by Gabriel Blackwell
The reasons the woman had threatened the parents of the murdered child were now, she admitted, more or less completely incomprehensible to her. These were not her exact words. I don’t know what I was thinking, your Honor, when I told him . . . She was wearing a blazer and diamond earrings, but the newspapers covering the trial, having already discovered the woman’s social media accounts, chose to run a photo in which she was sitting in a wheelchair (she was not wheelchair-bound), wearing a nurse’s scrubs (she was not a nurse), and in which photo, because of a poor coloring choice and the angle from which the picture had been taken, she looked bald. When you told him . . ., the judge prompted her—the woman had a habit of drifting off when not directly addressed—Yes, when I told him I hoped he would see his son real soon. I don’t get why I said that. Though it came out that she had, for some time and often online, in all caps, professed belief that the shooting that had cost the little boy his life had been a hoax perpetrated, so her posts implied, by CERTAIN ELEMENTS—elements including, it seemed, the boy’s father, who had, it was true, declined to publicly advocate for stricter regulations (unlike the other victims’ families), but who had also moved to the woman’s hometown (she really could not see this as a coincidence, your Honor, no one moved here)—a hoax designed, ultimately, to impinge on the GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS OF TRUE PATRIOTS, despite these strong professions of belief, then, during the hearing, and in a voice the microphone in front of her didn’t always catch, she told the judge and the opposing counsel that, really, she could not understand how she had come to have that view of things, and, further, she couldn’t understand how having that view of things could possibly have led her to write the things she had written. The judge asked her to please speak directly into the microphone. The father, on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse, told reporters that his family had moved to the town to get away from the daily reminders of what had happened to their son. They had not expected, he said, that the legislature of their new home state would pass a bill expanding the right to carry a handgun without a permit less than three weeks later, or that the governor of their new home state would, during a press conference a day after signing the bill, hold up a target sheet and tell reporters that he was gunning for what he called the MSM. When, months later, the president visited the state, campaigning for the frontrunner in the special election to replace the recently-disgraced representative, he posed with the governor for a photo op. You’re doing great things, the president was reported to have said. The woman later claimed that none of her posts had come from her. If she was acquitted, she told reporters, she planned to move to Arizona.
Gabriel Blackwell is the author of four books, the most recent of which is Madeleine E. (Outpost19, 2016). His fictions and essays have appeared in many issues of Conjunctions, in Tin House, DIAGRAM, Puerto del Sol, Vestiges, Wigleaf, and elsewhere. He is the editor of The Collagist.