Nobody knows this part of the story except me and, now, you.
We were in his backyard shooting his BB gun at a magazine page target nailed to a big maple tree. At first it was Nixon. I had no trouble shooting at Nixon. Got him once, too, right between the eyes. Hell of a shot. Then Ted took that one down and put up a page from a Playboy centerfold, went back to his shooting position and aimed the rifle.
“What are ya’ doin’?” I asked, but he had his eyes locked on the picture.
“Target practice,” he said, with a crooked smile, then pulled the trigger. He took two, three shots, then handed the gun to me.
“No,” I said, “I can’t shoot at . . . that.”
You have to remember, he was sixteen and had been trying to get to second base with Suzie Wiederman for six months with no luck. None whatsoever. I don’t know what he was thinking.
“Let’s take it down,” I said. “Maybe get Nixon again. Or Agnew. They make much better targets.”
“What the hell’s wrong with you,” he said, and grabbed the gun away from me, aimed and started pulling the trigger, pushing off several shots before I yelled out: “Stop! Enough! You can’t do that!” Staring at the picture of that naked woman. Air-brushed, but a woman, no less.
He dropped the gun and stared at me with that open-mouthed look he used to get, looking like a caveman, a degenerate, like somehow he wasn’t all there. Not a pretty sight. Not at all. But it was Ted. My best friend at the time.
The 7-11 thing, nobody could have seen that coming. It was 12:37 in the afternoon, July 2nd. A hot day. Flags flying everywhere, waving in the breezed, displayed in the store. We went in there for Slurpees.
We were at the machine, the slushy blue stuff slopping into my cup. That’s when we heard the pop and the cup flew out of my hand, blue sleet flying everywhere. I turned around and saw the back of this blond-haired guy with a Led Zeppelin T-shirt at the checkout. The curly-haired clerk had his hands up over his head. I slid down to the floor but Ted, he yelled out “Hey!” I don’t know why he did it. The guy whirled around and next thing I knew Ted was dropping like a bag of cement to the floor, red oozing out of him like in the movies. It didn’t seem real. He was on the floor, just lying there, breathing light, shallow breaths. And, meanwhile, the guy was yelling at the clerk, gun pointed at his face, ordering him to open the register, put the money in the bag. I was behind the magazine display, lying on the floor, shaking, trying not to breathe. Red was spilling out of Ted, a sea of red, out onto the floor. I couldn’t move, couldn’t get up. And from the cover of one of the glossy magazines some fashion model was staring at me with a bored haughty fashion model kind of look that seemed to be turning, at the corners of her mouth, into a smirk.
Then, in minutes that seemed like hours, the guy was gone, the police and paramedics were there, but Ted, Ted was gone. Gone, gone, a pool of red surrounding his prone body. They were all around him, looking at him, prodding him. Electronic voices staticcy voices on police radios, lights flashing outside the front window, the curly-haired clerk in hysterics, telling what happened, the cops standing there, one of them telling him to “Calm down, calm down,” writing in his little pad.
And I was standing there, shaking, watching my friend, my former friend, Ted, lying in his own blood, thinking about how he looked when he was lining up his shot with that crooked smile, saying “Target practice,” just before he pulled the trigger. LS