Friday, May 13, 2011

First Kill

Joe had visited the pawn shop every day that summer to make sure it was still there. He had done extra chores at home, odd jobs for the neighbors, mowed every lawn in a one-mile radius of his house.
Now it was his. He sat on his bed and ran his hand along the polished blue metal barrel. Finally. The Remington 1187 Upland Special. He fingered the swirling leaves engraved on the stock.
“Freaking awesome.”
His mother had forbid him from doing anything but look at it within the town limits, but she promised they would visit Uncle Steve’s farm that weekend.
Thursday and Friday crept by heartbeat by agonizing heartbeat. At 6:30 a.m. Saturday he was dressed and ready, two hours before the rest of his family finished breakfast.
As they pulled into Steve’s driveway, Joe bolted from the car, brandishing his shotgun above his head. He met Steve at the porch.
“Hey! Whoa! What you got there? Lemmie take a look at that.” Steve grinned and turned the weapon over in his hands. He looked down the barrel. “Pow!” He shot an imaginary bird out of the sky.

“This is something else, Joe. Really nice. What’d it run you?”
“$350? Wow. That’s a deal. This is a fine piece of work here.” He handed the gun back to Joe.
“Mom said I couldn’t shoot until we got here.”
“Well let me say hello to my sister and then we’ll take it out back.”
“I brought some clays.”
“All right. Go get a Coke and give me a minute.”
Joe bolted inside, grabbed a pop, and ran back to the car for the clay pigeons and shells.
When the pleasantries were done, they went out behind the barn.
Steve flung the first blaze orange clay.
BLAM! Joe pulverized it before it had gotten 6 feet from Steve’s hand.
“JESUS!” Steve shouted as fragments blew back at him. “For crying out loud, let it get out there! You’re gonna blow my hand off.”
Joe shot under the next few; they fell and broke on the ground.
“Slow down, boy. You’re antsy,” Steve said. “Breathe. Count to two and aim before you shoot.”
The next clay flew high against a cloud. One-two BLAM!! Dead center.
For the next half hour it rained orange clay. It was the scenario Joe had played out every night, popping his outstretched arm against birds soaring across the ceiling.
Joe bragged to his mom over mouthfuls of ham sandwich at lunch.
“The boy shoots like a man,” Steve said.
“Hey, I tell you what,” he turned to Joe. “Why don’t you put that thing to use?”
“Sure! How?”
“That mutt your aunt ditched me with last month has been harassing the cows. I was meaning to take care of him today, but why don’t you take him out to the pasture and do it for me?”
“You mean shoot him?”
“You ain’t gonna strangle him. Yeah, shoot him. You can do that, right?”
After lunch, Steve handed Joe a leash.
“You might have to chase him down. Bugger won’t come when he’s called.”
He found him around back of the house, raggedy grey fur and bright eyes. He was nosing a dead rabbit. The dog perked up when he saw Joe and jumped on him, swiping mud and blood on his jeans.
“Get down, you idiot,” Joe snapped. He fastened the leash on the leather collar. “Come on.”
The pasture was about a mile away, and they walked it sporadically, Joe jerking on the leash every minute or so when the dog found something interesting to sniff. They walked back and forth along the fence for 10 minutes before stopping.
He bent down and unfastened the leash. The mutt looked up at him and wagged his tail expectantly.
“Quit lookin’ at me.”
He wagged harder.
Joe loaded the gun slowly, took two steps back, and aimed. The dog got up and took two steps forward. Joe stepped back again. The dog stepped forward.
“Dammit stay!”
This time he aimed first. The gun barrel trembled. The dog at the other end looked blurry.
He took two quick steps back and fired, just as the dog rose.
BLAM! The dog yelped and leaped sideways. Joe had skinned its back. It took off running.
“Shit.” BLAM! BLAM! It’s ass popped up as Joe hit it in the hindquarters.
BLAM! Another ass shot. It stumbled, got up and kept running, now with a hitch.
“Shit shit.” Joe was shaking and dropped the first couple shells he pulled out of his pocket. Somehow, he managed to reload on the run.
He stopped. Aimed. One-two BLAM! The dog crumpled and rolled.
He walked slowly to the body. Its chest was bloody and heaving. It’s head lay weak on the ground.
It rolled an eye toward him and whined.
Sobbing, he aimed at its head. BLAM! A chunk of skull tore loose. The dog lay still.
Joe turned and ran back to the farm, threw his gun, and vomited chunks of ham into the weeds. He slumped to the ground with his head between his knees.
After about 20 minutes, “Joe! Joe! Where are you!”
“I’m back here!” Joe wiped his eyes and mouth.
Steve came around the corner. “What are you doing back here? Did you take care of that dog?”
“Yeah, I got him. He’s out in the field there.”
“Fine. Crows’ll take care of him. Could I have that collar?”
“What? Oh. No, it’s still on him.”
“You didn’t get the collar? Goddammit Joe. Where’s he at?”
Joe pointed vaguely at the field, turned, and walked back toward the house.
“Hey, wait! You wanna shoot some more clays?” Steve called after him.
“No that’s alright. I’m going inside.”
That night, Joe stowed the gun under his bed and stared at the ceiling. On Tuesday, he sold the Remington 1187 Upland Special to a friend for $250.

Three Word Wednesday (yes I know it's Friday): brandish, manage, forbid

This one's stretching the rules of flash fiction a little, since the plot's basically true. I made up some details (clay pigeons, throwing up, dialogue, etc.). It happened to a family member, and he never did shoot that gun again.


  1. I wondered why the story sounded so realistic. Very nice job - I can totally see that happening. Well done.

  2. Very nice build up from the boy's enthusiasm to the horror of what a gun can really do. I'm glad it put him off!

  3. @PJ: Thanks! I'm glad it felt authentic. I'll think on what I can take from it to make other stories seem more real.

    @Virginia: I was worried that I overdid the enthusiasm. I'm glad you liked it!

  4. Very well written... I cried for the dog...

  5. Wow. I'm shocked the kid actually went through with it, but I'm relieved he learned his lesson.

  6. You really got me going there. I had the whole "sad...what's going to happen to the cute little puppy" look. Great job of evoking emotions in me.

    And all fiction is based in reality somehow.

  7. great story.

    check out short story slam and make a submission today.

  8. @O-kami: Me too. Those farm dogs lead a rough life, and it doesn't usually end well.

    @bunnygirl: I think the need for being accepted as a man overcame everything else.

    @Thanks! I was thinking about writing more about the dog to give it some depth, but I'm glad you still felt sympathy.

    @Bluebell Books: I'll check it out! A new prompt is always a good way to shake things loose.

  9. Great job, Matt. The story felt very real, just as PJ said, and that's not easy even when the story is based in truth.

  10. Glad to see you back at it. A fine story.

  11. cleverly woven story love that he found out what guns really do.

  12. I was chiding the character, "You'll shoot your eye out." But fiction's always getting grimmer. Poor guy was bound to do harm.

  13. @danielle: Appreciate that. It kind of feels like cheating if I don't come up with the plot myself.

    @Thom: Yeah, I've got to make time to write more. Hopeful that I'll be more consistent.

    @John: I'm going to try not to kill anyone (or thing) this week! But you know the rule: the dog always dies.

  14. Despite the ending being so gory (for the poor dog), the story works better for it. I was scared the dog would change the boy's mind before time. The dog needed to come to such a bad end for the boy's change of heart to be believable.