Coming in October
Your Path to Success

Me and Reg and Boyd

Boyd opened his jacket half-way and pulled a gun out of the inside pocket. It was a pistol, all black with a dull shine.

“Where'd you get that?” said Reg.

“Found it. At the landfill.” Boyd looked at the ground. “It was just lying there.”

“Can I hold it?” I said.


When I was a kid, I had a friend that lived across the street from me. His name was Reginald but only his mother called him that. “Everybody else calls me Reg,” he told me. “If you ever call me Reginald, I'll punch you in the stomach, I will.”

“Okay, Reginald,” I said, just for fun, and he punched me in the stomach. A clean jab up under the ribcage. Took the breath right out of me. I never called him Reginald again.

One year, when we were ten years old, a new kid came to our school. His name was Boyd. Boyd was short and skinny. He looked like a pile of bones all strung together on a wire. He lived with his father at the end of the road down by the county landfill. His mother never lived there as far as I ever knew.

Boyd's father used to beat him. At school during recess, Boyd was always showing us his bruises and belt marks and telling us how he got them.

He'd lift up his shirt and show us a bruise on his ribs. “My daddy shoved me down the stairs 'cause I got in his way.”

Or he'd show us a belt mark on his back. “My daddy gave me that 'cause I drank one of his beers,” he would say.

One time he showed us a round black spot on his forearm. It was red around the edges. “That right there, my daddy burnt me with a cigarette.”

“Why'd he do that?” Reg said.

“'Cause I took one from his pack when he weren't looking.”

Reg said, “If your daddy ever laid a hand on me, I'd put a bullet in his brain pan, I would.”

“You can't do that. He's my daddy, not yours.”

But that must've given Boyd an idea because the next week at recess, he said he had something to show us. He was whispering and looking around out of the corner of his eye, like he was an undercover agent.

“Let's go out to the old oak,” Reg said.

The old oak was a big tree on the edge of the playground. The teacher couldn't see what we were doing out there. We walked out there like there wasn't nothing going on. Boyd looked back toward the schoolhouse. I saw the other kids were playing around the swings and the merry-go-round. The teacher was getting on to a couple kids about taking turns going down the slide.

Boyd opened his jacket half-way and pulled a gun out of the inside pocket. It was a pistol, all black with a dull shine.

“Where'd you get that?” said Reg.

“Found it. At the landfill.” Boyd looked at the ground. “It was just lying there.”

“Can I hold it?” I said.

He handed it to me and I held it flat in both palms. It wasn't as big as some of the guns I'd seen on the tee-vee, but it sure was heavy. All metal and cool in my hands.

I said, “It smells like my dad's tool shed.”

“That's the gun oil,” Reg said, like he knew what he was talking about. “Keeps the metal from rusting.”

Reg pointed at the handle. “You hold it by the grip.”

I wrapped my fingers around the metal grip. I could wrap my hand all the way around it.

“There's the cylinder,” said Reg, indicating the round part in the middle. “That's where the bullets go. When you pull the trigger, the hammer comes back and slaps the bullet in the cylinder. That sets off the gunpowder in the bullet and it comes straight out the barrel.”

“How d'you know all that stuff, Reg?” said Boyd.

“My pop taught me. My pop says a man has to know how to shoot a gun. You see that red mark on the sight? You use that to aim. You look at where you want to shoot and you put that red dot right under it and squeeze the trigger.”

“What's 'at mean, squeeze the trigger?” I said.

“Pull it gently with your finger. Don't jerk it, or you'll miss.”

I asked Boyd, “Is it loaded?”

He took the gun back from me and said, “No, it ain't loaded. I ain't got no bullets for it.”

He pointed it at a tree. “You see that bird on that third branch?” he said.

He pulled on the trigger and the hammer came back then slapped forward again with a metallic click.

“Bang!” he said and jerked the gun up in the air like it had gone off.

The bird on the third branch didn't move.

“I can get some bullets,” Reg said.

“You can't get no bullets,” said Boyd. “There are different kinds of bullets for different kinds of guns.”

“Yep, and that gun there is a thirty-eight,” Reg said. “My pop's got a whole collection of guns and one of them is a thirty-eight, looks just like that one. And I know where he keeps the bullets.”

Sure enough, the next day Reg brought some bullets to school, a whole box of them. At recess, the three of us went out to the old oak again. Reg told me to hold the box of bullets for him. On the box it said, “Ammunition” and “.38 – 40 count.”

Reg took the gun from Boyd. “Here, you load it like this.”

He pushed a button on one side and the cylinder rolled out. I smelled the gun oil again.

Reg took bullets from the box and put them, one by one, into the big round holes in the cylinder. When all the holes were filled with bullets, he snapped the cylinder closed.

Checking both sides of the gun, he said, “This gun doesn't have a safety, Boyd, so you gotta be careful with it.”

He handed the gun back to Boyd. Boyd took it and held it by the grip with his finger on the trigger.

Reg said, “Now you're ready to put a bullet in your daddy's brain pan.”

Boyd pointed the gun at the trunk of the tree right next to where I was standing. I stepped away from the tree.

Reg was looking over at the swing sets. I saw the other kids were filing toward the building. The teacher was calling in our direction.

