Don Millich only lived in our neighborhood for a couple years, and he was a couple years older than me, but we got to be pretty good hangout buddies sometimes.
One time we pack our B-B guns and go poking around the remains of the old shingle mill across the highway from Mark McDonald’s family home, about a football field away. And there she is — lithe, nimble, athletic, sassy Carol sashaying back and forth across the end zone lawn fronting their house. Sashaying, I say, and, I am absolutely certain her hand gestures clearly invite us to take our best shots. No, really boys. Give it your best shot.
“Does she mean shoot at her?”
“Looks like it to me.”
“Can we even reach that far?”
“I doubt it.”
“So we won’t hit a window?”
We proceed to blaze away at the sprightly nymph dancing splendid avoidance of our best shots, sidestraddle-hopping in-your-face jeers when — suddenly!— both hands clap her forehead and she races into the house!
“Do you think . . .?”
“How could it . . . that far?”
“Mine might,” I shrug. Mine is a long-barreled pump action Daisy, known for its power and accuracy.
“But it’s still just a B-B,” Don says with emphasis.
“Yeah, and at that distance.”
“Guess we better leave.”
“Yeah. Guess so.”
“Boys! Don’t go!” It’s Alice, Carol’s mom. Country neighborhood, everybody knows everybody. “Don’t run away. I’m not mad. I just want you to see something.”
We don’t know what we’re gonna get to see. Broken glass? A dead what? Bird? Cat? Had my Daisy pump action bounced one off Carol’s lightly bruised shin? Getting warmer. As we approach, Alice quietly guides our attention to Carol, shedding silent tears from eyes equidistant to a small, deep crater, a bloody proto third eye from which neither Don nor I can avert our gaze. “I don’t think I need to say anything,” says Alice. “You’ve got eyes.”
“Sorry,” we mumble.
“Very sorry,” Don Adds.
“Yes, very,” I say. “Really sorry.”
“Let’s go put iodine on that,” Alice says to her daughter. “We kept the B-B,” she says to us, “As a remembrance.”
You wonder why she’d want to remember, but maybe she means we should all keep the memory as a reminder and a warning that bad things can happen? One thing I have kept absolutely secure is the memory of what it means to be an adult. It was incredible how wisely calm Alice was all during what had to be a very bad time for her.
“She wasn’t even mad!” Don marvels.
“She was way too worried to be mad,” I offer.
Later that summer we organized a neighborhood boxing tournament that stalled because nobody would fight Don, so we went swimming in the river at Billy Vine’s place instead. In August Don moved back to Aberdeen or Montesano, and I never talked to him again. But I did watch him on tv when he scored a touchdown for the Huskies against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, was it 1960? UW won. Big. (Small joke there.) Don Millich played halfback.