Jimmy and Kevin left their ATVs at Jimmy’s house, crossed the dirt road and ducked in between the barbed wire fence onto Jimmy’s Grandpa’s land. They each walked briskly in order to keep warm as the cold January wind bit at their faces causing them to wipe their noses and blink their eyes a little more than usual. Kevin carried with him a BB gun that he had gotten for Christmas that year and Jimmy had a pellet gun, a gift from his grandpa. He held it over his shoulder like one of those marching Marines he had seen on television. The only experience they had had with their guns up to that point was the shooting of cans that Jimmy’s dad put in a row for them against a fallen tree on the back of their property. They had decided that their days of shooting cans were done and they wanted to take their guns out and try and kill real. After being granted their parent’s permission to take their guns out in to the wild, they set out on a mission to hunt and kill any small animals that came their way. Being ten year old boys, their parents figured that they weren’t going to be stupid enough to have wars with each other and shoot one another’s eyes out.
As they made their way through the tall grass they came upon a group of trees bunched together which they thought would shelter them from the cold wind. A strong wind blew tingling Jimmy’s ears. He grabbed the bill of his Astros baseball cap, and pulled it down almost covering his eyes trying to protect himself from the wind. They got to the bunch of trees and sat down leaning their backs against the tree in the middle. Kevin unzipped his coat, and from the inside of his coat pocket pulled out the container of BB’s and started to load them in his gun. Seeing this, Jimmy loaded a pellet into his gun and placed it on the ground.
“You sure your grandpa is cool with us shooting shit on his land,” Kevin asked.
Jimmy looked towards his grandpa’s little trailer which was about two hundred yards in front of them looking for any sign of movement inside. “My grandpa is a cool guy. He isn’t going to have any problem with it. I just hope he is not drinking in their today and mistake us for a couple of deer.”
They both laughed at this as they looked out amongst the high grass seeing if they could see any signs of movement.
“I don’t think your grandpa is going to mistake that Astros cap for any deer. Why did he buy you an orange cap anyway? Wasn’t that their colors back in the 1970’s?”
Jimmy took the cap off and examined the white H on top of a blue star. “Hey dillhole, this thing is like retro. I think its cooler looking than the design they have now.”
Kevin stood up and pointed his BB gun out amongst the grass like it had a scope on it. He looked back to the hat after a moment and laughed. “Whatever dude. To me it looks like your wearing a big orange Popsicle on the top of your head.”
Jimmy picked his pellet gun up and walked over to where Kevin was and looked back at his grandpa’s trailer.
“I wonder where he is today,” Jimmy said, “His truck is in the driveway, and the lights are on but I haven’t seen him move around. It’s a little too early for him to go to sleep. It’s only like three o’clock. I wonder if he is at my house.”
Kevin looked at the trailer with Jimmy as if he would be able to see something Jimmy couldn’t and then they both scanned the land left and right looking for him. Jimmy looked back across the street to see if he could see him at his house.
“You sure he is cool with us over here,” Kevin asked, “I don’t wanna get in no trouble. Your grandpa is cool and everything but he kinda creeps me out. All he does is smoke, drink beer, and cuss.”
Jimmy turned back towards him and looked at Kevin as if he had just cursed him out himself. “What? Creepy? You think my grandpa is creepy? What the hell does that mean?”
“I don’t know. He was like in World War II right? That was a long ass time ago. He just has that “Don’t mess with me look.” I didn’t mean your grandpa is like a freak or anything, he just is so old.”
Jimmy looked at Kevin and was tempted to lift his pellet gun and shoot him in the balls for calling his grandpa creepy. Jimmy loved his grandpa. His grandpa spoke his mind and he didn’t care if you agreed with him or not. That’s just the way he was. He even cussed in front of him which Jimmy thought was really cool because his mom couldn’t do anything about it. When he started to talk about his days as a sailor in World War II, the curse words would just start flowing. He would say shit and damn a lot and sometimes even threw in a fuck for good measure. Whenever he got this way and Jimmy’s mother heard him, she would yell out, “Pop!!!” and his grandpa would just turn to her and say that he needed to hear these words from family first. When Jimmy laughed at this, his mom gave him a look that would’ve froze hell itself. If he learned those words from the kids at school his grandpa had said, he would just be using them the wrong way. His grandpa was one of those guys who felt that kids didn’t know how to use language the right way. His mom thought he cursed a lot because he drank and smoked a lot. Jimmy remembered asking his grandpa a while back to tell him the story of how he lied about his age to get into the Navy so he could go fight during the war.
