I fired once, “Bang.”

He handed me the rifle, and I gladly accepted it.  I was surprised that it felt like a toy, despite the name.  It was a toy, despite the name.  Plastic.  No heft.  It was a pellet gun, fueled by air: an air rifle.  It was nothing like the real rifles I had been target shooting with for years.

Still, it was new, it was exciting, it was forbidden.  In my house, guns were not toys.  We hadn’t been allowed to own pellet rifles or b.b. guns.  We had only been allowed to play with cap guns at our grandparents’ house, and those had been purchased by the grandparents without parental consent or knowledge.  It was clear, that at home, guns were not toys.  But, I wasn’t at home.  I was at the neighbor’s house, and there I could be free of my parent’s draconian rules.

I looked down the sight of the rifle and fired twice in quick succession.  Nothing happened.  No kick against my shoulder.  No loud report of gunpowder discharging.  No sound of the projectile striking home.

I suspected it wasn’t loaded.  I suspected it was broken.  I couldn’t have possibly missed.  I had fired real weapons.  I knew what I was doing.  It had to be something wrong with the toy.

The younger sister came out of the house, all mouth, singing and yelling and her noise was a distraction to my concentration.  I turned the rifle on her to scare her into being quiet but she was undeterred.  She knew it was a toy too.  She knew I wouldn’t really shoot her.

I fired once, “Bang.”  I spoke the word to increase the illusion of the toy being real.

Her singing turning to screaming.

I thought she was bluffing, playing along with my pretend firing, until I saw the blood.  A small trickle crept beneath where her hand had slapped against her ear.  She wasn’t pretending.

I had pulled the trigger.  The rifle had fired.  I had shot her.

My mind scrambled.  The toy was supposed to be empty, or broken, or…  It was supposed to be a toy.  How could I have hit her?  Something was wrong.  I was a good kid.  I didn’t do things like that.

And then I made the third and final mistake of the day.  I did the only thing I could think to do.  I fled.  Scared.  Confused.  I jumped the fence and sought the sanctuary of home.

I’m not sure what I was expecting.  The thinking of a child is naive in the ways of the world, hopeful that bad things will pass them by, expectant really.  When the knock sounded out on our front door I rushed to answer it.  One last effort to stave off the inevitable.  The next several hours were spent making apologies, talking through what had happened with parents and the police, receiving disappointed looks,  wallowing in my confusion and regrets.

The regrets lasted the longest.

It was only years later that I realized the full scope of how my life could have changed that day if the neighbor’s parents had decided to press charges, or sue my family, or if the pellet had been an inch to the left.  I try not to think about it.  I try not to picture how different my life would have been and how different the little girl’s life would have been if things had been worse than they were.

Keeping those thoughts at a distance during the day doesn’t keep them from haunting me at night.


73 thoughts on “I fired once, “Bang.”

  1. Oh my goodness! That is terrifying. You obviously didn’t mean anything by it though and you were just a kid! I know it’s easy for me to say these things but mistakes and accidents happen. Yeah, it could have been worse. But it wasn’t. We can wallow in what ifs all day long but it won’t change anything. You grew up into a great guy and that’s what’s important 🙂

    • Thank you for the kind words.
      Yes, I was a kid. But…
      I feel I may be tougher on myself than I’d be on someone else because I really should have known better. I had the training and the rules. I knew guns were supposed to be respected and never pointed at a person.

    • Thanks… and I’m sorry.
      As a parent now, too, I felt myself wondering what choices I’m going to make as the Prince gets older related to toys and guns and rules… and I didn’t come up with anything good.

      • It’s so hard now. I had to tell my children not to make gun gestures with their fingers…I mean, that’s a kid thing to do, but after all the school shootings…it could get them suspended! Of course, then they come home with books about zombies and I figure WTH, they’ll be okay.

      • I hadn’t even thought about all the school shootings! My “accident” was obviously well before the recent rash of incidents.
        It’s a fine line, right… teaching your kids one thing, and letting them be exposed to enough pop culture and media so they learn about the world, but not let them be inundated by a world that often runs counter to the rules you have at home, and common sense, and logic.

      • It’s one tell of a tight-rope. I will never forget my daughter hearing the news about the lady in DC who got in the car chase with her daughter in the car. It was a bad situation. My daughter didn’t understand why a “Mommy” would do that. It took awhile to get her to understand that being a mom or a dad doesn’t automatically make you a good person. It’s a hard lesson, and the world sucks. We want to protect them, but we need them to not be ignorant of it as well.

      • Not looking forward to that circus act. I’ve never been very balanced while walking… a tight rope seems like a sure way to send me tumbling.

      • The Royal Seer has proclaimed that this is truly how it is supposed to be. They must see us fall, to know us at all. <— There. That sounded perfectly Seer-ish.

      • Well done. Since the Royal Seer has declared it be so, it must be. We shall follow through as directed. I’ll try to capture the falls with pictures or video so everyone can get a laugh out of them…

      • I’ll never forget the day the daughter and I argued over the lines in a favorite book of ours. She was right and really enjoyed the moment of realizing that sometimes mom was wrong. She rubbed it in my face for weeks.

      • More and more I question how wise it was to bring the Little Prince into this world. 😛 A world where I will fall. A world where he will get to be right and gloat about it. Oh my… what were we thinking!?

      • We thought we could be super heroes, defenders of evil, geniuses…we can’t, but for the first six years or so they totally believe that. You’ve got time!

  2. I think we all have some terrifying “near misses” in our lives that we try to suppress. Although wouldn’t it be cool if life was like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book and we could see how things might have turned out?

    • Okay, yes, that would be cool.
      The good and the bad. If I had decided to stand up to my bullies where would I be now?
      If the shot had hit her eye, what would have happened?
      If I had chosen a different major, a different college, a different career path?
      I know we aren’t supposed to play the “what if” game, but, it can be fun to ponder occasionally… it’s a good source for writing material.

  3. Oh my God, what a story. It was as gripping as your fiction. I thought it was fiction. It’s so intense and real and disturbing- it’s what writing is supposed to do. Make me feel, even if its uncomfortable. Make me think, even if its things I don’t want to think about. Amazing.

    • You encouraged, and so I delivered. It may be all I have in me this week. Maybe next week I’ll do another non-fiction piece. Maybe when I’m feeling better…
      Maybe I’ll even try to write a happy non-fiction post. Just to be different. 😉
      Thanks for the encouragement and praise, my friend. I’m happy it made you feel and think, even if they weren’t the nicest thoughts or feelings.

    • I keep wanting to ask myself, “why did I pull the trigger?” But, me now isn’t that kid and doesn’t have any insight into why he would know he shouldn’t do something and still do it anyway…

      • i thought of my oldest son reading this and could see how something like that could happen. as kids, we really are capable of such stupidity. part of growing up i guess. my grandma always used to say, we’re lucky to just grow up. she’s right.

  4. Very scary but I hope that you’ve forgiven yourself. You were a kid. My hubby had a close call with his sister and still can’t pick up a gun to this day, without terrible flashbacks.

  5. I know you were worried about writing this, but I have to tell you……it turned out amazing!

    As for the accident (I’m going to refer to it us such since you thought the gun wasn’t loaded), try not to beat yourself up. We all did stupid things as children we’d think better of as adults.

  6. I agree with TwinDaddy. You reinforced the lesson, and no lasting harm was done. Guns are dangerous, even in the hands of people who know what to do with hem. The news is full of stories that should never have happened.

    • I… I can’t agree with that. They aren’t awful. They are just a tool – designed for a specific thing, to make that thing easier… By design a tool can’t be good or bad, it just is… it is the person who wields it that is either good or bad.
      If we hadn’t invented guns we would have just come up with some other way to kill each other faster and in higher quantities. It is in our nature. If we hadn’t invented gun powder that made guns possible we may never have figured out how to harness those explosive powers and explore the cosmos…

      • Guns were invented for a negative purpose, and are designed to fill that role. That that we got something positive out of inventing gun powder just shows that we can be truly remarkable.
        While a tool can be used for good or ill, it’s primary purpose can decide whether its a ‘positive’ tool. A screwdriver, meant for building, can be used to torture and kill- but it wasn’t meant to. A gun? It was always designed to kill. The only positive role it can have is hunting, which is a other form of killing (but for a different, mostly acceptable, purpose)

      • A more “humane” way to kill the hunted animals?
        Cowboys on the trail, have to put down an animal with a broken limb?
        Killing to ease suffering isn’t a bad thing…
        I get what you are saying though. It’s purpose is to kill.

  7. My kids grew up learning to shoot too, but they started on pellet guns and moved up. I am so glad your story ended as it did, as horrible as that had to be for both of you, I was terrified for you on where it may have been headed as I was reading.

    • We started on .22’s, and then, when we were strong enough to hold the weight and keep the stock firm against our shoulders, we were allowed to shoot the .30-.30. That one goes boom. All these years later and I still get a kick out of firing it… um, pun definitely intended.
      I was terrified for me all over again writing it. So many things that could have made the whole thing go from bad to very, very bad.

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