Enduring on the Lake

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Chapter 37


The day was a long one and I was so tired when we finally got back to the cabin and then finally went to sleep that I hadn’t a clue how hard it would be for me to get to sleep.  But all I could think of was, “I shot two men in the butt.  It wasn’t funny.  It wasn’t a cartoon.  It wasn’t like in the movies.  And they didn’t cover this part in the self-defense classes Daddy had made me take.  I could have killed them.  I really shot two men in the butt.  I could have killed them.” 

Over and over and over.  It didn’t matter that I was pretty sure by shooting them I had saved the man’s life that they themselves had just shot.  I heard it was touch and go with the fish and wildlife officer for a while and if they’d been any longer getting him into surgery it would have been go and not come back.  It didn’t matter that when we stopped at the bait ‘n tackle to gas up all of the vehicles and make sure that all the meat was where it belonged that some woman had nearly plowed me down hugging on me and telling me thank you, thank you, thank you for saving her nephew and that if there was anything that they could ever do for me I was just to ask it.  That was embarrassing and I hid behind Zane as much as possible.  I didn’t want gratitude, I wanted to be left alone so I could deal with the feelings I was already starting to have. 

Finally, it got ridiculous and I went to the kitchen to try and find something to help me sleep.  I nearly wet myself when Zane’s voice came out of the dark. 

“You ok?” 

I jumped and snapped, “Thanks.  Like I need a heart attack on top of everything else.” 

Without missing a bit Zane responded, “You’re welcome.  Now you gonna tell me if you’re ok or are you going to lie about it?” 

I just flopped down on the bench near the stove and said, “Am I ok?  Yeah.  Am I ok with what happened?  Not so much.” 

“At least you know the difference; that’s something,” he said shifting in the chair he had been sitting in.  I could hear him, just not see him.  “It will take a while, just don’t let it eat you up.” 

The tone in his voice made me sit up straighter and wonder about something.  “You were a soldier.” 

“You’re going to ask me whether I ever shot anyone.” 

Biting my lip and wondering if I had stepped over the line I nevertheless answered honestly.  “Yeah.” 

“Yes I did.  No I don’t know who, at least not literally.  Do I remember their faces?  Some of them.  Can I live with what I did?  Yes.  Did I get all the questions?” 

Feeling a little childish for asking I said, “I don’t know.  I hadn’t gotten that far yet.  I’m sorry.” 

He sighed deeply and said, “You don’t have anything to be sorry for.  You don’t even need to be sorry for shooting those two in their asses.  If you want to be sorry then be sorry it was necessary.” 

“Necessary?  I shot them in the butt Zane.  Almost point blank range.  I heard the cops … they called getting shot in the butt humiliating.  And even if it wasn’t humiliating in a technical sense, I could have technically killed the idiots!  That’s what I’m sorry for.” 

I heard Zane snort.  “No one dies from a shot in the ass, even if you did get them in both cheeks.  But they’ll remember it longer than if you had shot them any place else if I had to guess; and, it might just make them a little more careful about who they come up against.  I’m just glad that Lawrence said he was going to personally see that they got transported out of the county to the state penn where they were supposed to be heading in the first place.  Also glad I’m pretty sure that no one used your name where they could hear it.  They used to come up here every winter and cause problems but their aunt died two years ago and the property was taken for back taxes and they hadn’t been seen since.  From what I heard they came back not knowing the old place had been bulldozed over as a health hazard and had gotten tired of camping out.  Guess they were taking the guns and meat to sell on the black market to get some start up cash for whatever their next failure was going to be.” 

“Black market?  Geez, that was fast.  Daddy never said anything about that sort of thing starting up this soon.  At least I don’t think he did; I need to dig out all of his notebooks he brought up here last time.” 

“What notebooks?” 

“Just binders that he kept his thoughts and plans in.  The storage box is in their bedroom.  I’ll pull them out later.”  I rubbed my eyes in fatigue.  “As far as the Duncan Gang goes, I guess they really are losers but still, that doesn’t make me feel any better.” 

“Don’t worry about feeling better about having to shoot someone.  Just focus on the fact that it happened and if it hadn’t happened the man that they shot would have died and so could have some of the rest of us.  Those losers aren’t dead and neither are we.  Just try not to find yourself in that position again.  But if you do, next time …” 

“Next time what?” I asked as he fell silent. 

