“Go ahead and grab a gun out of the shed over there,” Nathan jabbed his chin towards a large shed, then he finished cleaning his own firearm on the back porch. I watched as his arms moved up and down the barrel, caressing it with his cloth in a hypnotizing manner.
The rest of the school day was pretty much uneventful. I avoided Ryan as much as I could and still get to class. I couldn’t find my sixth period Spanish, though, so I walked in ten minutes after the bell.
Right as I got home, I was ordered to the backyard for my next training. I wasn’t expecting guns, but I guess it’s just as nonnegotiable as Liam’s lessons were back at home.
I walked over to a large shed and pulled open the small double doors. The display of different size guns revealed itself in an overwhelming amount. I turned to the next door on the right side of the shed and swung it open to see more guns. Then the next door. Then the next. All the doors were covered in different guns, each different styles, sizes, and shapes.
Nathan came to my side and placed the gun he was previously cleaning back onto what I assumed was its usual hanger. Each gun was held up by a series of small hooks, securing them in place. “Just pick one, and we can start training with it.”
I rounded another corner, marveling in the amount of guns. They must have every kind of model made. “How am I supposed to pick one?” I asked, my voice barely above a whisper, either from the overwhelming choice or the fact that Nathan was so close.
“It’s not that hard, just pick a gun,” he said, sounding more irritated as I rounded another corner to look at more guns that looked nearly the same.
Nathan sighed in frustration and came to my side. “This side of the shed has Assault Rifles. They are mostly used for war and stuff like that. The military uses these for combat, some long distance, some short. They are pretty hard to get to use, but when you use it correctly, they are deadly and dangerous.” I looked at the guns and imagined the amount of people that died from these weapons. Vivid images of war and combat raced through my mind and I tried to shake them free.
He moved over to the left side of the shed and I followed closely behind him, as if the guns would pop out and shoot me. “These are Pistols and required for personal use, really. Home protection, gang members, that kind of thing. Really easy to use, but they don’t really work long distance as well.”
I nodded and he moved onto the next side. “These are the Shotguns. Usually used for multiple targets, like flocks of birds. Not terribly hard to use, because of the wide range it hits when it goes off.”
I looked at the guns and admired the body and shape of the weapon. The light wood on some of them against the dark metal made them seem less . . . evil for some reason.
I didn’t realize Nathan had moved on until I heard him speaking again. Rushing to his side, I listened as he described the last set of guns. “These are rifles. Mainly used for killing woodland creatures like rabbit and deer. They are like the assault rifles, hard to learn with, but they might not pay off as much in the long run unless you are really into killing squirrels.”
His comment jerked me from the images of killing in my mind. “Am I going to be killing anything?” My voice trembled mildly as I asked the one question I didn’t know I really wanted the answer to.
“It’s just my job to educate you. It’s up to you to determine how you use it. Just don’t go on a killing spree shooting whoever you want. That will get all of us in trouble.”
As if I’m going to do that, I thought, but just nodded instead.
“Alright, so just go to one section that interested you and pick a gun you think you will like.”
I walked back over to the shotguns and took another look. Each of them looking to be made from the same blueprint, but insanely different at the same time. Choosing from random, I reached out and grabbed one of the smaller ones, a light brown handle at the bottom of the barrel and the end of the gun.
“You sure you want that one?” Nathan asked me as if convinced I was going to change my mind.
I nodded in confirmation as he shrugged and walked back into the house. Did I do something wrong? Where is he going? I asked myself, not sure what just happened. Was this some sort of test? Does he think I’m joking? Should I put the gun back?
I turned around to put the gun back in the same place I pulled it from when I heard the sliding door open and close again. Nathan stood in front of me with a small green box in his hand.
“You grabbed an A5 Hunter Semi-Automatic Shotgun.” Nathan said as he approached me, as if that meant something. He placed the box on the top of the shed and took the gun from my hands. “I’m going to tell you what to do, show you, then let you try it, okay?”
I nodded and he walked a little more towards the woods, but I stayed where I was. “Shotguns have quite a bit of kick-back in them, so you want to have the gun up to your shoulder when you shoot, or you can dislocate it. And Trysten won’t heal it for you,” he warned, placing the butt of the gun up against his shoulder.
“Make sure you have your feet about shoulder width apart, perpendicular with your target.” Nathan followed his own instructions and positioned himself perpendicular with a large potato sack, a bold, red target painted in the middle.
“Come here,” he beckoned and I hesitated only for a second before rushing to his side. “This is the butt,” he said, pointing to the end of the gun. “The safety switch,” he said and pointed to another smaller switch on top of the barrel above the trigger. “The barrel, nuzzle, forestock, ejection port, stock, trigger, trigger guard, and the sight dots,” he said, pointing to different parts of the gun as he said each name. I hoped he wasn’t going to quiz me on them later because I know I’m not going to remember the names.
