By Frank Touby —
Jimmie can hardly wait to show his newfound treasure to his closest friend. He’s excited as he beckons Suneet over. “Look what I found in the alley,” whispers 11-year-old Jimmie in a conspiratorial undertone as he unfolds a dishtowel to reveal a silver handgun with a white handgrip and a short barrel. “It’s live! It’s got bullets in it.”
“That’s a revolver,” Suneet whispers knowingly. “Do you think it killed somebody?”
“I think it might have because one of the chambers is empty,” says Jimmie.
“That just means it might have been fired,” Suneet says. “Maybe he shot and missed or was taking a practice shot.”
“Where can we go to shoot this? I want to try it out.”
“How about your basement?
“It would make too much noise. I don’t want my mom to find out…
“Well I don’t want my mom to find out either.
“We can go into the woods somewhere,” Jimmie suggests. “It’s got to be far from here because it probably makes a lot of noise.”
“What calibre do you think it is?”
“I’d guess it’s a 38,” Jimmie answers. “I think it’s too big for a 22 and there’s no way it’s a 45 … I don’t think it is, anyhow.”
“Where are you going to keep it? If your mom’s like mine, there’s no place safe from her.”
“My mom is plenty snoopy. I’ll hide it in my bike bag tonight because she never goes in there,” says Jimmie. “After school tomorrow we’ll go out to the ravine and set up a target.”
“Can’t we do it today?”
“I’ve got a karate lesson and I’ll get in trouble if I miss it.
Then my mom has dinner made and I can’t get out of that. It’s got to be tomorrow.”
“Can I shoot it, too?” asks Suneet.
Jimmie pauses. “Yeah, okay. But I don’t want to shoot up all the bullets because I won’t be able to get any more.”
“I just want to try it one time.”
“Okay. One time.”
“What kind of target?”
“Let’s bring some bottles,” says Jimmie. “That’ll be awesome blowing them up.”
Jimmie rides his bike over to his karate lesson at the rec centre. He can’t focus on the class and his mind is mostly on the silver revolver in his bike bag. When the class ends, at last, he gets to peer into the bag on his handlebars and reassure himself the pistol is still there. He pokes his hand in and grasps the barrel. It’s cold and smooth and he wants to grip the handle, but thinks better of it. Someone might catch him in the act and demand to know what’s in his bike bag.
There are some kids in the neighbourhood who occasionally bully him. It really hurts his feelings and makes him want revenge. That’s why he takes karate classes.
But karate doesn’t really help him with the bullies. Jimmie’s afraid to make any of the moves he’s learned in class because it might piss one of those guys off and get him beat up. Jimmie balances his urge to get back with his fear of maybe getting beat up. So it’s just a fantasy to give one of those guys a kick in the knee and then stomp all over him when he falls down.
If anybody would beat him up, it would be that kid George. He’s the worst threat. George is the same age as Jimmie, but taller and stronger. They don’t go to the same school so they don’t meet every day or even every week. But when George does find Jimmie alone, he calls him names and sometimes punches him on the shoulder really hard.
As he rides his bike home Jimmie fantasizes about how he could use the revolver to deal with George. He could pull out that gun and point it at George’s heart and scare the crap out of him. He could even shoot George in the arm and that would really keep that kid from ever bothering him again.
Of course he’ll get in all sorts of trouble if he does that, so it’s best that Jimmie keeps this gun a secret between himself and Suneet. But it is tempting to think about redheaded George trembling in fear as Jimmie points that weapon at him and pulls back the hammer.
Jimmie doesn’t know anything about using a real gun. He had a cap pistol when he was younger and it had a hammer. He recalls how the only way he could release the hammer when it was pulled back was to pull the trigger and ease the hammer closed with his thumb so it didn’t fire the cap. He wonders if this pistol works the same way and concludes that it probably does.
He wants to test his theory and decides to bring the gun into his bedroom. He removes his bike bag with the pistol in it and goes to his room. Jimmie’s mom has gone out and he considers himself lucky for that.
He closes his door and grasps the pistol, his finger loosely on the trigger. He puts his thumb on the hammer and pulls. It’s a lot harder than his cap pistol was. He can’t pull the hammer back with his thumb while he grips the pistol in one hand, so he tightly grabs the handle in his left hand with his finger off the trigger and uses the heel of his right hand to pull back the hammer. His face is tight with concentration.
The hammer clicks and stays cocked. Success. But now Jimmie is afraid to leave it cocked and worries that he’s not strong enough ease the hammer safely down as he pulls the trigger to release it. He thinks about that for several minutes and then resolves to use all his strength to hold back the hammer while he pulls the trigger to let the hammer slowly close.
He doesn’t know when his mom is coming back, so he has to act promptly to keep this secret from her. Or he’ll have to hide a cocked pistol in his room and he’s afraid to do that.
He looks around his room to see where to point the barrel while he conducts this operation to release the hammer so that if the worst happens and the weapon discharges, it will do the least damage. He decides to point it at the floor as he sits on his bed.
Holding the gun in his left hand, his finger on the trigger, Jimmie points the pistol down between his legs. With the heel of his right hand he pulls on the hammer to hold it as he releases the trigger.
It’s harder than he expects. The trigger isn’t easy to pull and the hammer is digging into the heel of his hand. He applies more pressure and …
The air in the room explodes with a thunderous bang that he feels all over his body. He is stunned. An acrid smell fills his nostrils and his ears are ringing from the loud explosion.
The pistol has discharged and instead of firing into the floor as he expected, there is a big bullet hole in the top of his bedroom door. Jimmie couldn’t control the pistol as he tried to close the hammer. He puts down the pistol and opens the door to inspect the damage. The outside of the door seems to have a bigger hole than the inside and there’s no way his mom won’t notice it. Wood splinters are sprayed into the hall. His room smells strongly of gun smoke.