“Back then,” his grandpa had said after finishing off a beer and chucking it into the trash, “you could lie about your age if you wanted to join. No one was going to stop you. And if it came out that you were too young, chances were you were already dead or had been in long enough to not be too young anymore. People didn’t have all these computers and shit they have today so no one was scanning your driver’s license or any fucking thing like that. I tell you Jimmy, things are getting really fucked up. You ever get a chance kid, read George Orwell’s, 1984. This country is quickly going down that path.”
They both sat back down because the wind was picking up again. Jimmy pulled a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup from his coat pocket and opened up the package. “You want one of these,” Jimmy asked.
“What you think? You know I love those things. It’s not melted or anything like that is it?”
Jimmy examined it and took the wrapper off of the back of the cup. He snapped it in half and it broke almost into two even pieces. “Nope,” he said, “I guess it’s to cold to melt. Thank God. I hate the melted ones. They get all over my hands.”
“I know what you mean.”
Jimmy shifted himself around the tree chewing on his peanut butter cup. Still sitting he looked out amongst the blowing high grass towards the back of his grandpa’s property away from his trailer. While scanning through the grass, he thought he saw something moving about fifty yards in front of him. He stopped chewing, narrowed his eyes and looked again. He took his glasses off, cleaned them on his shirt and put them back on. He moved his neck a little forward and focused on the spot where he was sure something was in the grass.
Kevin noticed what he was doing and came up next to him. “Whatcha see?”
“Shhh,” Jimmy said, “give me my gun.”
Kevin turned away from him, grabbed Jimmy’s pellet gun and gave it to him.
Jimmy took the gun and aimed it at the thing in the grass. He steadied himself, took the safety off and peered through the small front site in order to get a better aim. He took his time, relaxed and pulled the trigger. He noticed the thing moved its head away from him at the last minute but he was sure he had hit it. He had seen the puff of smoke on the spot he had hit and so he was sure when the thing had moved it was because it was falling to the ground. Kevin saw it to.
“You hit it man!!! You got the little bastard!! Let’s go get it!!”
Jimmy didn’t know how his parents were going to react to him bringing home a dead rabbit, but he would carry it proudly. He was sure his mom would faint or tell him to get it out of her house but his Dad and Grandpa would smile at him and say “Atta Boy!!” when his mother wasn’t watching. He had a little swagger in his step as he walked toward his prize. Making his way through the grass, they each talked about the kill. They were about ten yards from where he thought the rabbit was when they saw the rabbit out of the corner of their eyes take off into the woods to their right, apparently spooked by two oncoming humans. Puzzled, Jimmy walked forward a bit and then froze. He lost his breath and began to tremble. There laying in the grass on his back not moving with his eyes looking up towards the sky and a small hint of smoke lifting from his side in the direction of where Jimmy had shot the gun, was his grandpa.
“Grandpa!!” Jimmy shouted. “Grandpa!!” Jimmy dropped his gun and fell to his knees. His hands were trembling as he tried to shake his grandpa awake from what he hoped was his sleep.
Kevin looked around a bit as if looking to see if anyone had seen Jimmy shoot his own grandpa. His mouth quivered a bit as he was at a lost of words. He didn’t know what to say. He said the first thing that came to his mind. “Your grandpa is going to kick your ass when he finds out you shot him with the gun he got you for Christmas!! He is going to kick my ass for being here with you!!”
Jimmy shouted at Kevin. “Go get my parents!!! Oh man! Grandpa, wake up!!!”
Kevin took off towards Jimmy’s house running faster than he probably ever had in his life.
Five minutes later, his parents came running up to him. Jimmy’s Dad picked up his crying son and gave him to his mother. He then went about checking grandpa out and put his fingers against his neck. He felt in a couple of different places and then touched his arm. His head drooped and he turned to look at his wife and shook his head no. Jimmy’s mom put her hand to her mouth and cried while holding her son. “Daddy!!”
At that moment, Kevin along with Mr. and Mrs. Thatcher ran up. She hugged Jimmy’s mom as she cried. In the distance, Jimmy heard the ambulance. He hugged his Dad tightly not ever wanting to let go.
