Shotgun Wedding



The weekend before the Hurricane Sandy fiasco, my friend Gillian was married on the beach in Santa Monica, California.

It was not a shotgun wedding.

Gillian and Chad have been engaged awhile and I don’t think she’s knocked up.



But for Martin and me (or is it “Martin and I?” Ug, grammar!) —

— for us, it was a shotgun-wedding weekend.

We stayed at my grandmother’s beach house, as did my cousins, Stuart and Peter, who live nearby.

I slept late the next morning and stirred at 10, mildly hungover. Wandering upstairs I ran into Martin and Stuart heading out.

“Oh good, you’re up,” Martin said. “We’re going shooting. Want to come?”

I thought he was joking. On these trips, we walk the beach, and shop and eat out. Shooting is as likely as spotting polar bears.

(Warning to sharp shooters: pardon any poor lingo. I have no gun knowledge whatsoever.)

The closest I’ve ever come to a gun is watching one on TV. Once, our neighbor shot a severely sick, mangey fox who collapsed in our barn.

And way back in grad school, I talked about a gun. A peeping tom regularly staked out my apartment in Columbia, South Carolina. When the creep became a chronic presence — undaunted by 911 calls or outdoor floodlights — another student urged me to borrow the handgun he stashed in his car. “You don’t need to shoot it,” he said, rummaging in his glove compartment, amid air fresheners and Chick-fil-A napkins. “Just stick it through the blinds and wave it at the guy. He’ll go away.”

I did not take the gun. I was more afraid of it than the guy peering in my windows. (Note: police finally arrested stalker-man after five months of lurking. I did not return to grad school.)

Back to present day, 10 days ago. Within an hour’s drive we arrived at the Oak Tree Gun Club. We met two of Stu’s friends — both firearm savvy — and trundled up the mountainside in a jeep. We jumped out at the first sporting clay station: there we were, 5 people, two guns and a backpack stuffed with ammo.


My cousin, Stuart. He looks legit.


The guys went first, sliding a shell in each chamber and snapping the gun closed. Someone would press one of three buttons — high, low or double — on a metal box, and an orange frisbee-like disk sailed out of the tree line. The gun roared once or twice, echoing over the mountains.

I’d like to say I was a crack shot and blew those clay pigeons to smithereens. But I was scared to lean my cheek near the gun, and leery of the kickback. Over time I grew less shaky and actually shot three clay pigeons. But I chalk that up to dumb luck. Blast a firearm 30 or 40 times and eventually, you’ll hit something.


Stance: awkward. Confidence: low.


Martin, who’s only shot a few times, was a natural. He looked so comfortable aiming and firing. It was erie to witness this gun-slinging side of him.

Martin does not mess around…


…all those years of video games paid off.


Three hours and 12 stations later, the backpack held one lonely box of shells. My hangover was long gone; I shed it the moment I jammed the butt of that gun into my shoulder.

We were finished but there wasn’t a ride back down, so we walked the steep, twisting trail to civilization. We gazed at the mountain range, squinted in the sun and tried to ignore the blast of gunfire all around us.