Hostage

“I don’t know about this,” I said to my husband Kris as we walked through the door, “I’m really not a fan of guns.”

“It’s going to be fine. Just try it. You might like it.”

I stepped into the bright warehouse. Colorful targets lined one wall, gear hung on the others. In the middle of the room stood a glass case containing guns of all sizes. Collectively, they looked menacing, a stark contrast to the smiling man behind the counter.

I had avoided guns my whole life with the exception of the required BB gun safety class in fourth grade gym. I have two memories of that class: lying uncomfortably on my belly, aiming at a target affixed to a cardboard box and afterward, throwing up in the hallway in front of all of my classmates. Perhaps the embarrassment of that incident kept me from touching a gun again for 35 years.

But now, years later, we were on a getaway date with my brother and sister-in-law and I wanted to be a good sport. That desire, and my husband’s casual reminder to “be brave, not perfect,” got me through my initial hesitation.

I was definitely a fish out of water, uncomfortable and nervous. For much of my life, perfectionism kept me from trying new things out of fear I would look stupid, feel awkward, perform imperfectly, or face judgement. I learned to observe rather than participate. But I’m changing that, so I signed the liability waiver and handed it back to the smiling clerk. In return, he handed me safety goggles, ear protection, and two targets: one featuring a woman being held hostage and another filled with cute, cuddly squirrels.

We stepped into the shooting area. “Ready for this?” Kris asked.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I said. “Besides, now I have to rescue this woman from her attacker or the guilt will keep me awake tonight. I just hope I don’t accidentally kill her.”

“Whatever you have to tell yourself to give this a try,” he smiled playfully.

I handed the hostage target to my brother-in-law so he could set things up. The safety officer in the room nodded at me, chuckling at my inappropriate footwear. I could only shrug in response. The heels matched my outfit.

I stepped into our cubby and leaned in to hear my brother-in-law’s muffled instructions through the earmuffs. He calmly pointed out the chamber, the safety, the clip. He rattled off a couple words of caution and some basics about my shooting stance.

“Ready to try it?” he asked.

Wait. Already? Don’t people usually take hours of gun safety? That was less than three minutes. I am now unconfidently holding a loaded weapon. What am I doing?

I nodded hesitantly, thinking through what I’d learned about body position. Square shoulders and hips to target. Create a solid grip. Extend arms out. Slightly bend knees and elbows. Lean forward. Close one eye. Line the site up with the attacker on the target. Pull evenly on the trigger. Don’t hit the hostage.

I took a steadying breath and fired. The kickback startled me, and the empty shell casing flew into the air and straight down my shirt.

“What the heck?!?!” I yelped, dropping a hand to my shirt to find and free it.

“They will fly all over. Just stay focused. You have a bunch of shots to go,” my brother-in-law said.

I took aim again and again, gradually adjusting to the feel of the gun and the strength of the kickback. Before long, the clip was empty.

“Let’s see how you did,” he said, bringing the target back in with the press of a button.

I took stock of the attacker and hostage. He was definitely dead. She may never use her right hand again but otherwise appeared unscathed.

“You saved her,” Kris said coming up beside me. “Nice work! What did you think?”

I looked down at the gun, a small sleek 9 mm pistol, and back at my target. I thought of how my journey to replace perfectionism with bravery had brought me to this unexpected place. I felt an unexpected glimmer of pride.

“Time to take care of those pesky squirrels.”

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