Jeremy took up the gun and I smiled gamely. “Don’t think you’ll hit the mark,” I said.
He furrowed his brow, set the butt against his shoulder, and took aim. Nearby water spilled from the mouth of the fountain’s heavyset gargoyle. I narrowed my eyes, steadied my breath, and waited.
The shot rang out, loud and true. Fifty feet from where we stood, the bottom left corner of the target crumbled. Its heart remained intact. Hay burst heavenward and dust somersaulted through the air.
“Well damn,” Jeremy muttered. He handed the shot gun back to me.
I raised the gun and fired. The dead center of the target disappeared instantaneously: a perfect bull’s eye.
Together we sat on the lip of the fountain’s pool. I tucked the gun against my arm like a shepherd’s staff. Jeremy slipped the flask from his pocket, drank deeply and passed it off to me. The whiskey tasted of gunpowder.
About us the ruins of a castle buckled and curled. Its U-shaped corridors gave way to an untamed courtyard, in which we sat. Cracks veined the masonry. The windows blinked blindly down, the majority of their panes already stolen by quiet hands or broken by the hands of time.
Jeremy caught me staring at the decay. “Admiring my handiwork?”
I returned the flask. “You’re taking credit for Father Time’s hard work, are you?”
He laughed, his apple cheeks gleaming in the evening light. “I’ve got to take credit for something in my life, you know.”
The setting sun cast a gold strip along the roof’s ridge. I said nothing, but I was thinking of when Jeremy had been a little boy, his hair wispy. It was the summer after his mother had disappeared and we were walking along the river – the same one that flowed half a kilometer from the castle. He had run ahead of me, laughing at my cane with all the innocence of childhood. Then I heard splashing, and I saw water running through his white-blonde hair, and suddenly I was swimming too. My gimp leg kicking and my voice hollering. In that eternal moment, the feeling that I would do everything for this boy. My sister’s son.
Jeremy took a final sip of whisky and we began our stroll back home. We threaded through the former garden, its roses thorny and tenacious; under the distended portcullis; across the defunct cobblestone paveway.
Suddenly Jeremy turned to face his castle. Its beige face rose four stories high and it glowered back with the empty eyes of the narrow windows. He seemed to search for something along the surface and, finding it, he seized the gun from my hands and fired. A pane shattered on the third floor.
Pleased with his work, he returned the gun. “There,” he announced. “I have done that.”