Matt Bailey and Billy McKinlay were best friends - until the day of the carnival when Matt shot his friend in the stomach. It set up a rivalry that turned to a bitterness that neither could escape from and so both left town.
It's twenty years later and their high school is having a reunion.
The last time Matt Bailey went to the carnival he wound up shooting Billy McKinley. He gave no warning. Picking up the nearest air-rifle, he turned, and shot him. Just like that – point blank range – right in the gut.
He did it because he was angry. Billy McKinley got it because he happened to be the one standing beside him at that moment. There was no other logical explanation. Only hours before Matt and Billy had been playing together. In fact, if they’d stopped to think a little bit about it they might even have described themselves as best-friends but all that changed.
Of course, Matt apologised almost straight away. He did it right there in the hospital ward while the doctors dug around in Billy’s belly to pull the slug out but things were different from then on. The anger crept like a plague from Matt to Billy before turning to bitterness in them both. I guess Billy found it difficult to trust Matt, seeing as how he shot him and all; and Matt somehow blamed Billy for the thrashing he received from his father when he got home.
That’s how almost best-mates became rivals – more than rivals, adversaries – enemies even. Everyone knew it and Matt and Billy made no secret of it. Right through school they were out to get the better of each other. They tried out for the same position in the football squad. Billy won that one but when it came to basketball, Matt, being taller and more nimble, filled the spare place on the team. They went after the same girls who were flattered at first but eventually worked out that the attention wasn’t really about them at all; it was about a personal battle.
As their school years came to an end Matt and Billy, who now preferred to be called William, went their separate ways. Matt became a mechanic and moved away to work in a large garage in the next town. He’d always been good with his hands. He’d enjoyed the wood and metal work classes at school and would parade the things he made in front of William making no effort to disguise his gloating.
William, on the other hand, was an academic. He excelled in mathematics and languages. He revelled in the joy of coming top of the class in anything but particularly in beating Matt. He studied languages and now had some plumb position with the United Nations.
Throughout the two decades since those days, the one thing neither had ever done was forget the other. That’s why both felt so nervous about attending their high school reunion.