by Tammy Jolene Atha


At dusk kids from my neighborhood would come outside to watch bats. I remember thinking the bats were actually birds, but Keith from across the street disagreed. 
Darla, Keith’s mother, was hardly ever home. Under the guise of parental supervision, we sat on the front porch, admiring flight patterns—the stretch and fall of wings.
From the blue-green carpet that covered Keith’s porch, I watched as my father exited the front door of our house with a shotgun in his hand.  He lifted the barrel high into the sky and pulled the trigger. We watched the wings stop and fall. 
My father turned his back and exited with no bow.
What’s left of the bat? I asked Keith as he crept into the street to view the remains.  
I—dunno—it just looks like feathers to me?
My father was drunk, fumbling at the trigger on his shotgun, when he fired a bullet just inches above my head. The bullet went through the front door, creating a second peep hole. My mother would later patch the hole, but the discoloration remained.
The gun, which my father kept behind the front door, made the house safe, he said
Years later at a protest I explained to a man with an assault rifle around his neck that guns made me feel unsafe. Without a missed beat, he remarked that perhaps if I were fifty pounds lighter and walking alone at night I would feel differently.