“Just don’t pull the pin.”
I could tell by the look in her eye, these were precisely the wrong words. I knew that look, had seen it before. She had worn it at least once a day throughout her handful of twelve years. And I — being older, arguably wiser, and having experienced her moods — should have known better.
For a moment, her grip on the grenade tightened, white-knuckling her small fist. I felt the vacuum of her scrutiny.
She pulled the pin.
“Now, you’ll have to keep your finger over the trigger to interrupt the count-down.”
When will I learn?
I must find some place she could release the grenade, hurl it as far from her — from us — as her skinny tween arm was able. Despite this — the fact that she’s willing to blow us both to pieces — I feel surprisingly calm.
Just ahead leans a great dilapidated structure. A ramshackle, run-down barn, walls and roof sagging, groaning toward center. Pushing open a door, I lead us inside. The barn reeks of abandonment; dusty shafts of light leak through cracks and seams. Piles of junk crouch in shadows — boards and beams split and broken, pricked with bright and rusted nails; broken chairs; moldering carpets, rolled in upon themselves; ancient, derelict equipment.
Past heaps and shifting stacks arranged in makeshift aisles, I lead a careful, winding route, locating, at last, a set of huge, sliding doors, limned in dim light. Hip and shoulder pressed to wood, hands gripping the door’s rough edge, I push, push against the door. Slowly, it scrapes open far enough to allow exit.
Outside, dusk has fallen. A great, green field rolls beyond the barn, spilling gently away to a flowered field. Daisies and bluebells.
“Okay,” I tell her, “now, throw it — as hard as you can.”
Turning to glance behind me — to encourage, exhort, cajole — I find myself alone. She didn’t follow.
I should have known.