Chekhov’s Gun


Never place a loaded gun onstage if it isn’t going to go off.” – Anton Chekhov

Between murders, suicides, and accidents there were 45,000 firearm deaths in the USA in 2021.

What would Chekhov say about introducing 400 million guns onstage?

The iron gate to Wally’s Pawn Shop opened with a buzz from an electronic sensor. Above the register was the obligatory Confederate flag flanked by posters championing NRA doggerel. The kid approached the display case of semi-automatic rifles.

“Afternoon,” Wally said. “Need something?”

“Just looking,” the kid whispered.

“Gotta be eighteen.”

“Today’s my birthday.”

“Congratulations,” Wally said. “Whaddya after?”

“Something for self-defense.”

And mowing down as many bullying classmates as possible, he fantasized.

Wally put an AR-15 on the counter.

“This’ll do the trick. Thirty round magazine. Semi-auto.”

Wally winked, implying that the “semi” was a mere formality.

Purchasing an assault rifle was legal for the teenager; he’d have to wait another three years to buy a beer.

He’d never been on a date, never kissed a girl…or a boy for that matter, and never would since he’d already set a date for the end. He had no hobbies or interests in anything beyond TV and video games. Hated school, that much he knew. Thought he was smarter than most of his idiot classmates, just wasn’t into books. He was street smart, something people who never read often said to justify their quasi-illiterate existence

If “street smarts” meant anything and if he possessed this virtue, it served little purpose in school. He was a poor student and got picked on, making him dream of invisibility. He was friendless, awkward, painfully shy, and harbored violent thoughts towards everyone at school.

He never raised his hand in class, but his history teacher called on him anyway.

“Who did America fight in the Second World War?”

“Communists?” he answered with another question.

There was faint laughter, but his nemesis, a boy he’d known his entire life and the best student in the school sat silently next to him.

“John?” the teacher asked of his adversary.

“Germany and Italy were the axis powers,” his answer confident but almost apologetic.

John’s ease filled the kid with a murderous rage. Know-it-all jerk-off. He wanted to ask what “axis” meant but couldn’t endure further ridicule. To his relief, someone asked the question without being mocked. Even the teacher struggled with the explanation. He’d look it up at home.

He planned to go to the shooting range after school for one final rehearsal, but after a few clicks on his computer, he was enthralled by the saga of WWII. One battle led to another harrowing chapter and before he knew it, he’d passed out on his bed after seven solid hours. He’d never studied so much in his life.

He woke up early. This was the day he was going to do it, but instead of implementing his plan, spent another thirty minutes reading about the siege of Stalingrad. Of all things, he was excited about history class.

He sat down next to John, but today he dared to speak to him.

“John, how do you know so much about World War Two?”

“I don’t, really,” John said without false modesty.

“You know more than any of us, maybe more than Mr. Holder.”

“I’ve read a few books about it,” John said.

This revelation hit him like a bullet. He just needed to read to spare himself the constant humiliation of ignorance, of not knowing. School guidance counselors urged him to apply himself, but never explained exactly how. He had another question for his classmate.

“Do you like school?”

“Hell no,” John said without a moment of hesitation. “I can’t wait for the new deal.”

“What’s that?”

“Nothing here means anything once we leave. The people you think are cool will have to start from scratch. Popular kids and bullies are in for a big shock, like royalty having their lands confiscated. It’ll be like a new deal in a card game.

Three weeks until graduation, then a new life. He’d try harder this time, make something of himself.

Chekhov’s gun doesn’t have to be fired. With the receipt, you can get a full refund at Wally’s.

~ fin ~

john Scheck

John Scheck has lived in four countries on three continents and currently calls the Ruzafa neighborhood in sunny Valencia, Spain, his home. His new novel about a drug cartel going legitimate, La Frontera Saga, is available now on Amazon. Visit his author page for details: