Dawn Corrigan

The Assignment
(originally appeared in The Raging Face)

Each of us wears a .45 and each of us is supposed to shoot the other if the other is behaving strangely. We sit still for a long time, until I feel itchy all over. Is my gun loaded? Suddenly I want to double check. Would he consider this strange, though?

I don't know for sure, because we haven't been given a list of strange behaviors to look for. At least, I haven't. So I continue to sit very still. I begin to wonder if I've gotten the instructions confused. Maybe we're not supposed to move at all? Maybe we're supposed to hold ourselves perfectly still, like the models in an art class, until we truly believe we're made of marble, or oil paints?

Now he takes a deck of cards out of his pocket! He begins to play solitaire! Is this strange behavior? Should I shoot him now? He doesn't even look at me.

I have never shot a gun. Never even held one, until now. I grew up in the wild, on a preserve of land small--one square mile in area--but lush. A white lion named Kimba lived there, and many other animals. The animals didn't eat each other, though; none of us ate much at all. We were all very thin. The preserve was presided over by two women, women with round and pleasant faces who wore their hair in ponytails and strummed away at guitars.

How did I come to this, to be holding a gun? I know just what it would feel like, though: like a bird exploding in my hand.

Should I try to creep away? Should I throw myself into his arms?

We're not supposed to do anything strange.

We're supposed to make ourselves into statues.

We wait and wait for news: Who has won the Nobel prize this year? Can one win at solitaire without cheating? Where does love go when it goes? Will skirts be short or long next fall? May I have more? How did the imps ruin the three brothers?

But no news comes.

Dawn Corrigan has work forthcoming from Bound Off and Stymie Magazine. She's an associate editor at Girls with Insurance.


  1. Damn--this story made me itchy. In a good way. "[W]e haven't been given a list of strange behaviors to look for. At least, I haven't." I feel how quickly that paranoia sets in. Love this!

  2. Thanks, Padgett!