What Else Is There?

by Al Norris

Chapter 7

When I got home, I settled in at the kitchen table to do my homework. I didn't have much, except the paper for AP English. So I sorta breezed through math and then history, which was mostly just reading. I opened up my browser to do more research on the differences between Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.

After another half hour, I felt I had read enough to understand their views and now had enough references to start writing the paper. It was slower going than usual. It was kinda like that Chinese question about the sound of one hand clapping. I don't know the answer to that, but the sound of one hand typing is Click… Click… Click… I'm glad the paper isn't due tomorrow!

It was a good thing I had set the alarm on my new smartphone! Before I knew it, it was time to start dinner. It was just going to be simple tonight. Some mildly curried diced chicken breasts on a bed of brown rice and orzo seasoned with Knorr's tomato and chicken bouillon. Then steamed broccoli florets, lightly sprinkled with grated parmesan, as the veggie.

After dinner and while I was cleaning up, I told Uncle George what happened at school today. I could tell that he was getting pissed until I told him what Mr. McNaulty did. He seemed pleased when I said that Mr. Chilton was handcuffed and led out of the lunchroom by the security officer.

"Do you know if the asshole lost his job?"

"Not really. All I know is that Mr. McNaulty told the officer that Mr. Chilton assaulted a student. I don't get that, though. All he did was to cock his fist like he was going to hit me. Mr. McNaulty pushed him off balance before he could do anything else. I mean, he never actually hit me or anything."

"Peter, do you know the difference between assault and battery?"

"There's a difference?"

"Yes. If someone gets in your face and threatens you with physical harm, that's assault. If he then touches you, in any way, that's battery. In this case, you said he drew back like he was going to punch you?"


"That's the assault. If he had hit you, then it would have been battery. Now if he had called you a low-down gutter-snipe and was going to punch your lights out, then that would have been an assault. If he then actually hit you, that would be a case of both assault and battery. See the difference?"

"Yeah, I think so. Law sure can be complicated!"

"That's why criminal lawyers charge so much money! They spend at least seven years going to law school for this stuff.

"Larry Lundquist graduated in the top 25% of his class. He passed his Bar Exam the first time he took it. That doesn't happen for most JD graduates. Then he spent eight years as an assistant D.A. before he went into private practice. He spent another four years with the firm he now works with as a criminal defense attorney before he was invited to become a partner. He's now spent almost ten years as a partner. He's a good guy to have on your side."

"Wow! That's 22 years as a criminal lawyer. So if he advises you about something, you should probably take it?"

"Yup. If he says to do something, then he has good legal reasons for saying it. If you don't understand why he says to do something, ask him about it." Uncle George chuckled ruefully, "But be prepared to listen to a lecture."

"Well, I still have a paper to write, and this isn't getting it done."

"Oh? What's your paper on?"

I brought my laptop to the table and opened it up to what I started. Uncle George looked at the title and the few paragraphs I had done so far.

"That's a pretty heavy subject. This for AP English?" I nodded my head. "So which philosophy do you lean towards?"

"From my research, I think Locke got it right."

"I agree. If you ever actually read some of Locke's writings, especially his Second Treatise of Government, you will see where the Founding Fathers of America got a lot of their ideas on government from," he ruffled my hair. "Good luck with your paper Peter. It's a great topic."

Uncle George never ceases to amaze me. Who would've thought that a simple miner would know about Hobbes & Locke, let alone read one of Locke's greatest works?

At about 10:00, I decided to pack it in and go to bed.

Wednesday morning came around and I found that my shoulder hurt less than yesterday. My arm is starting to hurt less too, but I suppose it's a matter of degree. The older wound hurts less, but the new part burns!

The talk, on the way to school, was about Mr. Chilton being suspended from teaching until the Board held a hearing on the matter.

The day went by uneventfully. Things had settled down to the point that everything was like it had been, before all the excitement. At lunch, it was pretty much the same thing. What impressed me was how many people said they saw Mr. Chilton as he drew his fist back, as if he was gonna deck me.

