I played guns a lot when I was a kid. I'm sure there's tons of folks out there that can all agree that 'playing guns' was a pretty damn fun childhood game. Having a gun that looked real was ideal. Black plastic Beretta. Shiny revolver.
Ya run around, ya hide and then ya shoot each other by making 'pow' and 'bang' sounds with your mouth. I'm a bad guy, you're a good guy.
Cops & robbers. Boys will be boys.
Now, when I was a kid, I also ran on my heels. I don't know why. And I'm not sure anyone else did, either. I just didn't spring off of my toes at all. And I was a chubber. Being chubby and running on my heels were two minor discrepencies that led me to being pretty bad at 'playing guns.' You had to run a lot in guns. I ran slow and giggled/jiggled a lot. I still run slow and giggle/jiggle a lot. Maybe with slightly less heel. But quite possibly the same amount of giggle/jiggle.
This is going somewhere, I swear.
One hotass day back in the late 80's, the friends on the Lullwater cul-de-sac we lived on were all playing guns in a massive field called Shadowbend Park in The Woodlands, Texas. Ask anyone who grew up in The Woodlands. This park had it all. Hills for jumping on your bike. A big cement ditch to ride through. Sweet places to hide. Some 'make-out' spots that I swore I would use when I was older. I never used them. Never say never, I 'spose.
Wellp, we loved playing guns at Shadowbend.
So here we played. And my Dad would come with us sometimes and shoot hoops at the basketball court there with some other of the Dads. Dads like to shoot hoops. Kids like to play guns. All was right in the world.
I would have never known it then (and still smile when I think about it now) but this was the day my Dad was to become my Hero.
I remember wadddling out into the middle of the field. Beretta in hand. Sun blazing. A white streak of hair flew past me and disappeared into the woods without even a rustle of leaves. Like an Olympic diver into into the pool. There goes my older brother, I thought. Good luck getting him. Kid could fly.
Like I said, this field was massive. Trees lined every side. The other kids ran away from me, as well. I caught glimpses of their T&C Surf Company shirts or Yaga shorts as they disappeared into the brush.
I decided to go for one of the kids that I actually might have a chance at shooting, so I scurried on. In the dead center of the field. Gun outstretched. 'Bang, Bang' I exhaled at nobody in particulars, as they were all too far away to get a good shot off.
As I 'made haste' I saw that the other kids were kinda up out of their hiding spots and looking at me. This was not normal, I thought. It looked like they were looking at something behind me.
Eric, my older brother (the White Tiger), yelled to me from his hiding spot.
'Run, Justin! WATCH OUT!!!'
I had no idea what was happening until he was almost on top of me.
From behind me, a man with an unbuttoned flannel shirt, wife beater tank top, long greasy brown hair and jean shorts charged.
This guy was yelling at me. REALLY yelling at ME.
I heeled it as fast as I could. Which was probably just shy of a motorized wheelchair, I believe.
I screamed as he tackled me face first into the ground. Dirt filled my mouth and rocks scraped my face. We skidded to a halt. Time slowed to a crawl.
His hand immediately grabbed for my gun, which I held in my right hand.
His breath was hot on the side of my face and it reeked of what I now know to have been whiskey. He must have weighed two hundred pounds and he was crushing me.
He ripped the gun from my hand and put it to my head.
I tried to get up but couldn't. He was too strong.
He mashed the nozzle to my head and began clicking the gun's trigger. I heard it snap once. Then twice. Then over and over again. He growled the following words a half inch from my ear.
'Bang. Bang. You're dead baaaannng you're dead.'
I began to cry. My face mashed into the ground and eyes full of tears. I cried.
The next thing I heard was quite possibly the most memorable sound from my childhood.
'HEY! GET OFF MY SON.'
It was my Dad.
I blinked open my mud-caked eyes.
There he was. Basketball in hand. About 50 yards away and closing fast. But this Dad wasn't really like my normal Dad. This was a pissed version of my Dad. And all of the sudden I knew the guy on top of me was about to get his ass kicked.
The man's weight shifted as he shoved me into the ground and took to his feet. He knew he was in trouble.
A second later a basketball flew into his chest. HARD. Like it was shot out of a fuckin' cannon HARD. The guy's wind got knocked from his lungs and he stumbled backwards, about to fall. My Dad closed in for a closer shot at him.
Just then another man burst onto the scene, runs up to the drunken Eddie Vedder look alike, slings him over his shoulder and jets off. In one move. Like it was choreographed.
We never saw him again.
My friends rushed up to me.
My Dad gets to me and asks if I was alright. I said yea.
And that was that.
I'll never forget that day at Shadowbend.
And I'll never let my Dad forget either, even though he remembers it a bit differently than me, I think.
I wanna say that I told him I loved him after he saved me that day. Truth is, I can't remember if I did or not. Having a fake gun to your head and a drunk on your back when you're 7 years old will make ya forget certain things, I guess.
But if I didn't tell him then, I've told him a million times since then.
And another time won't hurt either.
Love ya, Big D.