“You’re not aiming properly,” my brother told me.
I tried centering the cans in my sights, but my hands shook tremendously. Everytime I had the can centered I pulled the trigger, the loud gun jumping in my hand. With each shot I felt I was getting closer.
“You’re not even holding the gun properly,” my brother told me exasperated from where he was sitting on the grassy knoll. “Jack, give me a second.”
He jumped to his feet, taking the gun from me and I was all to happy if it meant his whining stopped.
“This is dad’s old revolver,” my brother explained as if I didn’t know this already. “And it isn’t one of those puny revolvers the average people have, this is a sheriff's revolver. You hold it with both hands to shoot so far away.”
My brother then proceeded to load the revolver again, I watched closely as I still didn’t get the hang of it. Once that task was complete he showed me how to hold a gun, how to breathe when I took a shot and then with three loud bangs the cans flew from the top of the rock.
“If you are going to be a sheriff one day you need to be a damn good shot,” my brother told me with concern in his face, if not on his face.
He went back to the rock and set the three cans back up with the other three. He was determined to have me shoot all six with all six bullets in the gun before the end of the day. Once he sat down on the knoll he stared straight at the cans.
“Jack, just shoot the cans,” he murmured.
I took aim.
“Do you think mom will come back?” I asked him, centering a can, gun in both hands.
I fired and the bullet hit its mark for the first time. A smile spread across my face and I looked at my brother who only seemed more glum.
“I don’t know, Jack,” he told me. “Woman are terrible and after what she did to dad...nobody would want to see her in this town again.”
A little sad myself, I took the next shot, a can flying off the rock in quick response. I didn’t say anything now, it was down to the ropes. If I could shoot the last four we could go home, so silence and tension weighed heavy on me.
The third can followed the second, then the fourth. I began to shake more than I ever had.
“Jack, get used to this silence, this stress,” he told me. “It doesn’t change your shot or what will happen to you. You will die just like dad, but that can dying before you depends on if you shoot it or not. Calm down.”
His words did nothing to comfort me, only confirm my worries. He was as desperate to go back home as I was. I took a step forward, positioned myself and slowed my shaking. My arm grew tired, but I knew what would put energy back inside it.
My older brother puffed in admiration.
“Just one more, Jack,” he told me.
“We don’t have food,” I told him as I focused. “We will need this bullet.”
“We don’t. I counted them all and this is the last one.”
I waited for my brother’s response before taking the shot. I knew he was considering saving it as much as me. However, I was surprised when he told me to take the shot anyway, saying we would improvise something on the way home.
Understanding that this was important to him, I focused and shot at the can.
“Well, five out of six isn’t bad,” he muttered as we walked home. “Certainly better shooting that you used to do, but tomorrow we are going to get more bullets and practice again.”
“How much practice do we really need?” I asked him.
“Jack, there are a lot of great gunslingers out there and not one of them is an honest man. They lie and cheat and kill if it means a pocket full of cash. That is why you need to become the best there is, or else what hope does the rest of the town have?”
“Why don’t you become sheriff? You’re older.”
“I...I can’t kill people, Jack. It is not right with God and I am a man of God.”
“I’m not a man of God?”
“You are an instrument of his will...you help him, but...you…”
My brother stammered for an answer that wouldn’t hurt my feelings, but I knew even then why he didn’t think of me as a child of God. When your brother has a different father it is hard to accept him as family. To him I was an abomination in God’s eyes and moreso, his own.
I don’t think he wished me death in becoming a sheriff, but if I were to die at the hands of these ruthless, gunslinging outlaws, well, that wouldn’t bother him so much. Still, he felt that it would be better if I was equipped for the job.
I had his father’s gun, a symbol of his darker past, killing the bad folk. I grew up to wear his father’s badge and soon I was sleeping in some of his old clothing. After that, my brother and I grew distant and his life as a child of God began. He left town to become a priest in some high-end town. Last I heard he was doing well there.
Yet, here I sit on the porch of a saloon, aiming my rifle and the fool who thought he could kill three citizens of my town, maim a fourth and simply walk out. I learnt long ago there was no point in aiming for the leg.
“Do you miss mother?”
“I don’t know. I miss her cooking.”
“Did you ever love our mother.”
“No. I never did. And after she...well, I don’t think she is worth love.”