I like the weight of experience when I write. I’m not saying I’m hankering to carve up some long pork — but if I happen to cut myself, I’ll probably do a taste test. To this end, it had been on my to-do list FOREVER to fire a handgun. I wanted to feel the weight of hard steel in my hands. Jeffrey feared his lack of experience with weapons made him a bad American. So I found a gun club in Newtown, and we organised an appointment.
Usually the club has open days where the general public can go visit with the gun enthusiasts, hoping to perhaps fondle a weapon. I emailed to ask the odds of getting to shoot at one of these, neatly slipping in that it was RESEARCH FOR A NOVEL. The super-friendly club president emailed me back — they didn’t have any open days before Christmas, but he’d be happy to give us a private lesson.
(This is when I discovered the power of NOVEL-FU. People will do SO MANY HELPFUL THINGS if they’re for a novel. Medical problem? Long wait at a restaurant? IT’S FOR MY NOVEL fixes EVERYTHING. Everyone wants to help write a novel!)
The problem with me blogging about this first is that Jef would probably be far more likely to remember ACTUAL THINGS about what we did, whereas I just know that one gun was big, and one was BIGGER.
And both of them went bang.
I ALSO know that Jef was a better shot, but I choose to believe that this is because he was SLIGHTLY DRUNK. (He’s not REGULARLY slightly drunk on workday afternoons (TO MY KNOWLEDGE). There were circumstances.) You may think that being drunk would throw you off, but where my arms quivered like bow strings and my heart jackhammered at my ribs, his beer-poached adrenaline gland just shrugged and took a nap. He was steadier, and thus his aim APPEARED to be better. Much, much better.
(Or such is my THEORY, and since we are unlikely to face off in a shootout anytime SOON, I will be sticking with it.)
(Jeffrey, if we ever face off in a shootout, you are to be SOBER. Or on the back end of a tequila bender. Or tied to a chair.)
I expected to feel excited. I’d fired rifles as a kid, taking pot shots at cans with my cousins. I’ve been rabbit hunting and eeling and turkey shooting, all of which were AWFUL — but it was always the animals that bothered me, rather than the guns. But I was seriously freaking out when they handed me that first gun.
Maybe it’s because I’m older now, more conscious of my mortality. Maybe I’m too tree-huggy these days. Maybe it’s my impulse control issues, like I was afraid that the part of me that always wanted to be an outlaw was going to JUST TAKE OVER and ice some bitches. The revolver felt heavy and portentous and MEAN in my hands. I raised the gun, squinted at the blurry smudge of the sight (I wasn’t wearing my glasses (ALSO, IN OUR SHOOTOUT, I GET TO WEAR MY GLASSES)) and squeezed the trigger.
The gun went POP.
It was kind of cute. Admittedly I was wearing earmuffs, but it felt much like a .22 or an air rifle. It popped my wrists up and made a little noise, and put a tiny wee hole in my paper target. It was ADORABLE.
THIS ISN’T SO SCARY, I thought smugly, and emptied the chamber. (Is that the right term? Emptied the clip? It didn’t have a clip. I SHOT ALL THE BULLETS.) Jef did the same beside me, although more methodically and with far greater accuracy. Half-drunk asshole. We put the guns down and stepped back to review, both now grinning like fools.
MORE, Jef cried, shaking his fists at the sky. I NEED MORE! He was drunk on power as well as beer. My hands were quivering, my face stuck in some kind of crazed rictus that should have made our friendly coaching fellow back up a step or two.
Instead, he gave us BIGGER GUNS.
Oh, second gun! Wonderful second gun. Second gun (the technical name of which is blah-blah-blah xxx, until such time as someone tells me different, or I can be bothered googling it) was BIGGER and LONGER and HEAVIER. It looked, to me, like an old West gunslinger gun, or exactly the gun I want my trigger-happy After cowboy carrying. The bullets were enormous. When I picked up the loaded gun, it was difficult to hold level. It had HEFT. It had DANGER.
It was hard to pull the hammer back. The first time I tried, I didn’t put enough power behind it and had to re-adjust my grip to get it cocked. THAT’S A GUN. I squeezed the trigger, and this gun did not pop. It BOOMED, and it KICKED. The tops of my arms hurt for two days afterward from the effort of fighting the recoil. A tendril of smoke curled out of the barrel after each shot. Later, Jef told me that, as I fired, the empty shells were flicking out the side and hitting him in the next booth.
We shot two rounds each into our little targets, and then prepared to say goodbye. BUT WAIT, Friendly Coaching Fellow said, THERE’S MORE! Since this is for A NOVEL, I’m going to let you guys do something a little special.
Second gun, he informed us, was double-action. This meant nothing to me.
Double-action guns don’t NEED to be cocked before firing. You can just squeeze the trigger extra hard, and the gun will fire. NEAR CONTINUOUSLY. What he was saying, essentially, was that he was going to let us be RAMBO.
I went first. I took a test shot. SqueeeeeeeBOOM!
And then I LOST MY MIND. I would not be terribly surprised if it was later revealed that I emptied the rest of the rounds while cackling maniacally, head thrown back and hair blowing in the wind, one foot planted on the prone forms of my enemies. It was, as they say, A RUSH. It was better than skydiving. Better than sex. Better than BUTTERY FRUIT TOAST, which, as everyone knows, is the end of the scale.
Jeffrey went next. The love of power and the need to win warred behind his eyes, and the need to win won. He paused between each shot to check his aim, which is CHEATING. But this did mean that his rounds actually made it onto the target, whereas mine tracked up off the top of it and into the sky as I lost control of the recoil. Although he may have won on paper, I won in spirit. I might die first in our shootout, but I’ll look WAY more dramatic doing it.
AND THAT WAS OUR ADVENTURE. Check back before the end of the decade for Jef’s account, which will probably include things like FACTS and whatever. YAWN.