Little Miss Sure Shot

by Carrel Barber

Art by Zoe Barber

I ain’t afraid to love no man. I ain’t afraid to shoot him either. Legendary sharpshooter Annie Oakley’s statement had lassoed Hadley from the first time she read it. Her adoptive parents had gifted her the same Legends of the Wild West Encyclopedia for three consecutive “birthdays”. While they lacked attention to details such as what presents they got her, or any knowledge of her birth parents, they did spark an interest in the West, and that was something. At least in Hadley’s eyes.

First, she reined in the utterance with the soft mouth of a bird dog, but it developed into a mastiff mantra over the years. This strengthening came through the swinging saloon doors of her relationships. A manifest destiny of failed companionship. She would move deeper into the desert with each breakup. The further she chased the blood-red setting sun, the worse her luck.

Adultery seemed pedestrian to her now. That was the downfall of her first marriage. The next hurled obscenities her way with the persistence and velocity of a Major League pitcher. That man could light up the radar gun of vulgarity. Fuck you, you fuckin’ bitch. The velvety Texas twang delivers strikes even in her memory.

The latest, Big John, was the worst of all. He started sweet enough, but like a decaying apple, he got rotten quick. She had come to feel like the prairie underneath thundering bison. The latest row they had was about her buying a DNA test.

“A waste of my goddamn money.”

“It’s our fuckin’ money, John. That’s part of being married. I just want to know where I come from.”

“You’re nobody from a long line of nobodies.”

As she picked herself up from the trailer floor, she knew that was the last straw. She would go buy a gun. Sure, she had never held a six-shooter in her hands, much less fired one, but she needed it. Even if just for the threat.

She knew that Gary’s We Buy Gold and Silver Pawn Shop Emporium was next to the post office and figured she could kill two birds with one stone.

A cold sweat broke out on her palms as she gripped the steering wheel of her 1955 Neptune Green F-100, the gravel crunching beneath her tires as she pulled into the shared parking lot. Nervous anticipation was waging a two-pronged attack on her senses. Gary’s was her first stop.

“I need a gun.”

“And why is that?”

“That’s between me and the midnight hour.”

“Well, this here is a Smith & Wesson Model 3. Something a lady like you can handle.”

Smith & Wesson Model 3. The name rang familiar in Hadley’s head.

The $800 price tag was steep, but she could save. Meanwhile, the anticipation of knowing something true about herself began to overwhelm her. Hadley strolled back across the lot. The slogan of meeting your famous ancestors was catchy and all, but she really just wanted to know the basics. What country did her ancestors immigrate from? How much blood did she have out there? She didn’t pretend to be special enough to have anyone famous in the family. Families with lineage don’t give kids up for adoption.

Staring down at the paper, she saw the picture of herself begin to crystallize. 74% English. Third cousins in Ohio. As her eyes moved down the page with the stepping pace of a show horse, she came upon the famous ancestors subsection.

No no no no no no. There’s no way.

Annie Oakley.

Little Miss Sure Shot.

Hadley sauntered back to the Emporium, placing her wedding ring on the counter in front of Gary.

“Gimme the Model 3.”

Sitting in the driver's seat of her truck, she turned the gun over in her hands. Her fingers traced the outline of two letters she hadn’t noticed in the shop: A.O.

It wasn’t just for threatening. She knew who she was now. She wasn’t afraid of Big John anymore. She wasn’t afraid to kill him either.

Carrel Barber is a native of Santa Fe, raised by cosmic cowboys of the Lone Star State. After a stint as a professional brewer, he is now pursuing a bachelor's in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina Asheville. Upon graduation he hopes to earn an MFA while furthering his exploration of postmodern satire and magical realism.

Austin-based artist, Zoe Barber has been honing her skills in collage art for the past few years, though the arts have been a part of her life in one form or another since she can remember. Mainly working with antique or recycled magazines to create her pieces, she combines her love of nature with her passion for reusing old materials to create eco-friendly artwork. Zoe gets the majority of her inspiration through the imperfections and textures of vintage materials. Find out more: mymotherzdaughter (Instagram)