Jimmy and Kevin watched as the paramedics checked out his dead grandpa. After awhile they put the body in the back of the ambulance and took off. Before they left, Jimmy noticed one of the paramedics picking up his pellet gun and giving it to his dad. They talked for a minute and both looked his way. Jimmy was certain they were trying to figure out how the cops were going to handle this. Jimmy’s dad walked up to him with his pellet gun in his hand.
“You want this back,” he asked.
Jimmy looked at him like he had asked him the stupidest question on Earth. “Want it back? Don’t they need it for evidence or something like that? I killed my grandpa dad with the gun he bought me.”
Jimmy’s dad shook his head and put his arm around his shoulder and started to walk him back towards their house. “We will see you later Kevin,” he said.
“Ok, Mr. Stevens.”
They walked for a bit and then stopped. “Listen son, I don’t know how to tell you this but, your pellet gun didn’t kill grandpa.”
Jimmy stepped back. “What?”
“Your grandpa died from a heart attack. It was probably all the cigarettes and alcohol over the years that finally did him in. The paramedics told me that your grandpa had been dead for a couple of hours. So no matter what you think, you did not have anything to do with your grandpa’s death.”
Jimmy turned around and looked back towards the spot where he had found his grandpa laying in the grass. “I shot my own grandpa, Dad!! Whether he was dead or not, I still shot him!! I just don’t want anything to do with that gun anymore.” Jimmy grabbed the gun out of his dad’s hand and threw it as far as he could. He ran across the street and went into his room and closed the door and cried himself to sleep.
A week later, Jimmy and Kevin sat on their bikes outside of his house. They were still wearing their funeral suits and watching all of the people go in and out of the house. They could see their breaths rising in front of them. It seemed too had gotten colder as the day went on. Jimmy had heard that there was a possibility of snow that night. He and Kevin had told their parents that they were going to Kevin’s house to grab one of his Playstation games so that they could play it tonight when Kevin was over. They had told them both to hurry back and so they took off as quick as they could to get away from all the people. The real reason Jimmy wanted to leave was that he was sick and tired of everyone coming up to him asking him if he was okay. Jimmy knew that his parent’s had told everyone the whole story of what had happened and he was just tired of going over the same thing with different people. They pedaled around the block for a bit. Kevin noticed that whenever they came close to his grandpa’s house, Jimmy looked in a different direction as if the house wasn’t there.
Kevin didn’t want to ask him what he wanted to ask him so he thought of something else. He looked at his Astros cap which hadn’t come off since that day when they were supposed to be rabbit hunting and found Jimmy’s grandpa’s body when inspiration struck. “So, you ever gonna wash your hair again? I can smell it from over here.”
Jimmy wasn’t amused. “I don’t know.”
“Well that orange Popsicle on top of your head is starting to look like it’s got a lot of dirt in it. You might wanna clean the thing.”
Jimmy slammed on his bike brakes in the middle of the street. He took his hat off and examined it. He ran his hand through his hair and found that it was extremely oily. He smelled his hand and could pick up a scent of oily sweat smell almost like his dirty socks would get when he would throw them behind his bed and find them a month later when his parents forced him to clean his room. Instead of the white H on top of the blue star on the orange cap, the H almost looked brown and the orange seemed not quite so bright. He also noticed the sweatband around the inside of his cap looked almost like a yellow piss color. His grandpa would have been livid if he would’ve seen him wearing the hat in that condition. He might have even cursed at him so bad he might have even thrown a couple of F words at him. He could almost hear his voice.
“Clean that fucking thing up! I didn’t buy that thing for you so that you could get it all dirty and grungy. Have a little Fucking respect for your baseball team!!! Damn kids nowadays, don’t respect nothing!! Shit!!”
A hint of a smile formed around Jimmy’s mouth as he brushed his hair back and put the cap back on his head.
Later that night, Jimmy came into the kitchen to grab some chips to take back into his room so that he and Kevin could have something to eat while they played video games. He grabbed the bag of Doritos from the counter and saw his mom doing the dishes. She hadn’t even acknowledged him when he walked in. His mom had changed a bit and he really didn’t like it. He understood why she was a little distant right now but he wished he could do something to help her. He could hear her crying every night from his room. His Dad and Mrs. Thatcher did all they could to console her but nothing seemed to work. He could hear her sniffling as if she was crying now. He put the chips down on the table and walked up to her.
“Mom,” he said.
She turned around and what Jimmy had suspected was right. He could see the red rawness of her eyes. His mother looked really old right now. “What do you need honey,” she said in between sniffles.
