Target Practice by Christopher Allen

Today

the targets are locked out, told to snatch some air, move those legs and arms, play your schoolyard games, but stay away from the house in the trees. Don’t jump the ditch, don’t cavort with that loner Kyle who shoots kids with his fingers.Two targets hang pteropine from the pull-up bars. One points at a sliver of Kyle lining the broad shadow of a Hackberry. The other target says Ignore him, and he’ll go away loud so Kyle can hear. He slips into shadow, draws a hand and shoots. Twice. Says pwewwww pwewwww. Smoke curls from a gun only Kyle can see. He never misses. His backyard’s crap for throwing a football with a dad—too many trees, not enough dads—but it jams for a jungle war.

 

Brandon

is Kyle’s big half-brother. He’s growing facial hair because his mother says men with beards have something to hide. He’s fifteen today. His dad left a present leaning on the mailbox. A restraining order says he can’t come closer. The gun is long and badass, but it’s not the kind you lock up. It’s the kind that shoots BBs and pellets that look like roly-polies. It’s the kind a fifteen-year-old pumps till his fingers blister and his shoulder goes numb, the kind that shoots a dime-sized hole in the drywall of his room. The kind that comes with a note that says Don’t Tell Your Mama.

 

Tomorrow

is Brandon’s first day at Hardee’s. He’ll lock his door and hang a sign—Don’t Come In or I’ll keel you—to guard his Iron Maiden records, a magazine called Jugs, a nickel bag of pot in his closet, and now the gun. But Kyle can pick any lock: his mom’s condom drawer, the ammo can with her alimony and child support papers from dads, the cabinet with the gin. The lock on Brandon’s door is junk, which Kyle will crack with a pair of tweezers tomorrow.

Pumped 10 times, the gun and Kyle will stretch out together, a one-piece plastic soldier. As his cheek warms to the gun’s hard stock, the grassless ground will cool Kyle’s hairless middle. He’ll close one eye and track a target in pink tights from swings to seesaw to pull-up bar. He’ll aim at the feet: to wound and take prisoner. He’ll shoot and miss and lie flat against his gun. It will press against his groin, and he’ll wonder what his own father looks like, if he’ll show up one day to linger 50 yards away. He’ll cock the gun again, shoot and miss. He’ll do this five times with the five roly-polies Brandon will never miss because Brandon is always high.

The targets won’t look around to see where the pwewwww came from. They won’t notice the pellet-sized hole in the wooden post inches from their dangling pink Keds. They’ll scream and laugh; they’ll do flips from things. They’ll ignore Kyle’s war in the trees until Kyle’s big half-brother gets a shotgun next year.


Christopher Allen’s fiction has appeared or will appear in Juked, Indiana Review, FRIGG, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts and others. Read his book reviews at [PANK], Necessary Fiction, The Lit Pub and others. He’s the 2015 recipient of Ginosko Literary Journal’s award for flash fiction. Allen lives somewhere in Europe and is the managing editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.