This was back many years before he drown. I had this big redheaded oaf of a friend named Jeff and I always looked forward to hanging out with him and swimming and playing Nintendo. Jeff’s parents used to throw his birthday parties in a wooded park and we would dress up in fatigues and have paintball wars. I looked forward to his birthday and we always had fun until the year the cops came and broke it up.
Most of us didn’t have paintball guns yet, so we had to play with wrist rockets which was still fun and made the fight more challenging. This particular year Jeff’s friend Chris came with a semi-automatic pistol that was the envy of all the other kids. It could shoot as fast as he could pull the trigger and at a much higher velocity that the wrist rockets were capable of. It was a neat gun and we were all in for some trouble. Especially since Chris was the kind of bastard kid that bullied others and whose dad had thick hairy arms and didn’t say I love you. I hated Chris before he had this neat gun.
Running around in the woods and through the creeks we had a great time until Chris popped up and battered you with a hail of paintballs. The paint stung like hell and Chris was the kind of kid that would have frozen them. I’m not sure if they were frozen but they hurt like they were. We all tried to get him and a few of us did, but the wrist rockets were no match.
Still, the day was good and we all ran and got tired in the woods. At one point Chris got the drop on me and hit me plenty as I fumbled to load a ball. I remember him laughing in a broken pubescent cackle. Chris was the kind of kid who grew up faster too, and would fuck all throughout high school and shave and have a car people envied. He cackled as he unloaded his semi-automatic on me and then ran off. The paintballs hurt and he had won. Guys like that always win, I thought.
Later, it was time for cake and we all talked about how much fun we had and how paintball wars were the most fun in the world. We exchanged battle stories with each other as the cake was cut and passed around. Then Chris began to brag about how he shot the shit out of me. I was little and had glasses then so it was easy to pick on me so he did. I didn’t say anything. Some kids laughed but I think most didn’t really like him and were maybe afraid of him. As the cake came around I took my wrist rocket and went behind Chris while he was talking to someone. I put a ball in it and went right behind Chris’s head and let the rocket snap. I was close enough that the leather pad slapped him right on the skull and he screamed in a screamed a pubescent scream. I don’t remember saying anything as Jeff stood in front of me, between me and Chris. Jeff was huge and he knew Chris would beat me up if he could get to me. Chris cried and screamed in rage. His fancy gun hadn’t protected him then.
Shooting a man in the back of the head is a shitty thing to do, but as a kid it felt right. We were done with the paintball war after that and one by one the parents came and took us home. I don’t recall if Jeff’s parents told mine what I’d done or not. I only saw Chris one more time after that, years later and he brought it up but said he was over it. I wasn’t, and still hated him. I don’t know what happened to him but I’m sure he’s changing oil somewhere or washing dishes with his big hairy arms and not knowing how to say I love you to his kids. Jeff continued to be a great friend until he took up kayaking in Oregon and flipped and drowned as his friends tried to pull him out. He was just too big.