“TJ, wake up!”
TJ rolled over, reached down to the outlet, and flipped on his race car nightlight. His grandmother must have turned it off at some point after he fell asleep. His room suddenly illuminated in a weak blanket of light. Brent had done this exact same thing to him a few weeks before, so TJ fully expected an encore of the rubber Wolf-Man mask glaring at him again. This time, though, TJ told himself he wouldn’t scream.
Nonetheless, he was quite relieved to see only Brent’s narrow face hovering a few inches above his own. No Wolf-Man this time.
“What’s goin’ on?” he mumbled. When his lips moved, he was vaguely aware of dried saliva cracking upon his face.
“Put your shoes on,” Brent demanded.
As little brothers are prone to do, TJ plopped out of bed without hesitation. He slid on his sneakers and pulled their shoelaces tight.
Rubbing his eyes as only a child can, he next peered expectantly at Brent, his elder by an immense chasm of five years. He noticed Brent wore his army man belt fastened about the waist over his pajama pants and St. Louis Cardinals t-shirt. He’d even gone so far as to attach the canteen. TJ wondered if he’d bothered to fill it with water.
In Brent’s left hand, he held the rifle.
Although TJ did not make a habit of questioning Brent, he innately understood that the middle of the night coupled with his brother and a rifle boded well for no one.
“What’s the gun for?”
“Don’t be a baby.”
Though he couldn’t quite articulate why, the younger boy’s face flushed.
TJ couldn’t see the rifle in any great detail due to the frailty of the nightlight. However, he had carefully studied it in the past. For instance, he knew there were six kill marks notched in the wood just in front of the trigger.
Brent ordered, “Follow me.”
The two boys moved silently throughout their grandparents’ house and, at Brent’s insistence, were careful not to turn on any lights. They slunk to the front door.
TJ watched, his heart giving off a sonic boom with each beat, while Brent slowly undid the deadbolt with the precision of a bomb technician.
He eased the door open just a crack, then turned his head so he could face TJ.
“Okay,” he whispered, “you’re going to back me up on this thing, right?”
Despite the fact that TJ had no idea what they were getting into, he found himself nodding like a neglected dog.
“I’m going to throw open this door, and then we rush ’em, okay? That’s what we’re gonna do.”
Before TJ knew it, he sprinted madly behind his brother into the cool, November air. He watched in unabashed admiration as his brother, in one graceful motion, leapt over the decorative wooden fence lining the front walk while lifting the rifle to his shoulder.
Planting his foot with every intention of mimicking the agile move, TJ powered into the air as well, but his pudgy little body proved too much a disadvantage and he caught his right foot. He fell face-first into the grass.
Brent exploded, “Get outta here!”
TJ next heard screams. There were the terrified sounds of people decidedly . . . older.
“Crazy kid’s got a gun!” he heard a man’s panicked voice erupt above all the others.
Thousand of confusing thoughts tore through TJ’s nine-year-old mind as he noticed the toilet paper billowing in the light breeze. It hung from his grandparents’ trees. He found the moon peeking through the dark limbs with the swaying toilet paper quite beautiful. In contrast to the loveliness of the moon, the toilet paper, and the trees, however, was the stark image of grown-ups racing through the yard toward their trucks and mini-vans while Brent chased them, his unloaded World War II relic of a rifle positioned to kill.
After Brent and TJ came to live with their grandparents, Brent took an immense interest in his grandfather’s father, who had been killed while on patrol in France during WWII. TJ and Brent’s grandfather was only too happy to allow the boy to keep some prized mementoes in his room, including the antiquated rifle.
Brent’s primary objective had been met. The trespassers feared for their lives and were executing a resounding retreat.
Light suddenly showered TJ. He spun over on the itchy grass, lifted his hand in front of his eyes to better see, and then discerned a large silhouette garbed in a tank top and boxers filling the doorway to the house.
With one of his grandsons eating a face full of grass and the other pointing a rifle at his co-workers, TJ and Brent’s grandfather groaned, “Aw, hell …”
Copyright © 2007 by Scott William Foley.
Originally published in the November 2007 issue of 60 Plus News and Views.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.