“She pointed the pistol at her chest, just itching at a bugbite or somethin’. And the damn thing went off. She shot herself. Just like that.”
We were walking down the middle of Hacksaw Road, sometime between lunch and supper, though my old man calls lunch, supper, and supper, dinner, and the whole discussion just makes me hungry as a bear.
My uncle Tom, a cross between ZZ Top and John Wayne, was on my left and his brother, my old man, was buzzing a tale about our sunburnt ears.
“Had no clue she couldn’t handle a pistol until it was—”
“—Maybe she wasn’t thinkin’ straight. Her boyfriend back in prison and all.” I interrupted, noting I always stick up for gals, even when they’re low-lifed, good for nothings.
My old man’s a natural story teller; he gets ya smack where he wants ya, then he takes his time leading ya ‘round by the nose.
“So, then what?” I yipped impatiently.
Tom took out another Camel from his chest pocket, and ignited. He never interfered, ‘specially with my old man, who was the middle child. Most assumed he was the oldest.
“Well, she’s a big woman, you know. Blousy. When the ambulance came, she hooted at the paramedics to leave her bra alone—that they couldn’t cut her one decent bra. Victoria Secret, she hollered, Victoria Secret! Over and over.”
Dad kicked a pebble up a ways in front of us and I hopped on my left foot to match his rhythm, his gait.
Us Frye’s are all legs.
Dad jammed his hands in his rump pockets. Tom lit up another one.
Dad continued, “When they reached the hospital, the nurses couldn’t believe what little blood had escaped her wounds. A few days later, she came back down to the farm, walking all fine and dandy-like. She told her old man that the bullet missed every vital organ—just barely—by a hair.”
“So the bullet just gouged her fat? In one side and out the other?” I gawked up at my green bean of a father, who was just a beaming, pleased with his delivery of the tale.
“Yep. Cut through the fat.” He smacked his tan hands together, his gold wedding ring gleaming in the July sun.
“Jenny Craig would be mortified! Paula Deen, ecstatic.”
Tom was at my side, but in another tale altogether; the tale with the young gal (hardly any meat on her) and Tom got excited. He was really deep in the muck of describing the inner-workings of the gun in his hand and couldn’t see her shifting from side to side, glancing at the movement of the sun, itching to say it’s high time for her to get on home.
Us Frye’s are gear heads.
And I used to stand in the garage with a little notepad, chicken scratching the parts we needed to order.
The young girl was uneasy, like a doe caught at dusk between the tall grass and the tree line. She couldn’t understand Tom’s mechanics; she couldn’t see that he’s a good old boy and takes care of guns and old radios the way a woman handles her face and paints her nails.
“Maybe that’s why gals shouldn’t handle guns,” I say, half-joking, half-serious, as I thought about my great-grandmama who plum shot three of her fingers off by accident.
My old man looks down at me and so does Tom. “Just don’t burn the pot roast, little pumpkin.” They both smiled to beat the band and I knew precisely what my old man and what my uncle been trying to tell me all along.