There was nothing so dramatic about it, really, the way he slumped over; one moment upright, alive, human, the next an inanimate shell, crumpled in the backseat of a convertible.
Even the blood wasn’t so bad. There is no casual way to describe someone’s head being blown apart, but there wasn’t anything so dramatic about that either. Just a face that wasn’t a face anymore — a complete piece of flesh in a moment made unwhole.
The man with the black umbrella had seen it happened before, and it was no different when it happened to the president of the United States.
A title like that could make people forget that he was just another human being, made of the same flesh and bone as the rest of us. It could make them forget that a bullet could do as much damage to him as it would to anybody else. He was not a god. He was just a president. And if there was ever a reminder of that, it was fired from the barrel of a sniper rifle at 3,000 feet per second one afternoon in Dallas, Texas.
It was a normal bullet, and it caused the normal amount of destruction. Nothing so dramatic about that.
The drama was what came afterward, with the screaming wife scrambling to reach across the now lifeless body of her husband, trying to shove expelled brain matter back in to his skull. It came with confused yells of the crowd, almost drowned out by the roar of the engines as the motorcade sped off down the road.
The man with the black umbrella turned, expressionless, and paced slowly up the hill away from the crowd.
That’s where people get confused. Sitting in their rec rooms, eyes glued to the flickering glow of the TV screen, they think moments like this are dramatic: the loss of a human life. But the man with the black umbrella knew better.
He had seen men lose their lives before, handcuffed to water pipes in abandoned storage closets, kneeling on the dusty floors of warehouse basements. He had watched as the gun was raised and the trigger pulled, with all the ceremony of flipping a light switch. He saw the blood expelled and that familiar lifeless slump of just another piece of meat, reduced to what it always had been.
There was nothing so dramatic about it, really. There were no screaming wives, no shouting crowd, no stories on the news or articles in the Sunday papers. There was no emotional swell of music — just the dying echo of a gunshot, then silence.
The man closed his umbrella as he reached the street on the other side of the hill. He stepped down to the pavement, then let the tip of the umbrella tap the ground as he crossed. He listened to the confused shouts fading behind him, the sirens, the screams.
But at the center of it all, a death was a quiet thing. The man with the black umbrella smiled quietly to himself as he stepped up to the sidewalk and tapped his way down the street.
Original artwork by Long Tran