Finally, it was time for Gym and that meant practice time.

I had never really thought about coaching before this. Yeah, I've always played on teams or watched the game on TV. But watching my team, looking for ways to improve what they were doing, which also meant looking for mistakes in the play… It was a whole new dimension of the sport. One I had never even considered before.

After about a half hour, Coach Anderson came over to me and essentially showed me what I should be looking for. The placement of our basemen constantly changed, depending on how many runners were on base, which bases they were on, and which bases they were running to. It especially made a difference as to where the shortstop and second baseman placed themselves.

The upshot of this was that I saw many things I had been doing wrong when I was the shortstop or second baseman. You would think that I would have learned this lesson when I was playing the game. But coaching is a lot like tutoring others in Math - You learn more by teaching. However, it was coaching that brought it all home.

The rest of the week went by without much harassment at all. Granted there were a few whispered words in the hallways between classes, but by and large nothing I couldn't deal with. On Friday, I turned in my paper for AP English. Coach Anderson asked me when I would get my staples out at practice that afternoon. I told him it would be next Friday unless the doc thought they needed to be left in longer. He also said I had to wear the sling anytime I left the house… at least until next Friday. I could take it off for a while when I was home, as long as the shoulder wasn't hurting, and I didn't overdo it.

At our Saturday practice, I began to have a much better understanding of not just the game, and coaching. Seeing how the second baseman and shortstop placed themselves according to who was on base, what bases the opposing players were on, who was batting, where the batter might hit the ball to advance himself or his teammates… I loved playing ball, but until now I had never considered how much strategy went into what the coaches did with us. My respect for their knowledge and dedication has shot way up!

When practice was over, Mitch asked if I wanted to come over to his place and hang out. His folks even wanted me to have dinner with them. I called Uncle George to let him know and get permission to stay for dinner.

"Peter, I don't mind ya hanging out with Mitch or even having dinner. But… I draw the line about sleeping over. Do you understand why?"

"Um… Yeah… Because of what happened last Saturday night?" I could feel myself blushing.

"That's it exactly. If you're good about using that sling, you just may get those staples out next Friday. We do want that, don't we?"

"No, I mean yes, you're right. I do want these things out."

"If Mitch's folks can't drive ya home, call me and I will come and get ya. No later than ten o'clock, OK?"

"Thanks, Uncle. Bye."

"Hang on… Do you still want to learn how to shoot? That's kinda what we had planned for this afternoon, ya know. We can always do that tomorrow."

"Crap! I had forgotten all about that. Yes, I still really want to do that. So I'll tell Mitch I can't hang out today."

"All right then. When you make your apologies to Mitch, tell him I said hi, and I'll see ya when ya get home."

I was watching Mitch as the call took place. At first, he looked happy, but now he looked kinda sad. How can I make this right? Well, the truth is generally a good thing…

"Mitch, I'm sorry. I had forgotten that we were gonna do something today. I kinda made a deal with Uncle George last Monday, then forgot about it. I hope you're not too mad…"

"Mad? No. Disappointed? Um, Whatcha gonna do?"

"Remember last Monday, when Unc was gonna take ya home? And you didn't think I should be left alone? And Uncle handed me a shotgun?"

"Yeah, I remember all that. So?"

"Um, first off, I've never held a gun before that. Secondly? It was empty."


"Uh, yeah. When Unc came back, he had me open the thing up, and there weren't any shells in it. He said you guys are all so used to guns, that my having one settled your concerns about leaving me alone… That was my first lesson. Shotguns don't use bullets, they use shells."

"Well, it did. So what was the problem, again?"

"Yeah, see, we talked about that. If he was gonna leave me with guns, don't ya think I should know how to use them?"

"Of course… Wait! You telling me you really have no idea how to use firearms?"