“The ammunition will go in the ejection port, only three per load, you aim by looking down the barrel of the gun and align the dots all where you want your target, switch off the safety, and pull the trigger. You’ve probably already seen this part in movies and stuff, but then you pull the forestock back and forth, and that reloads the gun. You then align the dots again and pull the trigger.”
Nathan placed the gun in my hands and walked over to the shed to grab the small box he placed up there earlier. “These are called Shotgun Shells. They have small pellets in them, like little beads. When you pull the trigger, all these beads come out of the barrel, the forestock gets rid of the empty shell, then you could shoot again.”
Nathan pulled out three shells and walked back over to me, pulling on the ejection point and placing all three of them in the gun. “You might want to step back a bit. You should always have a small range around you before shooting,” Nathan warned and I took a couple steps back.
“Feet,” Nathan said and repositioned his body to be perpendicular with the target again. “Butt to the shoulder,” he said again and firmly placed the end of the gun into his shoulder. “Don’t forget about the kickback. Then align the dots,” he said and placed his cheek on the side of the gun, eyes peering ahead. “Safety off,” he said slowly as his left hand came up and flicked the switch before returning to securely holding the gun. “And pull the trigger.”
I grabbed my ears as his index finger gave the trigger a pull and the target exploded in front of me, small bits of cotton flying from the back. Nathan’s hand pulled the forestock and fired again, leaving the target in worse shape than before. Again, Nathan pulled the forestock and fired in the same place before moving his hand up to the safety and giving it another flick.
I removed my hands from my ears, still ringing from the loud sound. Although deafening, it gave me a desire to reach over and pull the trigger myself.
Walking over to the target, I saw hundreds of tiny holes splattered in the middle and inner rings of the target. The cotton inside the large sack was visible, sticking out and barely hanging in.
“Your turn,” Nathan said as he stepped from his posture and made his way over to the shed for more shells.
“Oh, um, I . . .” I stuttered, afraid to even touch the very thing that did this much damage to a pillow.
“Elana, you’re shooting it. Now get over here,” Nathan demanded and I knew I had nothing left to do but oblige.
I sulked over to where Nathan just was, hands trembling at my sides. “Now, grab it here,” he said, pointing to one spot of the gun. “And here,” he said, pointing to another.
I squeezed the gun in my trembling hands, trying to regain control over them. Nathan noticed their shaking and placed his hands over mine. Sparks trailed down my arms at that simple touch. “Relax,” he soothed.
“Okay, I barely said, even my whisper was coming out shaky.
“Elana, look at me,” Nathan ordered, but my gaze stayed fixed on the gun in my hands. He removed his hands from mine and I felt his warmth leave with him. He took the gun from my hands, letting it rest in his left hand. Grabbing my shoulder with his right hand, he comforted me with the small gesture. The warm chocolate swirls consumed me and I felt my hands stop their shivering. “It’s okay. Just take one shot, try it out, and just get a feel for it, okay? I’ll be right here the whole time.”
His calm voice steadied me and I nodded as he let go of my shoulder. I took a deep breath before standing shoulder-width apart and standing at a right angle to the target. “Feet a little less apart,” Nathan gently suggested while he nudged my front foot back a little. “Good. Now, here’s the gun,” he said, handing me the shotgun.
I raised the end of the gun to my shoulder, remembering not to dislocate it any time soon. “Good. Butt, alignment,” Nathan coached from two feet away, but started coming closer. “I’m flipping off the safety, then just take one shot,” Nathan said as he reached to the top of the gun and flipped a small switch.
I looked down the barrel to the destroyed potato sack. I started getting nervous again, worrying about hitting the correct target. Repositioning the dots, I closed my eyes. “Open your eyes when you shoot,” Nathan gently ordered.
The count of three. One. Two. I hesitated for a moment, but then remembered Nathan’s promise. ‘You only have to shoot once’. Three!
My index finger squeezed the trigger and a ‘bang’ exploded in my ears. The gun kicked back, slamming itself farther into my shoulder as the corner of the large potato sack exploded in front of me and a grin spread across my face.
Despite the utter terror of the thought of using a gun, the shot seemed to have exhilarated me as the breathtaking moment passed.
Sneaking over, Nathan flicked back off the safety and grabbed the gun from my hands. “Go check how many pellets you got,” Nathan said as he emptied the unused shells.
Nearly skipping over, I skimmed the bag ferociously, searching for any small victory I might have accomplished. My shot hit the bottom left of the bag, only about two of them actually hitting the pillow sack, but that was enough for me to be excited.
“Can I do it again?” I asked anxiously.
Nathan flashed me his pure white teeth and placed the gun back in the shed, closing and locking the double doors. “Tomorrow,” he promised and walked away with the shells held in one enormous hand.