Brooklyn-based Amy Grech has sold over seventy stories to various publications and webzines including: Art of Horror, Blood Rose, Blue Murder Magazine, Buried.com, Cold Storage, Dark Funeral, Dark Muse, Deviant Minds, Funeral Party 2, Horrorfind.com, House of Pain, The Murder Hole, Nasty Snips, Rogue Worlds and Savage Night. Her superb novel, The Art of Deception, is available right now from Amazon and stories are forthcoming in Blood Rose, Lunatic Chameleon and Micro Stories Anthology. Amy is also an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association... Visit her Web site Crimson Screams for a good fright.
Standing with one eye shut in front of the shooting gallery at the county fair, Billy Hogan didn't budge. He felt the crotch of his jeans tighten and raised his air rifle slowly. All the while his father's words echoed in the confines of his mind: 'You've got to get 'em when they don't expect it, son!' His father stood directly behind the boy with his brawny arms folded. Billy felt his hard stare driving him to succeed.
He focused on the yellow ducks that passed by - watching them with deadpan eyes but seeing nothing - and knocked them down without missing a beat.
On one of their frequent trips into the dense woods behind their house, Billy's father - a big bearish man with a grizzly beard - usually bagged a deer, or sometimes a bunch of squirrels - using only four bullets, one for each of his victims. He never wasted a shot.
Billy's father taught him how to focus on his target. He stressed the importance of waiting until the prey was in the center of the telescopic site before taking the shot. "Like a martyr on the Cross" was the phrase he used to make the concept easier for young Billy to grasp. In Sunday school, he learned that a martyr was someone who endured great suffering for a cause they believed in. Billy thought his father's choice of words was fitting.
Billy watched in awe as his father raised his Ruger .22 rifle swiftly and silently. He'd shut one eye, squint with the other, take a deep breath, and wait until his prey - a deer this time - crossed the line in the telescopic site before he squeezed the trigger and the young buck, fell down, dead.
Sometimes he would let Billy hold the rifle when it was lighter and the magazine was empty, still smoking from a recent kill. The boy loved the feel of it, sleek and heavy; it was a man's gun - not a child's toy, cheap and light, like the BB gun he had his eye on at the fair.
His father stood behind him, guiding his movements while Billy struggled to hold the gun level. Billy felt his breath hot, whiskey sour in his ear. 'Don't worry, Billy, you'll grow into it.'
Billy nodded. 'I can hardly wait.'
'Always remember, practice makes perfect.' His father placed his callused index finger on top of Billy's tender one and together they caressed the trigger before squeezing off a shot.
The old man behind the counter at the fair, dressed in a red and white pin-striped shirt and black pants, was aghast as he watched the tall, lanky kid standing in front of him knock everything down there was to hit - including the mechanical mother goose that flapped her wings - right between the eyes. A crowd gathered 'round to witness the freakish occurrence, this being the first time someone ever hit everything the first time around.
Before he knew it, the man was shouting, 'We have a winner!' He unlocked the glass case the housed the Grand Prize: a BB gun complete with telescopic site. Billy had had his eye on it since last year's fair but at that time he had not been skilled enough to win it.
But a lot had happened since he turned twelve this past summer: His penis got hard for no apparent reason when he least expected it, and he was frequently roused from exciting dreams about guns or girls by a warm dampness in his underwear.
The man behind the counter bent down to whisper in his ear: 'Be careful how you handle this gun, it can be extremely dangerous if it's not used properly.'
Billy nodded with a sly grin plastered across his face. 'Look what I won, Dad!' He grasped the gun tightly in his wiry arms and pointed it at a slight angle before bringing it over to his father.
'You've earned it, Billy. That was some fancy shooting back there, right on the money.' His father patted him on the head and clasped his hand tightly in his.
'I aim to please.' He tucked the BB gun under his arm.
On the walk back through the woods, Billy's father nodded his approval. 'I see you've finally learned how to shoot your load.'
'Uh, yeah...right, Dad.' Billy blushed and kept his eyes on the ground, embarrassed by his choice of words.
'I'm talking about the prize you just won!' He pointed to the BB gun. 'But your confusion leads me to believe it's high time we had a talk about the birds and the bees, if you know what I mean.' His father winked.
