Ken came by the coffee club a month or so ago. We hadn’t seen each other since Nixon’s Presidency so we spoke in triple-double-time to get in all the stories. Ken reminded me of the night he shot our mutual friend Tom. We were teenagers. No one died, but that’s part of the story. Ken said, “Man, if that happened today, we’d all be under the prison at Sing-Sing.” Here’s what happened:
Four or five guys were playing penny-ante poker and trying to stifle testosterone-fueled adolescence. Tom did something Ken did not like. They argued. Ken said, “I’m so mad that I could shoot you.”
“Naa, you’re chicken____.”
“I got my 410 out in the trunk and I got birdshot.” (Now a 410 bore shotgun is a relatively lightweight gun, much smaller than the more common 12-gauge shotgun. Most people use the 410 in hunting rabbits and squirrels.)
“Alright. Go get it and shoot me.”
“Naa, it’ll make too much noise here in Hopewell and the Law would come. Let’s go across the river and I’ll shoot you there.”
Across the river meant a drive of two miles into an adjoining county and so they drove across a bridge and stopped slightly off the roadway.
“Alright. Shoot me now.”
“No, you’re too close. I don’t want to kill you. Go on down the road a little bit.”
“Is this far enough?”
“Yeah. Now just wait til I get my aim.”
“Ah, you ain’t gonna do it.”
“Tom, you all right? Speak to me.”
“Yeah, you hit me in the leg. Take me to the hospital before gangrene sets in.”
So Ken and the others put Tom in the car and took him to the hospital a mile away. “We were changing a flat tire and someone shot at us.” The ER team admitted Tom to the hospital overnight and also called the police to investigate. Tom had about 40 birdshot pellets in his right leg.
That “changing the flat tire” story didn’t last very long–even in Hopewell.
In court the judge told them that they were being stupid adolescents, gave them five years probation, and had them pay court costs. The judge felt that hospital fees and the public disclosure of the event punished Ken and Tom enough.
Ken, who is now a preacher, and I shook our heads in disbelief about what happened. “We’d probably get charged with domestic terrorism if that happened today. I’m still thankful to that old judge. That started to turn my life around.”
I thought again about that episode after reading Psalm 40 last week. Somehow that Bible reading reminded me of the creative disruptions that happen in life. Whereas I once had a plan for what I would do after college, some events happened to disrupt those plans and turn me on to a completely different life journey. I won’t go into the details or the pain of those different disruptions. It seems enough to look back and realize what happened. Those disruptive experiences undergird my editing and writing, especially as we go on the journey toward Easter in A World Worth Saving.
Roy Blount once said, “Sometimes life is a funny ol’ ‘possum.” The paths on which our lives journey are indeed marvelous and surprising and full of grace.