Into July by Tanner Lee

Into July was originally published in Enheduanna: A Pagan Literary Journal, Volume 5 (2020)

We re-enacted the scene from the 1996 VHS classic Space Jam where Bugs gets crushed by the orange Monstar and Lola brings him back to life with a kiss.

I volunteered for the role of Bugs.

“Okay now say it,” I said to Cody. He got on his knees and pouted his lips. He kissed me like you’d kiss a sexless shoulder, pecking twice.

We were too young to know we were frauds.

We believed ourselves the monsters of North Dallas, curly-headed and leaning on trees. We painted our faces green and black, and we wore second-hand fatigues from thrift stores and family attics. We buttoned up and were war-ready, swaggering with ammo and plastic rifles tipped with orange. Airsoft gave us the thrill of war without the warring. We talked like we killed, and we found ways to best each other. In the forest with our guns, our mothers didn’t exist.

We split into two teams, sleeves and skins. The teams weren’t fair, we knew, since Cody had the best gun – a sniper that stung from 200 ft. Everyone else had pistols except me with a shotgun that was only worth a tenner with the speed loader and a wipe down.

The first round put Cody and me versus the other two. We counted down from 100 in the fig orchard where two blue jays lay dead from earlier, when I shot them for 50 cents from Pa, who said they ate persimmons and didn’t share the figs. We reached 3, 2, 1, and then stood in the pre-silence of contest, when the talk is over and the pretend begins, and at any time we could be shot and stung.

We passed persimmon trees and the pepper garden and flanked the dirt wall that lined the forest. From his scope, Cody saw the enemies in the treehouse. I whispered ready and we were in the trees like infantry. Cody motioned for me to go ahead so he could stay back with the good gun. We’d figured the neighbor boys would camp in the treehouse for the high ground.

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Down the shallow creek that led to Skipping Rock Island, I found a bag of beer bottles and shattered them against the rocks, sending mists of rainbow through hot air. Up the hill, Cody pumped his fist which meant hurry. The sad truth is that airsoft snipers aren’t much better than airsoft handguns in that any leaf or sleeve can protect and deflect against plastic single shots. Snipers may hit, but only with a perfect line of sight and if the other boy is honest about dying.

 I flanked the treehouse, waited like a good soldier, then saw, in the tree, a hornet nest clinging like a tumor. Pa said that not all animals serve a purpose, like the blue jays eating figs, or hornets that only live for the devil’s errands. A BB whipped my ear like a hot bead and sent my hand flying to the trigger.

Through the tree line, Cody stood with a hand on his rifle like Curly Bill. “Did I get cha’?” he yelled. I pointed a pistol at his chest and barrelled towards him. I pulled the trigger and popped his sternum with a neon pellet. The two others appeared and wondered if this meant the game was over. “Boo-hoo that hurt so bad,” Cody mocked. He rolled up his sleeves and wiped a runnel of sweat from his brow. The feeling in my ear returned and we returned home too tired to fight.

Later, Cody came for peace by way of cartoons and cold cereal. We needed each other, like the hunter and the hunted. We could forgive anything though conceding a handshake or a kiss.

“Sorry for the breakdown,” I said. He stood with his rifle. “Soldier, we have a task.”

“Yes, Sergeant.” I stood straight.

“Ten Hut! An intergalactic basketball game with Michael Jordan and a team of toons is happening right now, near the church. Grab your juice.” I locked the door, and we walked like cadets into the dreamland of whatever we could make it.

About The Author

Tanner Lee lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. His writing appears in Hobart, The Daily Drunk, West Trade Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, The Comstock Review, Entropy, and The Cardiff Review. Find him on Twitter @heytannerlee

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