K iss Kiss, Bang Bang
It wasn’t until grade school that Brody realized the difference between boys and girls. From the outside they looked alike. Girls wore pants. Boys wore pants. Girls had short hair. Boys had short hair. Girls romped through the mud and played with toy trucks and got into fistfights with each other just like the boys, and all the mothers would roll their eyes and say, “Girls will be girls.” Brody thought boys and girls were pretty much the same.
Until the first day of grade school, when Sally Conklin from across the street showed him what she got at the girls-only assembly.
“It’s a gun,” she said proudly. “All the girls got them. Mrs Garfield says we don’t get bullets until we’re older, but these squirt some kind of slime that makes you itchy. So watch out!” She stuck the gun in her waistband. “What did you get at your assembly?” “A warning,” Brody said. “About how to treat girls.” The warning was starting to make sense.
In middle school Bobby Ziefenberger got shot when he tried to look up Mary-lou Churchill’s dress. She shot him right in the chest, and Bobby plopped down in the dirt and howled until someone ran to get a teacher. All the girls clustered around Mary-lou and kept their guns pointed at Bobby. All the boys stood back with their hands in their pockets. When Mr Wu got there he asked what happened, and everyone told him the same thing.
“I was just joking!” Bobby whined. “I wasn’t hurting her. She didn’t have to shoot me!”
Mary-lou crossed her arms and stuck her tongue out at him. Mr Wu said, “Go see the nurse, Bobby. We’ll discuss this after school.”
When Bobby was gone, the girls put their guns away and went back to playing. Mr Wu took the boys aside.
“It’s not a joke,” Mr Wu said quietly. He looked serious but also sad. “Remember that. It could save your life.”
“I don’t know about saving our lives,” George Polk whispered to Brody during math class. “But I bet it could save our moms some laundry.”
Brody looked over at Bobby, who had an ice pack strapped to his chest. Bobby’s shirt was bright pink from the paint pellet, and his face was even pinker, because everyone was staring. Brody thought that was worst part, having everyone know what you did.
“It’s no big deal now,” Brody whispered back. “But I hear they get bullets in high school.”
On junior prom night, Brody picked up his girlfriend, Clarisse. He thought she looked hot. He told her so. His gaze fell to her cleavage, and she waggled a finger at him.
“Careful,” she said, patting her clutch. “It’s in here. And even though they’re made of wax, the bullets hurt like hell.” “How would you know?” Brody said. “Because I’ve been shot, obviously. It’s part of training. Plus now there’s paperwork anytime we fire. It’s all very serious.” She put her arms around his neck and kissed him. “So no funny business. I’d rather not spend tonight in a police station.”
One night during college, Brody was at a party. He was with Clarisse. She had her gun on her hip, and the bullets were real now, really real. He’d watched her shoot it once, down at the range. She moved like a well-oiled machine.
So when the big drunk linebacker came out of nowhere and pushed her against the wall and groped beneath her skirt, Clarisse didn’t hesitate for a second. Before Brody even moved, Clarisse had kicked the linebacker in the balls, scrambled away, and yelled, “Stay back!” as she drew her gun. Just like that, the party went quiet. Just like that, Clarisse was surrounded by armed women. Brody could only stare as the linebacker was escorted away by three women with guns at his back. He was still staring when Clarisse called his name.
“I don’t get it,” Brody blurted. “You weren’t really going to shoot him, were you? She frowned. “It’s not like I wanted — ” “There’s no way you were going to shoot him.” “Brody, he attacked — ”
“You can’t shoot a man over that.” Clarisse flinched. Brody shook his head in disgust. “Men should have guns too, to protect themselves. Then it would be fair.”
Clarisse bit her lip, her cheeks flushed red. She rested her hand on her gun. Her hand trembled.
“No,” she said quietly, turning away. “It’ll never be fair.”