Billy rolled his eyes. 'Get real - no one calls it that anymore. Stop trying to disguise sex. I already know the basics.' He climbed the cracked cement stairs the lead to the back door, dug his house keys out of the front pocket of his jeans, being careful not to aggravate his raging hard-on in the process, and unlocked the door. His father closed it gently behind him without saying a word, walked over to the fridge, pulled out a root beer and handed it to Billy. Then he grabbed some ice from the freezer, dropped it into a glass and topped it off with a generous serving of single-malt whiskey - a clear sign that his little talk was going to be long involved, and probably boring. Billy decided to get comfortable; setting his new BB gun across his lap, he felt self-conscious about his hard-on, though he doubted his father would notice it from the other side of the table.
Billy opened his root beer and took a long sip.
His father set his glass down on the table pushed it aside, more intent on the task at hand. 'Good sex with a woman is even better than that adrenaline rush you're probably still feeling after your impressive performance at the fair.'
'You could say I'm getting kinda excited.' Billy smirked, guilty as charged.
The older man grunted and continued his lecture. 'When you handle a gun or a woman, if you've enjoyed yourself, you'll shoot your load without thinking about it. Of course the gun requires your undivided attention - you've got to zero in on your target at the exact moment it's in your sights, or else you'll miss your chance at the kill.'
His father paused to down his whiskey and wipe his mouth with the back of his hand. 'When you're with a woman, you've got total control, you've got your bullet in her chamber, pumping her full of lead, so to speak. Do you follow me?'
Billy downed the rest of his soda. 'Uh, I think so...Handling a gun is more of a challenge because you have limited control over what you're after. But when you're with a woman, and you've got more experience than I do, the challenge isn't there, but the excitement is.'
Billy's father reached slowly across the table and patted one of his son's bony shoulders. 'Well, son, I couldn't have said it better myself.'
Armed with his father's words of wisdom and his brand new BB gun, Billy ran out back to the woods where he could pursue livelier game before it got too dark. He paused when he heard something rustling to his left. A tiny chipmunk wiggled its nose and looked around, sensing danger, but not knowing who the enemy was.
Instinctively, he aimed in that direction, setting his sights on the disturbance, and pulled the trigger. The furry creature, concealed by dead leaves until the shot blew its cover, yelped and tried to flee, but Billy launched a BB directly into its hindquarters paralyzing it instantly. Billy held the gun in one hand and grabbed his prize - still squealing - by the scruff of its neck in the other. He rushed home, dropped the dying thing down on the back stoop, and ran inside to get his father, who was busy in the kitchen making venison stew for supper with meat from his latest kill.
'Dad, come see what I got!' Billy grinned, finding it nearly impossible to contain his excitement.
His father stepped outside, looked down at Billy's catch, gritted his teeth and said: 'Wounded game is nothing more than a wasted shot! Bring me back something that's dead tomorrow, or I'll take that BB gun away and give it to a boy who knows how to use it properly!' He kicked the writhing chipmunk off the stoop into a pile of dead leaves and went back inside, slamming the door behind him.
The next afternoon, not wanting to disappoint his father, Billy snatched his BB gun from its usual spot against the wall next to his bed and crept out to the woods in search of an easy target. He felt his dick get hard in anticipation of the hunt. Perched high in a tree directly in front of him, Billy spied a squirrel nibbling on an acorn.
He took a deep breath and looked though the site, waiting patiently for the exact moment when his target became a martyr on the Cross.
Still clutching the acorn, the squirrel hit the ground with a soft thud. Billy scooped up his catch and rushed back to the house, eager to make his father proud.
'Dad, look what I got!' He held the dead rodent up for his father to see.
'Nice shot, son. Right in the eye - kills 'em every time! Remember that and you'll never go wrong!' Billy's father grabbed the carcass and admired the BB shining dully in the socket where the squirrel's left eye had been. 'This little fella's a keeper!'
Billy licked his lips 'Can you stuff him and mount him for me, so I can keep him on the dresser, next to my bed?'
'You bethca!' His father winked.
The sun resembled a bloody orb sinking slowly in the western sky when Billy went out to the garage to swipe his father's Ruger .22 rifle for a little experimental adventure in search of the ultimate fare game. The gun was much heavier than the BB gun he was used to, because it was a man's gun; Billy hardly noticed the extra weight.
