Dry Fire

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young boy learns to be responsible the hard way when he believes he has shot his older brother with a B.B. Gun, and runs away from home.

Submitted: April 28, 2009

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Submitted: April 28, 2009

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Christopher J. Moses

University of Mary Washington

Dry Fire

“You should come outside and target practice with me,” said Alex, aiming for his brothers’ head as he spoke.

“I said don’t point that thing at me,” growled David through clenched teeth, “You’re going to hurt somebody, so knock it off!”

“I’m not even pulling the trigger,” replied Alex with a giggle, “so shut up, and go back to reading your book!”

It was a brand new “Crossman” pump-action pellet gun, a present for his twelfth birthday just two days before. Ever since then, Alex paraded around the house with it, pretending to shoot things both real and imaginary while spewing out an occasional imitation of gunfire. On this afternoon, he looked around their room in boredom, clicking the safety off and on and reading the words over and over again on the side of the barrel: “Careless use may cause serious injury or death.” His brother, across the room, sat silently in his bed, reading. David looked up from the pages for a moment at his brother, and frowned as he shook his head. Ignoring his brother’s attitude, the scowl on his face faded slowly as his eyes focused again on the pages in front of him. Alex sat on the edge of his own bed across the room, insulted by this lack of a reaction. He watched his brother read from the thick paperback.It was always the same routine.

“He does this every day of the week,” he thought, gripping the rifle tightly with both hands. “It’s always straight home from school, and he plops down on the bed and grumbles.” In his eyes, it was never any fun living with his brother. David always spent more time on reading his books than doing anything else. It was so boring just sitting there.

As he looked on with these thoughts in his mind, a mischievous smirk came across Alex’s face. He knew full well he’d do it again, and ignore his brother’s warning. He had to. He was tired of sitting there, waiting for nothing to happen.

With that thought, Alex rose quickly but quietly to his feet, and aimed the barrel right at his brother’s book. He wore a fake grimace on his face, with his eye-brows bent downward and his left eye half open, a lot like those infamous looks from Clint Eastwood in the movies where the bad guy had finally said the wrong thing. David had taken no notice, but was occupied with silently mouthing the words from the text he was reading.

“Alright, let’s see if this’ll get your attention,” he thought, holding back the laughter as he stood. He waited a split second before clearing his throat. David looked up. The expression on David’s face was one he’d never seen before. It was twisted, red, and he’d gritted his teeth down hard.

The next few moments did not go at all as he had planned.

“Go ahead,” he started, “Make my da—“

His words were interrupted by a dull pain across his forehead at first, which gradually became a throbbing ache. Similar to a bad sinus headache you’d get during allergy season, only this wasn’t from those kinds of allergies, it was from an allergy to pestering and annoyance. David had hit the bull’s-eye. In less than a second, the book had sailed through the air from David’s hands to Alex’s forehead, hitting him with a dull “Twack!” before coming to rest on the hardwood floor at his feet. It was perfect aim.

In that moment, David had also leapt up from his bed, and now stood towering over his younger brother. Alex looked up to see blue veins popping out of his forehead, and a face redder than a fire hydrant. Grabbing the barrel of the rifle with both of his hands, David bellowed down at his brother in a deep, enraged voice:

“I told you to stop pointing that thing at me!”

But David’s contorted face of anger soon went blank. As he was bellowing, he struggled for control of the weapon, not knowing Alex had his finger over the trigger. A dull thud echoed over the room as David flung himself backward in a fit of agony, clutching his stomach with both hands as he landed hard on his back.

With his brother laying there moaning in agony, Alex dropped his most prized possession and ran. A whirlwind of feelings came over him as he did. Tears streamed down his face as he rushed down the stairs, and practically ripped open the front door, not bothering to close it behind him. He ran down the driveway, knowing he couldn’t go back, ever. Not after what he did.