"Didn't I just say it was the first time I ever held a gun? So anyway, we made a deal that today we are going out to the range and he's gonna teach me to shoot!" Robert and Tom were walking with us. They were the 'elected' escort today. I could hear them both giggling behind us.

"I hope he's not gonna let you shoot that shotgun. Not with your arm & shoulder the way they are."

"Nah… He said that shotguns and rifles won't come until after my shoulder heals. Today he's gonna teach me to shoot handguns."

"Oh? I bet he starts you off with a twenty-two. Likely a semi-auto version. They're the easiest to learn sight picture, sight alignment, and breath control."

"So, you must know something about shooting, 'cause those words are all foreign to me. When ya wanna start talkin' American English again, let me know."

Mitch laughed, "Yeah, I know a bit about shooting. I'm much better with long guns than handguns."

"Who taught you?"

"My dad taught me. He qualified expert, in three out of four years in the Marines. That was just in pistol. With a rifle? Four out of four."

"Is that good?"

"Outside of being a sniper, expert is the highest qualification a Marine can get."

We had been walking to my house as our conversation was taking place. I could tell that Mitch was very proud of his dad, by his words, his tone, and his facial expressions. "So you're OK with me going with my uncle and not to your house?"

"Yeah. Now that I know what's going on, we can always hang out tomorrow."

"So, how about you coming with us? If you like to shoot, that is?"

Mitch shook his head, "Nah. I know how you feel about your Uncle, this will be a good bonding time for the two of you."

"I agree with that, Pete," Robert said. "We know that you left your home in Cali, and George has custody now. Ya both seem ta get along pretty good, so bonding time is a good thing!"

Tom nodded his head in agreement, "Pete, we don't need to know why you left your old home. It's your story to tell when you get more comfortable with all of us… Don't feel you need to explain. Whatever the reasons, they must be good ones or you wouldn't be here. It's just the way you talk about your uncle, you really seem to like him. If what Robert says is true, then time together is well spent."

I thought about this for a few seconds and stopped walking. "Thanks, guys. It's hard to talk about my life before moving here. The short version is that my mom hates me. Well, maybe hate isn't the right word, but she sure as hell never loved me.

"Ever since my real dad died, when I was six, she always compared me to him. In her eyes, I never measured up. No matter what I did, it was never good enough for her. It all sorta came to a head last Christmas…"

"You gotta be shittin' me!" Tom spat out, "With your grades and your athletic ability? Should I mention that you're two to three years younger than everyone else?"

"Look, y'all know I'm gay. My mom is very homophobic. My sisters had become just like her. So were my aunts and uncles. I didn't have anyone to talk with about what I was experiencing or how I was feeling. No one except Uncle George.

"Shit kept happening and finally, last Christmas Day was the last straw. So I left home to come to live with my Uncle. He had told me several times that if things got too bad, I could come and live with him. So, Christmas day, I called him and hopped on a bus." Even with this abbreviated version, I could feel my eyes start to water. Before things could get more out of hand, I pulled my emotions back and stuffed them into that space where I didn't have to think. Or feel.

"Guys? We should probably get moving. Don't stare but you see those three guys about two blocks behind us on the other side of the street? They've been following us ever since we left the practice field." Robert indicated where these guys were with his chin. "What do you want to do, Pete?"

From the brief look I gave, I recognized one of the yahoos. It was Carl's friend, Jeremy. "Um, I recognized Jeremy Souter. Isn't he one of Carl's goons?"

"Yeah, he is. I don't think I know the other two," Robert confirmed.

Mitch was thoughtful for a moment, "Guys, I don't think they're gonna try anything with all of us here. I think they're just waiting to see where Pete lives."

"If that's what they're doing, then they're dumber than rocks!" Tom chuckled. "If'n it had been just one of them, we might never have noticed. But all three of them?"

"So what do we do, guys?"

