Episode 2 – Welcome Back
“Hey Roger,” I yelled across the playground of our school as I ran toward the first of one of my best friends growing up. I had only been back in Phoenix for a few minutes before I bolted out the screen door to search for my gang members.
The family had just rolled in from Littleton’s Centennial Race Track in Colorado. Dad was still unpacking the Chrysler.
Roger was standing in the dirt lot his Mom owned and swiveled around like he was Clint Eastwood. Then I saw what he was holding. The pellet gun was pointing down in the ready position.
Fear scorched through me as all the wounds on my body from my past losses of the boy’s BB battles began to cheer. They knew there was about to be a new member to my body’s wound club at my expense.
Roger raised his favorite, a single shot long-range CO2 pellet rifle to his shoulder with confidence as I dove into the dead Bermuda grass covering the hidden bull head sticker weeds of the playground. A large puff of grass billowed up over me creating a natural smoke screen.
The fear multiplied with what I saw next. Roger must have done some yard work during the summer and made some money. A shiny attachment glinted as the gun was raising in slow motion.
“Uh oh. A scope,” my lips moved but only the seriousness of the thought mattered. I rolled left then right, did a somersault as a distraction. I looked and saw the concrete sewer pipe used as a playground equipment and knew it was my only cover. I made a run for it.
Pffft! His first shot missed. He was so good at reloading I knew it was only moments before he zeroed in on my shoulder-blade and stung me. I dove again and created another smoke screen.
“Gun!” I screamed to try to call to my BB gun I left at the house for it to somehow come to me in obedience.
The Lone Ranger called for Trigger and it worked on tv. “I can’t believe I went outside unarmed.” Gun never showed up. I had a dog named Dog so it made sense to give my 1894 Winchester a name. ‘Gun’ fit.
I rolled sideways and grabbed a double fist of Bermuda and began my run to safety. Hands over my head I released a streaming trail of dead grass like a comet’s tail. Roger would be looking at it and I knew a serious marksman of his caliber only hits what he’s looking at.
Pffft! The round missed my leg by a BB width. I felt the scorching heat pass by me. The concrete pipe was only steps away.
“I made it,” I said aloud between each heavy breath.
I crouched behind the barricade and slowly made my way on my belly to the opposite opening and slid in. The pipe, maybe four-feet in diameter was thick, cold and concrete. No pellet even made of structural steel would ever pierce the armor.
Crack! The pellet ricocheted off the grayness and into the sky. Who knows how far up it went but I heard a small aircraft’s engine change as it veered.
“One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three,” Crack!
“Holy hand grenades! He’s way faster reloading now,” I said to myself with the neck of my t-shirt pulled over my mouth. “Must have practiced .”
“Okay, here I go. One Mississippi,” I whispered through my gritted teeth. The plan was to make it to the tall mulberry tree across the street deep into the cover of the irrigated alley. Once there the cover of the overgrowth would allow me enough time to make it home, grab my friend called, Gun, and return fire on a counter attack.
“Not enough time to get there,” I said as I hesitated. “He’s a Gatling Gun expert now.”
Roger had placed the round precisely on the lip of the interior of the pipe and the tiny projectile spun around the inside until it connected sternly against my elbow. I waited for the coup de grâce or thought about whether or not I would suffer the painless euthanasia of a point-blank demise?
Roger’s dumb looking face suddenly appeared at the opening upside down hanging from the top of the pipe like a wilted banana leaf.
“Welcome back buddy. The Stingrays were waiting,” he smiled through his crooked teeth. “Pretty good shot ass wipe, huh? What do you think about this? He held the scope for me to see.
“How did you get that?” I asked while holding my elbow. I expected an answer of ‘lawn care’, to be the result.
“I was walking on Camelback over by 15th Avenue and you know, the bar’s, the white one next to the Taco Bell, door was wide open. Some stupid guy in a uniform, was filling the cigarette machine and left the door to the machine wide open. He went to the bathroom and I pounced like a ditch cat on a pack rat. I helped myself to three humongous boxes of cigs.
“Wow! That baby would be really good for boil hunting.”
“Yeah I thought so too. When school starts we’ll give it a try. So, I sold all of the cig packs for 15 cents a piece to Zeno and bought this.” He looked at the lens on the end. “Pretty cool. You guys have no chance against me now.”
“I don’t think so dipshit”
“Zeno sold them for twenty cents each. He’s getting a CO2. Well anyhow, glad to see your back. Here let me help you.”
I reached out to grab his hand and he pulled it back out of reach. “Not!” We both said at the same time. “Hex, hex,” I said quickly. Roger winced. Saying hex hex first when you said a word at the same time or farted was a rule amongst the Stingrays. Doing that meant you would get a free slug in the arm of the loser.
Roger jumped down off the pipe and started walking away. “Come on, let’s get a grilled cheese at my house. Mom is at work.” Roger was walking away when I caught up with him and asked, “So how’s the Stingrays doing?” I asked as I slugged him hard in his bicep.
“DB is still in Fort Grant but his Mom says he’s coming home before school starts.”
I interrupted, “Fort Grant!? Dan Black is in juvie?”
“Yep. Dan and Dave both broke into the cafeteria at school and trashed it while the cops sat outside waiting for them to come out. Did some real damage to the stuff they used to cook with.
Anyway, it was a free ride to Durango. Then right out to Fort Grant for a lesson. Mom said, she was glad to see them leave for a while.”
“What about the rest of the guys?”
“Zeno’s around and has a new girlfriend, Ronnie’s the same, Fred’s tubbo, Bobby is still waving his donuts around and Gary was supposed to come over today later to practice his judo on me. He’s a brown belt now. Steer clear.
“Now he can practice on you instead.” I was rubbing the spot on my elbow where the sting of Roger’s cheap Yellow Front pellet gun’s projectile struck. Gary was my best friend and I knew even if I was there, Roger was the crash dummy.
Roger paused as I smiled.
“Better you than me. Welcome back my friend, welcome back.”
“The best part of life starts at the head of the stretch.”