While he set out on his mission, Billy tried to think of a place that had moving targets that moved faster and were tougher to hit than the ones at the shooting gallery. He camped out in the tall grass a few miles away from the woods and waited for a commuter train to pass by; he decided it would do quite nicely. Billy set up his father's camcorder on the tripod he'd brought and adjusted the focus, so he could record himself in action for posterity.
A few minutes later Billy heard a familiar whistle not too far off in the distance. He walked a few feet in front of the camera and stood off to the right, ready to open fire as soon as the train appeared. When it sped by in one big silver blur, he locked on to a random window and fired in rapid succession. It was much harder to hit something moving so fast, but Billy managed to rise to the occasion.
That done Billy shut the camera off, grabbed his gear and headed for home. He reloaded his father's rifle carefully and put it back in the rack out in the garage before heading into the house.
His father was in the living room watching the news and drinking single-malt whiskey. He turned around when he heard the back door slam and glared quickly at his son before turning back to the TV, not noticing the camcorder case in Billy's hand. 'Where you been? You had me worried.'
Billy shrugged. 'Out and about.'
His father nodded vaguely and turned back to the television with a sense of wonder. 'Get a load of this, son: an unidentified sniper just shot six passengers on a rush-hour commuter train. Turns out he only fired six bullets - one for each victim. He must've been quite a shot.'
Billy glanced at the raw footage on TV and grinned, flattered by the complement. His father had a keen eye.
'Let me show you where I've been.' He took out the videotape he had just made and popped it in the VCR, so his father could see how much progress he made in the week that passed since he won the BB gun at the fair. Billy pressed PLAY and sat down on the couch next to his father to admire his handiwork.
Billy's father was speechless as he watched his son stand off to the right, hidden by the tall grass, poised, ready to open fire as soon as the train was in view. When it sped by, he saw his son lock on to a window and start firing in rapid succession. His father winced when he heard gunfire and watched glass shatter. The passengers' shrieks were drowned by the noise of the rumbling train, but the camera angle managed to catch one bloody face locked in a scream, providing a silent soundtrack to the carnage.
Slowly, still in shock, his father turned off the television, finished his whiskey, and shook his head. 'How could you do something like this with my good rifle?'
'It was easy, I waited for the right moment when my target became a martyr on the Cross, just like you taught me. Then I shot my load without thinking about it. I sure caught those folks off guard, didn't I? I was so excited I didn't know I hit the train until I played back the tape, just now...' He started to laugh.
'This is no joke, son. Shooting animals is a sport. But shooting people is different; it's murder plain and simple.' His father's scrunched-up face tried to drive the message home, but from Billy's blank stare, Mr. Hogan could see that Billy didn't understand what he had done at all. 'You know, son, you could go to jail if anyone finds out you did this. What drove you to go out and shoot up a train?'
Billy stopped laughing. 'You did.'
'I never told you to shoot anyone! You always twist my words around into something else!' Billy's father shook his head in amazement.
'I guess I wanted to prove was ready to handle your rifle, Dad.' He frowned. 'I wanted to make you proud.'
'Well, you went about it all wrong. If you'd only asked me I would've taken you out to the woods and let you shoot some deer, instead of watching me do it.' He shook his head. 'You've got to think about the result of your actions, boy. I thought you knew that by now, but I guess I was dead wrong!'
Billy buried his hands deep in the pockets of his jeans. 'I, uh...don't know what came over me.'
'Come on, show me exactly where you found that rifle!' He grabbed his son by the arm and dragged him out of the house, to the garage where he kept his gun.
With his trigger finger, Billy pointed to the rifle rack in a dark corner of the garage. 'It was empty when you showed me how to shoot.'
'You still don't want to be pointing an empty gun at people, son!' Without giving it much thought, Billy's father grabbed the gun his son had taken without permission and pointed it right at the boy.
Billy felt the crotch of his jeans tighten. He stared at his father with vacant, brown eyes.
His father's hand shook uncontrollably, accidentally discharging the gun. A single bullet lodged itself in the boy's left eye.
Billy hit the dirty floor of the garage with a soft thud, a pool of blood surrounding his head like a halo. A similar wetness spread across the crotch of Billy's jeans as the final jolts of the boy's body stretched a wan smile over his proud face.
(C) Amy Grech 2002
© Paul Kane 2003-2018. All rights reserved. Materials (including images) may not be reproduced without express permission from the author.