“I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.” - Steve Jobs
Mike looked down from where the shot had been taken; a place up on a hill they call Sugar Ridge. The ridge-land rose gradually above the Trinity River bottoms to form a geographic separation of town and country. On a clear day you could see Dallas from the ridge and on this haze-less afternoon it was difficult for Mike to understand how a place so close could be so foreign. At 11 Mike knew there was something more to the planet than his non-incorporated township because film strips at school showed places with beautiful hills, living oceans, and people dressed in clothing that seemed created by the movies. As surreal as the films were to Mike he accepted there was truth in them, and those truths imbued glints of hope that the world in which he lived was not how it had to, be nor would always remain.
Mike was cognizant of his gifts and even more keenly aware of his shortcomings. When he thought of his own capacity to think he wondered what good was it to be intelligent, curious, and perhaps even mature beyond his years when what was celebrated was obedience, physical prowess, and a big smile? Mike had little of the latter and at the same time he hoped that the tools he had; his imagination and his intellect would somehow allow him to make his own choices one day.
Mike enjoyed dominoes games with his grandmother and as he gazed out over the river bottom to the skyscrapers on the horizon he was saddened to think how his grandmother had beaten him so badly earlier that day and in his mind he knew she would be waiting again tomorrow if he found the courage to challenge her again. Daily walks through the cemetery as well as berry picking and canning tomatoes were easy distractions for Mike if he chose to avoid the competitive allure of the dots in powers of five.
The bottoms were a place of intrigue to Mike as his father and mother would often disappear there on Fridays along with their friends. Mike and his brother were rarely included on these evenings to the bottoms and the allure of such adult camaraderie was impossible to ignore. Now, there he was standing on the highest point for miles and gazing down at the rusty old truck which had been abandoned out of necessity some years before. Every bit of glass in the rotting Ford had been shattered by rocks, bullets, and the occasional boot over its life at the base of Sugar Ridge. Now there was new damage to the old steel and Mike wanted to see it firsthand.
Mike's uncle walked slowly from his flatbed truck with a 30-06 rifle slung over his shoulder. Hank had been in the army just as his father had. Vietnam was not a memory Hank enjoyed and according to most of the family the war had changed him. Mike never knew Hank before the war and if Vietnam had changed him, Mike was content to accept that it must have been for the better as Hank was the dearest adult in the world to him.
The sounds of cars were now making their way along the road behind the ridge. Mike knew his time here alone with Hank would be short-lived so he hustled behind his uncle to get a look at the fresh 30 caliber hole in the decaying back panel of the old pickup. The ring of the shot had been violent and crackled the still air of fall while the faint smell of powder slipped quickly by his nose and just as quickly dissipated. Mike knew a bit about sound waves and even though he grasped how sound traveled and why it faded over distance it still seemed amazing to him that people miles away would not have heard the blast from the high-powered rifle. Mike loved all kinds of weapons and he had secretly hoped that the shot from his uncle's gun was in fact a special exploding round used to target some last vestige of fuel in the Ford and blow the whole chassis down the embankment. Explosions were a curiosity Mike would intermittently nurture the rest of his life.
500 people lived in Mike's town and he was convinced of those 500 only a select few spoke a language he understood.
The trucks soon arrived with hollers, back slaps, handshakes, and firearm show and tell. Mike noticed that the sounds of the voices altered Hank's steps, facial expressions, and speech patterns. To Mike, Hank was informative, matter of fact, and kind without any indication that would ever change. Around other men, and especially of the local variety Hank appeared to hide in simple pleasantries, nods, and deliberate actions. Mike supposed Hank did not like most other men and that was alright for Mike as he supposed he did not like them either.