a short story
by Nicolas J. Aguina

More than anything I had never intended shooting someone, but I did. He was lying on the floor. Open hands covered his face completely, but did not stop blood from seeping through every crevice of his closed fingers. He was on his back. Knees in the air. Rolling left to right. He moaned loudly, in too much pain to form words. He coughed, then his body cringed. His head and feet lifted off the floor. He removed his hands from his face only to spew saliva, deep red with blood. It was stringing from his mouth to his cupped hands, slinking down his chest like red melted cheese. I looked down at the writhing man and considered what next.

A friend gave me the gun about a year ago when I was 20. He’s still very close to me, so I do consider him a friend. He called it a “peashooter.” The metal was stained brown, and the chipped pearl handle suggested it had a history. I knew about guns. I was in the service. A lot of gun-talk goes on in the Marine Corps. My new toy was a .22-caliber. I don’t remember who made it, but I knew an important fact: It was double action. When the trigger is pulled, the hammer cocks back and the cylinder rotates the round to be fired into position beneath the hammer – that’s the first action. The second action is when the hammer falls and fires the bullet.

He didn’t give me bullets, so I had this pistol around for a while. I would think about ways to cheat at Russian Roulette and practice my quick draw from my waste band, or click off all six rounds as fast as possible. Sometimes I would just break it down, clean it, then reassemble it. In the Marines, the drill instructors trained us to remember your weapon is your best friend, and you should know everything about it. Finally, I went to the K-Mart near my house to buy a box of rounds. It was that easy. But there were two things I had not done: test the sights and my proficiency with the weapon.

This is where Troy comes in. Now, I hung out with this person, but it was more like a business thing. I sold him weed and ‘caine. He was a customer. I called him up and asked, “What’s up dude? Whatcha doing?”

“Not much, just slamming a few brews,” Troy responded. He probably would have given the same answer any other time.

“Hey, I got this gun from this guy. Want to go shoot at the quarry behind Wing Park? No one will hear the gun shots from way out there.”

“Cool, Why don’t you just come by? I still gotta take a shower.”

I remember the walk to Troy’s house so clearly. I was praying, “Please God help me. I need you. I don’t know how I got so far from home.” A tear trailed its way down my cheek; visions of the past began flowing through my head. I see my spiritual father bending over whispering in my ear. I was envisioning myself in church.

“Diostado,” Brother Joe whispered his breath caressing my ear and neck. “God is keeping you alive for a reason. That reason I do not know.” The words provoked me to think that it is God’s will, and his will alone, that preserved my life – that without him I would have been so helpless as to not have lived this long.

In the same instant, I saw another vision. Doctor Read was examining x-rays of my neck and lower leg. While showing me with his pen the small lines that represented the fractures in my fibula and sixth vertebrae he said with great concern, “You’d walked into this hospital? You better thank God. I can’t believe that your vertebrae didn’t shift. If it did, you would have been paralyzed.” And while I saw these visions, my mind continued in prayer.

“Lord, I’m out of control. My soul is hurting. Please, help me.” The prayer was over and so was my walk.

I stood at the door of the apartment complex. It was a well-kept building. I climbed three small flights of stairs. Each covered with cheap red carpeting. At the top was the door. I rang the doorbell that was high in the center of the door with the peephole. It chimed high as it was depressed, and low as it was released. I heard faint rustling behind the door and saw a shadow pass the peephole, then it went black. Knowing I was being watched, I lifted my arm and displayed my middle finger prominently in front of the peephole.

Troy opened the door and stood in the doorway, his eyes wide with expectation.

“You got anything?” he asked, without even inviting me through the door.

“Could I come in?” I asked with obvious irritation. Once inside, I complained. “What the fuck’s wrong with you? You think I’m gonna talk about shit all in the hallway?”

Then I slid my hand into my pocket, catching the tale of the plastic sandwich bag that was tightly knotted. In one movement, I withdrew my hand tossing the bag and its contents onto the table. Troy’s eyes grew even wider when he saw the size of the crystal white nugget in the bag. With no hesitation, I asked, “You got money?” Troy handed me a wad of cash and proceeded to untie the bag. I quickly organized and counted the bills. “You’re fifty dollars short!” I complained.

