Lucky for me the guy was a bad shot. Hit my shoulder instead of my face. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t scared, shocked shitless really, when I leaned towards the car only to see him digging into the seat only to come back with a shiny black Glock. Maybe not a Glock, but some sort of gun. Sorry, I’m not familiar with types of guns, but none of that matters now.
Let me back up. It all started harmlessly. I was outside with Ray and Lit. Ray was trying to break his neck on a skateboard while Lit—short for Lydia, was singing. Lit has a great singing voice, and an even better sense of humor, so she can take a song and make it her own. Like Adele’s Hello becomes, Jello…it’s me, I’ve been jiggling all these years…
Whatever, you have to hear her do it.
What was I talking about? Sorry, with the pain killers and all it mushes together. So, we’re out on the patio because it was finally nice out. Mom and Dad were at work and Dilly, my little brother and owner of said skateboard, was at a buddy’s house.
Just like any other Tuesday afternoon we were hanging out and being stupid when this car comes cruising through all slow and booming. Nothing special about it, an older Nissan or Toyota, streaked filthy from winter. The guy driving just puts his window down and casually tosses out a soda bottle like it’s the most normal thing in the world.
Clunk-a-clunk clunk…the bottle hit the street, bounced a few times and then wobbled to the curb. I looked at Ray, then Lit, who’d stopped singing and was already shaking her head.
I have a vendetta against littering. It’s just something I can’t tolerate. And no, I’m not some type of do-gooder or environmentalist or anything, but a decent human being who can’t stand seeing the side of the road covered with bags and bottles and everything else people can’t seem to hold on to until they find a trashcan. Common sense, that’s all. Something becoming less and less common to find.
So the car stopped four houses down, brake lights piercing the salty film and grime. If I’m looking back at the situation—which I am—it probably would have been wise to have simply jotted down the license plate and called it a day. Maybe picked the bottle up and dropped it in our recycling. That way we could have gotten back to watching Ray fall on his ass and Lit and I would have had a good laugh. But that’s not what happed.
I did pick up that bottle, that part was unavoidable. But then I marched right down the road to a car full of dudes parked haphazardly on the street.
Haphazardly. What else would you call the way I gripped that green bottle—Mountain Dew, still with a swig left in it, and tap tap tap, knocked on the window? The driver had on a stocking cap. A few years older. Bad skin.
Not sure what I would have said. Probably something snarky, like, “you dropped this.” But I never had the chance. His hand hit the seat. Next, I was laying like a slab on the curb, exhaust in my face as the car tore off down the road. Then it was all black.
Later, Lit told me that even after taking one for the team I’d hung on to that bottle.
It’s the little victories, you know?
My hospital room was bright and sunny when I blinked to life after what felt like sleeping for months. A pull, a tug, and I was yanked from my hibernation like Mom did before school. And it was Mom, squeezing my hand like it was all she had in the world. Her face puffy and red. Snot glistening under her nose. Dad hoving behind her while a nurse fiddled with something I couldn’t see on the other side.
When I spoke my voice felt scattered, like flakes of old paint off of a windowsill. “Hey guys.”
“Oh dear, sweetie,” Mom launched into a sob.
“I’m okay,” I said, without much gusto. I was groggy and my brain felt like it was in a hammock. My right shoulder was bandaged up and pulsed with my heart. It felt like I was tied down. Other than that, though, considering…
“You could have been killed,” Mom said. Dad stepped forward, setting a hand on her shoulder. She found it with her other hand, one arm crossing the other because she wouldn’t let go of mine.
“The police have the suspect in custody.”
The suspect. It sounded so serious. “Did they charge him for littering?”
Dad narrowed his eyes with one of those grimace-smile things he did.
The next time I came to life they were still there. Different clothes. Dad hopped up from his chair as they asked how I was doing. Thirsty.
He fetched me a water, then cleared his throat.
“I’ve called a realtor,” Dad said. I tried to process leaving the only house I’d ever known.
“Andrew,” Dad said, looking back as the nurse walked out of the room. “They found a meth lab in that house.” He paused to let me absorb it.
“We can’t stay there.”
I tried to sit up but couldn’t. “Meth lab? Really?” My thoughts flashed to Breaking Bad. Then to the gun. Fiction was a whole lot more fun.
Dad nodded, and for the first time I saw that he’d been crying too. I saw the shame in my parents’ eyes. They blamed themselves for all of this. I didn’t. I blamed the dumbass meth head with the gun.
Mom snatched up my hand. “What happened, sweetie?”
“They tossed a bottle out of the car.”
Dad squeezed the bridge of his nose. “So you confronted them?”
I tried to sit up again. It was a no go. “Yeah. Hey, so we’re really moving? Where?”
“I don’t know, kid. Somewhere without a meth lab down the street.”
“But I want to stay at Libson. I don’t want to start a new school.”
“I know that. Let’s just worry about that shoulder. Doctor Sappari said that you were lucky, no nerve damage. The bullet missed the joint. She repaired the ligament, and that there’s some tissue damage but that should heal. An inch to the left things could have been different.”
“But I’m okay?”
Dad leaned over, kissed the top of my head like I was eight again. “Well, unless you want to play baseball.”
So Dad had jokes. Nope, I wasn’t big on sports. And the truth was I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back to school or even leave the safety of my hospital bed at the moment. I still saw that kid’s face just before he came back with the gun. Didn’t look scared or like he even cared. Just stuck it in my face without even wondering what I had to say. All I wanted to do was hand him his bottle back.
Lit stopped by later. I was fading out again but rallied when she gave me a soft kiss on the forehead, saying how she thought I was dead. I told her how I’d have a cool scar and she kissed me again.
“I’ll check you out tomorrow, and we’ll go from there. Get some rest, okay?”
I nodded. On her way out her tissue bounced off the can onto the floor.
She spun around, her eyes wide but soft as she took a step for me. I nodded towards the floor.
She picked up the tissue and threw it at me. I smiled.
Getting shot does wonders for a crush.