He should have never bought that gun.
You know, for the past few days, I have been agonizing over how I am going to make this story good. On the surface, it seems like a simple task, but the more I have been thinking about it, trying to make someone smile through writing is a challenging feat. I knew I had to start writing soon because I had already committed to it a few days ago. I’m not sure who wants to see this story on my blog more, you or me.
Recently, my Aunt, who is a writer, told me that she really gets a kick out of what I jot down here. This means an awful lot to me because she is in the writing business. Truthfully, I have absolutely no training at all when it comes to expressing myself through text and it’s a little intimidating knowing that someone with years of successful stories behind her is on the other side of the screen. I mean sure, I attended English class back in high school and college, but I’m not sure I retained anything. When the day finally came where I wanted to get something off my chest, I started to learn.
I asked her to give me feedback if she saw a glaring error. Actually, I would appreciate feedback if I make a small mistake, like using “it’s” instead of “its.” What would be great is if she let me behind the scenes regarding strategy. How do I start a story off? What should be the first line? Where should I begin the crescendo, like in music or a verbal story? These are all things that can make or break what I, or anyone else, writes.
As you may have noticed, some of my posts are better than others.
Sometimes, an entry comes out nicely when I least expect it, like my recent post, “Snowboarding Is Back.” I really just wanted to get something down quickly, but after I started getting into it, I got more and more motivated.
Sometimes entries don’t come out so nicely. I think I had high hopes for my, “The Rules Of Blogging” post, but I was a little perturbed when I sat down to write that, so it didn’t come out as planned. I actually had to delete an entire paragraph from that one because I thought it came across mildly abrasive.
When I think about what is going to make or break a post, like trying to figure out the answers to those questions I asked above, I think it’s entirely up to me. If I took lessons from someone, the story wouldn’t be entirely mine and it might seem “forced.” It depends on how I feel right at that point of what I am doing.
My Aunt tells me that she enjoys the details. I enjoy writing them. If I can express to someone how all those little green blades of grass feel when they are softly tickling my toes, I think that’s a success. Otherwise, we have a bland story, and no one wants that.
Just a few minutes ago, I was standing in the shower trying to raise my body temperature. As the water got hotter and hotter, I began thinking. I guess the water temperature got my brain moving. I had so many thoughts running through my head about just how I would explain the beginning of this post. So many thoughts were good, although I’m not sure I just spent the past fifteen minutes expressing any of them. I forget so easily. If I could figure out a way to lay my thoughts out faster, I might be on to something, until then, this is what we get.
So it begins…
When I graduated college, I had zero dollars. I was broke. I’m not sure I was in a position to do anything with my life other than to live at my parent’s house and find a job. At least I would have had someplace to sleep and I would be fed. Looking back, I think that might have been a good idea, but that really wouldn’t have put me where I am today. I took the challenging path, which is the one I usually end up taking.
In the past few years, I have had more conversations about how other people live their lives than I care to admit. “If I did it, then so should you,” is how I would usually end a conversation. I probably got that line of thinking from my father. It frustrates me when I see people not working to their potential. I’m not sure why, because seriously, it’s none of my business. It’s just that when I think back on all the adventures I have had through life, I guess I want others to share in those kinds of adventures too. If they are taking the easy way out, then they are missing many of the challenges and rewards that life has to offer. When you take the hard path and accomplish something, you tend to realize it once it’s done. That, my friends, is a good feeling.
A few months before graduation, my friend Rob and I decided to look for a place to live. We had been hearing many good things about Atlanta, Georgia for a while and decided to hop in the car for a trip down South. I actually had a professor who used to live in that city, so I would pick his brain during our student/teacher meetings. I am sure that time could have been better spent (at the rate I was going), but now I’m not so sure. What really struck me was his recollection of Lake Lanier, North of Atlanta. He said it was very active, very deep and very cool. I have always wanted to live near a lake, so hearing this only made me all the more excited for our trip.
Rob is a fun guy to travel with. He can be trusted behind the wheel and the conversation is good. We seem to be on the same page a lot, which makes for a good amount of agreement when it comes to really trying to analyzing something, such as a new place to live. If you had been sitting there, listening to us that first night in Atlanta, you would have heard a, sort of, agreement fight. We were so involved in what we were agreeing on, it may have been viewed as an argument. It’s funny to engage in and I’m sure it’s even more funny to watch.
I remember a little something about our first drive South to the town nicknamed, “Hotlanta.” We were cruising down one of Virginia’s most scenic highways, Interstate 81. Rob was behind the wheel of his Honda CRX and I was in the passenger seat, trying to get some sleep with one eye open. I generally don’t trust anyone behind the wheel besides myself, but as I said above, Rob is okay, hence, only one eye being open.
