False Guilt: A Short Prequel

FalseGuilt_FrontCover_Blog 44“Take her nice and slow,” their grandfather said, stroking the white stubble on his chin.

David tightened the recoil pad against his shoulder and drew his face alongside the stock. He pressed one eye shut, squinted through the front sight with the other and took a deep breath.

“Nice and steady,” Granddad added.

Paul stood ten yards back, fingers plugging ears, watching and anticipating.

A second later, a boom echoed through the Northern Ontario forest and the shotgun kicked high in the air. In the distance, a target pinned against a tree stump took it hard in the centre. Paul envied his older brother’s shot.

“Maybe you still got it,” Granddad said to David. “Despite everything.”

“What about me?” Paul asked, walking toward them.

“We had enough for today,” Granddad said. He intercepted Paul with an arm around the shoulder and lowered his voice. “I got to talk to your brother. Hang back a bit, okay?”

Granddad emptied the handgun and two shotguns of ammunition. He gave the handgun to Paul to carry, and David and he each took a shotgun. They began the trek along the worn path to Granddad’s truck.

At first, Paul respected the request and stayed back ten yards. But curiosity drew him closer.

“What are you, twenty now?” Granddad asked.

“Ah-huh,” David said.

“Well, don’t you think it’s time to act responsibly? Hell, when I was your age, I was lookin’ to get married already.”

“Different times, I guess.”

Paul knew where Granddad was heading.

“Not so different, son. The drugs and that crap are different, though. Why are you involved with that stuff?”

“I’m not really,” David said.

“According to your mother you are. And I can see it in how you hold the guns.”

David grunted. “I nailed that last shot.”

“You were miles wide with the others.” Granddad sighed. “You need to take your well-being seriously. What you do affects people.” Granddad snapped his head back toward Paul. “Especially him.”

“I’ll try to remember that.”

“You do that.” Granddad paused. “And one other thing.”


“You can talk to me if you want to. I don’t think your mother’s any good at that. Too excitable.”

In his mind, Paul agreed. Then he imagined, and dismissed, telling Granddad the secrets David had shared with him.

“I’ll try to remember that, too,” David said. He slapped the back of his neck. “Man, there are a lot of mosquitoes out today.”

“I’m immune,” Granddad said.

The path opened to the end of a dirt road. As he opened the doors to his pickup, Granddad held his head low, worry crimping the lines across his face.

Paul scrambled into the middle of the truck’s bench seat. “Can I have this one day?” he asked, looking at the handgun. David slammed the passenger door shut, his broad shoulders crowding Paul. He hunched in sullenness, looking back at the forest.

As he started the truck, Granddad gave a low, growly laugh. “You wish. Put that thing in the glove compartment. I don’t want nobody to see it.” The pickup crept forward, tires crunching gravel. “How do I know you’ll be careful with it?” he added.

“Cause I will,” Paul said. “You know me.”

“I suppose I do,” Granddad said. “You think your mother would allow it?”

“Yup. I do.”

“You’re wrong there. But I’ll think about it.”

“Great,” Paul said, his legs starting to bounce.

“But only when I die,” Granddad said. “And that’s not somethin’ I’m planning for a long while yet.”

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

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