Gunshot – Week 16 of the 52 week short story challenge


I don’t remember being afraid of guns and soldiers when I was young; they didn’t really feature much in our household where the only relics of warfare were my father’s medals and the replica knives he brought back as a memento of his time spent with the Ghurkhas. These were kept locked away; only emerging on special occasions and accompanied by tales of life in the Marines. My father instilled in us a love of all things spicy and an appreciation of thunderstorms. When there was a really good storm he would wake us up and draw back the curtains so that we could enjoy it too. Hot chocolate with a dash of rum sent me back to sleep. Adding curry powder to everything savoury caused issues  when I started school and found the food extremely bland – except for the time when I found a dead bluebottle in the mashed potato and threw up over the dinner lady’s shoes.

My husband, on the other hand, had grown up in a house with a large garden, bordered on one side by a lake. There were plenty of opportunities to take pot shots at the encroaching rat population with his airgun. I was particularly impressed with his shooting prowess when we visited the funfair and he routinely won fluffy toys and key rings for me – despite that fact that  the gun sights were usually off.

We had to sell one of his airguns when we married and bought our first house together; there were more important items to spend money on and the only rats around us were human.

I confess. On one occasion when a group of local youth were standing ominously outside our front gate playing with matches, I fetched the air gun and stood in front of the window nonchalantly polishing the wooden stock. I didn’t point it at them – I didn’t even know where the steel pellets were kept but it seemed that the sight of me with a gun in my hand was enough to see them off.

They came back in the middle of the night and set fire to the gate.

I was well and truly told off by my husband when I confessed to him later. He didn’t tell me where the pellets were.

Our eldest son was born in 1993 and I acquired a fear of all things violent; the world was full of bombs, knives and guns and it was my job as a mother to protect him from them.

My husband was working 250 miles away from home by the time our baby boy was six months old. We took him to see his first Father Christmas in a northern town.  I asked the quite credibly-bearded Santa not to give our son any toy guns, soldiers or swords.

He looked at me and smiled, rather sadly.

‘We have lost children in this town because of violence. We don’t give weapons to our children.’

When the present was unwrapped we found a small pale green and white squeaky toy bus. Our baby boy loved it and I still have it twenty-two years later, in pride of place on a high shelf.

We relocated to the northern town and our second son was born. We made friends and attended birthday and Christmas parties. I did my best to buy non-violent presents; books, craft materials, non-gender-specific toys and the occasional noisy (but musical) toy when I was feeling a little devilish. Our eldest son displayed no interest in weaponry and war; he read enthusiastically and became a part of the Gameboy generation. Our youngest showed a distressing obsession with finding objects to shoot with; sticks, carrots, crayons. He didn’t discriminate.

I made sure that every party invitation I sent out contained a polite but unequivocal request to refrain from giving the boys any war related presents. It worked with nearly all our friends; the one exception being a self-proclaimed ‘free-spirit’ who wrapped up a battalion of cheap plastic soldiers for my baby boy – because she wouldn’t be ‘dictated’ to by anyone.

A small temper tantrum started to emerge as I spirited the offending present away. I was prepared for this and had a small pre-wrapped and much-desired present at the ready in order to ward off his evil eye. I caught the smirk on her face as my small boy started to wobble but the smirk turned to a scowl as he greeted his replacement present with more satisfaction.

I didn’t invite her or her children to any further parties. Her children have matured. She hasn’t.

Our boys grew; the eldest involved himself in the world of Pokémon whilst his brother’s obsession with weapons of violence expanded in many directions. A trip to Lindisfarne that was supposed to be spiritual and life-enhancing was something of a failure as one boy spent his time pursuing a Jigglypuff and the other embraced the marauding Viking way of life and demanded a wooden sword from the National Trust shop.

By the time he was into double figures, constant nagging caused the airgun (and the pellets) to accompany us on a visit south to my husband’s childhood home. All four of us indulged in a spot of target shooting in the garden; I retired injured from the kick of the gun, our eldest retired with Gameboy withdrawal symptoms. My husband and our youngest carried on shooting.

It transpired that the boy had a natural bent for shooting stuff.

The desire to destroy did not dissipate.

On one particular birthday the boy asked if he could have his birthday money – just so that he could hold it for a while. Trusting as we were, we said yes and the little horror went off and spent it on a replica gun that a friend was selling. It wasn’t an airgun; it used small white plastic balls as  ammunition.