His heart pounded as he raced down the street. He ran for what seemed like hours, and didn’t stop until the pounding of his heart in his ears and the ache in his chest slowed his pace to a fast walk. Tired and uncertain of what to do next, his mind began to race panic.

“Mom and Dad will be home soon,” he thought. “She’s going to kill me for this. She’ll wonder why I shot him, but I didn’t mean it. I didn’t know the safety was off...I didn’t know that...”

The familiar blacktop of his suburb kept rolling beneath his feet as he walked. He recognized every house he passed, even with the tears that were clouding his vision. James’s house, Mary’s, and Bret’s...all buddies from school. “They can’t know what I did,” he thought, the jumble of thoughts in his mind beginning to slow, as reality began to sink in.

“I’ve got nowhere to go,” he thought, still crying. “It’ll be dark and they’ll find him, and find out what I did to him. I hope he’s okay. He can’t be dead though, not from that, he can’t be...”

While on this train of thought, he noticed an ugly lawn gnome out of the corner of his eye. Tired from the walking, he stopped and glanced over at the familiar sight of an older, cape-cod style home. It was Billy’s house.

“The house of a friend,” he thought, as he walked up the white concrete driveway. “Well, maybe not a friend now, but a former friend at least. “

Alex remembered how he and Billy used to sit together on the bus and at lunch up until the fifth grade. On weekends, he’d go to Billy’s house and play Nintendo, or come up with some grand plans for the most awesome tree-fort anyone would ever see.That was back in Elementary school though, before Billy managed to get himself labeled as the biggest nerd in existence for still liking “The Power Rangers,” collecting “Star Trek” action figures, and getting all A’s on the Math and Science tests at school. He was a total dork, but Alex was tired of running. In his mind, he’d gone far enough, and could walk no further. Mustering as much courage as he could, he stood on the front stoop and rang the doorbell, trying hard to stifle his tears.

A tall woman, about the age of his own mother, answered the door. She stared down at him saying nothing but looking right into his eyes. After a brief pause, Alex cleared his throat, and asked her as politely as he could, “Is Billy home?”

With one hand still on the doorknob, she turned halfway around, and shouted up the staircase. “Billy! Someone’s at the door for you!” Seeming to think that this was sufficient, she turned back to Alex, simply nodded, and left the door open after walking away. A moment later, Billy came thumping down the stairs, watching his own feet as he did so. Alex stared at his huge, heavy framed glasses as he approached, trying not to groan at the sight of a kid still watching his own feet as he walked. Once at the door, he stared at Alex for a moment, squinting, as if those glasses really didn’t help him see anything at all.

After a split-second pause he uttered with unwelcome surprise, “Alex?” What’re you doing here?”

“I came—“ he paused, thinking carefully of what to say next. “I came by just to say hi. I was out walking around, and when I walked past your house I just figured I’d stop by and see what you were up to.” He knew all of this sounded so stupid and obviously made up, but the words were said, and couldn’t be taken back.

The last time that Alex and Billy had seen each other was after school on a Friday afternoon, about one year ago. Both were building, or trying to build, a tree-house in Billy’s backyard. Neither could see eye to eye on what type of ladder to build. Billy had wanted rope, Alex had wanted wood. It sparked an argument over everything that was and was not “cool” in life, and Alex had left in a fit of anger, saying that he and Billy were never really friends. Alex recalled these memories as he stood in front of Billy, frozen, not knowing what to say.

“Really,” replied Billy doubtfully. “It’s been a while since you’ve come over here.” He squinted again, trying to figure out what the real reason was. Not coming to any concrete conclusion at that moment, he invited Alex in.

Not a thing had changed in Billy’s room. The same posters hung on the walls above the bed covered in a Star Wars comforter, and a huge collection of “Star Trek” action figures, all in their original boxes, sat collecting dust on a shelf that spanned an entire wall.

“It’s the same old Billy,” he thought with regret as he slumped into the blue bean-bag chair in the corner.

