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Target Practice

by Scott Stolnack

When I was sixteen in Chicago
and my mom was working swing shift
and my grandma visiting relatives down South
and the man I called my father was living
in an apartment somewhere in the suburbs
I invited the guys over to my house one night
for target practice

We went into the basement where on other evenings
we’d made out with girls on the musty old sofa
listening to Isaac Hayes and Carole King on the phonograph
lights down low
lips locked and loaded
hands roaming like snakes under sweaters
touching skin not our own for the first electric time
feeling whatever we could get away with
the smell of teenage musk a fog over everything

But tonight there were no girls
we took the cushions from the couch
propped them against the whitewashed cement wall
pinned notebook paper with circles drawn on them for targets
I had my mother’s pistol from the drawer by her bed
Gil had one of his cop father’s nine millimeters
Joe brought the revolver that had belonged to his dead dad
Johnny had a snub-nose he’d bought from a guy
but nobody had all that many bullets

The pistols bucked like hot little animals in our hands
the cracks slapped our eardrums numb
when we took the cushions down
laughing like deaf lunatics
eyes burning from gunsmoke
the wall was cratered like the face of that kid in math class
little lead pancakes peppered the fresh rubble on the floor

Nobody but us kids
went into the basement anymore
anyway       so I found an old curtain somewhere
and hung it on the murdered wall

About the Author

Scott Stolnack grew up in a working-class neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. He has published stories in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Full Spectrum, and elsewhere, worked as a freelance writer, and completed two novels. His first full-length play was a semi-finalist for the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference in 2018. For the past decade he has worked as a biologist coordinating efforts to recover endangered salmon in the Seattle area.

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