Disclaimer: I don’t know crap about firearms. Ha-ha. But there’s not much for my little brain to work with when the prompt is ‘gunshot,’ so…
The gophers this year were terrible. Tommy would take barely a step off the concrete patio before he found himself stumbling in a small hole created by one of the little rascals. Speaking of rascals, their huge lab Rascal was rarely seen without his snout shoved down one of those many tunnels. And when Tommy would gleefully run around the acreage and step in a hole or two, Rascal would be there to nudge him back up from the ground.
Every year it was a game for the two–Tommy would waddle along (walk, now; back then he waddled as any toddler would), after spying the little critters running around the yard, and Rascal would follow behind, as if cautious of the gophers. And at Tommy’s cry of “There!” Rascal would pounce, even though both the large dog and the gopher knew the little boy’s call was far too late. But the entertainment lasted for hours.
And as Tommy aged, and Rascal aged, their teamwork was even better. Rascal still only jumped when prompted, and still never quite caught one of the rodents, but Tommy was getting better at timing.
Tommy was seven when Rascal first caught a gopher. The lab carefully held it in his jaw, and trotted over to the little boy proudly. Tommy, filled with his own pride, went to pat Rascal on the head, when suddenly the dog released the gopher. Tommy squealed and fell back on his bottom as the gopher flailed a moment in the grass before darting away.
Tommy and Rascal had plenty of moments like this together. Gopher chasing was their main source of entertainment in the warmer months. But as it got colder, Tommy’s dad would take Rascal out for hours, not coming back until it was nearly dark.
Tommy’s parents had explained to him what it was Rascal and his dad did, but all Tommy knew was worry, as he heard the sound of gunfire all day long. It was only when the headlights of his dad’s truck lit up the large window of the living room that Tommy felt at ease.
Catching gophers was a task that kept the young boy busy. It kept him out of trouble, made no mess, got him some exercise… really there was absolutely nothing wrong with his and his dog’s playing. They even hauled the gophers far out into the field when they did catch them, in the hopes that the rodents would venture off to a new home.
But this year the gophers were terrible, and Tommy’s dad decided it was time to teach his young boy a new lesson. He was ten–he was old enough.
“Tom, come here,” he said one afternoon after school. He was standing on the porch, calling to Tommy through the screen door as the boy sat at the dining room table doing homework.
Tommy obediently came, sliding the door shut behind himself cautiously. His dad stood tall, buff with muscle and age, stubble patchy and graying. Tommy enjoyed the look of his dad. He was a rugged man, who could be caring one moment and scary the next.
Right now he had a scary look to him. And he was holding a gun.
“What is it?” Tommy asked, coming to stand beside him, barely passing his dad’s elbow in height. Rascal was on his side next to them, basking in the little light left in the day. His ear perked up a tad at Tommy’s arrival.
Without a word Tommy’s dad handed him the gun, and then proceeded to explain how to hold it. How to fire once the aim was just right. And how it would have quite the recoil when fired.
Once Tommy was in position, confused beyond belief, aiming at a seemingly random spot off in the yard, his dad began to explain. “We’re shooting gophers.”
“What?” Tommy asked, shocked. After he finished with homework Tommy was going to go out into the yard with Rascal and scrounge some of them up. Now he was killing them? “Why?”
“They’re too big a nuisance this year, Tom. We have to ween ’em down a bit. Ain’t gonna cut down the population by having Rascal carry ’em out into the field. They just breed more. So we have to shoot ’em.”
Nothing more was said, and the two stood for some time, waiting for a gopher to poke its head up from the ground.
Because there were so many of them this year, it took next to no time at all.
“Right there,” his dad said quietly, bending down next to his son and pointing straight ahead. Tommy had seen it–he was practically a gopher-spotting expert. Rascal sat up next to the boy, scooching himself a bit behind Tommy’s body, but peeking around at the gopher, as well. “Take your time. When it feels good, shoot.”
This would never feel good. That’s what Tommy would have liked to say, but the words stuck in his throat. He had the gopher right where he wanted it, could probably hit it on the first try, but…
He’d much rather run around and catch them with Rascal. This just didn’t feel right to him.
But with his dad’s large hand on his shoulder, he didn’t feel like he had much choice. Rascal’s warm, big body up against his legs gave Tommy some comfort.
Squeezing an eye shut and biting his lip, Tommy pulled the trigger.
The gun definitely had some kick to it. Rascal helped keep him up, for the most part, but Tommy still ended up jerking back so hard he bounced off the lab and back forward, landing on his bottom. His dad was quick to take the gun from his son’s hands before he went to investigate.
Tommy shook. It had been far more powerful than he’d expected. So much so it terrified him. He reached back and patted Rascal’s back, thankful for his buddy. Goodness knows he might’ve gone through the screen door if his dog hadn’t been there.
Tommy could see his dad waving to him from about where the gopher was. He couldn’t hear a word he said, though, but the small smile on his face indicated Tommy had hit the critter. His dad was still talking as he walked back up to the porch.
But all Tommy had in his ears was the crack and boom of the gunshot.