I Am
Joseph Rippi

The shotgun that killed Mr. T lay across Old Farmer Ed's lap. He rocked in the white rocking chair. Paint flakes fell from the arms, snowing a circle around him. Up in the cedar tree, Ben and I loaded our guns. The old farmer's snores carried on the wind; his head was tilted back. Jaw open. I watched through the flat needles. The chair creaked. His fat and angry wife was nowhere to be seen. I looked across the limb at my best friend and saw what he was thinking: That sonofabitch killed my cat. He pumped his gun and a smile split his face like a gash. Everything was exactly as we'd planned. I didn't want to be here. I had promised. I stared down the barrel to Old Farmer Ed's open mouth and checked the safety. My fingers were sticky with pine sap. I tapped at the trigger and aimed at the old farmer's crotch, remembering the time he caught me in his yard chasing a football. He and the fat wife had called my mother, said I was stealing carrots from their garden. I looked at Ben; I felt like crying but I had promised. Aim for his crotch, he told me. I am, I said, and I looked down the barrel again: a promise was a promise. My eyes were wet, itched, and I held my breath. My heart felt tremendous in my chest, growing, hugely inflating.