Guns were a part of my childhood. Starting with the classic bullseye BB gun, getting fancier, more elaborate and powerful pellet guns each birthday and Christmas. My father owned a 410 shotgun, a 12-gauge double-barrel, a 9mm handgun, and a .22 rifle, all of which he hid under the floorboards of a closet in preparation for “Y2K”. One of my father’s pellet guns (pictured above) was Japanese and very powerful, as illustrated by the immense force it took to pull the lever from the underside down toward the butt to cock the gun. It split like a wishbone when you cocked it, and as a kid, I would have to use both hands, one on the barrel, one on the lever. I’ll never forget the shock I felt as the mechanical bar slipped through my fingers and slammed my head into the sharp metal groove it was recoiling into, producing a little blood.
I honestly can’t remember if it was the Japanese gun, the .22, or both Chance and I were shooting that summer day, either one was potentially deadly. We had a huge cardboard box set up as a target, maybe 25 ft away. It was my turn to shoot. As unreal as it sounds, I remember a feeling- an innocent, almost goofy desire to aim a little higher than the target and into the woods behind it. Directly after I fired, Garret appeared from behind the target like a nausea-inducing Jack-in-the-Box. He had snuck behind the bullet-ridden cardboard while Chance and I were reloading and our father was busy working on the porch. He ran to Garret as I screamed and just about fainted; I knew I had almost killed my little brother.
We were rough and tumble kids through and through. We loved throwing our bodies around, whether it be on trampolines, dirt bikes, horses, go-karts, boogie boards progressing to surf boards in the Gulf of Mexico, or biking down to the marina and subsequently squishing countless leaping leopard grasshoppers on the ride. Our trampoline had a massive net held up by poles attached to the base surrounding it. After a few months of testing this safety feature with our projected bodies the netting gave way and eventually came off. For a brief period, before our parents noticed, we would run at the poles, swing around them and back onto the trampoline or into to the grass, re-enacting scenes from The Matrix.
A look of shock and terror set over Taylor’s face as her feet landed on the grass. I searched her expression for the cause, to which she screamed, “I swallowed a mosquito!!!”. She had the worst luck with bugs. One Easter when she was 4 or 5, my mom noticed her hair seemed to be moving around, upon further inspection, she found a stick bug, maybe two, tangled and squirming in perfect camouflage. A few Easters later, Rose, Taylor, and myself were playing cards on the porch around dusk, maybe the game was Crazy 8s. Without warning, a beetle loudly buzzed and in one movement landed on Taylor’s eye. She jumped up from the table flinging her hands and shrieking as she ran inside the house, leaving Rose and I to hold our stomachs in laughter.