(photo by Raymond Cebula)
(photo by Raymond Cebula)
Sara Kay Rupnik
      Sara Kay Rupnik                                                                                                                                         

"I bought the gun in August, right after Sam left."


Writer Sara Kay Rupnik discusses the gun in “An Act of Mercy”


SKRupnikL&L: How did “An Act of Mercy” evolve?

SKR: Anger triggered the story. I knew of a woman whose husband had left her; she was in the back of my mind, a friend of a friend; there had been no violence but she was convinced that he would come back. I lived in a very small town and everybody knew he had moved in with someone else. I was also angry at my own husband.  We have a good marriage, but you have to explore the limits of anger. I think the anger was there, when I wrote it. It was based on someone being so angry they thought they might kill someone, so I gave her that fantasy, and that fantasy. In the story, that gave her hope that of course he’d come back, she wouldn’t kill him, just make him suffer a little.

L&L: What else does this gun come to mean for her?

SKR:  When the character shops for the gun she’s already begged and pleaded. After such hurt, you can’t function. That anger at the beginning, that sense of justice at the beginning, violence, softens as the story goes on, but the gun was an extreme measure. She’s nervous about buying the gun and filling out the forms because she is still angry. The gun becomes a comfort to her, a security blanket.

L&L: The story counters the stereotype of men intimidating women with guns.

SKR:I didn’t think about that when I wrote it. When I started the story, I thought they were going to have a confrontation. And then, I thought, why would her husband come back? What occasion would cause him to come back? And I liked the way it went.

L&L: Where did you place the story?

SKR: Pennsylvania. A lot of people travel to the western Pennsylvania area to hunt. That worked out well, with the hunter, who appears later in the story. Initially, I knew nothing about the regulations, but I talked with a game warden, about the laws, and checked on gun regulations. At that time, [buyers] did need to fill out a form.

L&L: What do you think happened to the gun, after the story ends? I would imagine she’d still keep carrying it around—she wouldn’t carry it as a good luck charm to bring her husband back, she’d give up on that—but I think she’d still carry that gun around—something about the weight of it “weighed” her back to reality—until she felt even more grounded. She still would need that gun for awhile, she’d just automatically put it in her pocket. At the end, there’s hope she’s turned a corner, but I think she would have to have that gun for awhile; she’d  automatically put it in her pocket, there’s hope she’s turned a corner now.

Sara Kay Rupnik’s most recent short story, “When Lucinda Holloway Met J.W. Booth, April 1865,” appears in the September issue of The Write Launch.  Other stories have appeared in The Chautauqua Literary Journal, Persimmon Tree, and The American Literary Review. A collection of her work, Women Longing to Fly, was released in 2015 by Mayapple Press.  Rupnik received an MFA in Writing from Vermont College, and co-founded the Around the Block Writers Collaborative. She teaches creative writing for the Jekyll Island Arts Association.


In Lock&Load:Armed Fiction, the anthology from University of New Mexico Press, my story, "An Act of Mercy," appears alongside other gun stories by powerful authors such as Annie Proulx, Rick De Marinis, and John Edgar Wideman.  It is an honor to be included in their good company, and I thank editors Deirdra McAfee and BettyJoyce Nash for selecting my work.

(Available at the University of New Mexico Press store or on Amazon.)

From The Write Launch: thewritelaunch.com

When Lucinda Holloway Met J.W. Booth, April 1865

Issue 29 by Sara Kay Rupnik

My short story, "The Gentle Pracitce of Breaking Hearts," appears in the 2016 Savannah Anthology.  


Ten of my short stories, many of which have appeared in literary journals over the years, are now collected here in Women Longing to Fly.  


Available directly through Mayapple Press or from your favorite bookseller.  And yes, in Kindle!






“God led me to them,” Mama explained when she signed on to spend six weeks riding around Civil War sites as a cook in Contentment’s latest venture, a portable barbecue stand. -- "Discrepancies of Love"
Like the groundhog that popped out of the ground every February and then thought better of it, she, too, would stay in her bed until the weather changed. -- "Vernal Equinox"
We did it everywhere when we were young. All the ordinary places and then some. ... We were both thin then. It wasn’t as tricky as you might imagine. Mostly we did it standing up and after dark. -- "Fly"
Something about that solitary bus on a dirt road lined with light struck me as terribly lonesome, and I turned back with my hand stilling the movement of the gun against my thigh. -- "An Act of Mercy"
Maura could see the delicate dragonfly clearly, resting beside his black tank top, at the top of his narrow back. Every slender vein in its wings shone with color. “Boyd,” she told Holly. “His name was Boyd.” -- "Comfort at the Sacre Coeur"
She put out her thumb and her eyes followed the quick movement of the cars that sped by her. “Behold,” she told them, “the day will come when you will rust and fade and die and I will live on, in spite of your judgment of me.” --"A Wednesday in June"
Captain Ed took us to Willie’s Wee-Nee Wagon to celebrate finding a house Mama liked, not realizing, I guess, what she really liked was the one behind the carriage house. -- "The FNB House"
Accidents of nature, my mother called them: tornadoes that sucked Dorothy out of Kansas, lightning bolts that could find me in an open field. ... I worried long after Suzanne fell asleep about accidents of nature. -- "Storytelling"
The best items, the ones that made her outright smile, were for a tent and one sleeping bag. ... She ran her finger over COLEMAN 5LB SLP BAG. Did this mean Matt would now camp alone? -- "The Wedding Crasher"
They purchased eight gravesides. Eight. A foolish, outrageous purchase for two maiden ladies, each one on either side of thirty with no prospect of husbands or children in sight. -- "Decoration Day"

Coming Up:

Stay tuned:  Early in 2021, I will offer a Writing Component for Virtual Muse Inspiration, a ZOOM class offered by the Jekyll Island Art Association.   Registration dates TBD.



January 22-24, 2021:

Our  next Virtual Around the Block Writers Workshop will take place via Zoom.




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