“Let me owe you?” Troy asked, punctuated by sniffles. I quickly agreed. I knew even without the fifty, there was still a 300 percent profit. Aside from that, a little credit keeps customers on a leash.

So I was at his house and we were hanging out, drinking, smoking herb, and doing some bumps. A couple of people stopped by and left. Then Troy started getting bold with his racial comments. I guess it was the beers he had. When I got there, there were only two beers left in a six-pack of tall boys.

“You want a brew?” Troy asked. “There in the fridge.”

I walked through the living room area, past the table and into the kitchen. It was like one giant “L” shaped room that was separated by the furnishings. The living room had a TV, couch and a baby diarrhea colored recliner, the dining room had a table and chairs, and the kitchen had appliances and cabinets. I grabbed a tall boy and asked, “You want one?”

“Yeah!” Troy said before tilting his head completely back with the beer can to his mouth. When he was finished, he swung his arm down and crushed the aluminum can as if it was actually a feat of strength. Then he stepped to meet me half way to the garbage can’ tossed the spent can and grabbed the replacement I carried on my way back to the recliner that bordered the living room and dining room areas. I pulled out the gun for the first time and started playing with it, which must have intimidated him because remarks really started flying.

“I thought Mexicans carried knives and drove Chevy’s” Troy joked.

“I just want to hurry up to the quarry before it gets dark” I said, ignoring the remark.

“Man, if anyone shot me with that little thing, I’d kick his ass!” Troy said, becoming more cynical.

After inspecting the chamber, I put the gun to my head and pulled the trigger, then pretended I was dead, mocking depression from the conversation we were having.

“Spics ain’t shit. They always got to use guns.” he said, clearly instigating. If he really believed that, he wouldn’t be talking shit. What he said was nothing major; but I was irritated; low class whites who don’t even count take a lot of pride in believing they are the superior race. I always knew he was an undercover racist because he let his tongue slip a lot, but I let it slide.

That is, until now. It was strange. He stood mockingly in his drug-induced state actually waiting for me to respond. I leaned forward from the recliner and grabbed the box of rounds. I took one out with my thumb and forefinger and displayed it prominently as I inserted it at the top of the cylinder, just beneath the hammer. Anger ran through my mind at it’s own pace.

“You don’t even have the balls to use it” Troy said, as if he was reading my mind.

I held my hands up as if in surrender. The gun hung from my forefinger; the handle rested appropriately in my palm. I grasped the handle and brought both hands down. When they came together, the heal of one hand was against the cylinder. I rolled the cylinder across the heel of my hand. In my mind I counted the clicks as the cylinder turned. Three. I counted three. The look on Troy’s face seemed serious. I stood up and raised the weapon to my temple. Click. That’s one. Then I put it to my chest. Click. That’s two. Then I looked him in the eye and placed the end of the barrel just beneath his nose. He said nothing. He just stared fearless into my eyes, knowing in his mind that I was a dumb spic that doesn’t have the balls to use the weapon. Bang! Click. I pulled the trigger twice.

I started to think of my parents. I thought about prison–live or die, I was probably going. I believe my decision to stay was because I started thinking of the idea of taking two lives. If I pissed my life away, that was my business, but now I was dragging this sorry son of a bitch down with me. I remember cleaning his face with a rag I found on the floor. I talked to him to prevent him from going into shock. He was choking on his own blood, so I turned his head to the side allowing the blood to drain onto the carpet.

“Whyyyyy?” Troy moaned while still rolling left to right.

I bent down on both knees. Laying one hand on Troy’s shoulder the other on his knee, I pushed firmly to bring both his feet and head flush to the floor.

“Troy, I’m getting help. You’re gonna be all right. Can you hear me?”


With that I quickly rose to my feet and dialed 911, and was soon speaking to an operator. “I shot someone in the face. I need an ambulance.”

“Is the person still alive?” the operator asked routinely.

“Yeah. He’s in a lot of pain.”

“Where are you calling from?”

“I’m at Silver Street Apartments. I’m not sure what building; all I can tell you is it’s the last building on Silver that’s still a part of the complex.”

“I’m dispatching a unit right now.”

“I think it’s best if I leave now,” I said quickly, hanging up the phone, and I went back to my knees to attend to Troy.

I lost focus of all that was happening and uttered a quick prayer. “Dear God, don’t take this man’s life. Please God. Don’t take a man’s life for my mistake.”