A far better option than airgun pellets – or so I thought. Mothering Sunday was a couple of days after the boy’s birthday and I discovered just how much the repellent pellets (now known as BBs) hurt when they hit you in the neck.

‘It was an accident Mum- honest!’

Whilst his older brother stayed true to Gameboys and computers, the boy expanded his BB gun collection. We had hoped in vain that he would grow out of it and we would be left with the job of flogging off his weaponry. He was temporarily distracted by paintball but whilst his father developed an interest in the sport, the boy acquired more BB guns and with it the ability to buy up broken guns, rebuild them and sell them on to other army dreamers at an impressive profit.

He went through a spate of attending Airsoft events; groups of males dressed in a wide variety of camouflage kit, running around abandoned military sites and shooting each other. I have been banned from collecting him from these events due to the fact that I can’t help sniggering at middle-aged men dressed in black combat gear and huge boots who strut around trying to look dangerous – and failing.

The boy is very conscientious about the rules and regulations. All guns are kept in their cases and covered up in the boot of the car when being transported. Some of them are very realistic and could give rise to fears of terrorism should they be spotted by a passerby.  When not stalking other Airsoftees, he and a friend have access to a secure area of land where – if they wanted to – they could shoot hapless bunnies. They haven’t shot any yet and prefer to demolish innocent cans and containers instead.

One of our garage windows took a direct hit when he was testing a new gun out of the bathroom window, and our patio is spattered with paintball splodges and environmentally unfriendly plastic BBs that hurt like hell when you tread on them in bare feet.

There is a corpulent pigeon that lurks beneath the fat ball container  in the fir tree, waiting for fallen seeds from the Dunnock flock who frequent it. The boy has sworn to exterminate it but so far it has been too quick for him.

Of late he has expressed a desire to join the army – but only in the intelligence corps – he has no intention of being cannon fodder. Do we still have cannons?

He is twenty-one and a man, now so he has to make his own choices in life.

There is a song by Al Stewart that has been running through my head since I started writing this.

‘Shot hit the night, a bullet lodged in his brain.

He must have died instantly, he felt no pain.

As the crowd turned to go, a man was heard to say

“Oh, he must have had it coming to him anyway.”‘

I can’t like the sound of gunshots.


‘Stop Press! Monday Moan turns into a Happy Monday’

Today marks the seventh day of trying to write something fresh every day of April.

Until today I had a good idea each night of what I wanted to write the next day and duly jotted notes in the little book given to me by a thoughtful friend for just such a purpose.

Last night. Nothing. This morning. Nothing.

I turned to my Hub for inspiration having been deserted by my muse.  Hub reminded me of Jon Richardson’s experience of not being able to write  – so he wrote about not being able to write and turned into a very funny and successful part of his stand up act. Love Jon Richardson. Love Hub.

It occurred to me that perhaps the reason why I couldn’t write anything was because I’m having too good a time of it.

In fact, this weekend we’ve all been having a good time of it really and it looks as if the fun isn’t going to stop there.

Saturday was a day of comings and goings, of a front room further obstacle-coursed by camouflaged clothing, bags of armoury, the giant paintball suitcase and a confused dog. I admit that the floor is already cluttered by my boxes of stuff and piles of paper but that is the normal status of the room.

The delayed but extremely welcome arrival of Bezzie Mate led to a very late night chatting and chortling over ”The Big Bang Theory‘.  So good to have friends who laugh at the same things as you do.

Three hours sleep later and I am up with Hub, who is taking two friends off to a scrapyard paintball game in Doncaster.  Hub is waved off at 0615, the Scoob has watered the Hebe bush and I am free to blog till 0700 when I have to wake Gap Boy so he can gather up his guns, boots and flak jacket for a day of shooting people with BBs. His lift is late and I have to spend three-quarters of an hour mollifying him and fending off his anxiety insults.  BM was warned to stay in his room until I texted him to sound the all clear.  An anxious GB does not make for good company.

By 0900 Scoobs and I are dozing on the sofa.  I put ‘Mythbusters‘ on to distract GB whilst he was waiting then fell asleep when he left.

BM emerges from his room and we celebrate the day with a breakfast of Marmite toast and experiments with my Pingu coffeemaker – not as leisurely as the cafetière but the pods provide an enormous variety and frothy milk.  As always we chat and chat and the morning passes before we know it.  I managed to get tickets for the three of us to see Rich Hall next month whilst we were chilling though.
We go shopping together, have a lovely shared lunch, do more silly shopping then hurry home in the rain  to await the weary warriors – and Uni Boy who has travelled to Doncaster to meet his dad and come home for the night.