"Don't sweat it, Pete. We just keep walking and when we get to the 9th St. bridge, you jog over it and jog home." Tom looked pleased. "I betcha by the time them dufus' get there, you should be outa sight. We'll stay here and delay them a bit more. They might figure out you are on the other side of the river… But where on the other side?"

"Yeah, there's lotsa residential streets and homes over there." Mitch grabbed my hand and pulled me towards Water Street, just a block away.

The bridge was just a few yards west on Water from the corner of 9th & Water. A quick quarter-mile jog and the river vegetation would hide whichever way I might take after I got to the other side of the bridge. "Simple but elegant plan, Tom. Mitch, I'll call you. I guess I'll see y'all Monday at school. Bye." I took off and left them still walking towards Water Street.

If you had asked me, before we went shooting, how hard it was to shoot a gun and hit your target, I would have told you it was easy! I mean, just look at all those cop shows on TV. How hard could it be? Boy, was I wrong! Oh Yeah… Don't forget, there's one more tiny little detail worth mentioning. I'm right-handed… Guess where that one is…

I now know what those phrases that Mitch used, meant. If you don't have a good sight picture of how the front and rear sights are aligned with each other, you will never hit that target. The same goes for sight alignment, how your target 'sits' on the front sight. 'Front sight' was the most used phrase by Uncle George. Your focus must be on the front sight. You use your peripheral vision to align the sights and the target… The rear sight and the target should be blurry since your focus is on that front sight.

He showed me 3 different ways to stand and shoot. The most natural is the 'Isosceles triangle'. That's where you use both hands, holding the gun straight out from your chest. Your feet are shoulder-width apart and slightly bent. You lean slightly forward from the waist. It's then easy to move left or right. The problem Unc showed me is that you are presenting your entire torso to your opponent (Police have vests! we civilians don't). Side-to-side stability is great. Front-to-back stability is very poor. Moving left or right is easy. Moving to the front or back is awkward.

Then there is the 'Weaver' stance. It's named for an L.A. Police Chief back in the 1950s. Here, your support side (the side of your body that does not hold the gun) is the presented side. Unc called that, 'blading'. Your support leg is forward, which results in your shooting arm being straight out, pushing the gun. Your support arm is bent, pulling the gun. This helps to maintain both control of muzzle flip and recoil. Knees flexed and leaning slightly forward from the waist. Moving left or right feels awkward.

The one I liked best is the 'Modified Weaver' stance. It just seemed to be more stable for me. In this stance you have your support foot just slightly ahead, so you are only slightly bladed. You still have a slight push-pull on the gun and moving left or right is as easy as the 'Isosceles' stance.

Of course, a lot of this is pretty academic. Some of it won't work for me at all. Not today anyway. Remember the part about using both hands? Maybe I can try it out later, once I get rid of this darn sling. As it was, Unc allowed me to use both hands just to try the positions out to see how they felt.

Even that was hard since my dang shoulder kinda hurt just getting into the position. After just firing a few rounds in each stance, it was hurting. No way could I do this for a couple of hours!

Mostly, Unc had me shooting left-handed and using my non-dominant eye. He said it would be great practice to be able to accurately shoot with both hands.

Anyway, Uncle George said that each person is different and each person will end up using the stance that suits them best. So we practiced using all three before I decided on the 'Modified Weaver'.

I spent about two hours using that pistol. It was a Ruger GP-100, a six-shooter. Meaning it had a revolving cylinder that held six rounds (no, not bullets!) or cartridges. The cylinder rotates each time you pull the trigger. Finally, I was beginning to hit what I was aiming at.

Then Unc changed things up and handed me a Glock44. This was a twenty-two caliber version of the Glock19 (which we used on another day). I have to say, as much fun as that pistol was, this Glock was a whole lot better! I think it was because of the time I spent with the pistol learning to use a proper stance and keeping my sight picture and alignment. Anyway, it was more fun and I was way better at hitting my target. Not just hitting the target, but hitting the spot I was aiming at on the target.