After the quick prayer, I regained focus on the situation and began to ask Troy questions, again to prevent him from going into shock.

“What’s your name? Come on dude. What’s your name?”


“Troy what?”

“Troy Adams.”

“Stay calm and just keep answering my questions.” I instructed just as Troy’s body coiled up in agony and he groaned heavily. I heard the rustle of equipment and the staggering static of the paramedic’s radios in the hall. I stood up and walked to greet them at the door.

“He’s over there, just around the corner in the kitchen” I directed.

“How many times was he shot?” the first medic asked.

“Just once. In the face, at point blank range.”

The medics rushed to their patient. My mind became clear. No longer thinking of Troy’s life, my own life came into perspective. I looked directly at the police officer.

“I’m the one that shot him,” I said, passing an officer the twenty-two-caliber weapon that was used. Just behind the officers, I could see a crowd gathering in the hall. Troy was silent now. I told the police the story. While I talked, the paramedics were putting Troy on a stretcher. He no longer moved. I was convinced he was dead.

“Has this guy been searched,” asked one of the undercovers.

“No,” one of the uniforms responded. He patted me down and found a quarter-ounce of weed in my pocket. He let the sandwich bag roll out to reveal its contents.

“This looks like some good stuff. What do you sell it for–50-60 dollars?” he asked trying to be clever.

“I don’t sell weed,” I responded.

Then one of the uniforms came from the back saying, “Look what I got.” He threw a handful of empty cocaine seals on the table.

“This too.” It was about a quarter gram of cocaine wrapped in plastic.

“What, did he owe you money?” the detective at the door asked. They kept suggesting I shot him for drugs. Then the uniform started to search me again and found another bag of weed. He announced his discovery to the room. The detective told him to put it with the other bag, but now, that one was missing. I know for a fact that I had two bags, but I wasn’t going to say a thing. I got quiet for a moment, then they moved about, letting the whole missing weed thing drop.

I was handcuffed and escorted to the car. There were about six squad cars outside. People were everywhere, trying to get a glimpse of the action. I made sure to look everyone in the eye. I wanted them to know that this is what happens when you mess with me.

The detectives questioned me all night, trying to piece together a phony drug story. When the hospital sent word that a shard of lead was lodged in the victim’s brain and he was not expected to live through the night, the detectives tried to use that to intimidate me into cooperating with their story. I was released on bond the following morning.

As it turned out, Troy made a remarkable recovery. He was out of the hospital in about a week. He even stopped by my house. We didn’t talk much about the shooting. The doctor informed Troy that he would recover 100%. My prayer had been answered.

I still had to go to court in thirty days. I’m pretty sure that gave everyone time to think about what happened. Troy showed no malice toward me, but a mutual friend heard him voice his anger. I was sure I would have to go to jail, maybe prison. As long as Troy was alive, I wasn’t going to be charged with murder, but they still had the weed and Troy’s testimony. The truth could mean I wouldn’t see sunshine for a long time. When my day in court finally came, Troy and I drove together in silence. In the distance of my mind, I heard him complain that he couldn’t snort cocaine anymore; he’d tried the previous night.

The State’s Attorney was waiting.. Immediately, he greeted Troy and escorted him to a room outside the courtroom. I was left alone to wait for my name to be called. I listened carefully to each case to try to detect leniency in the judge’s rulings. Finally, Troy, the State’s Attorney and two men I recognized as the detectives filed into the courtroom. They all sat in the front row. I felt as though they had gathered to coordinate their stories.

My name was called. I had decided I could live with three years, maybe four–one year on the drugs, three years on the aggravated assault with a firearm. I waived my right to a jury trial, and the judge droned off the proceedings. My lawyer asked for a moment to speak to the State’s Attorney. When court resumed, my layer advised me to plead guilty to all charges. He promised me no jail time. Everything went that quickly. In the end, I received time served, a fine and probation. The interesting thing about it is on our way home Troy told me with a disgusted look on his face that the State’s Attorney had insisted he testify that the shooting was drug related. He couldn’t believe he was asked to lie. “You didn’t shoot me for drugs.”

(First published in the [i]South Loop Review, Vol. 4, Columbia College Chicago, 2000[/i])

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