I Should Have Been A School Shooter

Stephen Melkisethian photo



Karen Cline-Tardiff




1…God, her fucking hair is going to be a mess. Great!

2…This fucking asshole. Remember tripping me in the hall?!

3…I am not going to miss that whiny voice

4…Now you’ll quit fucking staring at me in the locker room!

5…Everyone thinks you are so perfect

6…Damnit, there’s still two more in this room. Who do I choose?

1 in the chamber! Problem solved!



At least once a week throughout my entire high school career I would sit in class and zone out, playing this scenario over and over in my head. In Geometry maybe I only needed four bullets, but I had six, so I could save them for the next class, Biology. Sometimes the teachers would get one right between their self-serving eyes.



So why didn’t I do it?


Every time I hear about another school shooting I ask myself the same question. I was the perfect candidate. Picked on, depressed, few friends, alcoholic parent, wore all black, snuck smokes in the bathroom at school, wrote vapid poetry, fantasized about killing people. Yes, I fantasized about how amazing life would be without those people around. It was like I was doing the world a favor. Hell, guns were prevalent. You could find them in any truck in the school parking lot. You could probably see one in shop class where the boys would bring them in and modify them. Teachers would discuss calibers and sighting and preferred models with the students. My dad had a handy little snake charmer. My brother had a shotgun and a rifle for hunting. All I had to do was go to the store and buy one, no questions asked. Guns were floating in the air just waiting to be picked.



So why didn’t I do it?


When I turned 16 my depression was so bad I wanted nothing more than to just die. And maybe take some people out with me. I didn’t tell anyone. Coming from an alcoholic’s family where domestic violence was the norm you learn to keep your mouth shut. My mother found my writings. I didn’t write down the “good stuff.” Looking back, it was normal teen angst. But it was enough to send me to the psychiatrist for Prozac and some “I hate my parents” sessions. That ended when I moved out. The Prozac kept the suicidal thoughts away; but I still counted down those six bullets sitting in Chemistry class.



So why didn’t I do it?


When I became a senior in high school, I moved out halfway through that awful never-ending year. I didn’t have a license, but I had a car. It was the 80’s. You could slip through the cracks. All the cracks except the Driver’s Ed teacher, who knew I never took his class. Everyone knew my situation. Everyone knew I worked full time and lived 45 minutes from school but still managed to come to class and graduate with honors. This teacher made it his mission to make my life miserable. “If I see you driving to school I’m calling the police on you.” So I parked and walked. Or rode in with a friend. He was getting the first bullet. And any extras I had saved from English class.



So why didn’t I do it?


The night I graduated I didn’t even stick around to pick up my diploma. I left town and never went back. A couple of years later a girl at my old school went to trial for setting another girl on fire. I was aghast. I could not fathom that someone in high school had so much vitriol to push them to potentially killing another human being. Then I would flash back to my high school days. Hormones out of control, not fitting in, being discarded. Perhaps it wasn’t that hard to imagine after all. She had pulled the proverbial trigger, the one I could never bring myself to pull.



So why did she do it and I didn’t?


A feud over a boy. But it’s never really about the boy. After a school shooting everyone looks for a motive. It’s so easy to say, “If only this one thing” or “This is the why.” There is never one reason, one why. It’s a million little things that slowly fester, just under the surface. Use whatever metaphor makes you happy; the straw that broke the camel’s back, the one cut too deep. In 1966 authorities tried to blame a brain tumor for Charles Whitman’s killing spree at the University of Texas. In 1979 16-year-old student Brenda Spencer claimed it was because “I don’t like Mondays.” Patrick Edward Purdy, who shot off 106 rounds into a school in 1989, claimed he “just hated everyone.” I don’t remember her name, the girl from my high school. She was crying on the stand. She had regret for what she had done. I guarantee she would do it again, despite her proclamations otherwise. It wasn’t the cheating boyfriend, it was the million little things that led her there.



Why won’t I ever do it?


I don’t have an easy answer. I don’t have an answer at all. I have a college student and a high-schooler. I worry about them. I think to myself about the million ways it all could have been such a different outcome. I am thankful I didn’t have it in me. I know at this point in my life I wouldn’t ever do anything even slightly resembling this. I couldn’t take another life on a whim, because I had my feelings hurt, over a boy. Teenagers feel everything times a hundred. Hormones are out of control. People get inside their head. I wonder who is getting inside my daughter’s head. I play like I’m a “cool mom” by watching her YouTube videos and sending her silly memes. But I’m trying to get inside her head. Trying to make sure, when someone pours Rug Doctor soap in her hair on the bus, she doesn’t start counting bullets.



I am not that person, but I almost was


Fuck those people and fuck that town. Even today, almost 30 years later, I have no desire to see anyone there. I don’t care if they are famous or, more likely, knocked up young and divorced and miserable. That last bit actually makes me smile a little. I’m not living a perfect life. I still think the world would be better off without most of them. The ones who picked on me, called me names, shut me in locker rooms with no clothes, pushed me, prank called me, made me doubt me. It still lingers, even today, that self-doubt. I can say I didn’t do it because of faith, but that would be a lie. It could have been fear; but I wasn’t scared of them, it was just hate. I had easy access to a weapon. Can we say for sure it was the Prozac? Probably not. There was no social media, but word got around. Rumors, stories, they populated the halls in little square-folded pieces of paper. Maybe there is no reason. Hell, if I could get away with it, there is a short list of people from my high school who would make the cut.



1…Called me a slut and a virgin in the same week, just trying to find the right button to push

2…Stole my lunch money and threatened me if I told

3…Asked me to prom in front of everyone…as a joke

4…Pushed me down at the roller rink because a cute guy was looking at me, not them

5…Tore up their schoolbook and blamed it on me

6…I’ll save this one for later…





Karen Cline-Tardiff

Karen was born and raised in Texas, but has lived all over the US. She writes because she has to. Her family puts up with her antics. Her poetry chapbook Stumbling to Breathe is on Kindle digital.

Editor review

1 Comment

  1. Johm June 26, at 12:26

    Yes, yes, and yes. This is a most thoughtfully written story.


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