The boy sits on his bed, his room erupting in red and blue lights. Wails of sirens roar up the street as the ambulance turns the corner. A bottle smashes against the wall as loud voices argue in the adjacent room. A hand lifts. A smack sounds. He hears his mother fall to the floor, crying, as his stepfather grabs her by the ankle and drags her into their bedroom. The door slams shut.
The boy leans over and slides a dinosaur puzzle box from under his bed. He shakes it, listening to the rattle of objects inside. His hands lift the cover as he stares at the colorful brontosaurus pieces he had put together so often when young that he could do it in his sleep now. He removes the gun sitting on top, checking the chamber to make sure it’s loaded. He slips his jacket on and walks calmly from his room, pausing to watch a little of the sitcom on television. He turns the volume up to hear it over the slaps and wailing cries in the other room. When the commercial featuring a talking gecko and car insurance comes on, he zips up his jacket and heads out the house.
The fall weather is picky. It flips from summery hot to wintery cold on a daily basis. The night has decided to take a more passive role, keeping the temperature even to where a person could either wear a coat if they wanted or go without depending on how late they plan to stay outside. The boy slips the gun into his pocket, fixes his collar, and heads out toward the business section of town.
Once reaching his favorite hangout spot, he leans against the wall with a leg bent and foot against the brick. He watches the shoppers. A mother hurries along carrying her child in arms while pushing the baby carriage filled with purchases. An older couple takes a leisurely stroll while doing more window shopping than interested in buying anything. The boy sees some old friends of his, high school buddies he once hanged out with before dropping out. The guys stroll by without recognizing him. His shoulders hunker lower into his jacket. He feels dejected and angry with the circumstances and the world.
In time an interesting sight begins to walk in his direction. Two young adults. The woman gabs on her cell phone. Her brother hurries behind with his hands filled with bags holding new clothes. They pay no attention to the boy as he pushes himself from the wall. They pay no attention when he starts moving in their direction.
They pay attention when the boy points the gun at them.
He asks for their money and valuables. The two adults stare incredulously at the boy’s gall: him standing there in plain view with so many witnesses on the street. They are amazed into speechlessness. Their minds freeze with indecision.
The boy assumes their silence as defiance. It takes a second for him to make a decision. So many options yet he chooses only one.
The gun fires. The bullet catches the adult man in the thigh. Someone screams. The world seems unreal for him now. The sight of blood and the smell of gunpowder frightens him. He dashes away, feeling naked and exposed as a hundred eyes glue onto his face to burn his features into their memories.
He gets home and slams the door. Silence covers the rooms. The smell of stale alcohol wraps over him. His parents’ shoes are absent by the front door. They had an appointment to meet Jim Bean and Jack Daniels at the local bar for the rest of the night. The boy hurries into his room, shoving the gun back into the childhood puzzle box. Placing it in there seems wrong, a contradiction in its own right. A wave of regret rolls through him. He doesn’t know why. He doesn’t know what it’s for while wondering whether the emotion deals with shooting the gun, with him running away empty-handed, or for not killing the guy who wouldn’t listen.
The feeling passes. The boy walks into the kitchen and fixes himself a sandwich. Then he plops down on the couch with his dinner and a soda as he flips on the tv news. He wonders if any reporters will talk about him . . .
Although the above story is fiction, something similar to it did happen. Back in October, my two cousins were walking home when a mugger confronted them. He shot my cousin in the leg before taking off. The police have finally captured the youth whom they will convict in an adult court for attempted robbery, attempted murder, and carrying a concealed weapon. My cousin is fine, although the doctors left the bullet in his thigh.
I don’t know if the boy’s life was like what I described in my fiction story. I don’t know what his personal circumstances were for him to decide to take a gun and try to rob someone. I cannot ever put myself in such a person’s shoes to understand what he did, not only to his life but to his own family.
With the holiday season upon us, many shoppers will become distracted with their gift-buying. The recession has hit many of us in hard ways, and there will be people who will make the same decision like the boy who shot my cousin.
Please take the time to keep yourselves safe during the hectic season.