He drew a deep breath and I could feel a lecture coming on.  “Syd, I’m not criticizing you but a gun is meant for lethal force.  Just like you wouldn’t shoot to wound an animal to stop it, don’t shoot to wound a man to stop him.  They are both just as dangerous.  If you have reason to pull your gun and shoot then you have reason to pull your gun and use it for lethal force.” 

“I … I …”  I stopped and shook my head.  “I don’t know if I could have shot them in the back.  Their butts were the closest thing and … and …” 

Zane stood up and came over and sat beside me and put an arm around my shoulders.  “In a survival situation you will do whatever it is you have to do.  If that had been Max there instead of grown men could you have done it?” 

I said yes fast enough to shock and scare myself.  “Oh my God.  I just admitted that I would shoot a man in the back in cold blood.” 

“It wouldn’t be cold blood.  You’d be protecting Max.  Well, you were protecting us whether that’s what was running through your head at the time or not.  You stopped someone – helped stop five men – that were going to use deadly force to get what they wanted.  Shame that it happened but it did.  Shame that a little, innocent thing like you had to help stop them.  But I have a feeling that’s the path the world is heading down right now, that it maybe has been heading down for a while.  At least now you know – we know – what you’re willing and able to do to protect your group.” 

“Am I?  Part of a group?  It doesn’t feel like it.” 

“Well you’re part of my group.  And my group overlaps those that I call family – both close and extended.  They’ll recognize it if they want me to participate in their group.  And there were men there that now consider you part of their group whether they openly acknowledge that or not.  People are remembering that your family has roots here.  They’re rethinking how they see you.” 

Trying to sort out what he was saying I asked, “And that’s important?” 

“You know Harmon … or you should.  Your parents had connections here – your dad partially by birth and your mom because she went out of her way to get connected.  You know, or should, how people think of the summer and fall tourists.  They’ll play the local yokel angle to make a buck but they don’t have a whole lot of respect for most of the people coming through, especially the ones that actually buy the dumb hick routine.  But there are some long timers – your family, the Clarks, the VanOwens – people like that, that do get respect but it still isn’t the same kind of inclusion a local would get.  If they see you as a local things could be easier for you in the long run.” 

“And you think shooting those two guys in the butt makes me a local?  I don’t think so.  Today that lady thanked me for it; tomorrow someone is going to rethink what happened and say that I had no business …” 

“Hush.  Don’t worry about the idiots and arm chair quarterbacks.  Uncle Hightower will take care of anyone in the family that might think about getting stupid.  John for instance.” 

“Was he even around?  I didn’t recognize him.” 

“He was there, just not interested in making things easier on me.” 

“So I was a problem for you.” 

“Naw.  Mostly the guys were just razzing me for bringing a female along.  It’s not like they haven’t done the same thing.” 

“It just never turned out well and all of the men there didn’t want to have to deal with that today.” 

I could feel him chuckling even if I could see or hear it.  “Let’s just say you surprised a few.  John just never has liked to admit he was wrong about anything.  He’ll come around eventually, just don’t expect it to be a sudden revelation that is big and noisy and makes him apologize.” 

Sarcastically I said, “Heaven forfend that such a thing should ever happen.” 

“You must be feeling better, your mouth is coming back online.” 

I shrugged.  “I wouldn’t call it feeling better but … anyway … thanks.” 

“For what?” 

“For whatever it is you do.” 

“And what’s that?” 

“I’m not sure.  You just … make stuff better.  I … I need to … uh …” 

His armed tightened.  “I’m not going to bite.” 

“I know that.  I’m not completely stupid.  But … look … I’m not sure I should even be … hmmm … I sound like an idiot but I don’t know what else to call it.” 

He chuckled and this time I could hear it.  “Syd, you haven’t called ‘it’ anything so I don’t even know what ‘it’ is.” 

I rolled my eyes and told him, “This.  Sitting here.  In the dark.  With your arm around me.  You may not think anything of it but I can count on one hand all the guys that have ever done it and all but one of those were family.  Now you.  And you’re all casual about it.  And yes I know I’m twenty years old.  And yes I know I sound ridiculous.  But I majorly messed up once and … and …” 

“You aren’t interested in messing up again.” 

“Maybe I would have said it like that a couple of months ago but like I said … you make stuff better.  You’ve made me start thinking.  But I’m not sure if I’m thinking the same thing you’re thinking or if I’m thinking too much.  Maybe I’m just reading too much into things.  Maybe I’m trying to feel something I don’t because I’m alone.  Maybe …” 

“Maybe you need to stop worrying about it and let me get a word in edgewise.” 

“Uh … ok.”