The car was already a mess. For some reason, it is impossible to take a trip that lasts more than three hours without the entire car being filled with garbage. This is a phenomenon I will never understand.
I am not sure what began the exchange, but when I opened the other eye, I peered over to see Rob giving someone in a bright blue pickup truck next to us the one finger salute. I got all excited and told Rob to cut the crap. I said, “Rob man, these people aren’t like us. If they somehow get the cops down here to pull us over, they are going to tear our Yankee asses out of this car and no one will ever see us again.” Of course, Virginia is only a few miles past the Mason-Dixon Line and I was at a very ignorant point in my life. Rob tried to explain that the pickup truck had cut him off and the finger was warranted, but I wasn’t having any of it. All I wanted was to get to Atlanta in one piece so I could make a decision that would affect me for at least the next year of my life.
We drove for a while longer and eventually forgot about the whole exchange. The conversation was fluid, but we both agreed that it was time to pull over, get some gas and browse the service station aisles for its best and healthiest food. After all, we were already at the bottom of Virginia and had been driving for a good long time.
We found an exit that had a huge “Gas” sign next to the exit ramp. We pulled off the highway and made a right. We quickly made another right into the gas station.
While Rob was creeping along, trying to figure out the best place to fill up, something made me glance out the back window. A few moments after I did, I managed to force out an, “Uh oh.” Um, yeah, you guessed it, a bright blue pickup truck was pulling in right after us. Mind you, this was like an hour after we had seen our last bright blue pickup truck.
We stopped in front of the gas pump.
I saw Rob stiffen up when the pickup truck guy start walking towards the car. I had no idea what was about to take place, but I was ready to pounce. I was going to let this good ol’ boy know what it felt like to get his ass whooped by a young and limber red headed Yankee.
As he approached the car, the pickup truck dude finally said, “What are you doin’, showin’ me your age?” to which Rob replied, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” The guy responded, “Don’t act like it never happened. I saw you back there giving me the finger.” Rob came back with a swift and forceful, “I didn’t give you the finger, that would be road rage.”
Okay, after I realized the pickup truck guy wasn’t going to try to tear either of us out of the car, I let my guard down and loosened my grip on the fist of death. There would be no Southern altercation today. The gentleman, who actually ended up to be quite pleasant, walked away with another story to tell his friends and we filled up the tank, did our thing, and continued on, headed South.
We made it to Atlanta, and after a few days of driving around, we decided against moving there after graduation. We thought the culture was oriented too much around work. Everyone seemed to be working all the time. Work, work, work, work, work. That went against the grain of Jay and Rob, who honestly weren’t all that much into the whole work thing. We left and headed up to Nashville, Tennessee. Now, that’s a story for another time.
A few weeks later and after hanging out up North for a while, I made the call. I said, “Rob, let’s move down to Atlanta. What the heck. It would be something new and if we don’t like it, we won’t stay past the first year’s lease.” He agreed and we decided to move on down after I came back from college in Binghamton.
Rob helped me out a lot those first few months. As I already mentioned, I had no money. The complex we lived in had a pretty sweet deal…either take the first month’s rent for free, or spread a discount across all twelve months of the lease. Since I moved down about a month earlier than Rob, I said that we should take the first month free, and then we would split the remaining ones after I get a job.
The job didn’t happen until a few months into our little adventure. We took the first month’s rent for free and then Rob covered the next month. Right at the end of that month, I finally got a job and started paying Rob back. He had payed for more than just rent. He payed for the groceries, the utilities and everything else. You know, he didn’t even make a peep about it either, perhaps that’s why I never made a fuss about what happened next.
One day, Rob decided that it would be a good idea to buy a .22 caliber rifle. That’s right, a rifle. Now, this wasn’t a big, powerful gun, it was basically a step up from a BB gun, but still, it could do some damage. Rob walked into Wal-Mart with a wallet and walked out of Wal-Mart with a wallet and a gun. It seems like Georgia actually encourages this kind of stuff.
There was one thing I knew for sure; Rob should, in absolutely no way, own a gun. He has a little history with guns that I will tell you about right now, in numerical order.
1. One day while twirling my BB gun in the front yard, Rob shot the out neighbor’s house window.
2. One day, while shooting targets with my BB gun in the backyard, Rob missed the target and the BB ricochet about three times and hit me in the temple.
3. One day, while standing at the end of the driveway twirling my BB gun, Rob blew out the back window of our friend’s Mustang, while it was driving down the road.
The fact that Rob owned this gun made me nervous. Luckily, neither of us ever saw it again in Atlanta after the day he bought it. He must have put it in his closet for protection or something.
