Fiction: Wit of the Staircase

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Fiction: Wit of the Staircase

Abishai Ribble, Writer

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Track in florida is just great.  There’s the heat; and when you’re trying to pole vault there’s the wind, and then, of course, there’s more heat.  April 4th did not fall short of those expectations.

At 4:30 p.m., as I got into my mother’s van, sweaty, sore, and tired, my hair in a frizzy because of the breeze, my mom said to me, “Hey honey.  Did you see the gun?”

I gave an ol’ jolly reply, swinging my bent arm. “It was great mom. I just love school.”

“Oh that’s great to hear.” she said, with a big smile on her face. “But did you see the gun?”  

“What?  What do mean?” I brushed the burning track sweat out of my eyes. I hunted through my backpack for a towel.

She said, “Oh, you didn’t hear?  Apparently a kid had a gun in school today.”

“Oh.” I found a Chick-Fil-A napkin in my bag, that would work.  I started wiping my forehead. Then I started thinking about dinner.

When my mother pulled up to the parking lot gate, a reporter with a microphone and a cameraman pressed their noses onto the driver’s window.

Here is the Back and Forth:

“Hi, there. We’re reporters from NBC and we’re here about the kid who brought a gun to school.  We are having a hard time getting people for interviews. Would you mind answering a few questions?”

She blinked. She waited.

My mom and I exchanged some I-Don’t-Know Faces, but my mom relented, and said,  “Sure, I guess I can answer a few questions.”

“Great, so your son goes to school here correct?”

“Yes. He’s a sophomore.”

I was still sweating. I turned up the AC.

“Ok, so when you heard about the incident, were you afraid at all?”

My mom produced a little laugh. “Well, I guess I was a little scared but I was more thankful that he was ok.”

“Sorta,” she added.  She looked at me.

“Thanks.  When you heard about the gun what were your initial actions?”

“Well, I guess I hoped that Abishai was OK.”

“So you were afraid he wasn’t OK?”

My mom just said, “Umm…I wasn’t really scared. When I found out it seemed like everything was OK.  So I just thanked God for that.”

“I’m OK,” I said from the passenger seat.

“After hearing about this are you having any second thoughts about having your son enrolled at this school in regards to his safety?”

“Um, no.  I guess bad things can happen anywhere, and I’m not going to change my son’s school because one kid made a bad decision.”

“Great. Thank you for your time. May I have your name please?”

My mom gave her name and then the reporter looked at me.

“Would you mind answering a few questions?”

“Well…I really just found out about what happened. I don’t really know much.”

“Oh.  That’s OK. So basically what happened is a kid brought a gun to school in his backpack and got caught and later tried to run away from the police.”

I looked at her, then my mom, then back at the reporter, and said, “OK.”

“Awesome. So how did you feel when you heard that a kid was arrested today for having a gun and bringing it onto school grounds? You were afraid, right?  All the kids were afraid.”

I thought about the question. I didn’t want to come across as having a blank mind so I said, “Well, I guess I felt the same as I do now.  Everything was under control, and I have no reason to be afraid.”

“Wait. You aren’t afraid?”

“No.  I’m OK.”


“Yes. OK.”

The reporter said her Thank Yous, and we pulled out of the gate and headed in the direction of home.

That’s when I felt something weird.  

That interview wasn’t over yet.

“MOM!  Get back to school.”

She looked at me with her Superhero eyes and said,  “OK.”

She hit the brakes, threw the car in reverse, and floored it to 70 MPH. With her right arm over the front seat of the Grand Caravan, she plowed back to school Tow Mater style.

I braced myself by placing both feet on the dash.

The tires screamed as we slammed back inside the gate. I jumped out of the passenger side, and ran around the front of my mom’s van.

The reporter’s eyes were bugging, as if her story was about to change from Gun at School to Car Crash.

I’m not sure what got into me but I grabbed the mic from her hand and told her cameraman to roll.

“What do you think your job is as a reporter?”

“Well, to give viewers the facts and truth about what is going on in the world.”

“Do you believe that’s what you just tried to do?”

She was nervous. “Yes, of course.  At least I try to do that.”


“No, you really didn’t.  You didn’t interview me with the intent to inform the people.  You were looking for fear, emotional instability, weakness, and judgement.  You didn’t try to tell my truth. You went digging for your truth. I bet my comments won’t even be on the news.”

She said, “OK.”

That second conversation never happened.  We actually went to Chick-Fil-A.

It’s the Wit of the Staircase.  You know when someone asks you a question, but you don’t think of the best response until you’ve already walked out of the room and descended the staircase?  That’s what happened to me.

I was right about one thing.  I wasn’t on the news that night. Fear was.

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