Time had slowed to the point where a bird flying nearby seemed suspended in mid air and the sound of the nearby traffic became a low pitched drone. Those few seconds are etched in my minds eye in a way that is so vivid I can almost move the scene around in bullet time – a technique which would become a firm favorite of movie directors some fifteen years later in depicting action scenes and stand-off’s not dissimilar to this one.
My thoughts, although racing, were amazingly clear at the time. I can still hear my heart beat quicken as I made the decision and reached the point of no return – if you’re going to pull a gun on someone you cant exactly change your mind and put it back again. Even after that point, amid the panic and the shouting, even with the instant realization that I’d done the wrong thing, my thoughts were coherent.
“Holey shit was this a mistake.” I said to myself as the two boys, both three years older than myself, backed away holding up their hands. Their faces, I’ll never forget, were masks of disbelief and surprize, with a hint of shock thrown in at how the tables had turned so quickly.
Heck, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t enjoyed the short power trip. Only moments before these two hard men had pounced on my younger friend and I – told us that we were trespassing and that we had to follow them to the office where they would call the police. We had been playing on an abandoned barge which was rusting away to nothing on the boundaries of a yard belonging to a small boat building and maintaining firm. The 16 or 17 year old boys claimed their father owned the boat building yard and that we were in serious trouble for being on the barge.
I suggested we leave – that we would go and not ever come near the barge again. The two boys had smirked and said “No – you’re in deep shit, you’re coming with us.” with the kind of grin that let us know they were savoring every moment of our panic.
As they turned to lead us toward the office, I glanced at the face of my friend. He was two years younger than me and almost frozen to the spot in terror. Chris had been very strictly raised – his father being a Naval man and his mother being the bitch from hell. I knew that if we got into trouble with the police, Chris would most likely be grounded until he was dead. Hell, his mother flew off the handle for the slightest thing – I’d witnessed her reaction and the terror in his face enough times to feel truly sorry for him even when she was in a good mood.
My mother on the other hand was a bit of a soft touch. Yeah, I’d be in trouble and she’d shout at me a bit. Then I’d be sent to my room, which was actually cool by me – I’d just use the computer or something. But other than the initial grief, it would all be over within a couple of days tops. I knew then and there that Chris wouldn’t be getting off so lightly.
This was round about the same point where I remembered I had my air pistol stuffed into my trouser belt.
Now, I should mention at this point for the benefit of the Thought Police that since that day I have not pulled a gun on another human being, nor do I intend to in future. Hell, I don’t even own a gun of any sort now – other than the spud gun given to me as a gag on my birthday, and that’s more likely to produce hysterical laughter than a laxative effect.
Anyhow, I pulled out the gun, aimed it squarely at the head of the boy who’d done the talking and said “Hey!” and as he turned, I added ” We’re not going fucking anywhere!”
“Chris – get the bikes ready to go.” I prompted without breaking my stare at the boys. Sadly, despite my awesome reversal of the situation, Chris remained rooted to the spot and could only stammer that they’d catch us anyway. At this point the boys had stopped gawping and began to regroup.
“You only have one shot in there, mate – you shoot him and I’ll kick your head in.” The boy who’d been quiet until that point added.
“True – but you move on me and you’ll be responsible for your mate being blind for life.” I moved the gun a foot to the right, taking aim on the approaching boy, “Or would you rather it was you? Myself, I’m not fussy – if we’re going down, one of you is going to hospital.”
I was a baaaaaaad motherfucker.
Oh yeah, Mr Tarantino – I might not be quoting the bible but I’m scaring the shit out of these two older lads with a poxy air pistol!
“For Fucks Sake!” The other boy said in a faltering voice; “We were only joking – you don’t have to bloody shoot us!”
“Choice is yours – Chris, get the bikes!” I stressed again.
Despite the bravado, I knew from the moment I pulled the gun and took aim that I had done a very bad thing. Maybe if I’d shot one of them straight off and made a run for it – who knows. But the gun was starting to get pretty heavy and I knew for a fact that I wasn’t going to shoot either of them. The gun was loaded with a pellet and a ball bearing – if I hit someone in the face, they’d be lucky to see again, and I’d never ever get rid of the guilt, no matter what happened to me after that. It was a no brainer – I was 100% no way going to shoot either of them.
All they had to do was call my bluff and it would all be over. I hoped that instead they’d run off and we could make our escape without it coming to that, though.
The lead boy was still edging away from me, the other one was holding station, his eyes darting between me and Chris. I rolled my shoulders and raised the gun the couple of inches I had let it drop during the dialogue.
Suddenly Chris started sobbing. “I just want to go home…” he broke down, crying like a baby.
Fabulous! – the dude who was meant to be unlocking the getaway bikes was now curled up in the foetal position asking for his parents.
The boy nearest spoke. “This is stupid – put down the gun and lets forget it – we were only joking – we’re not going to call the police…”
“We bloody are now!” The other boy blurted. Obviously he was having a hard time with the thought of being blind.
I swung the gun back towards him, paused for a few seconds and aimed.
“Don’t!” the target said, cowering, “We wont tell the police anything!”
I squeezed the trigger and fired. Both the pellet and the ball bearing streaked through the tense air to rebound off of a large cargo container twenty yards away. The shot had been a good couple of yards wide of the boy, but closer than I had intended. The only reason I had fired was incase they ended up with the gun. Better to unload it and make it useless than to have it end up in their hands.
I lowered the gun and looked round at Chris. Man was this fucked up. Fourteen year olds should not be pointing guns at people. Especially when they have no intention of shooting them. Still, as Clarence Worley would say, “It’s better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.”
“Jesus Christ you could have blinded me!” the previously hard talking boy whimpered in relief. “What the hell are you doing with a gun?!”
“Making pricks like you think twice before acting like hard men!” Now I was definitely getting a kicking, no doubt about it.
As fortune would have it, both of the older boys took pity on Chris, who was sobbing uncontrollably by this point in time. The situation kind of defused itself – the boys were angry, yeah, but I’m thinking they were relieved too.
Nobody was more relieved than me, though. Call it temporary insanity, call it mixed up teenage emotions, but to this day I have no excuse for pulling a gun on these guys. The fact that they let us go as soon as Chris could breathe again was a bonus too.
Later on that day we got to tell the story to our friends who were exceedingly impressed. It certainly raised my bad-ass factor a few notches in the neighbourhood. Even so, chance meeting in a school corridor with the two older boys a couple of weeks later had my heart racing again. But all they did was ask me how Chris was, which kind of told me that they had been thinking about the event as much as I had.
Moral of the story?
There’s always more than one way out of a situation.