As I've grown older I've lost touch with most of my old friends and relatives. What few pals I still have I keep up with via the Internet. It's a strange way to communicate, and because of this I sometimes dredge up memories that haven't seen the light of my eyes for decades. One of my online friends was writing about some of the really strange conversations he's had in strip joints and I was reminded of the poor working class world from which I came and in which we all seem to be stuck since our nation was turned over to a mental retard from 2000 through 2008.
At any rate, it was something I hadn't thought of in many, many years, and everything about the recollection of that memory is strange to me. Would it have occurred to me if I had still had friends to whom I conversed in person? Or was it something uniquely triggered by a long-distance conversation via the Internet.
I should say right here that this happened during my high school days. I attended a school in the mountains of northern Georgia in a place called Gilmer County in a village known as Ellijay. It was the basis for the setting of James Dickey's book and film DELIVERANCE. Yeah, I lived among those people for about four years, and I have to tell you that James Dickey had them righteously down.
Well, for what it's worth, here's that memory:
I once knew a guy named John Pickle. Yep, that was John's real name. His family was dirt-poor, but John was a funny kid and laughing most of the time, or making the rest of us guys laugh. He was a little younger than I was when I met him--I was 15, he was 14. So he had a year to go before he--like all poor kids in Gilmer County in them thar days--would quit school (Georgia allowed you to legally quit school on your 15th birthday, which almost everyone in the mountains did).
One day John Pickle did not show up for school. Next day, too. Day after that. Days stretched into a week, then two. Finally, he showed up. His head had been shaved and he was really, really thin. He'd lost a lot of weight. He'd never had any weight to lose, really, in the first place.
He was smiling but wasn't his old self. No laughs. No jokes. I asked him where he'd been.
"My dad shot me," he told me.
This took a moment to compute. I thought it was one of his jokes. But he wasn't laughin'.
"No way," I said.
"Yeah, he shot me."
"Where did he shoot you?"
John pulled his shirt down a bit and showed me the wound. It went through his trapezius muscle not far above his collar bone. Small hole on the front of his torso, much bigger one on the far side. Pink scar tissue. The bullet had gone through without hitting bone, nor organs, but had sliced some vein or something. He told me he'd lost a lot of blood.
"It didn't hurt all that much," he said. But he'd collapsed from loss of blood and shock.
"How did it happen?" I asked.
"I was running from the old man. And I was hiding behind his pulp wood truck and I thought he was gone so I popped my head up to make sure. And that's when he got me. He was trying to shoot me in the head, but he missed."
Haven't thought about that in years.
John attended school the rest of that year, but as soon as he turned 15 he quit and went to work in one of the mills.
I don't recall him being very funny after the shooting. That might have just been me. Hard to say.