Today is my big brother Fletch's birthday. Yes, it's a week after mine, even though he's 2 years older. I'm certain my father, in a cost-saving move, convinced Mom to conceive on the same dates so that we'd have a childhood full of "and this is for both of you" birthday parties and presents. But I thwarted Dad's evil plan by arriving a week early.
Anyway, this is about Fletch. Readers might remember him from the epic discussion (and illustration) of Pac-Man's BMs not long after I joined Kotaku. He was also the avenging angel on a go-kart when one of the neighborhood little brothers was beaten up by a bully.
Fletch was the oldest on the block, which gave him a de facto leadership position. Around the time I was 10 and he was 12, we'd been playing war down in the kudzu with plastic ratatat guns and tennis balls for grenades, armaments that did nothing. So there was a lot of pew-pew-pew, I-shot-you-no-you-didn't-yes-I-did-punch-hit-cry-MOMMM!!!! controversies, increasingly litigated to the point that we were no longer having good old, fun war. Fletch called a council of the three factions - me and him, the Harrell kids, and then the unaffiliated mercenaries from other neighborhoods, to finally agree to some rules.
In what was the childhood equivalent of the Geneva Conventions, we all agreed that from that point on, war would not be fought on Hawthorne Road without weapons that fired something less lethal than a BB. Could be rubber bands, could be squirt guns, whatever. There needed to be visual proof, not overwhelming surprise, the implication of an ambush, or the infinite imagination of an adolescent boy. Fletch and I figured we had the advantage because, as paperboys, we had an unlimited supply of rubber bands and we'd been shooting those at each other for years.
Most everyone lit off for Dr. Perry's scrap wood pile to hurriedly nail together two pieces in a gun shape, and string rubber bands around a nail in the barrel, firing them with our opposite hands manually. Fletch, however, disappeared for a solid week to work on his weapon. I'm not lying, he constructed a pistol with a functioning trigger at the index finger.
I can barely remember how it operated. Structurally the gun was the same as ours, two pieces of wood, a grip nailed to a barrel. The barrel had a notch cut through it horizontally, that's where you loaded the round. You strung the band back and hooked it on a firing mechanism at the rear of the barrel - the "hammer."
That was actually the extremity of one long piece of composite - aluminum cut from the plates of our father's printing press, wrapped in, of course, duct tape. This vinyl-metal composite was a long thin strip that ran from the hammer, threaded through a deep notch in the butt, so that it remained flush, and down to the grip, where it angled at 90 degrees to form a crude trigger. Basically, it was a flex-mechanism; pull the "trigger" on one end and the "hammer" at the other would slip forward, releasing the rubber band and firing it down the length of the barrel. It was stiff enough that you could rest your finger on the trigger without firing. But close your fist like you mean it, and zap. Fletch happily demonstrated it to me, putting a round in my eardrum.
It was by far the most accurate and advanced weapon of the old Kudzu Wars. Like all the great sidearms of lore - Wyatt Earp's Colt Buntline; Doc Holliday's nickel-plated .44, Billy the Kid's Schofield revolver - this sonofabitch also had a short, mean and very utilitarian service history. But it was similarly possessed of legend, one destined to outlive all who ever saw it fired, and all it ever fired upon.
Fletch kept the pistol in the bottom drawer of the bedside table by his right hand. One day he went off to a boarding school and I went looking for it. But it was gone. I don't know where it is now.
Some highlights from the weekend:
Modern Warfare 2 "Infamy" Trailer: The War Comes Home
Molyneux, Asked About Natal/Fable, Jokes About His Assassination
There's Something in the Box ...
Spies Dig Up 20 of 23 Spec Ops Names in Modern Warfare 2
Eminem on DJ Hero Renegade: "The S-t is Dope"
NHL 2K10 Review: Thin-Ice Capades
A Virtual Golfer Looks Back On - and Ahead to - His Tournament Career