The Christmas my twin brother and I were 12 or 13 was a violent one. Wrapped and waiting under the tree for John was an air rifle. For me, it was a hunting sling shot.
After the carnage of opening presents, we had a big family breakfast. From then until supper, John and I were outside, shootin' stuff.
The rifle was the real prize. I liked my sling shot, but I couldn't hit anything with it.
John: Can you hit the side of the barn from here?
Me: Ha. Watch me.
(I shoot. I miss.)
Me: I guess not.
We traded them back and forth, both us us impatiently wanting to be the guy with the gun. We put a lot of holes in pop cans. It was boy heaven. Then John got bored.
John: (pumping the gun to prepare for a shot) You'd better run.
By this, I knew he meant he was going to shoot me*. The gun took ten pumps to prime. He was at pump three when he gave me his warning. This gave me seven pumps to get as far away as possible.
Oh, how I ran. We were in the field behind the greenhouses. I knew if I could just run around the corner of the first greenhouse I'd be safe. No way would he chase me with the gun. If Mum or Dad saw him, they'd take it back, for sure.
Just as I was about to clear the corner, I turned to see if he was really serious.
He really was.
I do not remember exactly what syllable I screamed out, but I do know that I probably couldn't spell it now, even phonetically. A very small, hurt animal with a big mouth and powerful lungs screamed from the very depth of me (specifically, the flaming red welt that instantly appeared on my thigh).
I still held my sling shot in my left hand. My right hand instinctively reached to the ground and picked up an egg-sized piece of snow. I squeezed it, letting the force and heat of my palm melt it into a perfect projectile.
John: (pumping the gun again) Go ahead! You haven't hit anything all day.
I placed the snow into the leather pocket of the sling. I pulled it back as far as the rubber would allow. I looked through the forked prongs to my brother. I let it go with a curse and a prayer.
I never before or since hit anything with that sling shot. I nailed him square in the forehead, just above the brow line, barely an inch from the bridge of his nose. The blow and surprise threw him on his back in the snow.
Later at Christmas dinner, we had to find some reason why John had a red mark in the middle of his forehead that didn't involve us shooting each other. I wish I could remember what it was.
*I should point out that my brother is not a violent man. He is, in fact, a one of the most gentle men I have ever known. I was, however, very obnoxious. Our childhood was peppered by a series of incidents where I pushed my gentle brother until he snapped. The fact that he shot me tells me I was particularly "on" that day.