There is a gun in the first act.


In the second act, the actors admire the gun. They comment on its luster. They take turns polishing its stock, barrel, and handle, and admiring its lack of nicks, scratches, or blemishes. They can see their faces in the barrel. All agree that it is a fine example of its type, and the virtues of guns in general are extolled.


The third act follows from the second without a break: the actors begin to bleed from their noses, mouths and ears. They take care not to dirty the gun, wiping away any droplets that fall on its fine steel. The actors rebuke one another, voices thick with blood, for exhibiting such carelessness around the gun. Surely, the gun is appalled by this foul display. They rend their clothes, attempt to plug themselves with rags, but the blood forces its way out. They apologize to the gun as they fall, dying, to the floor.


The actors lie still. The gun gleams in the spotlight. The audience begins to murmur, one to the other, about the gun and its obvious potential.


-originally published in Jonathan Ball’s Clockfire (Coach House, 2006)

About the Author

Jonathan Ball holds a PhD in English and teaches literature, film, and writing at the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg. He is the author of the poetry books Ex Machina (Book Thug, 2009), Clockfire (Coach House, 2010), and The Politics of Knives (Coach House, 2012), the co-editor of Why Poetry Sucks: An Anthology of Humorous Experimental Poetry (Insomniac, 2014), and author of the academic monograph John Paizs's Crime Wave (Toronto, 2014). Visit him online at, where he writes about writing the wrong way.