Tommy and Buster
“Now you stay here, Buster,” Tommy whispered to his golden retriever. “I’ll be back in a little while.”
Tommy tugged at the stubborn window pane, carefully easing it past the area where it scraped the most. He had marked the spot with a pencil, just for this occasion. He didn’t want to alert his folks, sitting in the family room watching “All in the Family,” of his departure this evening. He was supposed to be in his room studying his math, but he had more electrifying things to attend to.
Tommy pulled on his dark blue windbreaker and reached under the dresser to his secret hiding place, locating his prized possession, a Rider Rick Super Slingshot. It had taken him two months of mowing lawns to pay for the weapon, which had a shiny silver handle, and a thick black rubber strip with a built-in cup for ammunition.
He gently placed the slingshot inside the right pocket of his jacket, and double-checked the left for the ammo. Repeating his command for Buster to “stay,” Tommy crawled out the window, and hurried out into the mist.
• • •
The murky fog that wrapped the town in a grey shroud was not unusual for late November.
The guys had agreed to meet at 8:15 sharp. Tommy waited at the corner of Delaware and 3rd Street for his buddies, Dave and Larry. The world appeared to cease past the penumbra of the streetlight overhead, and Tommy anxiously peered into the mist. Occasionally a car would pass in the distance, two filmy white spheres of light illuminating the grey, then finally burning away like shooting stars. The night held a menacing quality, saved only by the soft vaporous glow of the streetlight.
“Hey!” yelled Dave, as he snuck up behind Tommy and slapped him on the back.
“Aack!” Tommy’s breath caught in his throat. “You big jerk!”
Dave snorted jovially. He was twelve, the same age as Tommy, but a foot taller. He was in the habit of tormenting Tommy at every opportunity.
“You ready?” asked Dave.
“Yeah. I picked up lots of those small rocks in that ditch by the quarry. How ’bout you?”
The two boys waited nearby in the inky haze, not wanting to be noticed loitering the area. The listened intently for the arrival of Larry. When he appeared out of the mist, he wore a sinister grin and his arms were clutched behind his back. He beckoned them toward the streetlight.
“Guess what I found?” asked Larry.
“I give,” said the boys.
Larry brought his right arm forward to reveal a long, narrow rifle. The black finish reflected dully in the glow of the streetlight, revealing nicks and scratches.
“I found it in my Grandpa’s attic and I hid it. Isn’t it neat? There’s probably even some bullets in it. This’ll be a lot better than those stupid old slingshots.”
Dave shied back when Larry offered the gun to him, but Tommy grabbed it for inspection.
“Wow, a .22!” he said.
In the distance there was the rhythmic clicking of nails on the concrete, but the boys, intently gathered around the newly found object, didn’t notice the sound as it approached.
Larry took the weapon back from Tommy. He pointed directly for the point of light above them and pulled slowly on the trigger. The boys were disappointed when the hammer issued a hollow clack against the primer.
“Let me see it,” said Tommy. “Maybe it’s not loaded.” He pulled back the bolt. “Yup. Empty. Got any bullets?”
“Here,” Larry said, pulling two from his pocket.
Tommy loaded the rifle and pushed back the bolt. He looked out into the fog, and then swung the butt of the gun to his right shoulder, extending his left hand under the barrel. He squinted, lining up the sight with the streetlight high above, and pulled the trigger.
Upon impact, the glass shards sparkled like fireworks, then cascaded downward in the sudden darkness. The pieces sounded like the tinkling of a broken Christmas bulb as they further exploded on the sidewalk below.
Instinctively, all three boys covered themselves with their jackets as the shards rained down upon them. An eerie howl emitted from the mist, but was soon drowned out by the barking of dogs. Porch lights flicked on and the squeaking of screen doors were heard but not seen in the thick night.
In silent agreement, the boys fled through the mist to the safety of their homes.
• • •
Tommy crept back through his bedroom window and tore off his windbreaker. He stood in front of the mirror to survey the damage. Surprisingly, all he had suffered was a small nick on his cheek. He wiped at the spot of blood with the back of his hand.
There was a knock on the bedroom door. “Tommy, it’s time for Buster’s supper. Have you seen him?” asked his mother.
Tommy looked around his room, then at the window he had left open during his adventure. “No, mom.”
“You’d better go out and look for him. He could get hit by a car in all this fog.”
Tommy grabbed his jacket and left through the front door. He wandered the neighborhood, calling for Buster. As he crossed over to Delaware, he saw the flashing blue and red lights of the police car. The bright halogen light from the side of the vehicle was focused on the concrete about thirty feet away from a streetlight that was no longer lit.
As Tommy approached the scene, a lump caught in his throat. The beam of light focused on golden fur matted with bright red blood. Buster lay still in the street.
Tommy slumped to the sidewalk and wept.