He’s going to be in big trouble over this. So there go any plans he has for shooting it in the ravine with Suneet. Probably. He thinks about his options. If his mom comes home now, she’ll take the gun and maybe even call the cops. But Jimmy isn’t ready to give it up yet. He really does want to shoot at bottles, though that prospect looks dim.
He can take the gun and throw it away, which makes sense. But he still wants to shoot bottles after going through all this trouble. And he’ll be in trouble now anyhow.
He decides to take the gun and go to Suneet’s house and get him to go with him to the ravine right away. They’ll shoot up the remaining four bullets and leave the pistol there. Then he’ll go home and face whatever his mom decides to do to him.
Jimmie puts the gun back in his bag, hooks the bag to his bike and heads off to his friend’s house. He wanted to post a picture of the weapon on Facebook, but never even got a chance to take a picture. Maybe Suneet can snap a photo of him aiming the pistol in the ravine.
Suneet only lives a few blocks away and he is outside when Jimmie arrives. He has been tweeting from his iPad, which has a camera.
“Hi Jimmie,” says Suneet, surprised to see him. “I was wanting to get a picture of your gun. Take off your bike bag and let’s go inside so I can take a picture. You can put it online.”
“We’ll have to wait until we get to the ravine because my mom could be calling your mom any second. Get some bottles and let’s go.”
“I’ll tell you on the way. Let’s go!”
“We were going to do it tomorrow,” protests Suneet.
“Gotta do it today. Can’t wait.”
Suneet gets on his bike and the pair ride toward the ravine.
“We don’t have any bottles,” Jimmie gripes.
“There’ve got to be some on the ground. We’ll see some on the way.”
They ride off and Jimmie spots a garbage container on the sidewalk. The two boys quickly shuffle through it and do find two glass bottles that Suneet puts into his bike bag. “We’ll see some more on the way,” Suneet says hopefully.
The pair ride off toward the ravine, the pistol and the bottles making a rattling sound as they go.
On the way there’s another garbage container and the boys pull over to it and start rooting around looking for bottles.
“Is plastic any good?” asks Suneet.
“Naw, won’t smash. It’ll just get torn up.”
“How about a plastic plate? I could throw it like a Frisbee and you could shoot it out of the air.”
“Yeah, that’d be cool.”
As Suneet opens his bike bag to put in the plate, George walks over to them.
“Hello ugly,” he says to Jimmie. “You looking for food in the garbage? Let’s see what you’re eating.” He peers into Suneet’s bike bag. “Empty bottles. Must have tasted real good.”
Suneet is a small very slender boy in contrast with Jimmie, who is taller and sturdier. Jimmie is more of a physical match for George, except Jimmie can’t bring himself to fight back.
George gives Suneet a push and the small boy falls on top of his bicycle as the bottles spill from his bike bag.
“Hey ugly, let’s see what you’ve got to eat,” says George as he walks over to Jimmie. “What’s in your bag?”
“None of your business,” replies Jimmie, emboldened by the knowledge of a pistol within reach of his hand. He slips his hand into the bag and brings out the gun and with both hands points it at George’s face.
“What are you going to do, shoot me?”
Both of Jimmie’s forefingers are on the trigger. “If you don’t leave us alone I will,” Jimmie stammers. “This is a real gun.”
“Where’d you get a real gun?”
“I found it.”
“Yeah? Lemme see.”
“What are you going to do with it?”
“I just wanna see it.”
“You’re lookin’ at it.”
“I wanna see it sideways. I can’t see anything when it’s pointed at me.”
Jimmie lowers the pistol and George takes it from him. “It’s real,” he pronounces. “It smells like it’s been shot.”
“It went off in my bedroom when I was inspecting it,” says Jimmie importantly. “Shot a hole in my door.”
“I’m going to carry it,” says George.
“But it’s mine, I found it,” Jimmie protests. “We were going to the ravine to shoot at bottles.”
“C’mon. I’ll let you watch,” says George. “You can ride me there on your handlebars.”
As the boys are getting ready to ride away, a police car pulls up and Jimmie’s mom jumps out, her hair in rollers. “What have you been doing?” she demands. The police officer steps out with his hand on his holster.
“It’s all over Twitter that you’ve got a gun and are going to shoot it,” says his mom.
“I found it,” Jimmie says meekly.
The cop chimes in: “Where is the gun, son?”
Jimmie points at George: “He’s got it.”
Some more squad cars are arriving as the cop tells George, “Put your hands on your head, son. Do it now!”
George looks stunned and for an instant it seems as if he might run away. But he complies and is frisked, looking quite small during that process. The cop takes the pistol from him. The other cops are all around now. One puts handcuffs on George, who looks shocked and close to tears.
Jimmie feels strangely sorry for his nemesis, seeing him in this condition. George is now just another kid, weak and dependent. In trouble. He’s starting to blubber unintelligible words.
Jimmie’s mom speaks, “Suneet’s mother phoned my cell at the hair dresser’s when she read Twitter. I can’t believe you’d do something so dumb! We’re going to the police station so you can tell them where you found that gun.”
That will be the easy part for Jimmie. He starts to cry.
His real tribulation is sure to come after they get home and his mom discovers what happened there.
# # #
About the author
Frank Touby is a long-time journalist and currently publisher and editor-in-chief of The Bulletin, a Downtown Toronto community newspaper with a large readership and a circulation of 40,000. Frank has worked in Miami TV and radio, was an editor at the Palm Beach Post. He moved to Canada in 1971 and has worked in newspapers, TV and syndicated radio. He occasionally writes short stories and this is one of them.