Stone Cold

You guys. Building a website is like, soooo tiring.

I’ve been off, I’ve been away. We had scheduled the Michigan trip assuming there would be ice to fish through. And there was, but not enough to support us, not on my friend’s lake, at least. We had to drive an hour north. Conditions proved favorable. Very little wind.

…and I’m back. Just had to step out to the store for a minute. It’s almost midnight. I almost never see the world this late anymore. I miss it. My buddy Matt, whom I’ll mention by name because he has no social media accounts and never gets online and wouldn’t even read the fishing story I wrote, about fishing, but also he just wouldn’t give a shit, Matt still works nights. I used to. Five years I did the graveyard shift at a hotel. Wrote a lot. Like a lot. I tell people I’ve written a novel and a half. Really I’ve started two other and also a novella. One of them I even got quite near the end, but it was maudlin tripe, an argument for suicide, stuff I felt every fifteen-year-old in the country would want to read from a twenty-two-year-old about a thirty-year-old. The other novel was about Jesus being a vampire. I got maybe a hundred pages into that one. Still might finish it. It was fun.

But I miss the midnight, especially ones like this one, dampness all around, on the precipice of a warm rain. Everyone around has a reason to be awake and the reason is familiar to them, not preferred but accepted. They are making the most of it. They are not social but they are not shy.

Matt belongs to this crew. He wants to be far away from everyone and close to anyone who shares that sentiment. I could write about Matt for days, and I have.

But I met a friend of Matt’s this trip who begs to be written about. He drives a Ford Mustang. Matt, incidentally, also owns a Ford Mustang. Along with his friend, whom I’ll call Frank, that means I now know three people I do not wish immediate death upon who do drive a Mustang. The first was a girl I worked with who later traded it in for a Prius. I have no strong feelings about Prius drivers, but typically it goes like this: I decide you are an intolerable person whom I want nowhere near the vicinity of my life, then later I find out you drive a Mustang, and I’m like, well that makes sense.

Matt probably bought his because of Frank’s, purchased brand new, pimped out with wide road tires that are no good in the snow. Matt actually had to go help him escape a ditch on his way over from Grand Rapids. Rear-wheel drive, all kinds of customization, “my baby” he called it. He sold his truck and kept the Mustang, a vehicle he cannot use for a large part of every year. But apparently does anyway.

Still Frank seemed to have a good head on his shoulders. He kept the Mustang for the sentimental value. It was a present to himself for having a good-paying job, which he no longer works, because he got shot in the head with an AK-47.

Oh, did I not mention that?

Yeah, Matt didn’t either, until like right before Frank got there. But Frank was quick to bring it up on his own, although not ostentatiously so, just as though he had nothing to hide, or felt he could not. Because he did have a limp. He got shot twice in the head, but the most damning of the injuries was the leg shot. He cannot do the labor job that he had with Matt, and he loved that job.

Still. Yes, he is bored now, doesn’t know how to fill his time, and yes the medical bills did cause him to have to sell one of his vehicles. But he’s still got his baby, and he’s got a fiancée, and a hell of a story to tell.

Matt didn’t know before this it was an AK. The rounds were .22s, but still. It was a jealous ex-boyfriend. Waited for Frank at the girl’s apartment. I never actually got the impression Frank and the girl did anything too serious, maybe they slept together once or twice, but it was more like they were all friends and this girl just barely a woman decided she was done with one and moved on to the next one. She was not yet 21 and regularly getting herself in trouble and this was what beckoned Frank to her apartment that night, he was coming over to check on her, I don’t know why. The ex-boyfriend was there waiting on him in the apartment.

He didn’t hit him with the first shots. Frank ran for it, back outside and into the woods. He hid and waited. And waited. And when he was sure the shooter was gone, he thought back into the apartment, he slowly stepped out.

At this point, Frank said in his story, “And he was there, waiting on me.” I don’t know if this means they had a moment where they both recognized how giant the next second’s contained decisions would become. If they locked eyes, and the oncoming second’s enormity seemed to have a gravitational pull they could both feel, a second which on film would be slowed down and dragged out, but if it happens in real life it only feels that way. That moment when Frank knew he was about to get shot.

Or maybe he was just making sure I was keeping up with the story.

In either case, the first shot hit him square in the forehead. And didn’t penetrate. The kill shot hit its mark and failed regardless. It did knock him backwards. The next shot did pierce his skull and exit, not nearly as centered but it did travel a full four inches inside his dome and come out again and somehow it too failed to scramble enough brain matter to kill him. I’m not exactly clear on when he got hit in the leg, but he did show me x-rays of where bone was and where it was supposed to be but wasn’t. He did describe the surgeries and pointed out where you could see the pins beneath the skin around his knee and his ankle. I asked him if he could tell when it’s going to rain now, and he said no.

He didn’t seem to concerned about the new shortcut he’d acquired from the front to the back of his head. The doctors said he seemed fine, and he felt fine. There was one thing that surprised him, just recently. He was lifting weights and his mom was there and he was supposed to do a set of fifteen but every time he got to fifteen he kept starting over at five again, and didn’t notice, and kept lifting.

He’s a religious man, although his future wife seems much more so, but he does believe in a god. But he seems, more simply, to believe he just has a very hard forehead.

The shooter knew him, as I said, and for whatever reason seemed content enough with attempted murder. They were sitting together when the cops came. Frank said no, what, I don’t know what you’re talking about, because the shooter had threatened to kill him, for realsies this time I guess, if he turned him in. But at some point between the shooting and the threat, Frank had already called 9-1-1 and told them the name of who’d shot him. I get the impression the shooter left him there to die, and Frank lost consciousness for a while and then woke up with a headache and, this much I know, reached around to the back of his head and felt all the blood there, brought his whole hand back red. And then he must have called, and then the shooter must’ve come to collect the body. Imagine that. Being presumed a body. Then being helped inside by your would-be murderer. Then having the presence of mind to know the cops know the shooter’s name, and to give up on. Let them do their jobs. Play it cool. If there is a word for Frank, it is cool.

And that, friends, is my tale of ice fishing in Michigan.

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