The cab pulled into Ted's driveway right next to the cowhide car. We got out. Ted's dad's driver got out of the Navigator and into the cab. The cab drove away. I was more or less stuck at Ted's house until ten o'clock. I stood with my hands in my pockets, completely aware that it was a miracle I was still alive and out of serious trouble.
"What time you got?" I asked.
"Dunno," Ted said. "Don't have a watch."
"I'd guess about seven," he said. "Could be later."
It seemed about right. The sky looked blue enough for it to be seven.
"Shit, who am I kidding," Ted said. "I don't even know what year it is."
"Tell me again what we just did," I asked with my eyes closed.
"I don't know," Ted said. "I really don't know."
"Neither do I," I said. "I have a hunch we just saved your dad's ass and got high in the process, though."
Ted was shaking his head. "I don't know. How do you feel?"
"Bit light-headed. How do I smell?"
"Normal. How my eyes?"
"Fine," I said. "We'll be fine in three hours, won't we?"
"Yeah," he said. "Three hours, we'll have our shit in order."
"I could do with some sleep right now," I said. "My parents might get on my case, I can't talk my way out when I'm this tired."
"Three hours can't do you any good. Stay awake."
"How?" I asked.
He looked at me. I could tell he was thinking about the gun closet.
"Like revolvers?" he asked.
"Ted, you read my mind."
We had to walk up to the gun rack with care. Neither of us wanted to bump into Ted's dad the morning after his binge. Like opening a fresh can of worms, or waking a sleeping dragon, or some shit like that.
I stopped worrying when I got another look at the fantastic array of live iron old man Gordon had compiled over his bitter years. My eyes danced from .38s to .22s to the foreboding, tantalizing .45, so big it looked like a cannon. I looked at Ted for permission; he nodded, Yes, Jack, take as many as you want.
The time flew by when we broke out the handguns. We took five belts with five different caliber handguns in them. Ted brought out a bull's eye and we blew it to ribbons. We may have spent a hundred rounds on that thing.
I eventually strapped the .45 low on my waist and did the Dirty Harry line as best as I could. When I finished I drew and shot into the trees. The kickback shot my arm up to my head, and I held it there, trying to be dramatic.
I looked over to Ted at the end of my spiel, with my hand still in the air. He was trying to keep a poker face, but then I guess he caught sight of my arched eyebrows and deadly squint and started laughing like a madman.
"What were you tough-talking?" he asked. "The trees?"
"Fuck you," I said. I started laughing too. I guess it was a pretty childish thing to do; I think I only got half the monologue right, and since I didn't shoot anybody into a pond it wasn't the right setting to make it in. But hell, how many times do you get to make that speech with a gun in hand?
Ted started spinning his gun -- a snub-nosed .38, this was -- into and out of its holster, and I made him take out all the ammo in case his finger slipped. Then he tried to teach me how to do that trick. I forgot to unload my gun and it just missed blowing the dick clean off my body, the bullet dug a hole a half foot deep into the ground. After that Ted didn't spin his gun.
We eventually got bored of that, too. Guns have their appeal, but they lack the romanticism of, say, edged weaponry -- katanas, daggers, axes, hell, even kitchen knives -- look at Psycho. A weapon's appeal depends on the amount of folklore attributed to it, that's my theory. With edged weapons you've got Excalibur, Durandal, Hauteclaire, Balmung, Carsomyr -- hundreds of years of legends about knights and their unbreakable, untarnishable swords. I believe that these archetypal stories get branded into our minds at an early age, say, with me it was in Sleeping Beauty, Star Wars, Robin Hood, et cetera, therein they remain with us; after that first glance of a sword something inside our minds clicks and ever since then every yardstick becomes a sword. Guns however have no such imagery. Have you ever heard of a famous gun? An enchanted gun? An untarnishable, unbreakable gun? Of course not, because guns are weapons of the now. They haven't been around long enough to get anything more than Doc Holliday and Annie Oakley attributed to their names. No famed gun exists. None worth mentioning, at least.
Ted took our guns inside and I stayed out, mostly to admire the bullet holes we just made in the trees. When he came back out he had a switchblade in each hand. He sprung one and started tossing it up in the air. The game was to find entertaining ways to throw them and have them fall blade-down.
I got creative. The trick with that lies in the wrist -- it's hard to explain. Not many people have held a switchblade before, I'd judge. They're interesting knives, the subtle machinery that makes the knife go pop and extend when you twist it the right way -- I think they're beautiful. Guns, too -- any machine fascinates me, but the ones with a deadly edge sort of turn me on. Sure, they're made to kill. So are meat factories, but people still eat burgers.