I learned about shot groups, how to get them tight and why that was important. Uncle George had me doing some moderate exercises, then picking up the handgun and shooting three rounds. Heck! They were all over the place. It only took me one time doing this and I learned that there was a big difference between shooting just standing, relaxed, and shooting after any kind of exertion.

Altogether, we spent around four hours at the police range. I learned a lot about pistols and handguns. We weren't done though…

After we got home, I learned how to take the guns apart and clean and oil them. The pistol was easy. The Glock? Not so much. I did learn to set the parts on the table in the order I took them apart.

After everything was cleaned up and put away, we went out for pizza! I have to admit, the guys were right, I had a great time with Uncle George.

I called Mitch, later in the evening, and we talked a lot about what I learned and how I did today. Then we talked about hanging out together tomorrow. I figured I could walk over to his house after he got back from church. Mitch asked his parents about that, while I asked Unc about it.

Mitch's dad got on the phone and asked to talk to Uncle George. After a few minutes, we both got our phones back. "Pete, it looks like we get to hang tomorrow… But there are conditions."

"Conditions? What conditions?"

"The rents want to invite you and George for Sunday Dinner. There's a twist to that, though."

"I'll bite. What's the twist?"

"We have to cook dinner! I guess George tried to get the folks to go over there, 'cause George said you were a fabulous cook. They said they would pay for the fixins' but you had to come over here and cook for us all."

"That's the conditions? Hmm, can you get your rent's car? We need to go shopping right now!"

"Hang on…" A minute passes and I hear some muffled talking. "OK, Pete. I'll be over in a couple of minutes."

"See ya soon."

I grabbed a windbreaker and put it on, and found Unc in his study. "Uncle George, Mitch is coming over so we can go shopping for tomorrow's dinner."

"What in the world are you fixin' to get?"

"It's a Sunday Dinner, right? Well, there's some stuff neither of us has and I need to get it now… Unless you decide to drink water and eat air?" Snapping my fingers, "Oh! Do you have a decent chardonnay or sauvignon blanc?"

"I'm not much of a wine drinker, so no."

"Great. Grab your sweater and come with us. I need some white wine!"

"What the hell ya gonna make that you need wine?"

"You'll see. Tomorrow." Uncle George just rolled his eyes, while I chuckled. We headed into the front room just as Mitch pulled up. I let Uncle George get in the passenger side while I got into the back seat. "To Wal-Mart, Mitch!"

"Nah… Smith's has a much better selection than anything Wally World might have."

"Do they have a wine section?"

"Well yeah! Whatcha gonna make that needs wine?"

"Chicken breasts in a gorgonzola reduction with sauteed crimini mushrooms and shallots. I figure to start with an arugula salad, string beans or asparagus as the side dish, and a mock lemon cheesecake for dessert. We need the wine for the reduction. The grumps can have the rest of it with dinner."

"Grumps?" Unc had an eyebrow raised as he looked back at me.

"Um, yeah. Short for Grown-ups." I smirked.

"So how long is this gonna take to make? We won't have any 'together' time if this takes too long. What's gorgonzola?"

"Italian goat cheese. I see you haven't figured this out, Mitch."

"Huh? Goat cheese? Are you sure everyone's gonna like that? And figured out what, exactly?"

"This is Uncle George's way to keep you and me from doing any horizontal gymnastics like last weekend…"

"Guilty as charged!"

"And I'm sure that everybody will like what I'm gonna make. It will take around two hours to put it together. Oh, and the cheese was originally made from goat's milk, not any longer though."

"Oh… Uh, OK, I get it." I could tell from sitting behind Mitch that he had turned red. Again. "I swear, Pete! You enjoy making me blush, don'tcha?"

I laughed. "No more than you enjoy seeing my face red too. But I could have kissed you in front of Uncle George…"

"You sure you two aren't twelve?" Uncle George chuckled as we pulled into the parking lot.

