The original idea behind this scene was to make Josh seem a little lonelier and a little more dangerous. When the time came to edit the manuscript, though, the scene just didn’t feel like an organic part of the rest of the story. My editor pointed out that I had just written a book in which Fanboy carried around a bullet. Putting a gun in Josh’s hand felt like I was repeating myself.
Honestly, I had already been thinking in that direction, but I thought no one would notice. But having my editor say something drove it home to me: Josh’s gun and Fanboy’s bullet were too similar. So I killed the scene.
By the way, in the original draft of the manuscript, Josh takes the rifle with him when he goes to visit Eve at the end of the book. When I got rid of the rifle, I gave him a baseball bat for that final scene. I actually think he’s scarier with the bat!
The Rec Center formally requested that I withdraw from the boxing program and from all other Rec Center activities. Which was fine with me, since I wasn’t about to go back there. Dr. Kennedy spent some time talking to me about a bunch of things, including “uncontrolled anger.” I thought that was pretty funny; I was absolutely in control of my anger. I had it leashed and heeling like a guard dog.
I drive home because there’s really nowhere else to go. The whole town is marked, somehow. It used to be that I just avoided the Narc because I knew Rachel worked there. But that was easy. I knew where she would be most of the time — either in school or at work. But now, with Eve out of prison… Eve could be anywhere. I could search the whole town.
At home, I’m antsy and nervous. I watch the news on the good TV in Dad’s den; Eve’s a blip, a four-second mention before a commercial. They show old footage of her being escorted into a police station, wearing a navy blue skirt and jacket, impeccable and gorgeous as always.
The reporter says, “Since her release, Sherman has become a registered sex offender and must maintain a hundred-yard distance from her victim, a former student of hers whose name is being withheld since he was a minor at the time of the abuse. Back to you in the studio.”
And that’s it. Unless she does something — or someone does something to her — she won’t be on the news again.
I strum my fingers on the arm of Dad’s chair. Hours to go until I pick up Zik after practice. I should go to the batting cages. I should do something.
But I don’t want to leave the house. I might—
Dad’s rifle beckons me from its bracket on the wall.
Living in Brookdale, guns are just a part of your life, whether you own one or not. There’s a shooting club that echoes the air with reports all weekend long (except for a respite Sunday morning when the good ol’ boys are at church), and hunting season is still something some unenlightened folks take their kids out of school for.
Even my dad, a city boy from a long line of city boys, got caught up in it once upon a time and went hunting for a few seasons, back when I was a kid. It was part of a whole “back to nature” kick of his that lasted about two years while I was in Cub Scouts. I think going on the father/son camping trips with me made him yearn for the outdoors or something. There’s still the old 30.06 on the rack in his den, though he hasn’t used it for years.
I’m not a nut for guns, but I have a respect for them, I have to admit. Zik’s father and brother are rednecks to the core, so his house is sort of like a hill-billy arsenal. I learned how to clean a gun by watching Zik’s dad back when I used to spend time at Zik’s house, before I had a car and could get us both the hell out of there. So every six months or so, I take Dad’s old rifle and clean it for him so that it won’t go all rusty and crummy. And once a year, Zik and I set up targets in the back yard and take turns blowing things to hell, just to keep it in working order.
I take the rifle down from the wall and rummage around in Dad’s desk drawer for ammo. He used to keep all of this stuff locked up, but that was when I was much younger. Once I turned sixteen, I guess he realized that I wasn’t terribly likely to blow my head off by accident.
There’s only half a box of shells left from the last time Zik and I went all “action movie” on our targets. I pocket them, sling the rifle over my shoulder, and head outside.
Our back yard isn’t particularly huge, but it has the illusion of size; our property abuts on a farm, separated by a barbed wire fence. So as soon as you walk out the back door, you see nothing but endless rolling hills and fields to the horizon. The farmer rotates horse corn and soybeans, but every couple of years he just lets this particular field lie fallow for some reason. He told my parents a while back that, during those seasons, they should feel free to hop the fence if they ever want to roam the outdoors or whatever. Which is great for them, but for me, it means a few acres of target practice.
I slip under the barbed wire. (Or, as it’s called in these parts, “bob wire.”) I don’t have any targets with me, nor do I have a destination in mind. I just sort of roam the field, searching for things that look interesting and/or challenging to shoot: A leftover stalk of corn, leaning and twitching in the breeze. A clump of moss humped like a turtle shell. A beehive hanging from a tree limb like a bloated bat.
I pretend I’m under attack, dodging and ducking as I take aim at random targets of opportunity. My breath comes rapid and harsh, and every time I threaten to drop into a flicker, I pull the trigger and the slam-bang of the blast shocks me back into the present before I can fall into the past. The sky echoes with my gunfire. It’s like I’m my own war movie, my own gang shooting, my own firing squad.
I catch movement out of the corner of my eye and I stop, dead in my tracks. The movement arrests.
I turn my head slowly, looking down to the ground. A grayish-brown rabbit perches there, stock-still, its ears perked up. Its nose twitches. It stopped moving as soon as I did. It has its head cocked so that one of its weird, side-mounted eyes is fixed on me.
I lower the rifle just a bit and sight down the barrel. The rabbit stays frozen, clearly thinking it’s invisible. But it’s not.
Bang. Pow. Explosion of blood and fur.
No. No. I don’t pull the trigger. Of course not.
Instead, I tilt the rifle up and fire a shot into the air, screaming at the same time. The rabbit hauls ass, spinning and darting away, its little white cottontail winking like an eye as it vanishes into the distance. A part of me wants to run after it, chase it down to its hidey-hole, and beg it to let me crawl in and stay there, warm and safe underground.