The protagonist of “Shotgun Wedding” started with a simple observation regarding her younger sister’s soon-to-be-husband: Clearly this groom is more accustomed to lugging hay bales and veal calves … and for whatever reason, as I listened to the author, Bonnie Jo Campbell, read her short story I couldn’t help but stare at my dishpan hands resting in my lap and wonder: If I had had more of a bad boy image, if I were a Neanderthal, a knuckle-dragger, would my marriage have survived? Fortunately, this momentary thought faded when the woman next to me said, “Isn’t she wonderful? I just started reading ‘Once Upon a River.’”
Soon there’s a seamless transition from the wedding scene to an intruder scene at the farmhouse—a flashback—where the narrator protects her sister and herself from an intruder:
My father had told me to shoot a man anywhere on the abdomen, because I couldn’t miss at close range, and the twelve gauge at close range would tear a man apart. When I’d shot that first raccoon outside the chicken house its body turned inside out.
Interestingly enough, the intruder has some of the same characteristics and qualities as the groom in the story—a ruggedness that dissipates once he’s staring at the unidentifiable roundness of the end of the shotgun barrel … where the protagonist thinks … he might have seen his own self turned inside out.
Maybe because I’m a man, or maybe because I made that lengthy journey to and from the altar, or maybe because I lost so much after the divorce … hell, I don’t know … maybe I’ve been “turned inside out” because Campbell’s last scene of “Shotgun Wedding” is so hauntingly familiar, as if I’m running from the church in an attempt at shedding my old skin, my old civilized ways, as if the protagonist not only succeeds in that moment of protecting her younger sister, but has me dead in her sight: I held the gun up long after the man turned and walked down the steps and ran across our frozen lawn toward the road.
Whatever my feelings, I enjoyed listening to Bonnie Jo Campbell. Her short stories, as well as her novels, are definitely worth reading.