March 12, 2006
Santa’s Got a Gun
If you’re male in American society, it is customary to injure yourself or others with an air rifle. “Air rifle” is a colloquialism for the classic fourteen-year-old male toy; a reservoir gun equipped with an air chamber capable of propelling small BB’s or pellets up to eight hundred feet per second. These guns are often given to children as gifts with the belief that they are modern equivalents to weaker, single-pump BB guns of days past. Unlike Grandpa’s pea shooter, modern guns can break glass, puncture tires, and allow fourteen-year-olds new and creative ways to spend more money on health care.
I was fourteen when my gun appeared under the Christmas tree. Santa had known that I would shoot surplus toys and, strangely enough, TUMS tablets at my friend’s house at Lake Anne. Because destroying toys and stomach medication was desirable, my very own multi-pump air rifle appeared under our tree. It’s never as much fun to shoot your own toys, so initially all I did with my air gun was calibrate the scope that came with it.
Sadly my gun claimed one victim, a seagull that had landed in my yard looking for food. People that say they have no regrets are very unethical or have no memory. It is unfortunately very common to shoot at squirrels and birds with air guns, and I took part. I fired on a seagull hitting it in the neck, critically harming but not killing it. A memory that haunts me is the look of that bird suffering and unable to move. I fired again out of mercy, and to this day am very nice to animals, even if they’re jerks.
Mustangs and Good ‘ol Boys
It wasn’t long after getting my gun that I had a falling out with my lake house friend. Middle school is a rough time for kids, and I was ever-sensitive about people “talking trash behind your back”. I considered my friend in this trash-talker category and severed ties. Later in life he would slash my family’s car tires and, idiotically enough, a police vehicle’s tires. This series of events kicked off a hornet’s nest of bad blood and visits by Joe Law. Fortunately I had another friend to do stupid things with, a troubled youth that grew up with every illicit BB gun, slingshot, and ninja star imaginable. This was the kid that had the original Body Count tape. This was the kid with all the firecrackers. Not sparklers or snakes, mind you.
My troubled friend was a loner. He wasn’t particularly bright or needed the time alone, he simply was left alone a lot. He was the youngest of four children born to a mother with an addiction to shopping and a father with an addiction to Ford Mustangs. This Mustang man was also known to be a bit crazy. This fact was proven when I was taken to the local 7-Eleven to see that his Mustang GT had created a new parking spot inside of the 7-Eleven. It should come as no surprise that the child of such parents would own an air rifle.
It is amazing what the average kid knows. Kids especially love arcane and taboo knowledge. It follows that something as stupid as the local KKK hotline number would spread like wildfire in children’s circles. We used to call this number not because we were racist, but because it was hilarious hearing the recorded voice. The voice had a thick, redneck drawl and spoke predictable divisive drivel. Often we would leave prank messages and childish remarks. We called it so many times that the recorded message changed and chastised children for “wearing out the tape and leaving prank messages”. My trouble started when my friend wanted to record the voice.
There were three of us in my troubled friend’s room. My friend put his tape recorder on his speakerphone and instructed all of us to be quiet. He dialed the number, the line rang eight or so times, then the voice came on. I immediately made fun of it, ruining the recording. He was mad, restarted the lengthy process, and once the redneck came on I ruined the recording again. At this point my troubled friend told me to get out of the room so he could record it without interruption. He loaded his air rifle and aimed it at me. I pushed it away and he aimed it at me again a few times, but because I was a dumb fourteen-year-old I eventually stopped pushing it away. This left a fully loaded weapon aimed point-blank at my stomach. My troubled friend then turned his head and fired.
“I Shot Dave!”
I immediately fell to the ground and assumed the fetal position. The other kid with us was silent. My shooter turned white, flew up against the wall, and ran out of the room crying. As soon as he left, I got up off the floor and laughed about scaring him. I had only a small pain in my stomach so clearly the pellet must have bounced off. The plan was to say “you shot me” when he returned, then kick the crap out of him. Unfortunately I had a problem. There was now a tiny hole in my shirt. I looked for the pellet on the floor hoping the bloody hole in my stomach was just a cut. Unfortunately no amount of denial helps when you have a lead pellet lodged in your abdomen.
Getting punctured by a lead pellet that traveled hundreds of feet per second hurts less than you’d think. What I lacked in pain I made up for with fear. Will they operate? What will have to happen to have the lead chunk that is inside me, be outside of me? The process at the hospital took about five hours. My doctor was a crotchety disabled man that had no business wielding medical instruments. He decided to remove the pellet after x-rays showed it was a shallow wound. The procedure was executed only with a local anesthetic and though I couldn’t feel the removal, I certainly could feel the blood running down my side. My friend apologized profusely, but as the police said to my parents, “Accident or not, the gun was aimed at your son.” My parents didn’t press charges and I was given the pellet as a memento.
“I Shot Ron!”
If my experience with the air rifle could have been worse, a neighborhood kid’s could have gone better. Ron was a year older, obnoxious, and was known as one of the kids that drew dirty pictures on our neighborhood playground slide. One fateful day Ron’s friends decided to hide in his family’s bushes to surprise him. The surprise plan consisted of shooting Ron with an air rifle. Surprise! “Oh God, I shot Ron!”, said Ron’s shooter. Ron’s reward for cultivating such good friendships was a collapsed lung and a very difficult time at the hospital. What an awful day it must be when your friends hide in your bushes and shoot you in the lung.
Needless to say, my friendship with my shooter didn’t go much further. We hung out a few more times but the event was always there. It can be hard to be friends with people that shoot you. Years later my father let him in the house when I was home from college. I was fresh out of bed, drenched in the groggy awkwardness of it all. I learned he was on his way to becoming a plumber. Though we hadn’t been friends for years, he wanted me to go to a strip club with him. I politely declined. Unfortunately for my plunger-wielding assailant, I don’t even go to strip clubs with people that don’t shoot me. Ron’s relationship with his shooter is much less clear. Perhaps he and his attacker are getting lap dances at this very moment.
Updated September 5th, 2020 for grammar.
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