We sat in this metal drainage pipe and listened to the traffic thump across the seam in the pavement over our heads. This was home, at least until it got dark and we had to go home for real. But between the time we got out of school until the time we had to leave, this was home for Jason, Brian, and me.
“Give it to me!” Jason shouted. “Both barrels!” He’d taken off his shirt and thrown it to the side. It landed in the slow trickle of water that passed through the middle of our place. He’s stood in front of me, his face grimaced and holding his breath, his gut as tight as he could make it. I pulled back a fist and slammed it into his stomach. My other fist followed quickly. Both barrels.
Jason laughed and coughed.
“My turn,” I said and pulled off my shirt, taking care to lay it on one of the plastic milk crates we sat on to keep our butts from getting wet. “Both barrels.”
Jason pulled his fist back and hesitated for a moment then laid into me with everything he had. I doubled over, trying to get back the wind that’d just been knocked out of me.
Jason laughed and asked me to pop him again. I obliged.
We sat on the milk crates and rubbed our bare stomachs. The rocks on the right side of the pipe crunched under footsteps. It was Brian and he carried a baseball equipment bag. He tossed it to the middle of the pipe and it landed with a heavy thud.
“What’s going on, ladies?” he asked and laughed. He dropped to a knee and unzipped the bag. He pulled out three worn bats and set them aside. He put a hand into the bag then looked up and smiled.
“You two aren’t going to believe what I’ve got here.” He pulled out a double barreled shotgun.
Neither Jason nor I said anything. I think we stopped breathing for a moment.
“You got shells for that?” Jason asked.
Brian pulled a box of shells out of the bag. “Dad left it out on his work bench in the garage. He was cleaning it. Let’s shoot it.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because we can,” Jason said and took the gun out of Brian’s hands. Jason ran out of the end of the pipe nearest the woods. He was nearly to the trees by the time Brian and I took off after him.
When we found him he was setting up chunks of a fallen tree upright on what was left of its stump.
“Give me some shells,” he said. Brian pulled a couple out of the box and handed them to Jason. He loaded the gun and put it up to his shoulder. He fired a round and stumbled back. Birds scattered from the trees above. He missed the stump entirely. He raised the gun to his shoulder again, this time setting his feet wide. He shot and missed.
“Stupid thing,” he says. “The sights must be off.”
“Yeah,” Brian said, and took the gun. While he loaded two more rounds, the leaves on the ground rustled. A man with a tangled beard and dirty clothes stumbled out of the trees directly behind where Jason had been shooting.
“You stupid kids,” he shouted at us. “You almost shot me.”
“We’re sorry, sir,” Jason said. “We didn’t know anyone was out here.”
The man continued to approach.
“Almost shot me,” he said again.
The three of us took a few steps back. “Come here,” the man said. “We need to have a talk with your parents.”
“Come on,” I said. “It was a mistake. We didn’t know you were there.”
The man continued to come at us. We all backed up a few more steps, but the man didn’t stop.
“Give me the gun,” he shouted. “Give it to me.”
Jason and I turned and started to run. That’s when we heard two shots in quick succession.
Brian gave it to the man. Both barrels.