“So what’s the real reason you came over?” Billy asked this in a tone that seemed surprisingly adult to Alex.

He stared at Billy’s glasses again. It’d been a long afternoon already, and he knew that he was in for it one way or another, and had to tell someone, even if it was Billy. He spilled the entire story, explaining what happened and that he needed a place to stay for the night. Billy listened the entire time without saying a word, just nodding here and there when Alex paused to catch his breath.

“So that’s what happened,” Alex said with a sigh, “and I really don’t know what to do.”

“You gotta own up to it,” said Billy, again in a surprisingly firm tone. “If you didn’t mean to do it, then running away looks really bad. It’s called being responsible.”

Alex looked inquisitively at Billy, wondering who this kid was to tell him about responsibility. Billy didn’t know what it was like to have something like a BB gun, now that was a responsibility.

“It’s like my schoolwork,” he said, waiving a piece of math homework in his hand. “I don’t like to do it, I’d rather go out and play more, but I have to do other things first. I have to do it and try to understand it because I’m responsible for it. My Dad told me so.”

Alex nodded, but didn’t understand how this applied to what had happened to him. As Billy continued talking, he thought to himself: “I just wanted to annoy him, not shoot him.” Realizing his thoughts were drifting, he turned his attention back to Billy’s words.

“And you’re responsible for your BB gun, and what happened to your brother, because it was your gun, and that gun is your responsibility,” Billy concluded, “do you see what I mean?”

Alex thought of what his own Dad had said about the Rifle just two days before, about how with power and age comes responsibility. He didn’t understand it until now. It wasn’t a toy, and he knew that, but he treated it like one, and even though he knew how he was supposed to use it he didn’t do so. Billy may have been a little dorky with the action figures and other things, but what he said was right. Realizing this, Alex began to wonder even more if his brother was ok.

“Can I use your phone to call home?” asked Alex.

“Let me go ask my Mom,” said Billy, as he left the room. The stairs thumped loudly seconds later as he made his descent.

Alex waited there in the beanbag chair, and looked around the room. The Star Wars clock on the wall read 5:30, and the seconds ticked away loudly.

“That can’t be right,” he thought, “I got home from school at 3:00, it’s been way longer than that!”

“My Mom’s going to drive you home,” said Billy, yelling up the stairs, “she said it’s not that far to go.”

“You didn’t tell her what I did, right?” Alex wondered if Billy had, thinking of how much more trouble he’d be in.

“No,” Billy said, smirking. He pointed out the window in the corner of the room, drawing Alex’s attention to it. “And I won’t, as long as you promise to come over and help finish that, and with rope, not wood.” The smirk grew wider on his face.

Alex looked out the window at the tree-house. It wasn’t very far off the ground; they could easily climb into it just as they had before, without a ladder. He remembered the argument though, and how stupid it was. He had a lot of fun building it, despite Billy’s gawkiness. Looking around the room once again at all the Star Wars and “trekkie” posters, Alex couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

“As long as you don’t make me watch that “troubles with tribbles” episode again,” he said, still laughing, “I think I can do that.”

Billy smiled. “Alright, I can do that.”

The two headed down the stairs, and stood in the front foyer. Billy’s mother walked in; the car keys jingled loudly in her hand. “Come on hun, let’s get you home before dark.”

Still somewhat nervous, Alex turned and looked back at Billy as he made his out the front door. Billy just smiled and waved, and said in the friendliest voice Alex had heard from him all night: “See ya later Alex!”

The car ride took a whole ten minutes. Alex thanked Billy’s mother, and walked slowly up the driveway. Dreading what he might find after being let inside, he rang the doorbell. When the door finally opened, he stood in shock at seeing his brother standing at the bottom of the stairs, grinning and unhurt.

Alex stood with his jaw-dropped in disbelief, as David kept grinning, and said in his typically instructive tone:

“The next time you’re going to shoot somebody, make sure the gun is loaded.”


© Copyright 2019 Moses. All rights reserved.

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