Chapter 17:
     “Hey, Harry…” Rudolph announced, then stuffed his mouth until his cheeks bulged out, “Yakkity-yak!”
     “Oooooh, Lordie,” Harold skwawked (phonetic interpolation), as he sprayed out some chewed pieces of dinner, “Yeah, buddy! Yuck-yuck-yuckity-d’phoosh!”
     Gradually, the two boys quieted down and began to breathe normally again. Rudolph looked up with a gleam in his eye, “Hey, Harry.”
     “Huh?” Harold replied while wiping his mouth on his plaid shirt sleeve.
     “Ya like’ah guns?”
     “Ugh…ummmm…” he stammered nervously, “I don’t know. I…ugh…”
     “Whaddaya means, ya don’ know? Don’cha know what’ah gun issa?”
     “Yeah, I know what a gun is…what I’ve seen on T.V. Like ‘The Rifleman’ and his son Mark. But…I never shot one.”
     “Well, t’day issa ya lucky day, my friend! I’mah gonna shows ya one, an’ issa real burner, too. My Poppa only ah uses it once inna whiles, ta keep’ah da squirrels off’ah our nuts, an’ t’keep’ah neighbors inna lines, too! They’s kind’ah scared of my Poppa. Dey think he’sah gonna crazy in a little whiles.”
     “Why?” Harold asked, losing the thread of the conversation, “Because of his nuts.”
     “No, man!” Rudolph squelched, slapping his forehead again with the heel of his hand. “Somma’time you are’ah zo’ah smart, little fella…den, odder times…KA’POWZ! It’s like’ah you fell off’ah truck! KA’BOOM!  Anyhowz, about da neighbors, dey knows he come fromma da Big Apple an’ he’s gonna call da Big Cheese ta knock’em off. HA! Whadda bunch’ah stunods, eh?”
     Harold, now completely baffled, chose his next question carefully, “Did the big cheese go bad?”
     “Lookie…ya wanna know about da gun, or what? Jeez…”
     “Okay,” Harold acquiesced.
     “Alright, den looka heres,” Rudolph said as he produced a weathered cracking leather case from behind a large potted plant by the back screen door and beamed with pride as he unzipped it and reverently removed the black metal weapon contained inside of it. “It’sa genuine Thompson sub-machine gun. Ya knows…a Tommy gun! KA’POWZ! It’sa fromma da bootleggin’ days.”
     “You mean, they killed each other just to try on their boots?!? I thought Apaches were some bad dudes, but these guys must’ve been real…”
     “Aw, mama-mia, will ya shudduppa when I’ma tryin’ ta tells da story heres?”
     “Okay! Okay! Sorry, Rudy…you go ahead.”
     “Right! Now, mia Poppa’s uncle’s brudda-in-laws wassa one ah Capone’s bodyguards anna he gave diss to my Poppa for ah’bushel o’walnuts so hissa momma could make’ah…whattaya call its…somma mores good cookies for da boys. Ya knows where it’sa from?”
     “Your back yard?!?”
     “My back’ah yard?!?”
     “The bushel of walnuts didn’t come from your back yard?” Harold asked seriously.
     Rudolph slapped Harold’s forehead and started waving the gun dramatically around above him, “Notta walnuts, stunado! Da Tommy gun! Where da Tommy gun fromma, eh?”
     Harold shrugged hopelessly, “Where?”
     Rudolph returned him a wry grin, “Fromma da Big Apple, dat issa wheres.”
     “But, I thought Capone lived in Chicago.”
     “HEY! Who’sah tellin’ dissa tale? You or’ah me, eh?”
     “Ughmmm…you are, I guesso!”
     “Of course, Capone wassa inna Chicago. Ev’rybody know’sa dat! But, he such’ah Bigga Cheese, he had lotta connections…right?”
     Harold shrugged in agreement empathetically.
     Rudolph continued, “He hadda bodyguards everywhere. They ah’real meannies, too.”
     “Anno where issa anybodies gonna rub out da Big Cheese?”
     Harold spread his arms and blurted spastically, “I don’t know…between your butt cheeks!”
     “Naw, paesano…inna da Big Apple, dat’sa wheres.”
     “The Big Apple, of course!” In the game of self-abuse for exasperation, it was Harold’s turn to slap himself on the forehead. Inadvertently, he accidentally speared his thumb into his eye.
     “Hey!  Ain’t dissa somethins’?” Rudolph aimed the gun at the tree tops and mimicked firing, “Brat-a-dat-a-datta-a-datta-dat-a-dat-dat-datta-ka’chooooooooooooo. Sprays ‘em! All right’cha now…you wise guys betta get lost or I’mah gonna blast ya…brat-a-datta-dat-a-datta-datta-dat-dat-a-dat-datta- ka’choooooooooooooooooo…”
     “They’re just trying to take care of their family,” Harold referred to his gun-toting friend as the squirrels were gnawing and rustling some tree twigs overhead.
     “Aw. shuddup’ah! Ya don’ understands. Widda gun you gotta pow’ah an’ you can’ah putta fear in ‘em. Dey don’ messa ‘round widda anymores. Capisce? Here…hold da gun an’ act tough anno ya see whadda mean, eh?” He handed the stock to Harold, who took the sub-machine gun somewhat like a pet lover would take a recently euthanized cat back at the family’s veterinarian office. “Not like’ah dat, Harry! Ya look’ah kinda silly…like ah’little sissy! Heres,” Rudy demanded as he held out his hands for the gun, which Harold promptly proceeded to return it back to its rightful owner barrel first.
