The best thing about Megan Benson’s first date was that her father was not in the backseat with a shotgun. That’s what Henry Benson had always told her he would do. “Sweet Megan ain’t gon’ be parkin’ with no boy,” Henry would say, “’cause I’m gon’ be there.” Then he’d turn his right hand into a trigger and his left into a pump, which he would proceed to slide toward him then out and let out a very satisfying “BOOM!”
Everyone would laugh then. The fathers especially, but also many of the mothers (and especially Megan’s, because Terri Benson remembered that Henry wasn’t so wholesome himself back in the day). Megan, however, would not laugh. Ever. She loved her father more than most anything in this world, and she did not like the fact of him having to kill a boy just because he came knocking on the front door one Friday evening.
She spent many of her formative years trying to decide if Henry was being truthful with that promise or if he was just showing off. Her daddy liked to act big and tough, even though she knew for a fact that he cried every July 4 when the Stars and Bars were raised at the VFW. Henry caught her catching him once when she was ten. He told her that sort of crying didn’t count. That, in fact, crying when the Stars and Bars were raised was what good people were supposed to do.
At thirteen, Megan had all but given up on ever having a date at all. It wasn’t worth all the trouble that would likely happen. By then she’d decided that Henry was telling the truth after all. She didn’t like the thought of watching her daddy ride the lightning at the state prison up near Richmond all because of her.
She did prod, though. Megan had seen a war movie about a soldier who’d made it all the way through a mine field by poking his knife in the dirt and then stepping where the blade had gone. To her, that was what she did with her father. Short, innocent remarks about this boy at school or that boy at church. Henry would always give her his undivided attention and listen to every word she said. He was always polite enough to save the “BOOM!” for when she was finished.
Then something happened that neither Megan nor her father quite expected—she grew up. Sixteen came, and with that new year came what she saw as opportunities and what Henry saw as hell itself.
Say what you want about love’s abode being in the heart, it first enters through the eyes. What had drawn Henry to his wife wasn’t her cooking—which was mighty fine, by the way—but her beauty. The former Terri Gordon and current Terri Benson had always been easy on the eyes. I guess that’s what bothered Henry all along. He knew those genes would be passed on to his daughter, and he knew that sooner or later, someone would come calling.
That someone turned out to be Johnnie Chambers. Seventeen, clean cut, and very polite when he showed up at the Benson front door for Megan’s first official date. Henry had been staunchly opposed of course, but Terri had come to her daughter’s rescue. Megan was a good girl, she said, and would know how to act. Henry wasn’t nearly as concerned about his daughter being good as he was the idiot kid with the raging hormones who was currently standing in the living room. Terri told Henry to behave. Henry did, though while his wife’s back was turned he took the opportunity to offer a quite “boom” in Johnnie’s direction.
The Bensons sent their daughter off on her first steps into adulthood that night. Henry waited up. So did Terri, though she’d never confess it to him. Both of them were shocked when Megan walked through the front door a full two hours before she’d been told to be home.
Johnny Chambers was nowhere to be seen. If he could have been seen, though, he would appear to be rubbing his jaw right where Megan had socked him. Seemed Johnny’s hands had a mind of their own and weren’t as polite as the rest of him.
She never told her father that, of course.
The backseat shotgun prophecy would have been forever fulfilled if she had.