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12 November 2000

I'm in my sister-in-law's black books again.

Saturday night Ma and I stopped over to visit after attending the Spaghetti and Meatball Dinner Lauren's soccer league put on to raise funds for new warmup suits(!). Jon had press-ganged us into buying tickets to the dinner of course, but submitting with good grace, we presented ourselves at the appointed hour and were duly seated and perfunctorily served by Lauren who thereafter made only brief appearances between more pressing social obligations-- and enjoyed a pretty decent dinner under the hawklike gazes of team mates Nicole and Cassandra, who were as assiduous in their attention to us as Lauren was divided. Oliver Twist never watched a meal more intently than those two urchins watched me and Ma. They stood almost at our elbows, and after each forkful they'd ask either "Can we get you some more?" and streak off like lightning to get it, or "Are you finished with that?" and they'd grab the unwanted dish and be off like Mercury on winged feet. It was quite a show. Good kids. We enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Anyway, as I say, we stopped over to the house afterwards. And we got to talking about the upcoming holidays, and that made me remember that the guy at the gun shop said he'd clean up the 12 gauge that belonged to our great grandfather for $35, and I thought Jon might like to have it—

Susan told Jon where he could put it. In his office— at work. Not in the house. Doesn't matter that it can't be fired, or that it's a family heirloom of sorts, or that's it's kind of a pretty thing in and of itself, a nice old Lefever with Damascus steel barrel, and scroll work and— Susan does not like guns.

Come to think of it, that's why I've got these six guns in my upstairs closet and a box of ammo and clay pigeons in the basement. When Ma got evicted four years ago (bad cess to Kenny the Rat!), we couldn't send the guns with the movers, so I had to take them to my house. The Lefever, the 20 gauge, two-and-a-half 22's, and the BB gun to boot. I hauled them from Ma's and put them in my upstairs closet and forgot about them.

But this fall I got to thinking about them again. Got to remembering fall days and rambles in the woods, and thinking about going out shooting— not hunting, mind. I'm a target shooter. When Jon and I were the ages of Sarah and Lauren now, Dad used to take the whole family target shooting up to Bergeson's sand pit— Hood's now— most fall weekends. We'd shoot tin cans, light bulbs, what have you. Jon was the best shot of all of us, little as he was...

I wasn't bad, but they used to tease me for not being as good. It galled me a bit then, me not being used to being second best at anything...

Dad fancied himself a hunter. Sometimes he'd insist we go to the dump and shoot rats. I don't remember any of us ever hitting one, but we'd go and we'd shoot at... whatever seemed to move. When Jon got bigger, Dad took him hunting. Rabbits, partridge, pheasant. Later Dad and Jon got into skeet shooting...

I liked shooting, wanted to shoot skeet, but by then they didn't want a girl along, especially one who was only a fair shot. And there's a story Ma told me a few weeks ago that might explain why my company wasn't courted...

Dad used to take Ma out with him. He called it hunting, but Ma thought of it differently. One day they were up at Trout Brook. They had stopped to rest up at the tressle. There's a good view up there. For some reason that is now obscure, Dad had gone off down across the way, leaving Ma was sitting there with the guns. Suddenly, Ma heard Dad shout. She couldn't make out what he was saying, but she looked and saw he was pointing skyward. Looking up, she saw a big ol' hawk circling overhead. She waved back at Dad and then continued enjoying watching the hawk until it flew off.

In a few minutes Dad came crashing up the hill, hopping mad. "Didn't you hear me?" he shouted at her. "Yes," she said. "It was a hawk." Naturally, Dad continued yelling: "I told you to shoot it! You were sitting there right by the guns, dammit! Why didn't you shoot it?" And he went on shouting.

The truth is, Ma never thought of that. Why would anyone want to shoot a hawk? Well, I don't know, either. Ma says Dad continued to yell at her the whole way home. And, knowing Ma as I do, I can tell you that Dad got no satisfaction from it. Ma's got a way of just fixing you with a slightly amused wide-eyed look and — she just isn't there. She stands there listening to you, appearing completely sublimely unperterbed by your performance, be you ever so loud, or ever so eloquent in your fury. Ma is a slippery opponent— almost as if she has a natural apptitude for verbal Push-Hands.* I find it quite aggravating. I'm surprised Dad didn't go off in an appoplexy that day.

Anyway, I found the story illuminating. I have my Dad's temper, but I've got a lot of Ma in me, too. And I bet Dad was worried that I might turn out to be every bit as aggravating as Ma.

I've been wondering how I'd do now. At shooting, I mean. I've proved time and time again that I'm aggravating in the extreme. Over the intervening years I've discovered that it's my left eye that's my distance eye and all those years they were telling me to sight with my right. It makes a big difference. And I've learned a thing or two.

But I don't even know where I could go shooting now. I know one thing: I couldn't just set out with the 22 under my arm and a box of shells in my pocket like we used to do. The cops'd have me in custody by the time I got to the footbridge...

Ah, well. I'll have all the guns cleaned and checked over, and maybe I'll ask about lessons. There are enough gun clubs around that I'm bound to be able to find some place to shoot a few targets— and don't you tell Susan!

* Push-Hands is t'ai chi practice for partners. "The basic principle of Push Hands is yielding," one of the books says. One partner pushes, the other, only through yielding, resists and remains unmoved by the attack. That's the best way I can explain it at this point. I haven't learned much about it yet. But I have to tell you, the description vividly brings Ma to mind.


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