I grew up thinking that, after five years, my parents just decided they wanted a couple of more kids. I kept that assumption clear up until I was 19 and was riding with my dad in his pickup. We were listening to the news on the radio (my dad was a news junkie) and the announcer just finished discussing a story of unwanted pregnancies. My dad looked over at me for a second:
Him: “What’s it feel like to be an accident?”
Me: “Um, I didn’t know I was an accident.”
Him (bulling through the awkwardness): “Well, you were. You should think on it.”
I asked my mom about it later and she said she thought of me as a ‘surprise’ rather than an accident. For some reason, that didn’t really help much.
The five year span between siblings made a difference in growing up. I wasn’t real close to my three oldest siblings, except when I was a baby and my sister wanted another girl in the family so badly she sometimes dressed me in girls’ clothes. Thankfully, I was too young to mind and now I don’t even remember, so it has never bothered me or caused me any kind of sexual confusion. As I got bigger, she finally realized that I wasn’t going to turn into a girl and stopped pretending that I was.
Because I was closer in age to the brother just before me, Glen, he is the one I spent most of my time around. That’s not to say that spending time around Glen was a lot of fun. Being a year and a half older than I, he often relieved his boredom by picking on me until I finally fired back, which gave him the reason he was looking for to beat the hell out of me. This was a pretty common occurrence. If he really got to me, I would hit him first, but I always avoided his head, because I really didn’t want to hurt him. He wasn’t burdened by that hesitance and always tried for maximum damage.
Sometimes, when he had me pinned to the floor beating me, a wild look would come into his eyes. That scary ‘lights-are-on-but-nobody’s-home’ look. That’s when I truly wondered about his mental stability –while I was struggling to get free, of course.
But sometimes Karma actually does kick in and people get their comeuppance.
My siblings and I grew up around firearms, firearms safety and use, and hunting. If my memory is correct, we had our first BB guns when we were seven or eight and a .22 rifle not too many years after that. In our early teens we started hunting and had larger caliber rifles. I saved up and bought a bolt action Savage 30-06 and Glen was given dad’s Remington pump action 30-06.
The day of Glen’s comeuppance came when he, my mother and I were the only ones at home. We lived out of town a few miles and it was a beautiful summer day. My mom told me to take the paper garbage out to the burning barrel in the back yard and burn it.
Side note: There is a bit of arsonist in all boys, so this was one chore I didn’t mind at all.
I watched the fire, mesmerized as the flames danced around the barrel’s interior
And that’s when I heard the shot. It sounded like an explosion coming from inside the house. The shot was immediately followed by Glen screaming.
I ran for the house, thinking he had shot mom, then I had a flash of that vacant, ugly stare he sometimes had when he beat me, so I slowed down a bit. Better not to rush into the unknown, especially if that unknown involves a gun and a possibly unstable brother.
When I finally heard mom’s voice I ventured inside and discovered what had happened. Glen kept his rifle on a wall rack and with a loaded magazine in it. In his boredom, he took the rifle down, took out the magazine and began racking the pump and dry-firing the gun at different things around his room. Mom called him to do some chore or other, so he slapped the magazine back into the rifle and put it back on the rack.
When he finished the chore, he went back to his room and picked up the rifle again. Except this time he forgot he had put the loaded magazine back in it. When he racked the slide, he unknowingly chambered a cartridge. He pointed it at a few things around his room, but then saw his cat walking across the front yard.
He slid open the window, aimed at the cat, and promptly blew half of its neck away.
Where karma can be a real bitch, is that this was his cat; a cat he had raised, fed and that slept at the foot of his bed every night for years.
When he finally quieted from his screaming and crying, I took his gun, unloaded the magazine, put the gun back on the rack, and gave the magazine to mom. Once Glen had calmed down enough, mom sent us out to bury the cat.
Glen walked slowly. I got to the cat before he did. The upper half of the cat’s neck was gone, but it was still alive and trying to breath. It made an odd sucking/hissing noise. As Glen came up behind me, I couldn’t help but think that, although the cat didn’t deserve this, he certainly did. I also couldn’t help but make a wisecrack.
Me: “I don’t know Glen. It’s not dead yet. Maybe it’ll make it.”
He saw the cat, glared at me and lifted the shovel.
Him: “I don’t think so.” He put the cat out of its misery with the shovel and stood looking at it, still crying. I still couldn’t hold back.
Me: “Hey? You know how you’re always picking fights with me and beating me up?”
He looked at me, with a frown and one eyebrow raised in question.
Me: “Karma can be a bitch sometimes, huh?”
He chased me for awhile with the shovel raised in his hands, but I think his emotions had exhausted him and I easily out ran him.
After the cat incident I could honestly say that I never saw a more careful, safety-minded person around firearms than my brother.
Still, I never turn my back on him.