It’s official, Figs: the weather is getting frightful, the mistletoe has been hung, the lights are twinkling–the holidays are upon us! To celebrate, we’ve asked some of our favorite authors to share holiday memories with us. Tune in all through December to get in the holiday spirit!
Michael Northrop is the author of two YA novels: Gentlemen, and his most recent, Trapped—a perfectly horrifying winter read where seven teenagers are buried at school by a devastating blizzard. His next novel for middle-grade readers and baseball fans, Plunked, will be released March 1st, 2012. Below, Michael recounts the greatest Christmas gift he ever received.
And I Didn’t Shoot My Eye Out
I am generally pretty easy to amuse―even now, the Discovery Channel and a pack of Cool Mint Oreos can vaporize hours of my time―so it shouldn’t be this easy to come up with my favorite Christmas present of all time. Shouldn’t be, but it is: It was a BB gun shaped like an old West six-shooter I got when I was 11 or 12.
It wasn’t my first BB gun (I’m from a small town and had shot actual guns by then) or my best BB gun. It was kind of a clunker, truth to tell, but for whatever reason, it was love at first sight. Maybe it was all those westerns I’d watched, or maybe it was the fact that it was a pistol, and I could draw it from my belt with only a moderate chance of shooting myself in the leg.
In any case, I flew out the back door as soon as I had the thing out of the box and loaded. It was an eerily warm Christmas morning. I was wearing a freshly unwrapped down vest just because it was new―my Jr. Lumberjack-style flannel shirt was enough to keep me warm.
I cocked the blocky peacekeeper for the first time, my face scrunching up with effort as I hauled back the hammer. Then I looked around for something to shoot. Anyone who has ever owned a BB gun―or seen A Christmas Story―will recognize this as a crucial decision. I rushed it and, nonsensically, shot the chestnut tree. I don’t know why. It might’ve been because my brother had appeared with his own BB gun and I wanted to get the first shot. Or maybe that good fer nothin’ tree was lookin’ at me funny.
The BB plinked off the bark and ricocheted somewhere other than into my eye. But there would be other BBs where that came from―maybe thousands over the next few years―and they’d go all kinds of places they shouldn’t have. Did You Know? Garage windows break very easily. Mirrors, too. But it made a more lasting impression, as well.
Melissa Walker once told me that when she thought of my writing, she thought of “boys walking in the woods with BB guns,” which struck me as astoundingly perceptive. There’s a scene like that in my first book, Gentlemen, but the feel of it is in all of my books. My main characters are generally boys, living in the sort of towns where the woods are never too far away. They are looking for trouble and potentially dangerous, even if the trouble is mostly low-stakes and the danger is often to themselves. And that is exactly what I was―and how I felt―when I shot that lowdown tree on Christmas morning.