An Arrow


This isn’t a story about something I did.

I didn’t do it.

This is a story about something I’m going to do.

Tomorrow, I’m going to go do some free archery.

I don’t know anything about it other than my friends do it and they have wanted me to come for quite some time.

So I’ll go.

I’ll have to catch a ride, obviously. I can’t drive my car until I get my tax refund. Then I can finally re-register it.

I will ride with my roommate. We’ll pull up to the park’s parking lot, because I imagine it’s in a park, and the sun will be lazing over the treetops. I’ve been told there’s a lot of children who do the free archery.

From what I’ve been told, I think the class is probably intended for children.

I turned twenty seven yesterday.

Well, physically.

I’ll have to take a brief lesson in bow safety. It’ll be a cinch. They won’t know that I used to have a short longbow.

It was short because my dad got it for my sister and me when I was in middle school and she was probably in high school or something and we weren’t capable of pulling back a full sized longbow. This one didn’t pull as hard. We could shoot it.

We had a big yard when I was growing up. It was variously used for paintball, horses, motorcycles and, eventually, shooting bows and arrows at things.

You’re probably thinking I had quite the country childhood.

Not really. I spent most my time inside playing Age of Empires III and reading Terry Pratchett.

But we had a longbow. I had to string it every time I used it. I got good at bracing it on the ground and pushing the middle with my foot so it would bend and I could fit the string around its notched ends.

There was an old bird feeder in the backyard. This was before my parents found out how allergic to green things I was, so the yard was pretty well-mowed. Kathryn and I had found a paint bucket somewhere and she drew a face on it.

We’d stand about forty feet away from it and try to shoot the face.

We gave it a name and a backstory. We gave it a personality, too. I can’t remember what the name was, but I remember it was a he and he liked to be shot with arrows. They were like vitamins to him.

We obliged.

So yeah, I’ll have to take this class, which I will pass. It’ll take an hour or so, and then I get to go shoot stuff.

A lot of people don’t realize that bow shooting is very taxing. You’re bending a piece of wood over and over again, and the string chaffs your fingers and hits your arm. Most people forget this, in the same way that most people forget how sore your shoulder gets after a day of skeet shooting, but I won’t.

I’ll remember. I always remember stuff like that. Bad stuff.

But I won’t be going because I’m tough. I’m not tough, I just don’t like complaining.

I’ll go because there’s a group of idiots who want me to go with them, and someone else wanting to do something with you so badly that they bother you incessantly about it is the most special thing in the whole world. It’s how I vet my activities, not because I don’t want to do anything until I know it’s good, but because my default state is to not want to do anything at all.

At least when it involves other people.

It’s why I didn’t answer your text. I got nervous and put my phone away. It’s why I didn’t come to your party. I got uncomfortable before I got there, so I just played Call of Duty instead.

It’s why I missed your wedding. I couldn’t afford it and I was embarrassed and I was scared.

I’ll step up to the target, and it will be a paper cut-out of a zombie or something stupid, but I won’t care, because there will be a person to my left who does, and a person to my right who does, too.

I’ll let fly. The arrow will whisper through the wind and the smile will spread across my lips like the drawing of a bowstring. Like the bending of wood.

It’ll spread with a creak, and I’ll look at us.

Oh, you ragged band of fools.

Here we are, shooting borrowed arrows at stupid zombies. Here we stand, laughing and exulting, for a moment forgetting about everything wrong in the world and everything wrong with ourselves.

Oh, you stupid, young things.

We buy gifts for each other with money we don’t have. We hang out on balconies and smoke and talk about movies and music and politics and love as if we know anything about it, anything at all.

The green neon of the McGee’s self storage sign always makes Erich look like a goblin. He acts like one, too.

We play board games on IKEA tables and play music with instruments our parent’s bought us in high school.

We stay up late at night, alone, tossing and turning in our sheets, stunted fans lazily whirling overhead, and we dream. We dream of a world where we’re potent, where our opinions matter, where we get to do what we love and get paid for it, too.

We dream. It’s all we’ve ever done and, in the end, it’ll probably be all we ever did.

Oh, you ragged band of fools, you hopeless phalanx of dreamers. It’s on your back that empires are built, that planets are visited, that the world is changed. You haul the stones step by bloody step. You finish marathons inch by bloody inch. You write novels word by bloody word.

This isn’t about me. It’s about all of us. It’s about yesterday and today and tomorrow, too. It’s about what you’re going to do when you wake up and about what you did and about what you’re doing and about who you’re with and about who you want to be with and about the sky and the sun and the moon and the stars and it’s about an arrow.

It’s about an arrow that I’m going to shoot at a stupid zombie, and it’s about how I’m not even going to watch it.

Instead, I’ll just watch my friends.

I’ll watch the bowstring tighten across their faces, too.

And I’ll know, without even looking, the arrow hit its mark.

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