I will move ahead about a year to get this party started.
After our Atlanta experience, we decided to move back up North. I decided to stay at Craig’s house for a month or so, before moving back to Binghamton for grad school. Rob ended up back at his parents’ house for a short stay before renting a house down in town.
Craig owned about 40 acres of land up in Oneonta, NY. We would all visit about once a month to see what he was up to. When we arrived, Craig was usually straddling some earth moving machine in an effort to either create a road, a dirt bike track or a pond. Every time we were there, Craig was working on some project. Over the years, Craig had collected quite the array of machinery to assist him in his effort to transform his 40 acres into the land of his dreams.
Craig was quite dedicated and Craig was quite serious.
There was one particular visit I remember well. Both Rob and I were on slate for a weekend visit to “the farm.” Since I was already there, I don’t think it qualified as a “visit” for me. For Rob, the three hour drive definitely made him a visitor.
During the few weeks I lived at Craig’s, I witnessed him acquire a few neat little machines. These were basically farm type things and I really don’t know what some of them were used for. I know one spread around manure. It was a cool trailer type machine that, when towed, spread cow crap all over the fields for various reasons, such as fertilizing the grass and, well, getting rid of the manure.
Another piece of equipment Craig acquired while I was there was an old dump truck. It must have been from the 60s or 70s. It was old and rusty. This was his pride and joy.
I remember the day he rolled in the driveway with it. I took one look and said, “What the hell are you going to do with that? Does it run?” He replied, “Of course it runs. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a good running work truck like this around here for so cheap?” He looked so excited and I didn’t want to burst his bubble, so I just kind of shook my head and walked away.
Well, Craig decided it was worth talking about, so he chased me. He explained that this work truck was going to save him countless hours of time. Instead of moving dirt around with the machines, now he could fill up the dump body of the truck and haul the dirt where ever he wanted. His eyes were so bright when he told me about what this truck could do, he almost glowed. I hadn’t realized it, but he had been looking for a truck like this for some time. They were so scarce because none of the farmers in the area ever let them go. They were all using them for their own purposes.
Okay, if it was important to him, it was important to me. I wouldn’t make fun of it.
Rob wasn’t there for this conversation. Rob had no idea how much Craig loved that truck. Rob showed up and wanted to drink beer and ride dirt bikes, of which we were both only too happy to oblige.
We had a good time the night after Rob arrived. We ate and drank and told stories of all the crazy stuff we used to do. Craig showed us the shiny new rifle he recently bought, but hadn’t fired yet. Living on a farm in the middle of no where, I guess one needs a huge rifle that uses 3 1/2 bullets. I saw them and they could probably penetrate tank armor. Craig was pretty excited about this and said he was going to see how it shot the next day.
It just so happens that Rob decided to bring his gun too. Sure, it wasn’t nearly as powerful as Craig’s new bazooka, but it would be fine during target practice. I just had to be sure the stay the hell away from Rob when he was firing this thing. At the time, I thought it wasn’t a bad idea to bring that gun up to Craig’s, since it was on a hillside in Oneonta, NY. There was virtually no one for miles.
You know, come to think of it, at no point that night did Craig ever express to Rob the importance of his new work truck.
We woke up the next morning. As usual, Rob was up first, looking to get a jump on the day. He was always so damn chipper when he was up there, it was annoying. I wanted my beauty sleep, but I guess I was kind of excited too. After all, this was the day we were going to see two guns that had never been fired before, fired.
We took showers and walked downstairs, but couldn’t find Craig. We strolled around for a while, got some coffee and decided to sit on the couch and talk. The house was silent and kind of boring, but we didn’t really want to get into doing farm chores…we would leave those for Craig. We were there to have fun.
After a few minutes of some pretty lazy conversation, we were shaken by a huge “BA BOOOOM!!!” Our eyes shot wide open and poor Rob almost fell off the couch. I think my heart skipped a beat when I heard that enormously loud explosion. I looked at Rob and Rob looked at me. We both thought we were under attack. Rob started to get to his feet, when another “BA BOOOOM!!!” knocked him back on the couch. I felt so bad because he had no idea what the heck was going on. Neither of us did.
We got to our feet and raced to the back window, the one overlooking the mountainside. There, we saw Craig standing and smiling with a grin so wide it went from ear to ear. He was standing there with his huge new rifle in his hand and a new wake up call. He was staring straight at us and obviously knew he was going to scare the heck out of us. I’m not sure if he was so happy because he scared us or that he mutilated whatever it was that he just shot.
I just stood there staring out the window, frozen, when I saw Rob whiz past me and run down the back porch stairs. Oh no, he had his gun too. I guess I had been in a trance longer than I thought because Rob had actually run upstairs to grab his gun and bullets, got his sneakers on and made it outside before I even knew what was going on.
