Wednesday, January 2, 2008

In Which Don Sets Out to Be Snarky and Ends Up Telling Boring Stories

Not a good idea, buddy.

I'm not saying the officers didn't overreact--I wasn't there, after all. I'm just saying, when the cops come running to the sound of your gunshots, even if you think you're just celebrating a tradition, it would be best if the gun were on the ground when they arrived. Springfield is a city of about 110,000, by the way, and this guy was in the heart of its east side. This is not a guy sending a few into a berm and getting hassled.

And you can stop whining about the kids in the house, lady. There were kids all over the city that night, and the fact that you couldn't see where your buddy's bullets came back to earth doesn't make it OK.

When I was a boy, I had my very own bow. It was a white youth-sized Fred Bear takedown model, probably topped out somewhere between 35 and 50 pounds. We had a target setup made of hay bales backed by mine belt (the rubber belts used on the conveyors of coal mines--bullets of sufficient power punch through this stuff, but the most an arrow will do is stick in it.) One day, I was in the backyard by myself with that bow, and to this day I still don't understand why I did what I did.

What did I do? I recited a rhyme I'd heard on the Bugs Bunny show:

"I shoot an arrow
Into the air.
It comes back down,
I know not where."

Then I raised that bow to as close as 90 degrees as I could and let fly.

That's when I turned around (still not sure what made me do that, either) and looked my father in the eye. He was looking out the window of the garage, and he was clearly displeased.

He never really talked to me about that particular incident. He demanded my bow, arrows and equipment, and I looked at the ground and handed them over. He escorted me to my bedroom, and I sat down on my bed. Then he left. I considered it obvious, if implicit, that I was to remain where I was, so I did. And that's where I spent every minute of free time for a week. Then it took a few months before I was allowed to touch that bow again. I don't remember how long it was before I could just pick it up and wander out back to shoot by myself again; probably longer than I thought at that time. Dad would have been watching from somewhere whether I knew it or not until he was satisfied that I had learned my lesson. It may sound odd that he didn't lecture me, but then again, maybe he had some notion of what I was thinking; by the time he got to me, I was ready to throw up. A cold ball of icy fear had plopped into the pit of my stomach the moment I released that arrow, and it stayed. What would I do, I wondered, if someone turned up with an arrow wound? And why on earth, I wondered, had I done something I knew was stupid and dangerous and a crime? Was I stupid? Was I a bad person?

Two years later, I was wandering around the old corn field behind our plot and stumbled across an old arrow--one of my old ones--sticking out of the churned earth. Since that day, I've hoped fervently that the arrow I found is the same one I loosed that day. I think it was, honestly, but my mind comes up with reasons it might be something else. The dog could have stolen one arrow and played with it in the field. I could have shot one in the field and forgotten about it. Who knows, really?

You are responsible for every missile you launch, whether you illicitly did something stupid or just upheld a "tradition." Sometimes responsibility exacts a heavy price.


MadRocketScientist said...

kinda like this:

J.R.Shirley said...

I know that feeling from long ago, Don. It's "Oh, @#$%!- What did I just do?!"

Don Gwinn said...

Yeah. It happens with a lot of other devices besides guns. I've had that feeling with cars, with words . . . lots of things. It's worse than fear; it's a mix of guilt and helplessness. In that moment you'd give everything you ever had to go back in time a few seconds.

Longhornjeff said...

A follow up story in the SJR

Stapleton said. “We gonna get us some money, and we gonna get us some justice.

I guess the city of Springfield will raise my property taxes to pay for the lawsuit.

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