The two twelve-year old boys were down in the basement. They were both clad in the uniform of the eighties: tight jeans, white high-top sneakers, and baby blue polo shirts with the collars turned up. Brian’s were labeled with all the right logos: Levi’s 501, Nike, Izod. Steve’s were off-brands from Kmart. He had repeatedly tried to persuade his mother to buy the “right clothes,” but she just didn’t seem to get it. He had patiently explained that all the other boys had shirts with the alligator, that he had to have Nikes or the other kids would tease him, that he would do extra chores to help pay for them. She just sighed, and snapped, “No, they are too expensive,” and bought what she wanted. All too often, what she ‘wanted’ were cheesy outfits that were color-coordinated with his fourteen year old brother, Jake. Mortifying! Steve would never say it out-loud, but he was grateful for friends like Brian, who, with his red hair, sparkling green eyes, and freckles that never quite faded and huge Irish family, was a bit of an outsider too.
Steve and Brian had rigged up a game of paddleball using a couple of ancient tennis racquets and a tennis ball. Smack, the ball hit the wall. It was 15° outside, and windy: typical Montana January. Smack, the racquet hit the ball. Too cold for basketball. Bounce, the ball hit the floor. So they made do in the dark, mildew-scented basement, taking turns hitting the ball against the faux-wood-panelled wall. Smack, went the racquet. For the last 20 minutes, they’d ignored the increasingly angry shouts of Steve’s older brother, Jake. Bounce, the ball hit the floor. “Shut up! Knock it off! Goddammit you lil fuckers!” Smack, the ball hit the wall. Steve and Brian had already finished their homework and knew Jake was struggling with his. Smack, the racquet hit the ball. Jake wasn’t much of a reader, and Freshman year of high school was kicking his ass. Smack, the ball hit the wall. Smack. Smack. Bounce. Smack.
Ignoring Jake, Steve and Brian got into a rhythm with their game, neither missing the ball. Smack. Bounce. Smack. Bounce. Smack. Bounce. Smack. It startled them when they heard Jake’s footsteps pounding down the stairs. “You lil shits!” he growled, “I told you to knock it off.” “God. Chill out Jake,” muttered Steve as he turned around to look square into the barrel of their dad’s hunting rifle. “Fuck! What the hell are you doing, Jake!?!” whispered Steve while Brian just stood there, green eyes wide, tennis racquet hanging limply by his side. The fluorescent yellow tennis ball bounced and rolled to a stop at Steve’s foot. “I told you guys to shut up. Now you better fucking shut up. Got it?” Steve’s liquid-brown eyes locked with his brother’s matching pair. “Jake. We get it, okay? Just put down the gun.” Hands shaking, Jake turned away, lowering the rifle to the gray cement floor. Boom! It suddenly went off, an explosion of smoke and sparks and sound. Jake stumbled back. Steve and Brian jumped, throwing up their hands. “Holy Shit, Jake!” screamed Steve. There was a hole in the floor as round as a dinner plate, as deep as a fist. Jake just stood there, staring at the hole, while Steve and Brian, both slack-jawed, looked from each other to the hole to the gun to Jake and back to each other. Silent, Jake turned and climbed back up the stairs, slower this time. Hearts racing, the two younger boys walked in slow motion over to the black pleather bean bags, sank down, and tried to catch their breaths. Five minutes passed. Finally, Brian turned to Steve, and shaking his head, deadpanned, “Next time, you’re coming to my house.”
Guns in the home are more likely to be used to shoot or threaten a family member than for self-defense. Most people killed in firearm accidents are under age 24, and most of these young people are being shot by someone else, usually someone their own age. The shooter is typically a friend or family member, often an older brother. Harvard School of Public Health: Harvard Injury Control Research Center
Based on a true story, this post is an entry for the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: the Devil is in the Details.