My best friend, Wyatt, lives two houses over, and we’ve always cut through the Kinleys’ yard to get back and forth. The Kinleys never said they minded, but one day, Mr. Kinley, who’s probably twenty years older than my dad, says the next time he catches us in his yard, he’s going to shoot us. Sure enough, the very next day, as I’m carrying my Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots over to Wyatt’s, Mr. Kinley opens a window on the second floor, sticks out his shotgun and takes aim. He misses by a good foot, blasting a hole in his oak tree the size of a soft ball. I make it over to Wyatt’s with my heart beating so hard even Wyatt can hear it. So can his dog.
But habits are hard to break, and Wyatt and I keep crossing through. Wyatt’s mom says we must like getting shot at. She shakes her head in bewilderment. But as we keep explaining, it’s just faster this way.
Summer goes on, and some days, when we go back and forth, the shots ring out so that it sounds like the Fourth of July. That’s all Mr. Kinley does is look through his window and wait for us to go get our bikes or come home for dinner. The smoke from his gun spirals over the tree tops.