I’m listening to the audio book of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson currently. It’s a great story and I plan to pick up the novel at the library soon. I got a little lost in the house while the doctor was describing how everything was built during his tour. (He did this so the group could avoid getting lost, ironically, and learn each floor’s layout.) Hill House was built in concentric circles with the inner rooms having no windows or doors. Furthermore, everything was built slightly angled, about 15 degrees off–on purpose. The mansion was intended to catch you off guard, it seems, to perhaps idly trap you inside its interiors. It disoriented your senses, disturbed your balance.
I tilted my head at the windows and then at the stairwell, trying to catch just how everything was tilted. I couldn’t quite grasp it and I thought it was silly and dubious to waste a contractor’s time with such frivolity. A set of doors had closed earlier in the dining room and we were seeing if footsteps on the angled floors caused the doors to shut on their own. I sense these details are themes that will come back around in the closing pages. Ms. Jackson is a sharp writer and she’s leaving her bread crumbs in the pages, beguiling. I scurry along, following the group as we leave doors open behind us, turning our heads to check them before crossing into an adjoining hallway. One particularly heavy door has a stool put before it to make sure it stayed open. We’ll see if they’re closed or open when we return.
Horror is fine, it seems, if we can control it or try to make sense of it. When Halloween comes and goes, the decorations and ghost stories seem comical afterwards, don’t they? Horror movies can be paused; masks taken off and put into storage, easily forgotten about until next year. But what about real horror? What about people getting shot in a bar, running around defenseless in smoke curtains created by a stalking predator? What about Jews worshiping in their synagogue and being slaughtered? What about children and teenagers, coming to class and not leaving alive?
Our country averts its eyes back towards the rotting Jack-O-Lanterns. They stare back, gaping at our stupidity.
Gun control is a hot button issue in America. Or at least that’s the term we apply to issues we’re stalled with and want to avoid talking about. I’ve listened at times to both sides of the argument, heard harkening’s back to our Constitution of the ‘right to bear arms’ and have seen parades of white men on the news kissing rifles and grinning, proud of their sense of power and masculinity. I once heard someone say “I don’t care who becomes president. Just don’t touch my guns.” Alright then.
I’ve also heard the oft repeated phrase “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Right. We’re all running around with third degree black belts and are registered as Weapons with the local police department. We just happen to use bullets because we don’t have to stretch beforehand to do a high kick to the forehead to take someone out. Tell me another one, oh do.
“We need to have guns to retaliate against the government in case they turn against us! It’s our American right to defend ourselves!” the NRA zealots shout. Let’s dissect this one. A Glock against a nuclear war head. A hunting rifle against the National Guard. Good luck with that. Americans are no longer hiding in woods, waiting to ambush the British with militia bands made up of farmers. It doesn’t take us a minute and a half to load up our powder, tap it down, ready our bullet and then shoot and hope we hit something. These are the arms (or guns) early Americans used and had the ‘right’ to bear. This is what Jefferson & Co. had in mind. Not machine guns, not AK-47’s, not modern day, military death machines. Know your history.
I heard on the radio the other day a story about the recent California shooting. A parent of a victim was talking to the journalist. In a sober moment, the parent described America as a violent country. Even though I was driving to work, something inside me stopped. How simple truth sometimes is, I thought. It just sits there, like a block of ice, still and frigid, waiting for someone to come and find it and say the obvious. Truth is always there, I think, but it’s often uncomfortable. And so we avoid it and look for something else that makes us feel good instead.
Back at Hill House the tour has ended. When we come back, the doors are shut, the stool moved back into place. The group starts to panic and explanations are offered. Maybe it’s the cook, the woman who comes to fix our meals. Maybe it’s her, yes it has to be–she’s very particular about schedules and things being put back into their proper places. Remember how she talked about the dishes needing to be put back into the china cabinet? She’s the only other person in the house, it must be her. The group relaxes a fraction and grows silent. Only the reader knows they’re fooling themselves.
In another scenario, instead of closed doors there are dead bodies that suddenly appeared. Instead of an innocent tour group, it’s a group of politicians. It’s mental illness, one side says, the shooter should’ve been put in a hospital! We needed a gun there to stop this, don’t you see? The other group points out that a security guard was there to stop the shooter–and the trained guard was killed, just outside the door. The group grows hysteric and promises ring up and down the hallways, with nothing ever really happening. And the bodies lay on the floor, still and silent.
This is not fiction, ladies and gentleman. This happens in America, and throughout the world, more weeks than not. And it needs to stop.
Comments will be closely monitored below. Thank you for reading.