Shooting at Hurricanes

Shooting at Hurricanes

He sat on the flat roof of Pop-Pop’s single-story condo overlooking Clearwater Beach with a rifle laid across his legs. Wind gusts pushed thirty miles an hour, and waves taller than a grown man broke upon the shore. He should have checked the weather before he caught a flight on a C17 from Kandahar a couple of days ago, but what did he know about Florida hurricane season? Didn’t matter. Storm wouldn’t have stopped him. Pop-Pop was dead.

Earlier, The Weather Channel kept talking about a bunch of crazy people with guns bragging about shooting up the hurricane. Before the background of a trailer park, a reporter interviewed shirtless men in jean shorts, women in American flag bikini tops. Everyone obviously drunk and it was written all over the reporter’s face he wanted to call them trailer trash. The scroll on the bottom of the news report constantly reminded people, seriously, do not shoot at the hurricane.

He had the television on as background noise as he searched the condo for something Pop-Pop would want him to have. Something with meaning. Only things worth a shit were the old man’s military medals and Remington .223 rifle. Didn’t feel right taking medals another man earned. But the rifle was the same one Pop-Pop and he breathed on when he was a boy learning to shoot on the beer can range behind the old ranch home in Montana before Pop-Pop retired to Florida.

The rifle rested in his lap like a pet that could find no more comfortable place in all the world. Gun oil reek from cleaning. One in the chamber, Semper Fi mother fucker, hoorah!

Down in the gulf water, he watched a lone surfer on a red surfboard get dumped every time the surfer attempted to paddle out past the break. The horizon erased between the grey water and the black reckoning of sky. Wind gust strong enough if he opened his mouth his cheeks flapped like a hound dog’s hanging out a car window. Rain was still offshore but would arrive soon enough.

He couldn’t believe Pop-Pop went in so ordinary a way. Man was a war hero by God. Purple heart. Silver star. Hospital must have got his name and number from Pop-Pop’s emergency contacts after the heart attack. Nothing to do but wait for the storm to pass and see about arranging the military sendoff the old man earned.

The surfer wiped out again.

Since he was the one got the call from the hospital, it meant Pa and Pop-Pop never made up. Hell, he’d barely talked to Pa himself. Phone calls only, hadn’t seen him. Chatting about nothing but the weather ever since he signed up for the Marines the day after graduation and Pa called him a damn fool and cursed Pop-Pop for putting such an idiotic idea into his head with all the war stories. The fight to end all fights the night before he left for boot camp. Pa pleaded with him not to be a soldier. Go to college or get a job. Hell, be a mechanic like him. Pa said wasn’t a government in all the world worth killing yourself or others for. Said the Marines valued his life same as a gun values a bullet.

Pop-Pop had fought in Vietnam and Pa always said Pop-Pop might have been better off as to have died over there then come back the way he did.

Well. That was something.

He didn’t understand it then. He understood it now.

The Gulf of Mexico had become a grey washing machine, and he spotted the red surfboard a solid minute before he caught sight of the surfer clinging to it.

He’d spent his last four years in the Marines and most of them on foreign sand. He had some leave to take when he got the call about Pop-Pop. His CO was sweet on him reenlisting and granted his request. He’d liked to have asked Pop-Pop what he should do if he decided he had enough. Pop-Pop never talked about how the person you are when you ship off isn’t the person you are when you ship back. How a war story is only a story if it didn’t happen to you.

The surfer collapsed on the beach, red board pooled beneath him, resting beyond the reach of the waves, beyond the reach of everything it seemed. The surfer reminded him of a few buddies left over in the shit covered in sand and blood.

He didn’t like to think of those boys much.

He thought of those boys all the time.

He fit Pop-Pop’s rifle stock to his shoulder, leveled the gun, and looked down the iron sights. The storm was still offshore. But it was coming. He closed one eye. Zeroed in on the storm’s black heart.

He could have been a mechanic like Pa said, but this is who he was.

He clicked the safety off.

Finger on the trigger.


He imagined the bullet caught up in the hurricane, circling and circling. Might even come back on him. He figured that might be the truth of it. Was he anything more than a bullet Pop-Pop fired circling back to hit Pa’s heart?

He wanted to pick up the phone. Tell Pa he was sorry. Scream he needed help the way he was screaming it in his head. But he wasn’t going to do none of that.

He put the rifle down and stood and spread his arms. Made himself an easy target. He closed his eyes. He waited. Wind was hot. Crap flying everywhere. Sand in his teeth. Might as well have been back in the shit over there. He was always in the shit.

This. This is what Pop-Pop left him.

Pa had warned him. Goddamn it. Goddamn it.


About the Author

Mario Aliberto III is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominated writer whose work is published with The Sonora Review, Fractured Lit, Tahoma Literary Review, and others. He lives in Tampa Bay with his wife and daughters, and yet the dog still runs the house. Twitter/X: @marioaliberto3


Image by 12019 from Pixabay