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#thesideshow May 2nd 2016 Flash Fiction Chekhov’s Laser Gun by Molly Mary O’Brien

Chekhov’s laser gun

by Molly Mary O’Brien

T he man bought a laser gun and hung it on the wall. He had read a few Chekhov plays back in college, back when they printed plays out in slim volumes on real paper, and he was familiar with the idea that Chekhov believed that everything in a story must be relevant to the story—that if there is a gun hanging on a wall in the first act of a play, it would eventually have to be fired during the play, or otherwise it shouldn’t be there at all, and so on and so forth.

The man was curious to know how this could play out in real life. He had never shot a gun, did not participate in his neighborhood’s (admittedly exclusive) laser skeet shooting club, did not hunt, was not a cop (and they barely hired human cops now anymore), had no enemies to kill and no enemies who wanted to kill him. So if he hung a gun on his wall, would circumstances eventually lead to his firing the gun? He was curious, and he had a little extra cash from working the manager shift at the BBQ Palace over July 4th weekend, so he bought a laser gun and hung it on the wall.

The man’s friend, a guy who used to work at the BBQ Palace, came over for breakfast on Sunday morning. It was a Sunday tradition of theirs to get together, watch whatever garbage was still on television, eat store-bought muffins and drink a few beers apiece—mixing the beer with orange juice, because it was breakfast. The friend noticed the laser gun on the wall and he chuckled.

“Why the hell did you buy a laser gun?” the friend asked, carefully divorcing the top of a banana chocolate chip muffin from its bottom, and not waiting for the man to answer before plowing ahead. “You know lately people are just getting laser gun capabilities drilled directly into their wrists. So they can shoot people from underneath their damn sleeves. Super covert! It’s a big problem, you know the bank robbery that went wrong the other week? The robber had a wrist laser gun, caught everyone way off guard. You want a gun, why didn’t you just get one of those?”

So the man explained the Chekhov’s gun experiment to his friend, and why he needed the gun on the wall and not his wrist.

“Well, this can be solved pretty quickly, I think,” said the friend, and he got up from the table, took the laser gun off the wall, and fired it into the ceiling.

“Jesus goddamned Christ!” said the man. He had unconsciously brought his hands up to the sky, as if the friend had pointed the gun at him and he was surrendering.

“What?” asked the friend, replacing the laser gun on the wall.

“You ruined my whole idea,” said the man. “I was gonna wait, and see…I was going to see what was going to happen. This was supposed to -”

“Come on! Don’t be an idiot. Everything happened exactly the way it was supposed to happen,” said the friend.

They were both silent for a minute. Then the man sighed and got up, cracked two more beers, poured them into their pulpy glasses. He was going to have to re-evaluate his friendship with this guy, because he was a real bubble burster.

The laser beam from the gun severed the tip of the tail of the cat of the woman who lived above the man. The cat mewled in pain for a few days until the tail healed, an inch shorter than before. Now the cat was marked as injured, damaged, a target. He stopped going outside because other cats would try to mess with him when he did, and he did not want to lose any more of himself than he already had. And his owner was old, tired and lonely, and relished the fact that her cat appeared to want to spend more time indoors with her. The owner never noticed the perfectly circular hole in her living room floor—her eyesight was bad. It is possible that the story is about the cat and its owner, and the man and his friend and their muffins and beers are irrelevant, and they can be dispensed with.


Molly Mary O’Brien is a writer from Vermont who lives in Brooklyn. She has had work published in PANK, Illuminati Girl Gang, Maudlin House and other places around the internet. She wants to be a contestant on Jeopardy real, real bad.