On the Firing LinePrint
By Thomas Chatterton Williams
September 14, 2016
Circumstances have me reporting from rural New Hampshire this week. I realize it’s a journalistic cliché to type up conversations with taxi drivers, but some are worth recording nonetheless. I arrived in Keene after six hours on the 5:30 A.M. Greyhound from Manhattan. The young, white man (30ish, homeowner) who drove the taxi that would deliver me to The MacDowell Colony, an artists’ retreat that will be my home for the next few weeks, was in a chatty mood. He shared with me iPhone pictures of his German Shepherd and told me that he and his girlfriend would soon be traveling to New York City for the first time. Was the Comedy Cellar worth it, he wanted to know? What about a Broadway show? The conversation turned to the beauty of the New Hampshire landscape, then segued seamlessly to his AK-47 assault rifle and the ways in which man up here lives free. “I mean, you can’t even own a gun in New York, I heard—is that true?” he asked. “It’s a bit more difficult,” I replied.
And then I asked him if he knew anyone who has ever really needed to use an assault rifle. He said no, but that a few years ago, his 17-year-old brother had the top of his head blown off at point blank range in the woods by a drunk 51-year-old, who had accused him of trespassing on his property. The brother lived, he told me, but the part of his brain “that controls logic was destroyed.” The good news, he emphasized, is that his brother has been granted a medicinal marijuana card.
I asked, respectfully, if he thought some gun control laws might not be something he could see the value of in light of this horrific personal experience? “Hell no!” he said, nearly leaping out of his seat. “We need more guns not less! You can’t take the guns away! If Russia invades, or the American government attacks, they’ll have a hard time up here,” he laughed. I asked if the man who shot his brother was in jail. “He’s dead,” the taxi driver shifted in his seat. “He served a few years and was somehow killed upon release, but I can’t really speak on that.” He then moved the conversation to the political horserace. “What do you think about Trump?” he asked.
Thomas Chatterton Williams is the author of a memoir, Losing My Cool: Love, Literature, and a Black Man’s Escape from the Crowd. He lives in Paris with his wife and daughter.
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