I quickly pulled my sneakers on and tightened up the laces nice and snug. I flew outside to meet Rob standing a good distance in back of Craig. Craig was setting up for another shot and we didn’t want to be anywhere near him when we heard the…”BA BOOOOM!!!” again. Yeah, that was it, he took another shot.
We were both standing there next to each other when Rob asked, “What in the world is that?” He was looking at Craig’s new truck. I said, “Oh, don’t ask. That’s Craig’s new work truck. Like he needs another hunk of junk around here.” Rob said, “Seriously.” and began walking down to Craig, who was filling his rifle up with another bullet.
I remember standing there when I saw Rob stop about half way between Craig and me. He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a bunch of bullets. He took the clip out of his gun and filled it with the bullets he just pulled out of the pocket.
At that point, things started to move in slow motion…very slow motion.
When Craig woke up early in the morning, he walked down to the new work truck and placed a shooting target on the very rearmost, highest tip of the wooden boards used as sides to the dump body. The main dump body was steel, but there were two 2x10s on each side of the bed to hold more material. This target was placed neatly on the uppermost corner, far out of reach of the rest of the truck. It was almost invisible from where Rob was standing.
When Craig shot his gun, the bullet was so powerful and so fast, it simply sliced through the paper target and splintered the wood. The bullet easily exited the backside of the board. It was almost like there was no damage from the small missiles at all. Craig hit the target three times and the board was still clearly intact.
Craig had loaded his gun and Rob had loaded his gun.
No one ever told Rob that there was a target on the back of the truck.
Craig set up to take another shot when we both heard, “PAP PAP PAP PAP PAP.” It was Rob’s gun going off. I think Craig liked it because now Rob was getting into the mix. Rob was standing there like he was a hitman taking down a rival gang.
“BA BOOOOM!!!” again. Craig made another shot. “PAP PAP PAP PAP…” Rob kept firing. I think his clip held 20 bullets and he had emptied them all. “BA BOOOOM!!!” Craig had fired his last bullet. What a morning it was.
I stood there watching the whole thing from behind them both. What struck me as odd was the angle of Rob’s gun. It wasn’t lined up with the target and it kept moving from side to side. Craig’s, on the other hand, stayed straight and steady, like it was in the hands of a trained marksman.
I stood there in disbelief. My mouth parted slightly and hung open as I realized what had just happened. The corners of my mouth began to curl upward. I started walking toward both Rob and Craig when I overheard them congratulating themselves for the massive amount of firepower they had just displayed. I just kept on walking, one foot in front of the other.
When I reached them, the three of us started walking down to the truck together. We were quiet during this time and for some strange reason, no one said a word. The silence was deafening. All we heard was the crunching of the dried dirt beneath our feet.
We had about 100 feet to walk in total and about 50 feet were left. When we reached 20 feet, we all heard a “HISSSSSSSS.”
Craig’s head quickly snapped over to look at Rob when he belted out, “ROBERT, WHAT DID YOU DO???”
I felt a tear forming in the outside corner of my right eye. My upper lip began to tremble in anticipation of the discovery we were about to make. My feet started shifting in my shoes.
A few steps closer and the hiss got louder.
That’s when all three of us simultaneously saw bullet holes peppered out over the entire side of Craig’s new work truck…his pride and joy…his saviour of countless hours of hard labor.
I began making quiet screaming noises inside my tightly clamped mouth. My eyes were only half way open and my forehead has scrunched up more than it had ever been. At this point, tears were fully formed and rolling down my cheeks. I really tried to hold it in.
As we got closer, we found that the tire was punctured, the windshield was shattered, the side of the truck had about 10 bullet holes in it and the front fender was hit multiple times. There were no bullet holes anywhere near the target at the back of the truck.
I turned around and began walking back up the hill towards the house. Craig looked over at Rob and started yelling at him. I finally let a breath out and nearly broke down in the middle of the field. I looked back to find that they had popped the hood of the truck open. Rob had shot the fender, which sheltered the engine. Apparently, Rob’s bullets made their way through the distributor cap, the radiator and the valve covers. The truck was unusable.
I kept walking up the hill and heard the yelling get louder. It was like a cartoon. A few more quick glances and it felt like someone slipped peyote in my morning drink. I was full fledged balling at this point. All I could do was walk away and dream of brighter days ahead.
I love Rob. I love him to death. The gifts he has bestowed upon me are immeasurable. I am not sure he will ever know the joy he has brought to my life.
This, my friends, was the second funniest thing that has ever happened in my life and I enjoyed sharing it with you very much.