It was a hot summer’s day in the sand hills of Georgia.  Our teenage friend had gathered us little kids – there were about five or six of us – into our back yard to show us something.

“This here’s a pellet gun,” he solemnly announced.  He held out the long rifle with both hands for us to see; all us little kids leaned forward to take in this remarkable weapon.  Most of us had seen – and owned – BB guns – the ol’ Daisy brand, spring loaded; cocking weapon.  Most of us had been shot (multiple times) over and over again through these guns; we were actively engaging in BB gun wars.

“This ain’t no BB gun,” he commented as we took in the long barrel.  It looked like a BB gun to me.  “This things a whole bunch more powerful.”

And with that he began pumping up the thing.

Aiming at a tree (a small scrub oak kind of thing – it ‘looks’ about an inch and a half wide in my eyes; correcting for a small child’s vision .. and knowledge of our yard … yeah, an inch and a half, maybe an inch?) – he took a shot.

“Peeyow!!!”  The pellet gun barked and we kids took off to see what could be seen.  The tree he’d shot had been about twenty feet away; maybe a little bit more.

The pellet had ripped through the bark, and then through the tree, spitting out a small handful of splinters on the other side.  (I can still ‘see’ that tree perfectly, the wound on its back gaping.)

The teenager had ambled up as we oohed and awed over the ‘tremendous damage’ (we’d never seen any such thing before in our lives).

“That’s why you don’t want to make me mad,” he warned us seriously, fingering the tree’s wound (we were fingering it too) …. and I felt a great tremble of fear.  “I could kill you with this thing.   And I might . . . if you go and make me mad.”

And so there it was – the single warning we would get during our childhood; the only one I recall from him (but … I dunno; Mikie’s screaming that weren’t the only one; the only time …. visions and pictures in the darkness; the teenager’s there; we are scurrying around … the party? we are thinking? or was it a different one?  We don’t know and we aren’t sure.)

But I know from that moment on our lips were shut on this thing.  Nobody wanted to be shot with that gun.  No one wanted the teenager pissed off at them.  He was (to our baser knowledge) – the only one with a gun. If the other teenagers had them, we didn’t know – after all, THIS was the one who played with us; he was our ‘friend’.

I don’t know why he felt his need to demonstrate this thing to us unless it was what in he said.  I don’t even know if it was a real threat.  He may have just been pointing out something. … I don’t know what.

But I do know this.

After that we were a little scared of him.  And scared of him all the time.

(and yet … we went on loving him … ‘making love’ with him … doing his bidding.  He was our best friend’s older brother; he had been placed ‘above’ all us kids by the neighborhood parents; he was the ONLY teenage friend in that sort of position; ALL the parents trusted him … felt he was real good with us children – because he took care of us; played almost ALL of the time only with us, his little friends; and helped us along our way … towards what, I don’t know.  But in this – the pellet gun and things … I dunno.  We’re kinda mucked up on all of that thing and this one, too…

But it wasn’t until the last two days I realized: he was always playing with us kids; no one else.  None of the other teenagers were his ‘friend’; or if they were, it was to come later when he turned about 16.  (see “the Betrayal“)   But he was the neighborhood’s ‘favorite’ babysitter; the one who was ‘always there’ when we – or the parents – needed him.  That tells ya something; I just don’t know what that something IS.

But it’s pretty damned obvious: he cowed us with this thing.  And my brain is whirling right now … filled with images of darkness; moving figures; HIM being there … and wondering …

did he ever threaten us again?  Does it matter?  We weren’t going to tell on him (I think; I dunno; we were pretty mad after the Betrayal.   We almost betrayed him.  We almost told where we’d learned (and what we’d learned) “fuck” is.  He was the one who’d taught us that thing…and we hated him for that (the betrayal.)  After that things were never the same again … and it hurt our hearts HARD in this thing; this thing we had learned as love …. and Love itself, I’m thinking … for we were betrayed in love, by love, and through love ….

No wonder we have trouble with that thing.