The author's leg with bullet fragments and steel reinforcement rod.
Bouts of drinking tend to end with either a bang or a whimper—rarely, however, both. It was 2 AM when my friend Big Todd and I pulled up to my apartment with four lukewarm Schaeffer beers left from a 12- pack. The driveway split two freestanding buildings, each with two apartments. Behind the buildings was a shared gravel parking lot, big enough for ten cars, framed by a chain link fence. As we got out of our car, the back door to the downstairs apartment of the other building opened, and into the light stepped David and Arthur. David had lived there for years, and Arthur was his buddy. Their eyes seemed a bit wild, but then, they did party a lot. In fact, I had partied with them a lot. Todd thought they might have some coke, so we shot the shit for a second before it was clear that they were high from free-basing and in no mood for chummy beer talk or sharing drugs. What they wanted was beer. Ours. Normally, I would have had no problem sharing, but I explained we only had a couple left. Instantly, Arthur changed the subject saying angrily, “You never invite me over,” and “We never hang out.” I thought this was ridiculous because he had been over scores of times during BBQs and parties and told him "Whatever," but he was still mad. As I readied to turn and leave, Arthur pulled up his shirt to reveal a semi-automatic pistol in his waistband. Unimpressed and laughing out loud, I pushed him in the chest before turning to walk the 12 or so steps to my door. It was then that I felt the heat. I wasn’t sure what happened, but my head turned into a cartoon of stars and electric arcs and it sounded like I had just plunged myself into the ocean—almost like when you put your ear to a seashell, but with pain. Big Todd dragged me inside my apartment to the kitchen table. Soon after, I heard Arthur drive off down the driveway. As I sat there contemplating the scene that lead to my first pistol whipping, I heard the car pull back up. With my head still ringing wildly, I went out the door like a shot before Big Todd could even try to slow me. I was furious, and caught Arthur before he was completely out of the car. As I grabbed him, the gun fell to the ground and I kicked it under the car with my right foot. Then I clobbered him pretty good. No, really good. Now, I have been in a bunch of fights and witnessed many more, and am from the school where, more often that not, when the fight is over you buy the guy a beer. So I didn’t feel the need to physically overdo it. Besides, I have always found I feel worse after winning a fight than losing one. Anyway, it was clear to me at this point that the fight was over. He was incapacitated, and though I was not taking any extra liberties, I was scolding him quite vehemently. Things like, “You stupid fuck, what did you think you were doing?” were just pouring out of my mouth. The wave of adrenalin I was riding was as surreal as the scene. Watching Arthur on his knees before me, bloodied and exhausted but not all that much worse for the wear, I figured this was done. He could go back to smoking his coke, and Big Todd and I could proceed to finish the last of the beer, while unwinding our psyches from this mess. But just as I was imagining an end to the affair, I saw David, the dreadlocked dipshit, rush to Arthur’s side and hand him the gun. Gulp. The effect this had on him was like watching Underdog taking his super energy pill. I knew then that my checkmate had been false. Arthur sprang to his feet and pointed the gun square between my eyes. Though I only had a second, I tried to imagine his state of mind. He had a gun taken away from him, was whipped smartly, and then chastised like a child for his actions. In short, I had punished him gravely for a mistake he didn’t intend to make again. I swung both hands down on the gun, attempting to sweep it away, mistakenly confident I could rectify this reversal of fortune. Arthur, however, pulled the trigger. The bullet struck my right femur, breaking my leg and showering me in blood. It didn’t hurt, but felt remarkably like someone had unplugged me from my power source. I dropped instantly to my knees, unable to move, and immediately pleaded for him not to kill me. Think John Turturro’s plaintive, “Please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me,” in Miller’s Crossing, because that is exactly what I said over and over. With the gun flesh to my forehead, Arthur decided not to kill me that night. I am still not exactly sure why. TRACE CRUTCHFIELD