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I was five the day my dad shot me. He and my mother had been having a liquor fueled knock down drag out for what seemed like forever. When you were five, it always seemed like forever. One never ending nightmare.
I did my best to comfort my little brother who was only three with coloring and stories. Every once in a while I would let him help me throw a couple of logs on the fire in the great room where we played. We played there instead of in my room out of the way because the fireplace was the only room with any heat. My parents drank almost everything they made. By the third week of the month we were generally out of oil, food, soap and occasionally toilet paper. I can still feel his terror, like a live thing coiled around him. At three years old my baby brother was terrified.
My older brothers had abandoned the house hours before, having long since learned the drill. My brother Bobby had been willing to take me with him but not to tote a three year old as well, so Id stayed. I kept one eye on my brother and both ears on the sounds emanating from the kitchen. I was prepared to move quickly if the fight moved closer.
They got around me somehow. The house had so many freaking rooms. Instead of the usual path of destruction, hurricane McFadden had moved through the servants entrance, down the back stairs and was suddenly only 30ft from myself and my precious brother. I jumped in front of him out of some basic instinct. There was no thought behind it; it was just something that I did. Some basic effort to protect the weak I guess. It was at that moment I felt a searing pain in my thigh and then heard a big bang. I looked up to see my completely stupefied parents looking back at me. They were separated by a 22 long rifle, both of them with their hands on it.
They had obviously been fighting over the gun. My brother watched in horror as my leg began to spurt blood and screamed a scream I still hear at night sometimes. I looked down more puzzled than concerned to see a hole through the thigh of my right leg. And then it hurt. As soon as I saw that hole and the blood fairly gushing out of my leg it hurt so bad I wanted to die. The concept of wanting to die, to just not be was also not new and it flit through my tired little mind that they could have at least aimed a bit higher. This frozen tableau could have lasted for hours as far as I was concerned. In reality it lasted no more than a minute. A minute of my drunken parents mouths gaping utterly stunned that this had just happened. I watched as the wheels began to turn about how they were going to explain my latest little accident to the hospital. And during that whole time, neither one of them came to me to see how bad Id been hit. It was my three year old brother, hysterical who ran for the bathroom and some rags, Band-Aids and iodine. He came back to me, still sobbing uncontrollably and tried his very best to staunch the flow of blood coming from my leg.
My father had staggered over to me by then, much more sober than he had been only two or three minutes before. He took the rags from my brother and turned his head to my mother and bellowed at her to at least try and do something with the boy. I cringed then because something usually meant smack him till he shut up. Even she was too stunned to perform her by now rote response. She reached for him and he cringed back from her. I saw the anger ramp up in her eyes again but self-preservation kicked in at the last second and she simply picked him up and began to bounce and rock him telling him I was going to be fine. My father had tied a rudimentary tourniquet around my leg having no idea if hed hit an artery or anything, only knowing I was bleeding a lot. He grabbed me up and ran me out to the car where my mother and brother were already waiting. The only words spoken on the way to the hospital were the story I was supposed to tell. There was nothing but the sound of my brother quietly crying and an occasional moan from me. I could see black at the corners of my eyes when we screamed to a stop at the Brantford General Emergency room.
I remember the anger on my fathers face as he dragged me out of the back seat and ran with into the emergency room. He basically just tossed me at the first nurse he saw. Shes been accidentally shot he said and the emphasis on accidentally told me everything I needed to know. I sighed inwardly at the look of naked pain in the nurses eyes. She must be new I thought, as the nurse took me gently from my father. She barked quickly and took me to a trauma room. Her name was Angela. She was very nice even if I did think she was sort of a baby at the time. She kept patting my hand and telling me I was going to be ok. I barked out a sardonic laugh completely by accident and told her I was pretty sure I was going to live. She told me she was surprised I wasnt crying. I shrugged, purposely non -committal.
The doctor got to the emergency room in record time. A gunshot wound in a small town is a very rare thing. He took off the tourniquet my father had tied, took a rudimentary look at the wound, and loaded me up with a local to at least kill the searing pain for a bit and sent me for an x-ray. So far so good I thought. Nobody had asked me what happened. The x-ray revealed that my leg was not broken and the bullet had passed harmlessly through my thigh. There was some damage to the muscle, but all in all, things could have been much worse. The doctor began gently packing the hole in my leg. The local hed given me made it so I didnt feel much pain. The amount of pain to my shell never mattered to me, it never got anywhere near the pain that lived on the inside of my shell. He watched my eyes intently as he worked. Can you tell me what happened he finally asked me? I was really hoping he wasnt going to do that, but he did. Im not sure I started, lying like a pro. Lying like a pro at five years old. The gun was stood up against the wall by the door. We keep it there because of the coyotes. All the banging around from me and my brother playing must have knocked it down or something. Then I had a hole in my leg. The whole time I talked the doctor watched my eyes. He knew I was lying and I knew he knew, but I was not going to budge from that story not one bit so it was pretty much a done deal. I prayed my dad had been as vague as humanly possible. He had been. It was he himself that told me once that the best lies always had a kernel of truth to them and mine did. The gun did reside by the door and it was there for coyotes. It was always kept loaded. Back then that was not a big deal. I just left out the part where it had been picked up and wrestled over. The doctor wasnt a stupid man. Not only was there no way a gun on the floor had put a hole in my leg that high up, but my parents were both beat up, they were both seriously impaired and I was shot. He had pretty much figured out what had happened within five minutes of me hitting the ER. He nodded. Ok he said, ok. He went out and spoke to my parents and ten minutes later my dad came in to collect me.
He put his hand out for me like I was supposed to take it and walk out of there. I couldnt walk. It took him several moments to realize his mistake and he picked me up and carried me out to the car. Just another Saturday night at the McFadden house.