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Memories and Stories from an insomniac

 

The Life of a Suburban Teenager #2 

He laid his aching hands on the keyboard and stroked the worn keys wondering when life had become so painful. He had managed to sleep a few hours before the painkillers wore off and made sleeping impossible. Laying in the empty darkness only let the ghosts ride in on the loneliness and the memories ate at him. He stared at the dirty wall and the memories came.

His parents had gone out for the day. A couple of mates, Little Joe and Bob, were visiting and their motorbikes were in the driveway with his own. They had just arrived and everyone was standing on the porch by the front door talking. The old man smiled as he remembered how his brothers had been there, they got on well with his friends.

 

It was a short street, about seven houses before the cul-de-sac. The houses on his side were built at the back of their blocks and sloped down to the street. They all had small retaining-walls of a metre or so where they met the street and the yards were lawn and unfenced. So it was that there was a clear view to the end of the street.

 

 He had been the first to see the car as it cruised into sight. The extractors on the engine burbled as low-gear kept it barely moving down the hill that ran past the house where they stood. He could see the silhouettes of several guys and there was a rifle barrel pointing sky-wards from the far-side rear window.

 

The passengers in the car couldn’t have expected anyone to be hanging around outside. He suspected the idea had been to cruise around the cul-de-sac and do reconnaissance before firing into the house when the rifle would be on that side of the car and the vehicle would be pointing in the correct direction to escape.

 

 He had been taught there were unwritten laws if you had a beef with someone back then. Even of it was serious, family, home, work-places and people who don't want to be involved, weren't. He remembered looking at his brothers orbiting around Bob and Little Joe in the line of fire. His mother and father or neighbours could have been injured too. The car might not have been going to his house. There was a guy in the street that was annoying enough to deserve shooting but that didn't mean a lot right then. These guys were like B-grade, movie gangsters. There simply wasn't any need for this kind of violence.

 

The old man’s past rolled across his mind like a patched and faded movie. He remembered how he had turned on his heel and raced into the house. There was an old bolt-action .22 rifle in his father’s cupboard. It was a huge breach of faith to take it out when his old man wasn't there and there had been no ammo in the house. He had grabbed the rifle and hurtled back towards the door. Little Joe, Bob and he had known each other a long time and the guys were already spreading out looking for covered approaches to the road when he returned.

 

He remembered his blood going cold. His two brothers were used to large numbers of his friends popping by and were standing along the porch railing looking to see who it was. They had lined up along the banister and were smiling in the direction of the car as it reached the road in front of the yard. He had bellowed at them to get down and jumped the porch-railing dropping several feet onto the grass as they scattered, finally seeing the danger

 

He had raced across the lawn, leapt from the retaining wall and landed heavily on the road beside the car. The driver hit the accelerator and stalled the engine. The passenger at the rear on his side of the car attempted to heft a cross-bow and fire at him but the jerking car made the bow snag on the door frame. The driver's eyes almost popped out of his head. The bow was just inches away and from that range one tweak of the trigger would have sent the arrow right through his head then the window of the car and on down the street. The middle passenger in the rear had panicked and attempted to escape by throwing himself across the rifleman on the other side preventing him from aiming the weapon. A youth, seated in the middle, gibbered in fear and cried like a baby.  The old man recalled slamming the butt of the rifle through the open window into the driver's face. Snot and blood sprayed across the windscreen and instruments as he stood back and aimed the empty rifle into the car. The passenger in the front screamed and begged him not to shoot while the injured driver groaned and slumped forward.

 

Bob and Little Joe had moved forward at the same time. They saw him holding the attention of the hoodlums in the car and took advantage of the opportunity to close in. The rifleman tried to aim his weapon out of the car to fire at Joe. Little Joe simply reached into the car and wrenched it from him. "Is this how you want to die?" He said. The old man knew Bob hadn’t realised their own gun wasn't loaded and had spoken calmly as he asked his friend not to shoot the gunman in the vehicle..

 

 The guy with the bow had wrenched the feathered shaft free of the weapon and started to beg. "Look," he said. "I am not even armed, please man!" Changing grip on the rifle he held it in his left hand and threw several hard punches into the begging archer’s face. All of the guys in the car were too scared to defend themselves. They had reverted back to the pimple-faced juveniles their parents knew. Their rifleman was sporting a bleeding nose so Little Joe had also taken a moment to unload a few blows from the far-side rear of the car.

 

To his companions and the people in the car he had appeared an angry man armed with a loaded rifle. In that case there were only a couple of courses of action. Bob had it figured. Leave an angry man with a gun to seethe, and somebody might get shot. If they had really hurt those idiots it would have justified retribution, not only from their pack-members but police and families as well. Bob, Joe and he had taken control and there wasn't a need to go further.

 

Bob firmly held his gun toting mate in his arms so he wouldn’t shoot. Little Joe unloaded the magazine from the rifle he had snatched from the passenger, slid back the bolt to clear the chamber, and threw the harmless gun into the car. The old man chuckled wickedly at the memory of seeing it smash into the crotch of a sobbing youth who promptly curled into a ball of misery.  Bob had a missionary way about him at times and he had waved his finger in the air and told the baby gangsters off.

 

"You little pricks have seen too many movies and heard too many arseholes big-noting themselves. If we thought you were really dangerous we would let him shoot you. People live here. See that house? Somebody like your ma lives there. Think about that, your ma, shot by a weasel that wasn't even trustworthy enough to handle a gun in public. And think how your ma will feel as she pays for your funeral because you died doing this shit." "She will be so proud" he added sarcastically. The driver moaned as more blood and snot dripped from his chin so Bob punched him hard in the ear. "We are talking mate, you will listen!"

 

He pointed at one of the youths in the car "I know you," he said," and I know where you live. I know your family are honest Italians and would be deeply ashamed to see that you have become a sneaking cockroach. I suspect that your ma knows who all of these other sad punks are too. If I see you skulking about here causing trouble again I will chat with all your families and tell them how you involved my mate’s family."

 

By then Bob had grabbed the driver's hair and pulled his head back. Leaning into the car until his face was inches away he snarled that the driver had five seconds to restart the car and back, slowly, out of the street. The car reversed while the passengers told the air what great guys the trio were and how sorry the passengers were. The guy in the middle sobbed great wracking sobs and looked even younger than he was. For him, at least, the lifestyle had lost its appeal.

 

The old man smiled to himself as he remembered seeing his brothers as he turned back to the house. His little brothers stood ready to throw themselves into the fight if they had been needed. Back then he had struggled with the possibilities and was glad it hadn't happened. They were good kids, his responsibility!

 

As they all walked across the yard Bob had taken the rifle from him and pulled the bolt to empty the chamber. It was already empty and Little Joe was livid. "You bastard!" he had snarled, “If I had known it wasn't loaded I would never have walked up to that bloody car like that!" The old man slipped down in his high-backed computer chair and smiled at the faces of his past friends as painkillers finally freed his mind and he dozed.

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