I've heard we have about eleven thousand murders here per year. I wonder how many less we'd have, or more, if we gave everybody knives and took away the guns? Think about it -- there's only so much gunpowder in the world, and you never have to reload a knife. So eventually we'll all be reduced to bludgeons and knives. At or around the time the sun explodes, true, but in theory it'll all come around.
I got to thinking about this. Ted was tossing his switchblade around and I asked if I could take apart a handgun. He said he'd let me watch him clean one, and that was okay.
He brought me back inside his house, into his room. It was filthy, not filthy like ratty and dirt everywhere, and insulation hanging out of the walls, but there were dirty clothes on the floor and papers scattered on his bed. Newspapers. I thought they might be his covers. He had a single bed, missing a leg. He had to sleep next to a broken window in order to keep from tipping over in the night. Hard living, man.
He also had a little bureau he kept some books on, children's books and some young adult you'd expect to find on a rotating showcase shelf. I hate those fucking books -- the ones where you don't even see the author's name on the cover. It's a waste of paper, and paper should be worth more than gold, man. A pound of paper did more than a pound of gold ever did, except buy more paper.
I didn't let these books get to me, cause Ted was a cool guy. He had redeeming qualities. Like, for instance, his wide array and wider accessibility of rifles and handguns. What's five Animorph books against fifty-ish unregistered guns?
He took out a drawer and looked around for what I guessed to be a gun. What he brought out was a flintlock pistol from the freaking Stone Age. He started taking it apart, and I guess you can take those things apart; he had a little Christmas tree wire for cleaning the barrel and a few smaller brushes for the other bells and whistles that're still attached to that dinosaur. When he had all the pieces cleaned off he said, "Go ahead."
I looked at it for a while, couldn't tell which end was which. The handle was in one place, the barrel was in another -- I like taking things apart, but I'm not a genius with that kind of stuff, you know. I figured I didn't want to have him have to piece the pistol back together after I had gotten it backasswards -- I was his guest, wasn't I, and that would be cruel. Besides, the guy had just cleaned it. What business did I have getting my grubby hands all over it?
Anyways, it was getting close to nine in the morning, and I decided to call the whole Boston adventure quits. Any longer and I might shoot a ball off. I told Ted I had to call my parents or else they'd bitch out on me; not entirely true but they both had to work and I suppose would have greatly appreciated a call before they went their separate ways.
Ted shook my hand, said thanks a million for helping him out. I still can't figure out why the hell he seemed so grateful -- all I did was tag along for the ride, and once I got there, got stoned.
When my car came a little while later Ted handed me one of the switchblades, as a final token of his thanks. I tried half-assed to refuse him, but Ted insisted and I neither wanted nor felt like being a gentleman; a good switchblade is tough to come by in central Mass.
I put it in my pocket, shook his hand, and that was that.
It didn't occur to me until I was in the car with my window down and the wind in my face, trying to rid my hair of any pot smell that remained and trying not to hear my dad talk to me; I didn't get it till I was halfway home that that was the most fun I ever had.
I got bored, okay? Tell me you haven't ever.
My idea of the greatest summer ever lived already happened. I lived that dream in kindergarten, grade school, middle school, up till '99. I didn't do a day of work or leave the house for solid months some years- blame it on society, there's millions of younger, fatter kids like me in the world.
After that night at Handsome Dan's I hade a day of the purest boredom I have ever and will ever feel. Bored to tears isn't quite there. I was past crying. I did nothing that day but be bored. I kept asking myself what I was going to do, what there was to do- maybe I'd stay this way for the rest of my life... That day all my muscles felt atrophied and weak, everything around my house looked the same as before. I was depressed, of course. A sense prevailed that once you came back from Handsome Dan's the party ended. I broke curfew, got stoned, shot stuff and only just missed getting laid. I mean, how could things get better than that?
The thing is, I couldn't really do anything about it, because not only was I bored, but I was afraid to say something about it to my folks. Who wants to hear me complain? I'm asshole enough to stay bored, but not nearly asshole enough to complain about it.
But I thought I was entitled to a complaint anyways. I was fourteen years old, man! I was supposed to be full of vitality! Energy! Testosterone! And all I could do was sit on my bed and twiddle my thumbs till the sunset.
Thank God I had Ted and Allie's numbers, or I probably would have done that all summer.
... To be continued ...