She wiped her nose and shook her head yes.
“I love you.”
A brief smile came to her face. “I love you to honey. You guys doing alright in there? You need some dip or something? How about a couple of Dr. Peppers?”
“No mom, were cool. I just came in here to get some chips.”
“Oh,” she said feeling a little disappointed that she couldn’t get her son anything. She turned back towards the dishes and started to sniffle again. “Let me know if you guys need anything.”
“Oh, mom,” he said.
She turned back around wiping her nose again.
Jimmy walked up to her and looked in the sink. It was full of dirty dishes still. He waved his hands above the water and looked at her. He raised his voice like he had heard his grandpa do one time when he had told him a story. “Your taking to damn long to do these dishes. Clean this shit up. Let’s go. Chop. Chop.”
His mother more in shock than probably humor burst out laughing. She laughed for about five minutes. She laughed so hard, she started to cry again. His dad came in and smiled like someone who was trying to get the joke that was already told. “What?” he asked.
She wiped her eyes and hugged Jimmy.
The next morning it snowed. It snowed like it hadn’t snowed in Texas in twenty-five years. The weather reports had said that in Houston a record seven inches had fallen since about four o’clock that morning. Up in northern Montgomery County, around the Oak Timber area where Jimmy lived, the reports were that ten inches of snow had fallen. Jimmy and Kevin walked out of his house to a land they had never experienced. Jimmy even had the funny feeling come over him that he should start singing Bing Crosby’s, “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” even though they were in January. The schools had said that they were going to be closed for at least the next two days because it was expected to remain cold and none of the snow was expected to melt. Everywhere they looked they saw nothing but white. Jimmy looked at his parent’s cars. They were covered in snow. He took a deep breath and exhaled. His breath rose up and dissipated with each succeeding breath.
“It smells so clean,” Jimmy said.
“I had heard this is what snow does,” Kevin said.
They went about building the biggest snowman they could. An hour later, a snowman nine feet high rose up from the ground. Everyone had their picture taken with the snowman. Mr. and Mrs. Thatcher came down and all the men went about the process of building a snow woman to go with the big snowman. Jimmy’s dad and Mr. Thatcher gave the snow woman boobs. Just before Jimmy took the picture of the dad’s holding a boob each on the just completed snow woman, a barrage of snowballs hit the dads from out of nowhere. His mom and Mrs. Thatcher had been the ones who threw the snowballs out of a sort of protest for their juvenile acts. Jimmy took the picture just as snowballs were hitting their faces. Everyone seemed to be having a great time.
An hour later while everyone was drinking coffee and hot chocolate, Jimmy walked past the laundry room and saw his Astros hat on top of the dryer. He remembered he had taken it off to take a shower the previous night but he didn’t think about it afterwards. He and Kevin had been too wrapped up in their video game for that. The hat looked brand new. Jimmy grabbed the hat and smelled it. It smelled really clean, like the day he had gotten it. He walked out into the living room with the hat on and everyone stopped talking.
“Thanks for cleaning my hat mom,” Jimmy said, “it was kinda dirty.”
“No problem,” she said giving him a little wink.
Jimmy and Kevin walked outside and went across the street. They walked over to what was probably the spot where they had found Jimmy’s grandpa’s body and shared a peanut butter cup that Jimmy had taken from the refrigerator that morning.
“Well, we know it’s not going to melt today,” Kevin said.
“It’s almost like freaking ice cream,” Jimmy said chewing on the almost rock hard chocolate.
They sat there for awhile and Jimmy thought of his grandpa. He thought of what life must have been like for his grandpa as a sixteen year old in World War II. He was only six years away from that age and he didn’t know if he could have the guts his grandpa must have had to join the service.
“Hey look,” a voice from behind them said. It was Mr. Thatcher’s voice. They turned around and saw Jimmy and Kevin’s dad holding guns. Mr. Thatcher gave Kevin his BB gun and Jimmy’s dad gave him his pellet gun. “Look at them rabbit,” Mr. Thatcher went on, “You can pick them out easy here with the snow. They got nowhere to hide with the snow being so deep.”
Jimmy looked at his dad with wonderment as he held his pellet gun in his hand. “I thought this was gone.”
“Well,” his dad said, “I figured you would’ve wanted it back eventually.”
“Yea,” Jimmy said, “I guess. Fuck it.”