I looked down at the two pecan pies on display before me. Lowering my face to bench height, I inspected both, noted the consistency of their crusts, their clusters of pecans and glistening caramelized centres.
“Yep,” I stood upright and put a hand on each hip, “mine is better.” I smiled and poked her in the shoulder, “and I’m a total noob.”
“Get out,” she poked me back, “it all comes down to the taste. We’ll know for sure at lunch.”
It was my first Thanksgiving, my first Pecan pie, and my first time in Grand Lake, Oklahoma; yes, it was a day of firsts.
Addie’s dad chuckled as he presided over the pies. “You girls made them exactly the same, I’m sure they’re both delicious,” he smiled in an attempt to curb our childish competitiveness.
But it didn’t work. As if knowing exactly how to win this one, Addie cocked her head to the side and bore her eyes into me, her wide, toothy grin flashing teasingly (making me fall even more in love with her) and enunciating every, single, word, ratted me out: “Kat’s never shot a gun before.”
Her mum choked on a pecan and her dad pursed his lips, letting a sharp burst of air escape them in incredulous exclamation, “you’re lying Addie,” his hand gesticulated vividly towards me, “of course she’s shot a gun, she’s a grown woman!”
“Well…” I wanted to choose my words wisely. I looked across at Addie who looked back at me over raised eyebrows. She had me cornered and she knew it, but what she didn’t know is that I was ready—I rose to the challenge. “… No, I suppose I never have shot a gun before,” I finished.
Her dad huffed as he silently inspected me before turning on his heel and shaking his finger at no one in particular. “Don’t move,” he called over his shoulder as he purposefully strode out of the room, his perplexed countenance revealing nothing.
I leaned into Addie. “What’s going on?” I whispered.
Her mum giggled. “He’d going to make you shoot a gun!” she squealed excitedly. I looked at Addie and she solemnly nodded her head. I felt a thrill tickle my spine—I was suddenly excited too.
Moments later he reemerged with a long, slender gun slung over his shoulder, and as quickly as my excitement surfaced, it was suffocated by an intense panic. “I don’t think I should do it,” I blurted, “I mean, I’ve never done it before, what if I accidentally shoot myself or one of you or the neighbor or one of the dogs or something? Yeah, no, I’ll just watch you guys do it, it’s OK!”
Addie’s dad dropped a box of bullets on the bench in front of me, right by the first pecan pie I’d ever made. “You won’t shoot anyone, don’t worry, now go and find some targets.”
I was in a semi-daze as Addie and I collected all the empty plastic bottles we could find in the kitchen and I took them outside where I proceeded to wait dumbly by the car for the others to emerge. When they finally joined me outside I asked where we were going and they both laughed.
“Right here silly,” Addie walked past me and towards the small grassy area directly across the road from their house.
“But aren’t there people out here? Or dogs!” I shrilled, my breath quickening.
Her dad clapped his hand on my shoulder, “it’s OK, the ground inclines, we’ll shoot towards that. And, I, promise,” he pronounced every word very slowly, as if I were deaf or simple, “you, won’t, shoot, anyone.”
My panic still hadn’t subsided as he showed me how to rest the gun, just so, between my collar bone and armpit (“that’s to stop the kickback”), how to load the bullet (“pull the underside back like this, but don’t catch your skin”), where to aim (“look through this little hole here, the sight’s off a little to the right so try to adjust yourself”), and how to pull the trigger (“whenever you’re ready love, just pull it back and watch that kick, you’re only small”).
When I felt satisfied that I had lined up with the largest of the plastic bottles readied several metres in front of us, in the space before the lawn became a knoll, I finally pulled the trigger. The bullet whizzed forward and took my panic with it. For a moment, I saw and knew nothing, until I became aware of some leaves, just behind our row of bottle targets, that had been tousled by the landing of my bullet.
I gingerly placed the gun in a safe place and we ran up to the target, all three of us, each one pushing to be first to see the damage. And there it was in all it’s glory—I had hit my target. I recoiled, half worried that I was some kind of lethal killing machine and I was just about to discover that the government had kidnapped me as a child, taught me neat assassin skills then brainwashed me when the operation went awry, and half proud at my preciseness and dexterity.
Addie’s dad clapped my back again, holding my shoulder and shaking me, this time not to allay my panic but more like a proud father whose son had kicked his first ever goal in football. “Yes!” he exclaimed. “Kat my dear, you’re a damn natural!”