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SHOOTING MY BROTHER

Nebraska Review 21.2

     My brother Ben and I get along pretty well most of the time but I still shoot him whenever I can. I shoot him with rubber bands and bows and arrows and water pistols and sling shots and BB guns and whatever else is handy. He shoots me too, but he doesn't usually start things. He does it more to get even.
     Like this time my friends and I are hanging out in the woods drinking blackberry brandy and firing off the brass detonator caps from these shotgun shells one kid stole from his father's gun chest. The brandy is stolen too. The kid who brought it said it wouldn't be missed because his parents never drank that shit.
     To fire the detonator caps, we cut them from the back of the shotgun shells, place them on a flat rock, and bash them with another rock. This makes a really neat explosion, like a pistol crack, and Ben hears this and comes by to find out what's going on, and of course he wants to do it too. The brandy has made me a little crazy, and I set one of the brass shell bottoms on its side instead of flat, with the detonator cap kind of pointing at Ben, and give it a good bash with a rock. I swear I didn't think it would work but it does. It fires and the brass cap hits Ben in the arm.
     So then, Ben begins to run around in a little circle with his arm held straight out in front of him, making this high pitched noise that sounds like "hee, hee, hee, hee, hee." Tears are streaming down his face and I'm getting scared and finally I yell for him to shut up and stand still so I can see how bad it looks and if I can fix it before Mom gets home.
     There isn't much blood and you can see where the brass cap entered his arm just above the wrist. From there, a thin bluish bulge extends in a straight line about 3 inches up his arm ending in a hard little knot where the cap stopped under the skin. But it isn't anything I can fix myself with iodine and a Band-Aid even if I could get him not to tell, which I can't, so I know I'm gonna get it from Mom.
     When Mom gets home she takes Ben to the doctor and of course she gets the whole story out of him and then she smacks me a couple of good ones. Says I could have put his eye out or maybe killed him. She makes me stay in my room for two weeks. Even for meals.

     A couple of months later, Ben and I get Daisy air rifles for Christmas from our father, who moved out a few years ago. These guns are the best, with real bluing on the barrels and real wood stocks and fast pump action, and Mom doesn't want us to have them at all.
     Mom makes us memorize and repeat and promise to follow a lot of safety rules about using the guns exclusively for target practice and hunting, but I know for a fact that Fred and Johnny Taylor up the road also got BB guns for Christmas, and that opens up some wonderful possibilities for warfare and heroism.

     Fred Taylor is a big happy kid who likes shooting his brother Johnny as much as I like shooting Ben, so we have that in common and we sort of form an alliance. So then my brother Ben and Johnny Taylor figure they had better form their own alliance, which they do, and we all carry our guns on the ready at all times.
     One day Fred and I are waiting in ambush for Ben and Johnny. We're up on a hillside behind some trees and boulders overlooking the road bordered by a stone wall about 50 yards below. When Ben and Johnny come down the road we open fire and they take cover behind the stone wall and return our fire. I'm pissed at Ben for something he pulled earlier and I really want to get him good. I yell for Fred to cover me and begin to advance down the hillside, running from tree to tree. My plan is to charge the last few yards, jump over the stone wall, and blast my brother point blank.
     Now I'm behind the last tree with about 10 yards of open ground between me and the stone wall and my gun pumped and on the ready. I take a cautious squint around the side of the tree to see if the coast is clear for my final charge and that's when Ben stands up and shoots me in the eye.
     He shoots me right smack in the right eye. I can't believe it. I'm going "Oh shit, oh shit," and kneeling down and cupping the eye with both hands. Fred yells "truce" and Fred and Ben and Johnny come running.

     My eye is getting swollen and it hurts like hell. I can't see anything out of it, only a milky green filmy kind of light. Ben is really sorry and scared, and I tell him and Fred and Johnny we had better come up with a pretty good story or we'll all lose the BB guns. So we all agree to say that I tripped in the woods and fell on a stick which jabbed into my eye.
     And that seems to work at first, except things get tricky because the Norwalk Hospital tells my mother there's a "foreign body" in my eye and they want to operate on it. I tell her it has to be a piece of the stick but I figure they'll find the BB in there and the shit will hit the fan. But Mom says you don't take any chances as far as eyes are concerned, and she takes me to Columbia Presbyterian for a second opinion. They say the "foreign body" is actually a blood clot that will eventually dissolve, so the story holds up and we keep the BB guns.
     Ben and I didn't shoot each other for a while after that. I knew he felt bad about my eye, but I didn't really think it was his fault. He was just defending himself.
     I couldn't see anything out of that eye for about two months. Then one day when I was feeling better I took out the old Daisy, gave it a pump, and muzzle loaded it with a straight pin. I walked up behind Ben and shot him in the ass from about 3 feet away. That pin must have gone in a good half inch.
     He screamed like a girl.

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