Today I attended a funeral for a man I once tried to kill.
The December of 1987 wasn’t a great time for my family. My father was drying out in a court-mandated rehab facility, while my mother was slipping further into the booze-induced agoraphobia which would incapacitate her entirely.
Into this cheery holiday season came an notice of eviction from my grandmother’s lawyer, stating that we had thirty days to vacate our side of the duplex we lived in.
Me, being young and angry and full of panic went next door to confront her about it. I told her my grandfather would roll over in his grave if he knew about it, despite the fact that he was alive and in vegetative state at a hospice in Brighton following a massive stroke the previous summer.
“GRANPIE’S NOT DEAD, HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT” she wailed as she pushed me out the door.
A couple of hours later, someone began pounding on our front door and shouting. It was my mother’s sister and her fiance.
He was the archetypical Angry White Guy, a chronically unemployable and disgruntled loser who loved guns, martial arts, and blaming minorities for his self-induced lot in life. He’d been friends with my dad at one point, but had a violent falling out when he announced he’d started going to Klan meetings and my dad physically ejected him from our North Woburn apartment.
For some reason, he and my aunt decided to assume the role of my grandmother’s enforcers that evening. My mom, who was already brittle from the booze and mental health issues, went into full panic attack mode.
“Don’t answer it. Don’t answer it. Don’t answer it,” she kept mumbling right up until the asshole put his fist through the screen door.
Using the sound sense of judgment intrinsic to all fifteen year old boys, I went upstairs and grabbed the shotgun my dad gave me the previous summer.
It was piss-ant weapon even by grouse-hunting standards. Even if I had ammo for it, the mechanism for ejecting spent shells was broken. Yet it still implied a threat through which I could project my adolescent heroic idiocy.
I opened the door, leveled the gun at him and told him to leave us the fuck alone. He grabbed the barrel. We tussled on the front steps. For someone so keen into martial arts, he did not put up an impressive fight against a skinny, hysterical teenager.
I wrested the gun back from his grip and went back into the house. He did not follow.
Then the police showed up. My mom had called them.
This being a simpler time, they merely confiscated the shotgun and gave me a lecture about not being a fucking idiot. It apparently stuck, because I’ve had no desire to own or handle a firearm since.
Nothing came of the eviction notice, apart from my grandmother and I not speaking to each other until my mother’s death a year later…when she took de facto custody of my brother and me. We haven’t spoken of the event in the twenty-seven years since.
(My grandmother has a knack for rewriting family history to remove the unpleasant parts. It’s something of a necessity, given my family.)
As for my uncle, Jim Beam and Johnny Walker did what me and my unloaded shotgun couldn’t. Decades of drinking and hate devoured his brain, leaving behind a shambling husk that eventually succumbed to internal organ failure.
I take no joy in his passing, as he was more pathetic figure than an odious one in the decade before his passing. That incident on the front steps is something I try not to think about, but these past few days have made me wonder what would have happened if the gun had been loaded.
Could I have? Would I have?
I suspect I’m better off not knowing the answer to that.
Recommended listening: Screaming Dead – A Dream of Yesterday (from a 1985 12″)
Nice track, but all my dreams of yesterday are soundtracked by a Quiet Riot cover band.