An Eye for an Eye

Little brothers are the best toy that a boy can have. I viewed my little brother as a kind of science experiment, in which I could test out different theories of control and manipulation. Sometimes they didn’t work out the way I expected or intended.

One afternoon I was playing with our toy cannon. It shot a plastic projectile that was about a half inch in diameter. On this day, the projectile was stuck and I couldn’t figure out how to dislodge it. “Jeff,” I said. “Look down the barrel and see if you can figure out what is wrong.”

My brother shook his head. “You’ll shoot me in the eye.”

“The bullet is stuck,” I said. I pulled the trigger several times to show him.

As he moved his face over the barrel of the canon, I chuckled to myself. This will scare him, I thought. As he peered down the barrel, I pulled the trigger again. And then my brother began to wail.

My father came into our bedroom. “What happened?” he demanded.

“Brian shot me in the eye,” my brother sobbed.

“Is that true?” my father asked.

“Not really. It was an accident.”

“Either you shot him in the eye or you didn’t. What happened?”

“The bullet was stuck. I asked him to look down the barrel. I didn’t think it would shoot him in the eye. I’m really sorry.”

My father examined my brother’s eye. It was red, but there was no blood. In my father’s world, if there was no blood, there was no injury.

My father tilted the cannon and the bullet easily slid out. He examined it thoughtfully and then dropped it back into the barrel. “Since you shot your brother in the eye, I think it’s only fair that he gets to shoot you in the eye,” he said.

“No, that’s not fair. I didn’t mean to shoot him,” I protested.

“Sometimes our actions have results that we don’t intend, but we are still responsible for them,” my father said. “Maybe you’ll get lucky, and the bullet will be stuck again. What do you think Jeff?”

My brother wiped the tears from his cheek and nodded hesitantly.

“Put your eye in front of the barrel,” my father said sternly.

I couldn’t believe this was happening. “I didn’t intend to hurt Jeff. I just wanted to scare him. Two wrongs don’t make a right,” I said defiantly.

“An eye for an eye,” my father said. He nodded at the cannon.

I placed my face an inch from the cannon’s barrel and closed my eyes. It wasn’t what my brother had done, but I was going to try anything possible to reduce the pain that was about to be inflicted on me.

“Are you ready Jeff,” I heard my father say. I heard nothing from my brother, so I imagined he just nodded. “Ready, aim,” my father said. “FIRE.”

I heard the cannon fire, and braced myself for the intense pain that was going to ensue. But the plastic projectile did not slam into my eye. Instead, I heard it hit the bookcase behind me.

I opened my eyes and looked up. Tears ran down my cheeks. My brother started laughing. I think my father wanted to laugh, but he didn’t. “An eye for an eye,” he said. I nodded. And I never picked on my little brother after that.

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