…my friend ?
Malcolm pumps an imaginary shotgun.
“Wouldn’t do dis anymore so there was nutting to do wit it.”
We’re at the corner, Noah and I, waiting for the school bus. It’s Monday morning and a cool wind has forced us back into socks and sweaters.
Despite the weather, the two kids are discussing water guns.
“That’s suckish.” says Noah.
“But, you know, the best ones are like these really awesome ones, because like they use new technology.”
“What does dat mean?” Malcolm has learned to be wary of Noah’s set ups.
“New technology, you know, like a new invention, like science, you know science?”
“Yeah, I know science.”
“Yeah well they made these like pellets full of water and you get like a charger, and it shoots like so hard that it leaves like a mark, a red mark, round like the uhm pellet. Cool, huh?”
An arms race for water guns.
“Dad, can we like get those with the pellets this summer, like I never got real water guns… ever.”
“We’ve always had water guns every summer.”
“Yeah, but they never really worked more than like a few days and, and, they never ever shot far.”
“It’s like that. They bust all the time.” says the world weary Malcolm who’s jammed shotgun started the whole discussion.
“Do you really want a water gun that leaves red welts?”
“But, dad, it comes with like two plastic shields to protect you. Cool, huhn.”
“Dat’s cool.” Malcom nods his head, impressed.
“So dad, can we like get some6 Like we need two otherwise it’s not fair, you know.”
‘Otherwise’…good word. Still.
“I don’t think so, Noah.”
The old extended ending…wailing is still an accepted mode of expression for nine year old boys.
“Water guns are supposed to be painless, Noah. Running around in bathing suits kinda fun. If you have to wear shields it seems a little much.”
“That’s what’s fun dad, it’s like a war.”
“No, the fun is getting wet when it’s hot.”
“But the war is fun.”
I’m about to answer. Noah holds up ‘the hand’ and waves it left to right, real quick. I know “the hand”.
“Wait dad, wait. Not real war. I mean, you know, kids know the difference. Nobody like dies like in a real war. It’s just that it’s awesome cool to you know, stalk and …”
He crouches, holds up an imaginary rifle and looks around, like a Marine on patrol.
“…hunt your prey.”
“Yeah, that’s what friends are for, ha, that’s funny like, you know friends are for prey. Hahaha. That’s funny, huhn?”
“That’s funny, yeah.” Malcolm snickers.
Noah has an audience. Motivating.
“Hey, dad, meet my best prey, Malcolm. Hah! That’s good.”
I smile. The joke is not that funny.
I can’t help remembering the dozens of children assassinated by the Syrian Army just this weekend in the village of Houla. I remember seeing small shrouded bodies lined up on the floor of a morgue. The tiny feet of one dead child peeked out.
“So dad, can we buy them? Those cool guns.”
“We’ll buy buckets and throw water at each other and if you want to play at tag with flags and slaps on the butt that’s fine, but nobody is going to be anybody’s prey.”
“But dad, it’s just pretend stuff, you know?”
Bitch all you want, my boy. You’re alive and your toes curl with pleasure at least once every day.
And I can’t get the village of Houla and the still feet of a dead child out of my mind.