Whenever Dolby felt angry or afraid he would take the gun out of the bottom drawer. The weight of it, its compactness, the power it implied – this was his salvation. At these times, he would look out onto the street from his window and imagine how he might change things. Just a slight pressure of the index finger – this dream of power made him stronger. As he watched those passing by, he knew they knew he was up there, that they were walking into his sights, his territory.

Tirzah had urged him many times to get rid of it, knowing it attracted danger to their household. But Dolby was adamant. He saw the danger that swam around them, but took this as the very justification for keeping the gun.

“Just throw it in the canal,” she would say. “You know half our worries will go with it. And maybe you’ll sleep again.”

He always gave the same reply. “It’s our security. Suppose some maniac came our way?” His eyes were wide as he said this. She often lay awake at night listening as he sat at the window.

Dolby’s thoughts were most often of their neighbour, whose name was Suleyman. Dolby hated Suleyman. Because he too had a gun. He would watch for him at his window, accompanied only by his suspicions, eager to learn of the other’s movements. Often he could see Suleyman watching from his own window opposite. Dolby did not know Suleyman as one knows a person one meets and talks to. There was a time when he had spoken to him, but that was long ago. The time for speaking was over.

“I do not need to know my enemy,” he would say, “only that he is my enemy.” And his possession of the gun was enough. Enough for Dolby to hate him. For this reason, Dolby knew that words could not pass between them. These days argument meant the gun. So it was necessary to keep the distance, and it was this the gun helped to maintain.

There was no reasoning that did not lead to the gun. It was good. It was necessary. It kept things the way they were. He could count on it – it was there when he needed it, and sometimes his need was great. Often only its weight could calm him. Some days life seemed good, Dolby’s usual fears gave way to confidence and he felt he might find Suleyman and kill him.

At other times he felt sure Suleyman had similar plans, and then he kept a close eye on his neighbour and a tight fist on the gun, the resentment growing, the hatred filling the empty corners of the room. Occasionally, when the night was quietest, he would stare down the barrel of his own gun and imagine.

One day, Tirzah left. She said there was no future. Not simply no future in their life together, but no future at all. She said she couldn’t live with death any longer.

Dolby protested, saying that death was precisely what the gun protected them from.

But it was too late. Tirzah was gone.

All week Dolby sat armed by the window, cursing Tirzah, cursing Suleyman, cursing his neighbour’s possession of the gun.

And, most of all, cursing the day he had sold it to him.