national anthology of the best
undergraduate writing 2010

The Ends

Untitled, Alicia Hendrix

I was young. I had dropped out of college. I wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to make of myself or this life, and so I fell into malaise. You have to understand that there wasn’t much left on the bones of Youngstown in the 90s, not if you wanted to do something beyond serving dinner, stocking products, or selling cars.

One bright autumn day, I went into the old, tan, one-story ranch house when no one else was home, walked into my father’s bedroom, slid a long cardboard box from underneath his bed, lifted it onto his bedspread, flipped the lid, saw the rifle’s barrel shiny with WD-40, placed it on the lid, pulled out the poorly translated instruction manual, assembled the rifle, confident that the drawings were accurate and that I was interpreting them correctly, loaded three rounds into the little clip just in case, set the stock on the blue carpet, looked around the room, out the window where the leaves fell and lit up in the shafts of the late-afternoon sun, tasted a breeze as it flowed through the house, wrapped my lips around the barrel, and realized that I couldn’t reach the trigger.

I curled my toes and peeled off both socks (for the symmetry of it), hooked my right big toe behind the trigger guard, inhaled and stomped.


I leaned back, pulled the rifle close to me and saw that, by all appearances, the weapon should have fired. I ejected the round, chambered another, and tried again.


My nose began to run. Then the tears came. But I was smiling, then laughing, then hysterical. I had tried to kill myself and failed. In a long line of failures, this was by far the most inane.

I disassembled the weapon, stuffed the parts back into the molded foam that cradled them, and slid the box back under my father’s bed.