The Lesson


Marion Parks



Copyright 2017 by Marion Parks
Photo of old lady with a pistol.

You sit at the traffic light, waiting for it to turn green; the tip of your fingernails tap out a little rhythm on the metal and plastic disc inside your steering wheel. You look in the rear view mirror and pat a strand of white hair back into place, noting the network of wrinkles making interesting patterns in your face, and you smile at yourself.

Sitting quietly in your car, windows rolled down letting in the tepid summer noonday breeze, you watch the gently moving maple leaves make mesmerizing shadows on the pavement. You observe this is as pleasant a day as any you have had in your seventy-four years on this earth. You hope you are going to have many more days here on this earth, but you’v ebeen thinking more lately about what it will be like to die.

“Honk, honk, hoonnk, hoooonk, honk, honk, hoonk!” interrupts a loud blasting horn. Your body jumps; the light turns green; your adrenal medulla releases a squirt of norerpinephrine which helps you to look piercingly down all three streets of the intersection ahead of you, searching for the source of the insistent sound. You see nothing, but are hesitant to drive forward lest something crash into you.

Honk, honk, honk, honk, hoooonk!” repeats the horn. Your adfrenal medulla now adds epinephrine to the mix, and activates your “fight or flight” response. You know this is happening because you were a nurse, still are according to the fifty dollars you send in yearly to the state.
Suddenly, with a loud roar, the gray, middle-aged car behind you roars around and dashes for the next green light. Too late, it sits jittering with restrained power, held by the red light.

You, too must wait at that red light, beside what you now believe to be the source of the annoying noise. Reluctantly, but with unavoidable curiosity, you look at the driver. He is looking at you, and angry energy makes his slender, mid-twenty body look as though wanting action. He and his clothes are gray and nondescript like his car. But broken teeth in a tight, unfriendly grin, topped byf wild piercing eyes, are non-forgettable. You won’t forget them, anyway, nor the disturbing feelings running around inside you searching for a prototype.

“Can’t you drive!?” his shout comes out his open window and through yours. His left shoulder is leaning out the window also, the attached arm bent at the elbow, holding aloft his hand and yes, only the middle finger is sticking up. You know what this means, that it is not nice, and not the way to act toward one’s elders, especially a sweet little old white-haired lady like you, who thinks only good thoughts. Well, maybe a few strange ones lately.

He continues to yell things out his window, words which you refuse to let into your brain, many of which begin with “f” and “b”.

This young man should be taught a lesson, you think. You also think of where you have been this morning; you have spent two hours at the shooting range, as you have many mornings. You have earned many ratings, along with the nickname, “Deadeye”. Your children are amused at this, but not at the fact there have been many break-ins in your neighborhood, one of which resulted in an elderly man having been beaten up.

Because of this they gave you a gun, though recently asked for it back with vague reference to those strange thoughts. You take the gun out of your purse and check it carefully. Hesitating, you think this is a bit drastic, and open your purse to put it away.

But, you think, that is the trouble with our world today, people let themselves be intimidated. This young man has been allowed to do what he wishes. If he gives the finger to little old ladies, he has probably raped and killed, or will. Someone needs to clean up this world, and it should be me.

Once again he holds that finger up, that one, long, middle finger. You look at that broken-toothed, wild-eyed grin, take careful aim, and shoot off that long middle finger!

As the light turns green, you go confidently through the intersection, knowing you did the right thing.

"I'll just keep this gun," you say, tucking it, hot and smoking into your purse.  There may be other things to shoot off in the future."


Born May 24, 1925 in Crookston, Minnesota, I lived in North Dakota until age 10 when my family moved to WA state during the depression years.  I graduated from Langley H.S. in June of 1943, the peak of WWII.  I then attended WSC for one year, when I heard of the Cadet Nurse Corps.  I joined that program, enrolling at Swedish Hospital and the University of Washington and graduated in 1947 as a registered nurse.

In 1943 I met Thayne Parks, a sailor from Kansas.  We married in 1947 and both attended the U of W, eventually receiving B.S. degrees.  We settled in Everett, WA, where we raised two boys and a girl.  Thayne taught biology at the Everett Community College, and I worked at the Snohomish Health District as a Public Health Nurse.

Retiring at age 66, I spend the next few years traveling, then settled into a senior writing class and wrote and printed three books about different aspects of my life.

Marion was ninety-two last month, still driving to her Friday morning creative writing group and sharing wonderful stuff, both memoir and flights of fancy such as this, that she has written over the years.


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