GB bursts through the patio doors – his camo gear unsullied and his gorgeous hairdo barely ruffled.

“I shot loads of people.  A couple in the face and one in the b*****s.  They shouldn’t have got in the way!”

BM, Scoob and I exchange covert grins.  We listen attentively to GB’s shoutiness, knowing that  he will quieten down soon.  Supplied with fizzy drink and crackers, he stomps off to his room to shout at his computer.

An hour later the battle-scarred paintballer returns with a happy but tired UB.  Hub has a post-paintball unwinding routine of putting things away and washing the mucky stuff. GB subscribes to the ‘dump it on the floor where people will trip over it.  They can move it if they are annoyed by it and I can get annoyed with them if it isn’t where I left it next time I need it‘ school of thought (Does he actually think?). Love him, squeeze him, throttle him.

Takeaway time – curry for four of us and Chinese for UB who doesn’t do curry (Sorry Dad).  BM and I volunteer to be the hunter-gatherers as Hub is flagging and home delivery takes hours.  Our local shopping square is peaceful and almost pretty in the red light of the setting sun.  From the Spar shop to the Chinese chippy and finally the Indian takeaway, we return with our spoils.  UB retires to his room to eat and GB to his, leaving BM, Hub and me to eat, talk and enjoy each other’s company.  Scoob waits expectantly and is eventually rewarded with the leftover pappadum bits.  Happy dog.  Happy me. I have four of my favourite people (and Scoob) back in my nest.

The end of the night sees us all outside waving BM off on his journey home after much hugging and manly handshakes.  Scoob pees against the gate and sniffs the night air for cats. They are sensibly indoors.

GB decides to go out for a blat on his bike now that the roads are quieter and darker.  Being the worrywart that I am, I sit up until he is home safely and so is BM. Although BM has a longer journey, his is less eventful than GB’s.  My boy bursts in through the patio doors again, blathering about the idiots on the road and how his mirrors keep turning round.

I am so ready for my bed.


So, my moaning about a lack of inspiration has been turned into the happiness engendered by my nearest and dearest.  We are taking UB back to York today; a leisurely road  trip, mammoth supermarket shop and dinner out  at the wonderful . before Hub and I complete the day with a companionable drive home singing along loudly to the radio.

Next weekend Hub and I are going back home to the seaside for a big birthday party; to see family, visit old haunts and enjoy hotel breakfasting together.  GB and UB are dog sitting and partying (not in our house I hasten to add!).

We have a good seven days ahead of us. Happy Monday!


You can go your own way …

Not the easiest of weeks in all.  Lovely Hub came back from his paintball weekend on Sunday afternoon, extremely knackered and a bit disappointed that he had to spend most of his energy lugging camping equipment from A to B instead of running around splatting people.  It didn’t help that the weather was lousy, that he lost an airbed and had to sleep on the ground, or that bad weather at home meant there wasn’t an opportunity to have a go at pitching the new tent before they went away. I’m told that the draught cider was good though and so was the cocktail bar (? and I thought they were being ruff tuff boys running around with gun-things – sorry – MARKERS –  not sitting there drinking cocktails all weekend).  The zombie game was a bit boring as well, not a lot of variety in being a zombie really.

So after Hub and I falling prey to  two sleepless nights, we were looking forward to a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately both Uni Boy and College Boy are particularly nocturnal at the moment.  Classical music and the boom of Super Mario on an elaborate sound system comes up from Uni Boy’s room and war game playing chortle issues through the curtain from College Boy’s room – he had a door once but it died and we are waiting for some sign of maturity before we replace it.

At half-past three in the morning the air was rent with the sound of the two boys fighting over bandwidth.  I ripped a muscle in my side jumping out of bed to separate them – last time they fought in the middle of the night, blood and bruises were involved (not mine).

At a quarter-past four in the morning an overwhelming smell of cooking permeated the whole house and I cursed College Boy for sneaking downstairs and making bacon super noodles with pepperami and tabasco sauce (a whole bottle) when I had to go to work in the morning.

At half-past five Lovely Hub had to leap out of bed to empty the overflowing water bucket  – for some reason the water from the tank decided to speed up while we were trying to sleep – Sod’s Law

I got up at six o’clock and staggered downstairs in search of painkillers for my achy breaky side.  Uni Boy was awake and it turned out that I had maligned College Boy and his super noodles, it was Uni Boy that had been cooking and despite being a hyper-intelligent megabeing it hadn’t occurred to him that leaving the kitchen door open whilst cooking would mean that the whole house stank of food.

I woke College Boy but he decided that his stomach was upset and he wasn’t going to get up.  Some guys have all the luck.

It was a relief to get out of the house and slouch at my desk – until I realised that torn muscles and slouching don’t mix.  Lovely Hub brought me more painkillers and I spent the rest of the day sitting in accordance with health and safety guidelines.  It’s getting better now – slowly.

Loveliest Friend worked her magic fingers into Hub’s feet and came home happy again and fully reflexologised.  Just as well because he had two day shifts – which he hates but I quite like because I get a lift into work and back.  The boys took turns (what!) to empty the water bucket as they were the only ones in but whatever it was that was causing the problem then decided to make the water flow even faster.

I phoned Uni Boy from work to see if he’d emptied the bucket.  He was a little terse.  Hub texted Uni Boy on Wednesday morning from work to ask him to empty the bucket.  This was Uni Boy’s response:

“Bucket looks fairly empty.  It fills 50ml about every 4 min., and drops 130 times a minute, so flow rate is 750-800ml/hr.  If that flow rate stays the same then the bucket shouldn’t need emptying until the evening at the earliest.”

College Boy would have texted “kk” or not even bothered to reply.

On Thursday night, Hub and I decided to tackle the water tank once and for all.  Well, I lay on the bed and watched Hub tackle the water tank.  He had to take some of the cupboard door frame off and stick his hand in the water tank to fiddle with the ball cock (ooh-er Missus!).  His master stroke however, was climbing out through the bedroom window (who needs Spiderman), scaling the roof and discovering that there was something nasty bunging up the overflow pipe.

All good paintballers have an unbunging stick and Hub is no exception.  Clinging onto the side of the chimney breast he shoved the stick up the overflow pipe and cured all our problems – well for now.  The bucket is still underneath the Heath Robinson pipework but it has remained empty since Thursday night.  Go Hub!  We still need a new boiler but that will have to wait for a bit.

Hub was at work Friday night so  a quiet night in.  Uni Boy and I had another one of our considerably lop-sided  conversations – nearly everything he says goes over my head.  So far this week we have discussed ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ – surreal to be talking about grubby DomSub books with your 19yr old son –  and whether or not the tot of whiskey I put in my morning porridge will still have an alcoholic content after being exposed to the microwave (he did calculations based on alcoholic content, amount of whiskey, temperature and length of time in the microwave – hic!.

When Hub came home we drove College Boy over to his mate’s in preparation for a day of shooting BBs in some disused army camp with a lot of other camouflaged pseudo-soldiers.  It was rather nice driving back at midnight  – just us – especially as College Boy gets particularly frantic when he is trying to get all his gear together.  He doesn’t know that we’ve found his college report (he hid it in a pile of paper on the sofa).  It wasn’t wonderful but then he’s had five bouts of tonsillitis in the past year  – oh – and he’s a lazy git to boot.

Saw Hub off to paintball this morning – it isn’t raining and he’s sent me nice texts so I know he hasn’t been too badly crushed, mashed or covered in yellow paint.  Uni Boy spent some time this afternoon practising his cocktail making skills – oh  dear – do you really need me to test that Cosmopolitan for you?  Oh well – alright then.  The boy makes a fine cocktail.  He went off to a friend’s house and for three hours this afternoon I’ve had the house to myself.

I fell asleep.  Must have been that cocktail.

This time next week Uni Boy will be in Spain and I will be starting my one and only Open University residential unit in Nottingham.  Apparently the booze is cheap (Spain and Nottingham Uni).  I’m going to be a real student for a whole week and I am more than a little bit terrified.

Hey Ho! The Paintballer and the BB Boy have returned.  The latter is totally shattered and can’t even raise the energy to go out for a meal with his best friend. He also has a red mark on his neck from a wayward BB.  He has just staggered past me with a bottle of water, a duvet and heading for bed. Hub has had a lovely day shooting at people as well but also has a couple of war wounds which he’ll show me – laterz.  Uni Boy is off out on the town again tonight with a couple of 500ml bottles filled with his cocktails – he has pre-drinking style that boy.

It hasn’t taken much to persuade Hub that tonight is a good night for a takeaway.

Just seen the war wounds – a bit tame – just on the arms but going to turn into lovely bruises over the next couple of days.  So glad I don’t have dangerous hobbies – unless you count OU terror camp next week.

Now where did we put that takeaway menu?