MATTHEW MORIARTY: This Gun-Shooting Thing Is Too Much Fun
I planted the butt of the shotgun against my left shoulder, took aim and fired. The kick wasn't as bad as I was expecting. In fact, it felt good. Satisfying.
"Great!" my friend Weej said. "You shot the tree."
"It'll live," I said. "Besides, it shouldn't have looked at me that way."
It was my first time firing a gun. Weej, who now wants to be called Lewis simply because that's his name, invited me to shoot skeet with him, his Danish/French girlfriend Gia, and a couple of people from his neighborhood in Vass.
He had asked me before. And although I always said I was interested, I usually found an excuse not to come. If he prodded me, I would just make fun of him for being almost 30 and never having had a job. (He's got degrees on top of his degrees.)
I knew that the reason for my hesitation was fear. Guns have always made me nervous. If the vice president proved anything it's that accidents happen, no matter who you are. Guns scare me.
When I was growing up in the '80s, gun safety was a big issue. Every time a TV character wore out his welcome, like that idiot from "90210" who wore the cowboy hat, it would be time for a "very special episode." Bang bang.
I remember reading an article about a kid who shot his friend in the face. The author, the ending revealed, was the shooter, having grown up with the shame.
Kurt Vonnegut's narrator in "Deadeye Dick" had accidentally shot someone, and it ruined his life. In "I Hung My Head," Johnny Cash sings about an accidental shooting:
"I felt the power of death over life. I orphaned his children. I widowed his wife. I begged their forgiveness. I wish I was dead. I hung my head. I hung my head."
A couple of years ago, I had to write an article about a hunting accident in which a young boy accidentally shot and killed a man with a shotgun. It happened in the woods near where Weej and I were shooting.
As I held the gun in my hands, it seemed odd that all I would have to do to end Weej's life would be to swing it in his direction and pull the trigger. I told him that the headline would have read: "Unemployed 30-Year-Old Killed."
But guns are a fact of life. As a man, I owed it to myself to learn how to use one properly.
It was about as cold as any day yet this winter. It was so cold that the clays that escaped the shotgun shattered when they hit the frozen ground. Eventually, a couple of different people showed up. There were coffee and cake.
A guy named Dave pulled up in a pickup with a clay thrower in the back. Gia took some shots. It was hilarious to me, watching a 90-pound European in $200 jeans and a cape shoot a pump action. Weej proved to be a marksman.
On my first go, I took three shots, clipping the clay with the final one. After a reload, I shot again and watched a bird disintegrate before my eyes.
"That felt good," I said.
After a couple of boxes of shells each, some red noses and about an hour of cleaning up, we called it a day.
By that night, I had an oval bruise on my arm and shoulder. I can't say that I'm hooked, but it was a good time, and I got to face my fear. And I'll bet that oak won't mess with me again.
Matthew Moriarty may be contacted at 693-2479 or by e-mail at moriarty@thepilot. com.
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