I'm not sure what year it was. I think I was in First or Second grade. My brother David would have been in Junior High School. He had received a Daisy air rifle BB gun as a Christmas present and promptly spent the following week shooting tree trunks, blades of grass, basically declaring war on all inanimate objects in the neighborhood.
He became bored with these lifeless enemies, though, so he decided to move on to the most logical next target; our other brother Dan.
Dan is the middle brother; older than me, younger than David.
Anyone who has either been a part of, observed, or even come across a family with three brothers, knows that this is a very dangerous situation, one that is on the verge of combustion at any given time.
Brothers - especially when there are three of them - have a tendency to hurt each other for fun, injure each other for laughs, insult each other as a way to simply pass the time.
David lay on his stomach on the floor of the bedroom.
He was mostly hidden behind the doorway. He aimed the air rifle carefully at Dan, who was vacuuming the living room, a chore my mother had placed on him.
To me David looked like the perfect sniper hiding in the grass, sizing up his unsuspecting victim.
I was behind David and I was absolutely beside myself. I was jumping up and down with an uncontrollable mix of excitement and fear.
"Sh! Quiet!" David whispered back at me.
"Do it! Do it!" I whispered back.
David lay his cheek down carefully on the butt of the gun. He adjusted his eye onto the site and took a slow breath.
Dan was turned away from us, pushing and pulling the vacuum cleaner on the carpet. He was wearing blue jeans, his butt a worthy and inviting target.
The suspense was killing me.
David pulled the trigger.
The wail that came from Dan's mouth was a thing of terrifying beauty.
It pierced that wall of vacuum-cleaner noise and must certainly have travelled out into the street, to the neighbor's houses.
He twisted to look down at his own butt, where a clear indentation the size of a tiny BB showed in his blue jeans. The BB itself had fallen harmlessly to the floor.
My mother came rushing into the room, as David and I quickly hid inside the bedroom, sharing hysterical laughter.
Our laughter gave us away. My mom and Dan came into the room and looked at us.
"Did you shoot your brother with the BB gun?"
We tried to hold our laughter, but couldn't. We were cracking up uncontrollably.
Even Dan, who was settling into the knowledge that his jeans had prevented any real injury, was beginning to smile a little.
"Listen," my mom said, "there's no shooting people. You don't shoot your brother in the house. Do you hear me? No shooting your brother in the house."
I guess it was a reasonable new ground rule to lay down.
It was too late, though. The moment had already happened, and a moment like that lasts forever.
February 14, 2014