Monday, November 13, 2017

Michael and the Red Ryder BB Gun: a (true) short story

My childhood friend Michael appears as a (thinly disguised) character in my novel, POUNDERS, but he was a local legend long before I ever tried to immortalize him on the page. His lovable, insane antics kept his parents up at night worrying, and kept my life interesting. He was and is a "character" in every sense of the word.

Yesterday I pulled an old journal off the shelf, opened it at random, and read the following story to my amused wife. She encouraged me to share it here. So without further ado, this is more or less how I remember the story of...


MICHAEL AND THE RED RYDER BB GUN

I wasn't the only one to get a BB gun in high school, and soon a good number of my friends were running around with weapons of plinking destruction in their hands. 

Michael was not allowed to have a BB gun. His parents never really gave a good argument against it, but it might have been because they'd already had to pay for an operation to get a BB surgically removed from Michael's side after Aaron accidentally shot him with an "empty" gun. Michael's medical bills were quite enough, they must have thought, without adding projectile-hurling tools into the equation. Still, there were enough BB guns around that Michael could easily find trouble when he wanted it.

One day, Michael and Jeremy and I were in Michael's room listening to music. Michael's parents were at work, and Jeremy had brought over his Red Ryder BB gun, a small, spring-loaded weapon that would launch a BB so slowly that, if the light was right, you could watch the little metal sphere fly through the air in a slow arc all the way to the target.

Michael was examining the Red Ryder, looking it over, and thinking a stream of Michael-thoughts. I think, perhaps, that Michael's thoughts that day probably went something like this:

Man, I wish I had a gun... It's not fair that Jeremy gets one when he's no more responsible than me [debatable]? Besides, this thing barely even shoots... You could probably shoot someone with it and it wouldn't even hurt... I bet we could play BB tag with Red Ryders if we had a couple more... I wonder if it hurts much to get shot?

Now, at this point, of course, Jeremy and I should have been clearing the room. But as usual, we only saw the odd gleam in Michael's eye after it was too late, only after Jeremy was already howling and jumping around and bleeding from his kneecap. By then, Michael's gleam was quickly turning into a look of fear.

"Gimme my gun back," Jeremy said when he'd calmed down and stopped screaming.

"No."

"C'mon, just give it back," he cooed. "I don't want to do anything. I just gotta go home."

"No!" Michael yelled again, this time jumping over the bed and narrowly avoiding Jeremy's grasp.

Jeremy looked at Michael. Michael looked at Jeremy.

"Man," Jeremy said, shaking his head and putting on a look of deep pity, "it's too bad your parents won't let you play with guns. My mom's going to flip out when she sees this blood. She'll probably make me tell her what happened and I'll be forced to tell the truth. She'll probably call your mom and you'll get grounded again, like forever.

"But," he went on, looking thoughtful, "I could wash the blood off and maybe wear long pants for a couple of days -- if I felt like it." 

Jeremy looked at Michael. Michael looked at Jeremy. Michael slowly, reluctantly held out the gun to Jeremy.

"Okay," he said. "But you can only shoot me in the legs."

Jeremy took the gun and, with great care and theatrical poise, looked at Michael down the barrel of his Red Ryder. Michael looked at the blood trickling down Jeremy's knee. His eyes changed and... BAM! the door to his room slammed behind him and he was thumping down the stairs with Jeremy in hot pursuit.

Sometimes, I tell you, the excitement is almost too much. I sat on the front porch and laughed as Michael ran screaming by, followed by a giggling Jeremy. A few minutes passed, and they came around again. Again and again and again they circled the house, Michael zig-zagging like a maniac and Jeremy yelling at him to hold still, demanding his right to shoot. 

It might have gone on until dark had Michael's dad not pulled up on his motorcycle. They heard him coming and Jeremy stopped chasing and began to aim up at the trees. Michael sat panting and pointing and ignoring his dad as he parked his big Honda on the brick walkway by the house and climbed the steps to the porch. He paused for a moment, eyeing us suspiciously. Then he disappeared into the house. 

Jeremy caught his breath and fired at an imaginary target. I laughed some more. 

A few short minutes later, Michael's dad emerged from the house in athletic shorts, carrying his tennis racket. He stopped on the porch to gave us the stink eye before trotting off to the tennis court. 

Jeremy once more took aim at Michael, who sat resignedly on the grass. 

The moment had passed, though, and Michael never did get shot.

1st Day, Senior Year, L to R: Michael, Me, Jeremy, and Dan (also a character, just not in this story).


- - -

If you enjoyed this story and want to hear more, pick up my novel POUNDERS on Amazon. It's a 5-star-rated coming of age story with a couple Michael-tales peppered in.

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