Go ahead, try it, he said, passing me the shotgun. The long barrel felt cold in my hand.
I don’t know about this, I said, taking a swig of beer. Where am I supposed to point this?
Out over the lake. There’s nobody out there and you’ll never hit nuthin’ on that island.
How do I hold it?
Grab it with your left hand and put the gun to your cheek. Put your right hand on the barrel. Look through the sight and then squeeze the trigger. Nice and slow. Don’t yank it.
It’s just better that way.
This is gonna be good, I heard from behind me. I took another sip of beer and set the bottle down on the picnic table. We were in the backyard of my friend’s parents’ cabin. Four fourteen-year-old boys left unattended and looking for something to do. My teeth clenched against the fifty-degree evening.
Should I stand here or move closer to the shore?
Better stand back here in the trees. Course it don’t matter. Everybody’s gonna know what cabin the shot came from.
All right. I guess I’m ready.
Put it up against your cheek. Pull nice and steady on the trigger.
I did as I was told. My left hand was sweaty, my right numb. I took a deep breath, looked down the barrel across the lake to the island. How far out is that, I thought. Was that a boat on the landing? Are those people in it? Why am I pointing this straight out and not up in the air?
Pain shot through me. It felt like my nose was broken. I had pressed the gun too close to my face. Later I would discover a purple bruise on my shoulder, but for now it was my nose that throbbed. Blood leaked out. Stars sparkled in front of my eyes. My ears rang. My friends were doubled over, their laughter muffled as if they were underwater.
Then just as quickly as it started, the laughter stopped. They looked across the lake. I turned. On the island’s shore two men started running toward the beach, pointing in our direction. They bent over a small lump on the edge of the water.
C’mon—we gotta get the fuck inside right now, my friend yelled from the back porch. Grab the cooler.
It was happening so fast, yet I was in quicksand. My feet couldn’t move; my knees buckled. I glanced back over the lake. More people were rushing to the shore of the island, more pointing. It was too far to know for sure, but I was convinced the small lump was a little boy, his tiny heels leaving tracks in the sand as they dragged him toward a cabin.
Could they see me?
Get the fuck in here, my friend screamed.
In the commotion, I doubt anybody saw the smile creep onto my lips.