     “YOWWIE-ZOWWIE!” Rudolph exclaimed, “Notta like that! Ya wanna hurt zum’body?!? Gimme da gun sideways or widda otter end. Jeeza…”
     “I’m sorry, Rudy, really I am,” Harold squeaked, shaken, “I just don’t know that much about guns.”
     “Aw, jeeza…it’sa ‘right…ya jussa scared da shit outta me, dat’s all! Ya gotta be a little careful wid’em. You knows, you gotta use’eh whatta calls ‘un piccolo buonsenso’. A little common sense, eh? It’sah good thing that’ah safety wassa on. Look’ah heres, ya do it like’ah diss.” He started to disengage the safety mechanism, which took a little forced effort, then stopped, “Hey’ah Harry? Ya wanna shoot it?”
     Harold peered down at a little black roly-poly pill bug crawling across his shoe, then back up at the horizon where the sun was beginning to touch, then turned and faced his tempter, “Nnnnnn-no…that’s okay.”
     “Ya don’ wanna shoot it? You canna be ah’real hot shot, eh? C’mon…”
     “You want to know what I really think, Rudy?”
     “Ya chicken, Harry? Byok-byok-byok-bah’kaaaaaaack!”
     “I think that your dominant idiosyncrasies and characteristics in this part of the book are so overwhelming that they completely manipulate any reader away from Harold’s disposition within the context of this story, and upon further review…”
     “Aw, shuddup’ah you hole, buddy! Dey don’tah cares about dat. Jeeza…dey knows ya gotta be twice assa smart assa I’m ever gonna be, but somma’times I don’ understands ya, mio paesan. Now…ya wanna shoot da gun or don’cha?”
     Harold shook his head back into the present consciousness, “Ourp! No thanks…not really. Okay?”
     Rudolph began putting the antique Thompson sub-machine gun back into its weathered case, obviously disappointed at not being able to show off what he thought was the family’s pride and joy. (Actually, Rudolph’s father was given the gun by an old wino who had found it in a garbage depository where it had been dumped by some insignificant criminals after an unsuccessful bank heist near the end of the Depression. Contrary to Rudolph’s story, it hadn’t been fired in the past forty-four years and wasn’t even handled that much. As a matter of fact, the old bullet casings, the chamber, and the magazine had somewhat rusted into one solid grenade, awaiting the most fleeting touch of the firing pin or just about anything else larger than a mosquito to set it off.)
     Harold had really never liked guns, or war, or any type of violence that was unnecessary, except for the stints at the pinball machine or watching the ‘good guys’ manhandle the ‘bad guys’ on the T.V. shows. He wasn’t very brave and bigger kids always picked on him at elementary school, even though he tried to maintain his confidence. These kind of compromising situations always made him feel uncomfortable and coerced. He empathized with Rudy’s unhappiness, though. With a change of heart, he was eager to please and impress his new friend (and possibly get to know his darling little sister on friendlier terms), he took a deep breath and said, “You go ahead, Rudy…show me!”
     Rudolph smiled and quickly zipped open the gun case, “Now ya’ talkin’!”
     Harold felt wonderful again, watching his friend spring into action.
     Rudolph had thought of himself as an adult for years. Because he was always failing in school, he was bigger and older than the other kids if he actually went to class. He considered himself the man of the house because his father spent most of his time either in front of the television set, overnight at his minimum-wage job, in pool halls or dive bars, or sometimes in the drunk tank. In spite of this, Rudolph never tried to take advantage of people or bully them around realistically, but he did love to show off his so-called ‘wisdom and experience’. He had never factually fired the old Tommy gun before, had never seen it fired, but to appear unsure now would cause him to lose face in a really big way. Besides, Harold was so vulnerable and such a gullibly nice kid. Rudolph could tell that the younger boy looked up to him, and the last thing he wanted to do was to disappoint his little friend. Trying hard to appear dauntless, he disengaged the sticky safety again, pointed the sub-machine gun up into the trees and started gently pulling on the trigger.
     Harold took a step back for cautiousness then peered at a couple of squirrels running along a branch towards the sunset.
     “Take’ah dissa ya little nut’sa munchers!”
     There was a brilliant flash and a concussive thunderous explosion as the firing pin struck the primer of the shell trapped inside of the corroded gun chamber. The entire aged Thompson sub-machine gun became shrapnel, scattering squirrels and birds, breaking windows, making dogs howl and riddling most of Rudolph’s head and upper torso with sharp, red-hot pieces of fragmented metal. One small chunk of the magazine nicked Harold’s neck, but he didn’t even notice.
     “RUDY!” screamed his little sister out of her shattered second-story glass window.
     Harold slowly arose back up off of the ground and stood transfixed as Rudolph’s mutilated body toppled to the lawn. The echoes of the eruption died away and silence settled in once more, but it was soon broken again by his mother’s keening, Rudolph’s father tumbling down the steps and onto the cement tiles, sirens pealing and back yard porch doors slamming as people came out of their homes for a possible glimpse of blood and guts and the situational aftermath. Harold sank to his knees, shook his head to remove the ringing within his ears, and blinked his eyes a couple of times before the holocaustic reality dawned on him. He was frozen in shock, and he felt himself go numb. Up in the walnut tree, the squirrels returned timidly to investigate the scene, surveying the landscape for nuts that had been loosened and fell to the grass below, somehow possibly sensing that their little domain was finally due for a more sane and peaceful age.
That’ll be the day
When you say goodbye
That’ll be the day
When you make me cry
You say you’re gonna leave
You know it’s a lie cause
That’ll be the day-ay-ay when I die…[1]
[1] Buddy Holly, “That’ll Be The Day” (Buddy Holly, Norman Petty, Jerry Allison)
Song: Ch. 17-1
End: Chap. 17