"Oh! I almost forgot. We need to get Mitch an apron. I've never had a sous chef before. Maybe something pink and frilly to go with his blush?" I smirked then yelped, "KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD WHEN YOU'RE DRIVING!" Then I smirked some more.

Uncle George may have failed to appreciate the overall humor of the situation. "Make that eleven." He muttered.

We locked the car, then walked into the store. I could see where the produce and deli were, so I grabbed a shopping cart and headed there.

At the deli, they had gorgonzola in both blocks and crumbles. So I got two blocks for the sauce and a small tin of the crumbles for the salad. In the produce section, I found the mushrooms. They had eight-ounce packages of sliced white and crimini 'shrooms. Found the shallots and the lettuce… Let's see, some Romain for the platter. Some red and green leaf for the base and a small bit of arugula. Oh yeah… A cucumber, a carrot, and a pound and a half of asparagus.

Across from the produce was the meat counter. Looked at what they had for chicken breasts, and had the gal package up six breasts.

"OK guys, where's the wine?"

"Follow me, Peter."

"Mitch, would you get us a pint of whipping cream, and two 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, then meet us in the wine section?"


Uncle George walked me halfway through the store before we found the wine section. Dang! I was impressed. For what I thought of as a beer and whiskey town, Smith's stocked a good selection of wines. I mentally flipped a coin and picked out a good chardonnay. By that time, Mitch was back and plopped the cream and cheese into the cart.

"Uncle George? Do you think we should bring a gift or something? You know, like some flowers for Mitch's Mom, and maybe another bottle of wine for you adults to sip while I fix dinner?"

George thought for a moment. "I'm not sure. Mitch? What do you think?"

"Mom would love the flowers, as long as they ain't too flashy. Dad has a well-stocked bar, so I think I'd just get some flowers."

We hit the checkout stand and the total came to just over $82.

"Isn't that a lot for one dinner for five people?" Mitch asked.

"Nope. Go into any Italian restaurant and this dinner would cost you at least $25 a plate. Add $6 or $7 for each glass of wine. So that kinda works out to about $150 for the five of us."

"So you think your cooking is worth all that, Peter?"

"Sure. How was that Swiss Steak the other day, Uncle?"

"I still think it's a lot of money for a home-cooked meal."

"Are you saying that your folks are not worth a good dinner, Mitch?"

Mitch sputtered while I grinned.

"Look, besides the grumps trying to keep us out of the bedrooms, by having us cook the meal, they want to see what I can do. Unc has talked up my cooking, so I aim to show 'em I ain't just another pretty face in a uniform on the baseball field."

"You know, Peter, I am sitting right here next to Mitch?"

"Really? I wondered who you were!"

For that, I received a bop on the head, as Uncle George chuckled again. "Fucking smart-assed nephew."

As we pulled up to our home, Mitch asked, "So what time do you figure on coming over?"

"What time do you normally eat Sunday Dinner?"

"Usually about 4 o'clock or so."

"Let's say about one then. That way we can all chat a bit before we start slaving away in the kitchen. Is that OK with you, Uncle George?"

"It's your show, Peter. Mitch? You OK with that?"

"Yes sir. That should be fine."

Uncle George nodded his head and got out of the car and headed into the house. I got out of the backseat, opened Mitch's door, and pulled him into a hug. After several moments, Mitch kissed me. Of course, this had an immediate effect on me. He broke the kiss then he groped me!

"Er, um… I had better get these groceries into the fridge."

"What? Getting too hot out here?" This time Mitch was grinning.

"Um, yeah. Don't want the chicken breasts to burn…"

"Sure. You just don't want your Uncle to holler at you to get your sweet butt inside the house!"

"My butt's sweet? When did you discover that?"

I got another peck on the lips, "Go on, get your stuff and I'll see you tomorrow, Pete."

… sigh … So I grabbed the three plastic sacks and walked to the front door, as Mitch backed up and drove away.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead