On my 12th birthday party I was given a bow and arrows by my parents. I had been asking for it for it since I was introduced to Legolas in 2001, but at age twelve, the memory of pelting William in the eye with a recorder was still fresh. Clearly, time softened the danger of an actual weapon. Perhaps Mom and Dad thought, "If he can turn a recorder into a projectile hazard, then maybe he'll wind up using the bow as a long bubble wand." In any case, my mom rounded the corner of the living room with an amateur bow that was literally shiny and red.
"Ohh, how, niiiice," Aunt Shmetty said, with an expression that betrayed her real thoughts, which were, "Someone will not survive this." My cousins geeked out along with me, and the adults smiled, imagining how they might explain future injuries to child services.
Thankfully, no one died, or even got shot. Early on, I managed to wield my charge with a surprising amount of responsibility. Even when my neighbor friends proposed we strap pillows to our chests and "dodge the arrows," I said, no, that's very unsafe. Instead, I, and whomever I granted the pleasure of coming along, shot the arrows into a wooden fence separating my Dad's yard and the one next door. It was good short-range practice for, well, shooting fences at short range. My Mom's yard was more expansive. When I was there, my friends and I practiced our long-distance shooting. I carried on for an impressive amount of time before I nearly ended my own parents' lives.
Dad's yard. Summer afternoon. 0 supervision.
Like most days of Summer for a young teen, I was stranded at home and bored. Dad was asleep after building a deck with his bare hands, and my neighbors were all away doing upper-middle class things, like picking out small plants at home depot or getting a casual lobster claw at the marina. I was left to my own devices, which involved the computer and my bow. I grabbed my bow and arrows and headed outside. The sun was warm, but not too hot, and the breeze was gentle, perfect weather to shoot things out of boredom. Shooting solo, however, was not as fun shooting with friends. I grew weary of the thwack thwacking the arrows made as they knocked hard into the fence. Before long, I realized this wasn't going to get any more fun than it was. With an exasperated sigh that no one heard (if a boy sighs alone in the woods...) I looked to the right and landed on my Dad's bedroom window on the first floor. It was bordered by long grass and freshly painted walls. His house was a 1950s style ranch, so everything was on the first floor, a.k.a., shooting level.
It had been over six months since I got the bow, and since then, I began to regard things with how well I could shoot them if I needed to. I didn't need to shoot the house, obviously, but I had already looked at it and my shoulder demon had already sunk his peer-pressuring claws into my neck, and asked me whether I could hit the house without waking up Dad. The fresh paint by the window begged to be pierced, destroyed with a single shot. I humored sensibility by saying out loud that it was a bad idea, but I had already decided. I darted off toward a tree about 40 yards from the house bow in one hand, arrow in the other. I turned back and took aim. My desire to shoot the house was winning out against a single shred of common sense, but it was a resilient shred. On the other side of of that window was my Dad's slumbering body, so I pulled back weakly and watched the arrow fall short. Thunk, into the ground it went. Nothing destroyed save a small inconsequential circle of dirt.
Ha! No harm done! I was brazened by the fact that nothing bad happened and drew another arrow. I pulled a little harder on the string and let go. Again, the arrow pierced only the ground, albeit a little closer to the house. By that point I had coated my fear in a severely misguided sense of assurance and pulled a third arrow back further yet and released. As it reached the apex of its arch, that assurance melted away and I realized all at once that I fucked up.
Oh boy oh no oh fuckfuckfffffuuuuck--thwick.
The arrow's head disappeared into the smooth, brown paint less than a foot from my dad's bedroom window. It stuck so perfectly at a 45 degree angle, it almost looked like it was meant to exist there, like an eccentric coat hanger. I was momentarily relieved it didn't crash through the window and through my dad's head, and then I panicked. From where I stood, I heard him grumble and rustle in his bed. I watched his hand pull back the curtain. "BUH," I heard him say.
Oh no! I thought, and ran behind the tree. I hid, the terror calling up memories of watching Jurassic Park when I was five. The raptor was coming and even though he couldn't see me, he knew I wasn't far. I stood stock still as the back door flew open and crashed against the hinge.
"SAM! WHERE ARE YOU?" He shouted.
As I trembled behind the tree, I looked down at the bow and realized I had incriminating evidence in my hand. In a moment of the sheerest, purest stupidity to date, I chucked the bow from behind the tree into an adjacent shrub (where, surely, only the keenest of investigators would locate it).
"Sam." There was both anger and disappointment in his voice. The culmination of my actions proved to him that I could be violent and obtuse at the same time. I stepped out to make my case that yes, this looks bad, really Dad, I know it does, but really, I never meant to, well, what I mean to say is this was just, well, an accident...?
He said no words. Just eyes. Left eyebrow raised in an angry point, pupils laser focused through my bull shit, lips pursed in an unseal-able straight line. It was weeks before I could use the bow again, which brings me to...
Mom's yard, accompanied by friends, in plain sight of 2 adults.
Normally, after a person fucks up in a major way at something, he will return learned and with more caution. Not I. In my mom's expansive yard with more room to shoot at nothing, and less people tp potentially kill, my foundation of safety weak. My friend, Shmarah, and I tried to see how far we could shoot arrows down the half acre field behind our moms' houses. Shmara's mom watched on from her porch, which was twenty feet from mine. The presence of an adult blanketed the scenario with a things-are-safer-now feeling. The bow was not the thing that had once come close to giving my dad an arrow shaped horn, but rather a mere toy. A really cool toy that could send an arrow down a half acre of land.
"You're really good!" Shmarah said. "You could definitely join the olympics as an archer."
"Really?" I asked, already envisioning myself blasting arrows with one of those robotic bows in front of the world, winning gold, and then making guest appearances on a series of game shows where the contestants and I try to outshoot each other blindfolded.
"Really," she said.
I smirked and sent another arrow soaring to the other side of the yard. We carried on like that for about half an hour, taking turns and bolstering my future as a professional archer. With each shot, I became more blasé with where I pointed and what I might have pointed at. At the end of our yard was a road that lead to a small cluster of apartment buildings. I didn't pause when a car slowly made its way down. As it arched its way forward, a lurch cartwheeled in my stomach as the arrow and the car began to line up. Had I shot higher, with a touch more pull, I would have hit it. The arrow landed directly in line with its front tire, coming short by about three feet. The person in the passenger seat turned her head toward us with her mouth agape. To this day, I'm not sure if she knew what happened. She was either appalled, impressed, or just yawning. I like to think it was all three.
"Be CAREFUL!" Shmara's mom yelled from the porch. Shmarah and I stood wide-eyed in near-murder adrenaline and ran to get the arrows from the ground.
"That was SO CLOSE." Shmarah gasped as we ran.
"I KNOW!" I huffed back. "We could have killed someone, or given them a flat tire!"
We scrambled around gathering our ammo and jogged back. Shmarah held most of them, while I held one arrow cocked into the bow string.
"That was really good aim," she said, running beside me. "It was, like, spot on."
At this point the adrenaline pumped mercilessly through my veins, and my ego started to think I was the son of Apollo. Not only did I have aim, but I also had the ability to judge the distance the arrow would fly! Yes! That must have been it. I missed them on purpose. I had gained masterful control of my bow--my arm extended.
We were nearly to the porch when our mom's appeared from around the corner. I thought nothing of shooting an arrow at them.
The arrow landed about twelve feet in front of them, and Shmara's mom yelled a solid, "NNO!" My mom raised her eyebrows and allowed another adult to scold her child. "NO, NO, NO!" Shmarah's mom yelled. "We do NOT. SHOOT. AT PEOPLE! NO!"
My mom nodded her head with her chin brought down to her chest. She looked at me in the way that you look at someone getting in trouble for good reason. "Yep," she said with her eyes. "She's right. This should king of be a given." I was embarrassed, shrunken, and shaken. Why did I have this thing? Surely fate would not allow for another near miss. Not a fourth time. I took a break from shooting, and the bow was demoted from recreational weapon to Renaissance Fair accessory.
Every year, the 6th graders put on a fair where everyone dressed in medieval garb, and took on olden day professions. I went as an archer/fortune teller that charged 5 swedish fish for palm readings and let people pretend to shoot my bow for free. I brought no arrows, so both my parents and the school's administration said it was okay. An hour in, someone was shot in the face with a pencil.