The Cast: Cindy (my wife), Myself (shot, repeatedly), Sarah (trigger happy).
When then the last thing you see is your child pointing a gun at you as she pulls the trigger—while laughing—you tend to analize the things that brought you to this point.
It sounds like a narrative that the Joker would have raising one of his children. “Now, now. Stop shooting at daddy. Hey, not in the face!”
So, let’s put this all into perspective, shall we?
Many of you might remember the foam disk shooters that were popular in the mid-90s. They were awesome. Very helpful and wonderful for small children. Now, I love what the Nerf company has done, many, many, many, many, many fun toys. That being said, they can be hard to prime (if you’re a small child) in order to shoot. So, these foam disk shooters were great for little hands. Battery-powered, on/off switch, easy trigger pull, and a light-weight ring of foam gently flies out to bounce off walls and then float to the ground. My children loved them. Also, when you turn them on the revving up of the electric motor is like when a high-powered, multi-barrel machine gun begins to spin before it spews it’s lead-death, but for kids!
When you have small children, sometimes a gently loved toy instead of a new toy is best. Especially if that’s all you can afford. That being said, there was a thrift store that was near where my wife and I lived, and as a result, we would shop there often, because we could afford it. And getting your hands on inexpensive toys for our daughter made it easier to spoil her.
Being Batman, I could usually find something Batman-related buried in the shelves. On one particular day, I found a Batman (Animated Series issue) disk-shooter. An Ark of the Covenant kind of find (not trying to be blasphemous, just trying to help those that may not understand how awesome the find was). It was used, but in good condition and it still worked. On the drive home, my cute little family of three—at the time—stopped at the Death Star (Walmart) to collect some disks and batteries. After deactivating the tractor beam (paying for the merchandise) we headed home to get my little girl ready to go ‘bang’ ‘bang’.
As a Marine, my gun training has been thorough, and to a degree extensive. This does not mean I know it all. It just means that I have an understanding of firearm safety and protocols. However, I was very excited to teach my firstborn how to shoot and may have rushed some things (she was two, and it was a toy, and I was excited).
Once home, Cindy, Sarah (about two-years-old), and myself all sat down together to set up and test the new toy. We cleaned it up. Loaded the batteries and reviewed basic firearm safety. Now, remember, Sarah was two-years-old. The basics were this: Here’s how to load it. The power button is the ‘Saftey’ switch. Don’t aim at your face. Don’t shoot animals or people. And never, NEVER, shoot someone’s face. That last one was more because soft foam at the body isn’t really a big deal, but sometimes, sometimes, a random thing to the eye can be permanent damage. So this was more of a building block rule. Again, she was two. She was learning.
The design of the toy really didn’t necessitate more than that—and Sarah was two. I know I keep stating that, but it is important that you are on my side.
With the power on, I placed the toy gun in Sarah’s hands. Her face lit up the room. Her eyes were the size of saucers, and the pure innocent joy of a child radiated out in a blinding light. So blinding that I almost didn’t see what began to occur, right. in. front. of. me. Blagh.
Immediately Sarah began to rapidly pull the trigger. The yellow rings ejecting from the launcher like foam lightning. She hadn’t even turned to face the wall. She was still facing me.
As the disks began to impact my stomach (I was in shape, I could take it) they would ricochet off in all directions. This only fueled the excitement and increased Sarah’s trigger pulls. It hadn’t even been one whole second and she had already expended half her ammo. Additionally, Sarah was looking up at me after each shot (possibly for my approval, or just to show me she could shoot her father while looking him straight in the eye, and smiling the entire time). Maybe this—at the time—should have worried me more because years later at her uncle’s house he was teasing me about how I was raising my daughter so I pointed at him and half-jokingly said, “Attack” and Sarah launched herself at him full force. She was snarling and growling, arms swinging in all direction, a wild look in here eyes. He quickly apologized and I pulled Sarah off him. She looked up at me with a great big grin and I hugged her tight, so proud. But at the time of the shooting, it was all happening so fast and she was so cute.
Quickly I spotted the pattern, thanks to my military training, and could see that each time she would look up from the gun to see my face, her aim would move up just a bit. She’d look back down to see what was being shot, then up, and her aim would adjust up with her. About now, disks are hitting my chest, headed toward my throat. Danger zone. We are entering a ‘No Fly Zone’! So, I calmly reminded my new machine-gunner, “Now Sarah, remember, you don’t shoot at someone’s head.” At least, that’s what I was going to say. I never got the chance.
My mouth opened wide to make room for the first word to exit, All I got out was, “Nah…” and my sentence was cut short by attempted murder. At the last second, Sarah’s aim adjusted by a lot. At her previous rate of change, I should have had the time to say what I needed to say after taking a hit or two to the throat. But no-o-o-o-o, she had to pull a Luke Skywalker and use the Force to launch a proton torpedo into an open exhaust port.
That little, yellow, foam ring went straight into my mouth. Past my lips, past my teeth, under my uvula, right to the back of the throat. Perfect shot. Nothin’ but net.
Of course, I began to choke and tried desperately to not swallow that thing or even allow it to get stuck. The good news was if it did get lodged, there was an opening in the center, so you can’t asphyxiate. Thank you child safety manufacturing protocols. How thoughtful.
And while I made my attempts to not die, my loving family reacted with all the concern and support a husband and father could ever want. My wife did her best to conceal her obvious terror that our daughter had murdered her husband, by collapsing onto the floor from her chair, holding her sides while going into hysterics (or she could have just been laughing). My daughter, my first-born, my princess, my Sarah, reacted with the calm demeanor that anyone diagnosed as a high-functioning sociopath would (which equivocates to a two-year-old, they really don’t know better—she is not a sociopath, than we know of). Then she erupted into a gloriously triumphant giggle-laughter that still haunts me to this very day.
I coughed. I sputtered. I tried to pull the foam from my throat. I tried to get some air. I was fading, fast. Finally, through sheer force of will, I dislodged that disk of death and came back into the light of life. Although my wife did appear happy that I survived, I am still uncertain if the whole thing wasn’t some sort of collusion between the two of them to ‘off’ me for the insurance. Although, that narrative would sell better if I had had life insurance. But still…
While writing this story I was doing some research and came across this little gem of a report about a child marksman. I just thought I’d share.