The sun had almost sunk below the horizon when John nearly killed Casey with a BB gun stolen from his brother, but that’s where this story ends. Where it starts is the day before, when the two best friends were at Sam Goody happily browsing the new releases for something to stick out. They had money to burn from mowing lawns and they were desperate to spend it. If it wasn’t tapes it would have been a whole lot of gum instead, so tapes it was.
“You know the ladies love Marvin Gaye,” Casey said, holding up the latest from the crooner.
“But the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack is where it’s at,” John whined, doing an impromptu disco move.
“Well, we got twenty-eight fifty between the two of us, so we can get both,” Casey said, grinning from ear to ear.
“Sounds like a plan, and we can switch out when we get bored with the one we got,” John agreed, taking both tapes up to the register.
“Oh, I ain’t never gettin’ bored with Marvin Gaye,” said Casey, winking at his friend.
“Please, Case,” John said. “You ain’t never had no girl cuz we always together.”
“Well then maybe I need to hang out with some new people,” Casey said under his breath.
They left the store with the tapes wrapped up tightly in the famous brown paper bag, talking about everything from music to softball, walking the familiar cross streets on the way to John’s house. It was the same route every Thursday after school for the fourteen-year old boys, and even though John’s mother still beat him when he got home late it never deterred him from taking the detour with his best friend to find adventure in browsing, and occasionally buying, music. By the time they arrived at his house it was after five and his mother was livid, threatening to throw Casey out for being a bad influence.
Fifteen minutes later, though, the boys were locked in John’s room with the smooth sounds of Marvin Gaye cranked up on the old stereo Casey had rescued from the neighbor’s trash over the summer. The boys had decided to keep it over John’s house because they spent most of their time there, and Casey’s father was an alcoholic and tended to embarrass him when he brought anyone home. It just made more sense. The BB gun was lying on the dresser where Preston had left it when the boys had been playing cops and robbers the week before, and Casey picked it up, pointing it at his friend.
“Bang, bang,” he said, squinting his eye as if staring down an imaginary sight.
“Put that thing down,” John said, putting up his hand but laughing at the same time. “You’ll put somebody’s eye out.”
“Ain’t no pellets in this gun anyway,” said Casey.
“Don’t matter,” argued John. “Preston would kill you if he knew you had it.”
“Then he shoulnd’ta left it where I could pick it up,” Casey said. “Bang, bang.”
John snatched the gun from his friend and put it in his jacket pocket, then continued singing off-key with the wrong lyrics, but he didn’t care. Casey soon joined in and both boys completely forgot all about the gun as they sang, drank their Kool-Aid, and decided what they were going to do with the rest of their hard-earned cash. Before too long the shadows grew dark in the room and Casey got John’s mom to drop him off at his house, bracing himself for his father’s wrath, but when he got inside his dad was already passed out on the couch and he tiptoed into his room.
The next day dawned bright and new and even though the boys usually met up to walk to school Casey wasn’t at their rendezvous spot. John waited ten minutes before finally giving up on his friend, figuring he would show up eventually. He never did, not for History, or for Math, or even for English. By the time two-thirty rolled around and the final bell rang John was certain something horrible had happened to Casey, so he hiked over to the other boy’s house, even though it was twice the distance from the school as his own. His jacket felt a little heavy so he patted the pocket to discover he still had his brother’s gun nice and snug in there. It made him feel like a real thug even though it was just a BB gun, and he started walking with a swagger.
At Casey’s house the yard was ironically overgrown because they refused to mow any lawn without getting paid for it, and Casey’s parents wouldn’t have paid them in a million years. It was all about principle with them, they said, but that was just another excuse for being cheapskates. At least according to John, not that he would even say that to his friend’s face. The house itself looked benign, though, like a large box that might or might not hold a special surprise inside. He snuck around the side of the house to the window of Casey’s ground floor room and rapped on it twice, their old signal. Before long the shade moved, the window slid open, and his friend let him in.
Casey looked normal, or as normal as he could with a black eye. John took his time getting around to the big question, as though oblivious to what was so obvious. They turned the old radio on, adjusting the antenna to get the best reception they could while John got out their homework and they pretended some more. The talk would come eventually, but until then it was good to just be together again, while the gun burned a hole in John’s pocket…
[To Be Continued]