The Shoot Out

All of us, whatever our age or experience and for whatever reason can become victims of the choices or decisions we make, right? Like knowing a colour doesn’t suit us but we buy the dress anyway because it flatters our body shape, then hangs in the wardrobe forever, never worn.
But mistakes are good for us or so we’re told. They are ‘character building’ and we learn from them, telling ourselves, ‘I’ll never make that mistake again.’
Does the young narrator in this story, The Shoot Out learn this valuable life lesson? You decide.

The Shoot Out

Tommy Larkin’s got such a big mouth on him, always mouthing off how he’s the best at everything. The best at skimming stones at the creek, the quickest at eating a mince pie and now he reckon’d he was the best at shooting goals.
Sure, he’s fast on the field when it comes to the Saturday match and he’s slick at feeding the ball out to the wings but that doesn’t make him a great goal kicker.
Alvin, me best mate told me not to bet against him. He said Tommy was sure to win. Some friend he is not having faith in my ability. I’d been practising hard and my goal kicking had improved heaps, in fact, it was really good. Alvin reminded me what happened last week with the pie eating competition but I had a funny tummy that day, else I would’ve won, for sure. I was determined, and I had confidence in my goal kicking abilities. I would put Tommy Larkin in his place, once and for all.
I used my one dollar bus money to bet with. Best outa five. Tommy lined up for his last shot. I had missed my last two shots. We both had three goals. All I needed to do was to stop this shot then we’d play on ‘till one of us got the next goal. As I had first turn, that would be me. When Tommy had missed his fourth shot, I figured his left side to be his weak side, so I planned to pretend to shoot from the right then I’d flick the ball to the left and pound it in. Win!
Tommy lined up the ball. He stared me down. He ran hard at the ball. Wham! I eyed the ball. I moved to the side. Then disaster. A truck honked its horn. I looked up. A little kid stopped short of racing onto the road to retrieve his ball. The sun blinded me.
If it weren’t for the blinding sun, the little kid and the honking horn, I know I would have stopped Tommy’s ball dribbling past me and into the goal.
Dribble or no dribble, he’d won. Tommy pulled his shirt off, did a couple of hand-flips and ran round in circles whooping like he’d just single-handedly won the world cup. The other guys all crowded around him, including Alvin giving him high fives.
That’s when I did the stupid thing, the really stupid thing. I challenged Tommy again.
Alvin let out a wail and shaking his head, walked away.
“Yeah, you sure you want another challenge? Are you sure you want to lose again?” Tommy taunted.
“Sure I’m sure. You just got lucky.”
“That so? So what’ve got to bet with this time?”
I pulled out Mum’s bread money, the money for the special German loaf for grandma Mum had ordered from McCreedy’s Bakery.
So we played again, best out of five. The humiliation is too awful to think about. An utter disaster. I don’t understand what went wrong. I couldn’t get those goals in, not even from the left side or stop his. The guys watching rolled around laughing and jeering, and Alvin, my so-called best mate; nowhere to be seen.
I have taken a long time to walk home, pondering about what to tell mum knowing she’ll be angry when I turn up without the loaf. To go and pick up the loaf was the only reason mum let me out in the first place.
“Straight there and straight back, mind.” I’d been grounded all week after the pie-puking incident.
I have my story fixed in my head. I know exactly what to say and I’ll to act all tearful and apologetic.
“I tell you, I got the bread and I left it on the bus, Mum.” I sniff and rub my eyes.
“Really?”
“Yeah, I ran after the bus, Mum. Honest. Right down North Street then into Main but no-one was getting on or off so it didn’t stop.”
“So who else was on the bus?” My stomach somersaults like it does when you know someone knows something that you don’t.
“What?”
“I said; who else was on the bus?” Mum repeats slowly, folding her arms.
“I dunno.” I turn away from my mum, feeling my cheeks burning red.
“Then why would Mrs Larkin and her Tommy come by here not ten minutes ago and give me this?” Mum unclenches her hand, revealing a crumpled five dollar note. “And when I rang Mc Creedy’s, they told me that the loaf hasn’t been picked up yet. How do you explain that, young man?”
“You get yourself down to that bakery and be quick about it. Your grandma will be here any minute.”
As I’m leaving, she calls after me, “And another thing, this time you’re grounded for a whole month.”
That’s it for me, no more bet’s with Tommy Larkin, he can mouth off all he likes.
I’m running past the old water tower. I pause and look up. I wonder if Tommy is afraid of heights. Two weeks ago when Alvin and I were down here, I got to the third highest rung. It wobbled a bit but I’m sure I could get to the top.
Yeah, climbing the water tower to the top rung would make a good bet.

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