“Hey, look at this!” I turned around to find a pistol pointed at my head, a bead taken right between my eyes. Danny (not his real name) adjusted his grip, put his left hand over his right, stretched out his arms and brought the gun even closer. His finger was on the trigger. I couldn’t see anything but that gun, couldn’t see Danny’s face or his smile as he said: “Cool, huh?”
I wasn’t supposed to be there. My mother didn’t like me visiting friend’s houses unless she knew them, knew their families, grandparents, ancestors, history going back a few hundred years… She just didn’t like me going out much. In a few years, when parenthood had worn her down and she had abdicated the role among the six of us, she wouldn’t care nearly as much. So, I just went over to Danny’s after school anyway. I’d get in trouble, but I didn’t care. I was 10 and things like that didn’t matter much at the time. Danny was in my class, so we just headed over to his place as soon as the last bell hit. He usually rode the bus, but this time we walked, hitting the 7-11 along the way. We got packs of “Wacky Packages” and walked on, trading duplicate stickers and comparing the gum unfavorably to cardboard.
When we got to Danny’s place, his older brother was just heading out. Older brothers always seem to have a half pity/half fuck you attitude towards their younger siblings, depending on their mood. Danny’s looked on us with pity at my introduction, said, “Stay out of my room” and took off in his car. We were two kids alone in the house. First thing we did was go into his brother’s room and get into his stuff.
Older brothers have the coolest things. Danny’s was into models: airplanes, ships, cars in 1/16th scale and bigger hung and sat all over the room. I focused on the stack of comics in the corner. I started digging through to see what was there. “Oh, I never read comics anymore…” Danny knelt down and looked under the bed, reaching in and dragging out a small box of magazines. “I read these!” The box was filed with worn Playboy and Oui. He tossed me one. I dropped the comics to catch it.
I hadn’t had much experience with porn. I knew sort of what it was, naked pictures, and it did vague things to me that I didn’t really understand. It made me nervous, and sweaty, excited but I wasn’t sure why. I knew it was bad, lord knows I had been told so over and over and I felt my face burn just looking at the cover. Excitement and shame slap fought each other and I stared at the cover and ran my thumb along the end of the pages.
“Yeah…” I flipped it open, “…cool.”
“I got something even cooler than that.”
“Wait here, be right back!”
I dropped to my knees beside the box of magazines and started looking though. I was bent over digging at the bottom of the stack. It was a pile of teen-age porn, the kind that kids would pilfer from older brothers, stepdads, friends with more ‘understanding’ (cooler) parents. No hardcore ‘Dirty Juggs’ kind of stuff. I pulled out a Playboy from the late 60s, all bouffant hair and hidden pubes when I heard Danny come back in. I started to straighten up…
“Hey, look at this! Cool huh?”
I didn’t know much about guns, then or now, but I’d seen enough TV to know that you see someone pointing one at you; you get out of the way. As Danny leveled the gun, I jerked left. That’s when it went off, just as Danny started laughing out the words ‘It’s not loa…” To this day, it was the loudest thing I ever heard. In my memory it echoed, it deafened, it overwhelmed, it scared the fuck out of me. I had dived to the bed. Danny’s face had gone white, his mouth wide, I think he’d stopped breathing.
“Ohshitohshitohshitohshitohshitohshitohshit!!!!” He dropped the gun. “”Are you okay?!”
I looked down myself. I was fine, shaking and feeling sick, the torn off cover from the Playboy still in my hand from where I had got it in a death grip, the rest laying on the rug. I moved, gathering up slowly not sure of my legs. “Yeah, I’m okay.”
We both looked at each other, and started to laugh, relived laughter, like kids who got away with something, who outran the angry old man, like freed souls, like fools. We both went quiet, thinking the same thing: “Where is the bullet?”
The bullet had gone through where my head had been, bending over the box, and straight into the magazines. It had killed the first couple books. If they had both been Playboys, only one would have been damaged. On top was the Oui I had had in my hand and dropped back on top. It now had a good-sized hole all the way though, the bullet resting in the thicker and heavier Playboy underneath.
“Oh shit, my brother will kill me!” He grabbed the cover from my hand, stuffed the pages back inside, shoved it in the bottom of the box and grabbed the two off the top. “I gotta hide these man. Gotta hide these…” He looked around and saw me.
“Oh man, you gotta go! You gotta get out of here.” He grabbed my arm, gathering the material of my coat in his fist. He pulled and pushed. “My dad will be home, you gotta go!” He was shoving now, and the panic was coming back into his eyes.
I had to go, and I went.
My mom was pissed. She claimed she was about to call the cops, the hospitals and the morgue. I was grounded, I was on notice, I was dead. But I wasn’t. Sentenced to my TV and comic book filled room, I hardly noticed the grounding.
I found out later the gun belonged to Danny’s father, who kept it hidden and “safe” at the top of his closet in a shoebox. Danny had found it and had been taking it out. Don’t know if his dad ever found out. “Danny” and I weren’t friends anymore after that. Not sure why. He found others to hang out with at recess and to show his brother’s porn stash at home. I knew too much, he didn’t feel comfortable hanging out with someone he’d almost killed. I was to be ignored, which can be like a death.
I don’t even think he said he was sorry.