What little I understood of the matter was an assemblage of snippets of conversation lifted from between profane outbursts vented at the breakfast table, on the porch, in the garage, or under the station wagon. Now the two of them, my dad and Mr. Granzow, were in the house with a gun.
From my chair at the dining room table I watched them carry the weapon, a grayish handgun (I don’t know anything about guns, I couldn’t possibly identify it), to the basement door . I can’t say for sure that either one of them bothered to turn to me and say, “Stay put, ” or better, “Go outside.” I like to think instead that I had the good sense not to follow them and the weapon down the stairs and into my dad’s ten by ten workshop, with its concrete floor and cinder block walls, packed with lots of drop-forged woodworking equipment, a massive bench vise and a wall of shelves stocked with flammable paint under high pressure in aerosol cans. And I might have felt that in ignoring me, they were in fact expressing their confidence in me that I’d do the right thing, all on my own. They believed I was going to be a Big Boy about all this, and I was probably immensely flattered by their indifference.
So I stayed at the table, poured myself a bowl of Cheerios and listened, in a detached and oblivious way, to indistinct mutterings coming from the workshop directly beneath me. Punctuated, as usual, with the occassional profanity:
“… mutter mutter mutter you shittin’ me? mutter mutter jeeeezus christ! mutter mutter”
They’d concluded that a gun, some sort of gun, was the solution only after having considered and eliminated options Mr. Granzow felt were beneath his dignity. He didn’t want to have to do any chasing, any shouting, or any flailing of the arms. He wanted no action with high probability of failure. He wanted action at a distance. He wanted Shock and Awe.
A gun, some sort of gun, was a few weeks ago laughingly introduced for consideration as a solution by, as I remember it, Mr. Granzow himself. I vaguely remember the moment because I vaguely remember thinking to myself, “That might be the most unbelievably stupid and dangerous idea anyone could have come up with to resolve this.” I had my own idea, but neither of them was much interested in checking with me, and I didn’t volunteer it because nothing in the manner in which their idea was brought forth suggested either of them was taking it seriously.
And, I might have been right except that sometime after its not-too-serious introduction, the gun gained serious momentum when a sympathetic co-worker said, on hearing of the matter, “I got a gun you can borrow.” At that moment, a whole universe of potentially Bad Endings opened up before Mr. Granzow and my dad, who possessed a Masters Degree in Engineering Mechanics and therefore an insuppressible habit of overthinking problems while minimizing potential hazards. It’s pull was irresistable to either of them. They went right in.
“mutter do you know what you’re doing mutter oh god mutter all right all right”
They stepped up out of the basement not as though anything had gone really wrong, but as though there had been a slight miscalibration. For my benefit, I suspect. A minor adjustment was needed, that was all. Which minor adjustment was, guaranteeing a way to find the bullet. They’d fired a bullet into a confined space, heard it ricochet “a few times,” but couldn’t find it. Which, if you think about it, meant that they had no control over the bullet’s path which, if you think about it, meant that the bullet was as likely to wind up in either of them as it was in the preferred target. Moreover, as was clear from the ensuing discussion, without examining the bullet it was impossible to tell whether the gun was going to be suitable for their purpose.
Oh, and one other thing: They had no “preferred target.”
“Is today Sunday?” Dad asked me. I blinked. “Yeah.” And I’m sure I said so respectfully.
“Where’s the paper?”
I did my best to hide my annoyance. The paper was right in front of me. I was reading it. “It’s right here.”
“Good. Get me the duct tape.”
“I don’t know where it is.”
“Oh. Never mind, I’ll get it.” The duct tape, I realized, was probably in the workshop. “Can I have the paper, please?”
I protested inwardly, but shoved the paper across the table.
The objective in the basement this day, I learned involuntarily at the breakfast table, was to determine whether the gun had just the right amount of power. Not so little that, at twenty feet or so, the bullet would bounce harmlessly off the flesh, yet not so much that, at the same twenty feet or so, the bullet would penetrate the flesh, either. A raised welt was the desired outcome. So here’s where the Engineering Mechanics came in. They needed a target that roughly approximated flesh. And (I know now, though they didn’t say this out loud) big enough so they couldn’t possibly miss it, even at the close range imposed by the workshop. Dad considered the problem carefully, applied five years of specialized, advanced education, and came up with …
My paper (okay, it wasn’t my paper), had been folded into a thick, dense rectangle roughly half its accustomed size, and bound with duct tape. It, the gun, my dad, and Mr. Granzow all went back to the basement, after Mr. Granzow sensibly asked, “You think that’s going to be big enough?”
“mutter mutter it’s my turn mutter mutter mutter jeezus that’s heavy mutter mutter christ don’t put it THERE”
“Did I hit it? mutter mutter HA HA HA HA!”
And there they were again, at my breakfast table, taking turns examining closely the brick of newspaper. Somewhere on its surface was an oblong dimple, about an eighth of an inch deep. Dad, speaking in the manner of those who assume their authority on subjects completely unrelated to the subject at hand affords them the unquestioned acceptance of whatever bs they happen to be dishing at the moment, was observing, “Looks like the bullet was tumbling. See?”
At first, they were encouraged: The dimple suggested that they’d found what they were looking for. The shot had been fired at close range, closer range than the requirement, had done significant but not lethal damage, and better yet, the damage would likely be undetectable except under close inspection, and most important of all, not traceable by those who loved the trespasser and would surely want to know why he was limping so and looking miserable, maybe licking the unseen wound and whimpering. But in short order they were having doubts: That newspaper seemed tougher than a dog’s hide, Mr. Granzow came to think he might not be able to hit a moving dog at twenty feet or so on the first attempt (and there’d probably be only one attempt), and the damn gun sure was loud: Mrs. Granzow’d hear it for sure.
The whole damn neighborhood’d hear it on a Sunday morning when all anybody usually heard from the Granzow’s was the Wet and Dry vacuuming the bushes in the dooryard.
No, they’d indulged this fantasy enough. “Maybe I’ll just get a BB gun,” said Mr. Granzow, while Dad placed the gun back in its velvet-lined case with much respect, much more respect than with which he pulled it from the box earlier in the morning.
“Damn right,” I thought to myself while feigning adulation of their collective wisdom.
Neither of them bothered to tell me, “Don’t tell anybody about this.” Maybe because they’d already told everybody that needed to know (my mother, Mrs. Granzow …). Or maybe because, again, they knew I’d do the right thing, all on my own.
Truth be told, it never occurred to me to tell anybody. No harm, no foul. That’s the right thing, right? And besides that, I had more fun watching Dad with Mr. Granzow than at any other time of his life, mostly because Dad had more fun with Mr. Granzow than at any other time I saw him. EVER. I have to believe that Dad’s memories of those times at the breakfast table, on the porch, in the garage, and under the station wagon, are at least as entertaining to him as they are to me, which gives me hope that for a little while each day at least, Dad in his current state has something very positive and very fulfilling to reflect on.
Thank you, Mr. Granzow, for this memory and all the rest. I hope this doesn’t get you into too much trouble.