I chose: A Thanksgiving Memory
When I was a kid, Thanksgivings were so much fun. We usually spent them with the New Jersey leg of our family. We would drive there from Virginia or they would come to us -- my Aunt Maisie and Uncle Jimmy (they were like my grandparents), Aunt Jean and Uncle Ernie, and the three boys – Michael, Stephen, and Richard. The boys were basically the same ages as my brothers and I, so we were sort of stair-step kids – oldest (Michael) to youngest (Richard) – all towheads, with me, the only girl, in the middle.
I loved being the only girl. I really did. We had a lot of fun, the six of us – we’d all crowd into the same bedroom to sleep in sleeping bags; we’d play games (and cheat); and oh, how we’d all laugh!
But the most memorable Thanksgiving I can recall with my cousins didn’t involve a whole lot of laughing. Not at first, anyway.
I was 10-years-old.
And it was the Thanksgiving I almost died.
It was the Thanksgiving I got shot.
OK, so it was with a pellet gun. And OK, so I didn't really almost die. But it was a gun. And I got shot, people. Right in the chest.
I happened less than an hour after the whole NJ crew arrived. We were outside, down by the creek, and my brothers were showing off their pellet guns to our cousins. Stephen, the middle cousin (and the one closest to my age – just 6 months older), was handling one of them. My younger brother showed him how to load the pellets, how to ‘pump’ the rifle (10 times for maximum distance and power), and he demonstrated the ‘safety’…
And then Stephen hoisted the gun to his shoulder…
And, standing about four feet from me, pointed it right at me.
“I’m going to shoot you.”
I wasn’t askeerd of him.
“Pffftttt. You are not.”
“Oh, yes I am.”
“Yeah, well, you’d better not.”
You know what I learned that day?
I learned that boys? Never listen.
I heard the click of the trigger and the puff of air, as the bullet… er… pellet was released from the gun, right about the same time I felt the impact of the bullet… er… pellet in my chest, just below my collarbone.
“YOU SHOT ME!! OH MY GOD, YOU SHOT ME!”
I think Stephen was as shocked as I was. He thought the safety was on.
For the record? ‘Thought’ was the operative word in that sentence.
He dropped the gun like it was on fire and ran to help me, but I was half-way to the house by then. I cleared a 4-foot chain-link fence like it was 6-inches tall and barreled into the kitchen, screaming about having been shot.
Were not happy.
All the boys came flying in behind me… and let me tell you, how they managed to concoct the biggest, fattest, lyingest lie that ever was, to save their behinds, in less than 60 seconds, is beyond me.
As my dad checked me out to see if any real damage had been done, and my Uncle Ernie was hollering about packing up and heading back to NJ, my brother stepped up to explain.
(And by ‘explain,’ I totally mean ‘lie through his 9-year-old too-big-for-his-face teeth.')
He said they’d only pumped the rifle 3 or 4 times… and that Stephen had been pointing the gun toward the creek… and that the pellet (bullet!) had ricocheted off a tree… and accidentally hit me… because I was standing in the wrong place.
It ricocheted off a tree and accidentally hit me because I was standing in the wrong place!
As I stood there with my mouth hanging open, incredulous, stunned at the enormity of the lie and the fact that he made it my fault, every one of those Fibber McGees nodded in agreement.
And then my Uncle Ernie looked at me.
“Diane, honey, is that true?”
I could smell the sweat and the fear from those five delinquents. See, my Uncle Ernie adores me and all I had to do was tell the truth and… and…
And he’d have loaded them all into the car and driven the six hours back to NJ.
Well, he might not have… but at that moment, I believed he would have. And that would have been awful.
So I glared at those boys and, through clenched teeth, I confirmed their story.
And they stayed. And our Thanksgiving was, as always, wonderfully fun and funny.
Except for, you know, the gaping hole in my chest.
And that bullet… er… pellet? It came to the surface (sort of) about a week later. But we couldn’t get it out, not even with tweezers. So I had to go to the doctor and have it dug out of my chest with a big needle and pliers. I kid you not. It hurt like hell.
I nearly 40 years later, I still have a scar.
Oh, and Stephen? The cousin who shot me?
Guess what he does for a living?
Yeah. He’s a police officer.