You Can Still See The Hole

This is how Billy Bart got his good luck charm:

See, out past the edge of town, there used to be a rifle range. A big area full of whatever critters God had seen fit to put there instead of man.

Nowadays, we’d call it a nature preserve. Except nowadays, people don’t shoot the animals in a nature preserve, or anyways aren’t supposed to. Which isn’t to say they don’t, if winters or work have come especially hard that year…

But anyway. Back then, you were allowed and expected to plug the animals on the range for food and sport.

It wasn’t the safest place in the world, obviously. This was before hunters started dressing up like traffic cones, so accidents tended to happen. And some of the critters out there weren’t exactly small or harmless. Bears and the like, you understand.

Point being, it was a few miles of hazard, which made it an ideal hang out for the town kids.

Well, ideal to them. You know how kids are.

Anyway, the big test of being a man for those kids was to stand right near the Keep Out sign on the edge of the range. It was on the far side of the rifle range, opposite the official entrance. You could just about hit it with a powerful rifle if the wind was with you; even so, it caught a stray bullet here and there.

So if you were young, and had more bravery than smarts, you’d hang out around the sign. Lean on it. Because at any time, a bullet might smack into it, with no warning, and it took a kid with some powerful nerve to hang around it with that knowledge rattling around his skull.

I still remember the day Billy Bart was leaning on it, shooting the shit with us. We took turns on the thing, like it was a ride.

I remember the last thing out of Billy’s mouth was the word “titties”; his wife doesn’t appreciate me adding that detail to the story, but it just happens to be true. Also, it’s hilarious.

Anyway, Billy said “titties,” and that’s when the bullet smacked right into the sign. It lodged itself right between the P and O. If it had punched through the sign, and it almost did, it would’ve drilled itself right through Billy’s spine and out his navel. Horrible way to go, if he had gone that way.

But he didn’t, and when we were all done pissing ourselves, we got him some pliers and pulled that bullet out. And Billy wore it on a chain every day of his life.

Not unreasonably, he called it his good luck charm.

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Josh Hechinger is a future writing superstar/cautionary tale. He lives in Pennsylvania.

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