Word Count: 1295
Joe didn’t look happy at me insisting we let Rayn sleep, but he let it be, at least. I didn’t see the problem, really, we were relatively safe where we were, we had shelter and food here.
When we were both done eating, I slotted all the parts of my gun back together and started showing Joe how to pull it apart again. He went off to get his own one to practice on. I watched as he tried to imitate what I’d done, getting stuck a couple times. I handed him a cloth to wipe it with and after a couple of minutes, he was ready to put it back together.
Slowly, I started to reassemble my own gun, watching as he tried to keep up.
“Where does this part go?” he asked, holding it up to show me. I pointed out the hole it slotted into and he stuck it in a little bit too roughly. I winced internally. I doubted he could break it, but there was always the chance he’d manage it. I was doing my best to stay patient, and considering my temper – especially in the mornings - I think I was doing pretty well. “This is complicated. I figured it was just aiming and pulling the trigger.”
“Cleaning a gun is important. If you treat it well, it’ll look after you. If you neglect it, it’ll fuck up and let you down,” I told him, waiting for him to catch up with where I was with my gun.
“How can a gun look after you?” he asked, “it’s not alive.” I looked over at him. Was he being serious? Did he genuinely think that it was just me that had saved his skinny English ass before? “I was trying to be funny,” he said hastily at the look on my face, “I guess it didn’t work.”
Oh. I didn’t get it. “British humor?”
“I guess. Childish humor,” he muttered with a shrug, turning back to the bits of gun still lying in front of him. They sat there all innocently, waiting to be put back together, but the crease on his forehead told me he wasn’t finding this so easy. I always found it kinda weird that the book worms could never do anything hands on easily. I mean, what use were all those words inside their heads if they couldn’t fix something when it broke?
“I’ll keep it in mind,” I said, watching him struggle. C’mon kid, you’re the clever one, figure it out.
“I can’t help but think that using a knife is a lot easier,” he grumbled, getting frustrated with the exercise. I showed him where he was going wrong as I replied.
“Well, think of it as the new reading. It’s a skill set you’re gonna need from now on, and it’s a shit load more useful than actual reading.” I flashed him a small smile, trying to be encouraging the same way Rayn had been the day before.
He grunted, irritated. “How long did it take you to learn all this?”
I shrugged, thinking back. “I don’t really remember. I was only six when my dad first taught me to clean a gun,” I told him.
“Six?” The disbelief on his face was clear enough, even for me to read. “Wow.”
“Only thing my dad ever did right, if you ask me,” I laughed. The man was a fucked up dad, and pretty shit at it, too, but he did right by me when he taught me how to handle guns.
I wasn’t sure what was going through his head when I said that, but the look on his face was too close to pity for my liking. He looked like he wanted to ask questions again, but thought better of it. “That’s kind of sad, if you don’t mind me saying.”
“How’s it sad?” I asked, confused. Why was it sad? I’d be dead twenty times over by now if my dad hadn’t taught me what he had.
“I don’t know. It just seems…” he trailed off, trying to choose his words carefully again. “It seems sad that you’d learn to use a gun at six years old. That you’d have to learn how to use a gun at all, really.”
“Well, I wasn’t seven til he took me shooting, I only cleaned it,” I shrugged, not sure what to make of what he’d just said. I’d never known anything different. “And I didn’t have to. It was just something that my dad thought was more useful than school for me. I didn’t use a gun outside of the shooting range til I was, I dunno… maybe thirteen.”
“Outside of a shooting range? Like, in public?” I nodded, not sure why he needed to repeat what I’d just said. Was it really that hard to grasp? Maybe it was. I’d already figured our backgrounds were about as different as they could get. From what I could tell, he’d been part of one of these pretty well off families, an only child, prized getting good grades over knowing how to survive other than knowing that mommy puts food on the table every night. The way he looked and behaved told me more than enough about how school was for him, too – the kid was fifteen, right, and talked like a fucking professor sometimes. Which, to me, said he’d hidden in the library a lot, from kids that were a bit mean to him. That would explain why he was so insistent that reading was important, at any rate. “What happened?” he asked.
“Oh, some asshole was trying to take my head off with a metal baseball bat, so I shot him in the leg,” I told him. I left out the part where I was being chased because I’d just stolen eight ounces of weed from him and gotten caught in the act.
“And you were thirteen? Wow.” Needless to say, he was pretty shocked. See? Privileged, sheltered background. “I do know what it feels like, though. To have to defend yourself. I never did, of course, but the feeling was always there.”
I couldn’t help but snort out a laugh. “Yeah? What did you have to defend yourself from?”
“High school wasn’t a good time for me,” he said, embarrassed that he’d had to admit it. I tried to tell myself that that was the worst he would have ever known back then, and maybe felt a tiny bit bad that I’d laughed.
“I guess speccy ginger kids are easy targets. You should’ve fought back.”
He shook his head. “He was a psycho.” Oh, like me, then? “I would’ve gotten myself killed.”
I laughed, “I’d have kicked his ass.” I bet this psycho he was talking about would’ve shat his panties if I’d turned up at his school.
“I have no doubt that you would but you can defend yourself. Look at me, I don’t exactly look like I know how to fight do I?” I eyed his skinny frame and shrugged. You never know. I’m skinny as fuck too, and I manage just fine.
“You could’ve learnt. If I was you, I’d have taken up some kind of self defense lesson, or kick boxing or something.”
“Well it’s all in the past now. If this thing has reached England, maybe karma would have gotten him,” Joe said bitterly, his lips crinkling up in disgust for just a fraction of a second. Jesus, did this kid hate the guy he was talking about.
“Maybe. The internet might still work, y’know, you could have a look before that goes too?” I suggested, trying to distract him with the thought that he might be able to find out something about what was going on.