Reg said, “You better put that thing away, Boyd. Looks like recess is over.”

He took the box of bullets from me and stuck it inside his coat. Boyd slipped the loaded gun back into the inside pocket of his jacket.


The next week, Boyd came to school with bruises and belt marks, like always.

“Well, Boyd,” I said, “did you shoot your daddy?”

Boyd didn't answer me. He put his head down on his desk and pretended to be asleep. I knew he wasn't sleeping, though. I'm pretty sure he was crying. Boyd never cried before. Even after the worst whipping he ever got, he always showed us the marks and talked about it all factual. He never cried. I thought maybe he'd gone and done it. He'd put a bullet in his daddy's brain pan.

I found out later, though, that he didn't do it. Reg told me, “No, he didn't shoot his daddy. He was crying because he's chicken. He's too scared to do it.”

“I feel sorry for Boyd,” I said, “Always getting beat up for no good reasons.”

My eyes got watery and I had to turn away from Reg.

“You ain't crying now, too, are you?” he said, trying to look. “Geez, I'm surrounded by cry babies,” and he went off to play dodge ball with some other kids.

I didn't talk to Reg anymore the rest of that whole week. I didn't talk to Boyd, either. I didn't talk to much of anybody that week. I didn't feel like it.


Finally, when the weekend came, I got on my bike and rode over to Boyd's house, at the end of the road next to the county landfill. I was going to tell Boyd that he's got to get out of there. Just run away. Go someplace else. There's lots of folks out there that'll take care of a kid and not beat him up for all kind of reasons.

I got there and I climbed up the front steps. It was an old wooden house. Painted white but the paint was peeling off all over it. I knocked. After a moment, Boyd opened the door. When he saw me, his eyes got big and he looked behind then back at me.

“Who is it, Boy?” a man's voice shouted. It must've been Boyd's daddy, but he didn't call him Boyd; he called him Boy.

“Ain't nobody, Daddy,” Boyd shouted back. Then he said to me in a low voice, “You gotta go. Go on, get outta here,” and he closed the door on me.

Then I heard a rumble going on behind the door that made me jump back. I had to catch myself from falling backward down the steps.

“You invitin' your friends from school to come over here to my house!” I heard Boyd's daddy screaming.

“No, Daddy,” Boyd pleaded.

“Come 'ere, Boy! You done asked for it again...”

Boyd started crying, and his daddy started screaming. I heard running and stomping all around the house. It made the window panes rattle. Then I heard the slapping of leather on flesh. And with the slapping, there was a shrieking like I hadn't never heard before.

Then, all at once, it stopped. Silence. No screaming, no slapping, no shrieking. I waited for a minute. I didn't hear nothing. Nothing at all.

I waited some more. I thought I might hear some movement from inside the house, but there wasn't any noise.

I stepped up to the door and opened it. Slowly. I looked in. Nobody. I listened again. Nothing. I stepped inside. The air was stale and full of dust. Inside the door there was a short hall with an entry to a room on the right. A small table was knocked over in the hall. Shards of glass from a broken lamp were scattered across the floor. I held my breath and went toward the entry.

Just as I arrived I heard a sob. I looked in the room and saw there, prostrate on an old couch, a pile of bones all strung together on a wire, shaking, holding up the thirty-eight, pointing it at a fat man. Boyd's eyes were cloudy with tears and his cheeks were wet.

His daddy was standing at the end of the couch. He wore a sleeveless shirt. Curly gray hair covered his arms up to his shoulders. A wide belt hung from his hand. The square buckle touched the floor. He jerked his large, bald head toward me. “You better get out of my house, son,” he said. “This ain't no business of yours.”

“Stop it, Daddy,” Boyd said. His voice trembled and his body was shaking all over. The gun bobbed up and down at the end of his arm. “Just stop it or I'll --”

“Or you'll what?”

“I'll shoot you, Daddy. I swear I'll do it.”

Boyd's finger was on the trigger. His daddy was standing right there in front of him. All he had to do was squeeze the trigger like Reg told us to.

“You think you're gonna shoot me? You ain't got no right. I'm your daddy!”

He swung the belt toward Boyd's raised arm. Boyd jerked back and the buckle flew around and hit Boyd's daddy in the leg.

He talked through his teeth. “You're gonna pay for that, Boy.”

Boyd blinked the tears out of his eyes, straightened his arm and leveled the pistol at his daddy. “Go to hell, Daddy!”

The hairy arm shot out and the belt swung around again. This time it caught Boyd's arm with the gun, the buckle swinging once around his forearm. His daddy yanked the belt and Boyd dropped the gun on the floor.

“You think you can shoot your daddy? Well I'm going to teach you different!”

And he swung the belt and hit Boyd square in the chest. Boyd let out another one of those shrieks I had heard from outside. Again and again his daddy swung the belt. Again and again Boyd shrieked.

“No, Daddy, stop it. Please, stop!”

Snot dripped from his nose. Tears streamed from his eyes. He turned his face toward the back of the couch, curled his legs up to his chest and covered his head with his hands.

And his daddy kept wailing on him with the belt.

I picked up the thirty-eight by the grip, pointed it at Boyd's daddy, and I put a bullet in his brain pan, I did.