demand for our device.”

“He might just say heck with you then, you realize.”

Brian nodded, drew a finger gently over Amy’s face in the photograph. She was so beautiful. “Yeah, but I don’t want to feel like I’m swindling the guy. Amy Rose wouldn’t have let me lie, so I’m not going to.”

In bed that night, he ran every kind of scenario he could think of for tomorrow’s meeting. He considered every detail and all the issues they’d had. As Stephen had pointed out, this device was beginning to feel like those guys trying to build the car in the movie Tucker. But despite all the setbacks, he had a good feeling about it. Trying to live up to Amy’s standards felt right, in a way that he hadn’t known since walking into First Baptist Church that last day nearly three months earlier.

With this impression of rightness, he also began to feel a small burning sense of hope.

There would be a demand for his device. All of the pathetic attempts at gun control were at best useless and at worst likely to lead to more gun violence. Only his device could bypass the bureaucratic nonsense and actually effect a change.’

Thank you for reading; I hope you are enjoying this little story. If you wish to finish it before I’m done posting the chapters here, you can find the story on Amazon. Thank you, and remember, every best-selling author was rejected repeatedly before finding the one agent they needed to represent their work.