A SHORT STORY BY Andy Sherriff
The rusty steel door was hanging on one hinge, and took a heave to open.
“Is this where it was Grandad?”
He looked up at the old man, and saw a tear in his eye.
It was dark inside, except for some light filtering through a broken window.
“This was the club room Jim. There were easy chairs there and the members used to relax here after shooting.”
They looked round in the gloom, smelling the damp, and the stale urine. There was a pile of dirty rags and old cider bottles in one corner. The place was home to someone.
“What’s through there?”
Old Ted could hardly bring himself to go forward. He forced himself so that he could pass on a fragment of tradition to his grandson.
“This was the gun room.”
The rifle racks were still there, but the rest of the room was full of filth. Then he started. For there on the wall, faded and mildewed, were some old results sheets.
The names leapt at him, familiar ones of years ago. Then he saw his own name.
“That was my last score Jim.”
“Was 96 good Grandad?”
“It was quite good Jimmy, for a pistol. I wanted to do well with that last card.” Then he said wistfully “It would have been nice to get a poss....”
“What was a poss?”
“When you got the highest possible score, a hundred out of a hundred. The best I ever did was 98.”
“Did you have your own guns Grandad?”
The lad was wide eyed.
“Oh yes Jim. I’d always had guns, for years. I was as keen on shooting as your dad is on golf. Then it all stopped....”
“No-one was allowed to have guns anymore.”
The twelve year old boy looked at the old man, his friend as well as his grandfather.
“Let’s go outside and I’ll tell you. How about an ice-cream?”
They picked their way out of the old rifle club, and soon they were sitting on a grassy bank outside.
“Now when was it, it was so long ago? Yes it was 1987. Do you know there were over a million shooters then, rifle, pistol and shotgun. Lots of people did different kinds of shooting, but I always preferred pistol shooting.”
He looked at his grandson, who was drinking in every word as he licked his ice-cream.
“Then a man went mad; I’ll never forget his name – Michael Ryan. He murdered 16 people and injured others in a small town called Hungerford. It was horrible Jim, just ordinary people shot down, and then he killed himself. The whole country was upset.”
He paused as he found a more comfortable position.
“But you know Jimmy, people always have to blame someone or something.”
“What happened then Grandad?”
“Well they brought in new gun laws, but first they blamed the type of gun he had used. It was a self loading rifle, so they banned all self loading rifles.”
He cleared his throat, trying to get rid of the lump in it. “But most shooters didn’t do anything. Some even said that the people who owned these rifles were ‘cowboys’ and supported the ban. Then there were more violent crimes, and the Government made tougher and tougher gun laws.”
There was another pause.
“It wasn’t long before lots of shooters gave up shooting. It was just so difficult, and more and more expensive. The shooting organisations, or most of them simply squabbled amongst themselves. It only took a few years and all guns were banned.”
“But why did they do it Grandad? You’ve never hurt anybody.”
“Jim, you are the generation we failed, by not fighting enough for our sport. All the shooters I knew were ordinary peaceful people.”
“You know Jim, it was all a waste. There was more violence than ever despite guns being banned. Criminals don’t obey gun laws.”
The old man looked sadder than ever.
“Do you know what the final straw was?”
“What was that Grandad?”
“It was when I heard that they had built a housing estate on the Bisley Ranges.”
Memory chased memory, the competitions and the atmosphere, from the very old days with the .303, to Pistol 91. He’d heard that only the Clock Tower was left, next to the supermarket. He came to himself to find the boy staring at him. Impulsively he turned, and looked straight into Jimmy’s eyes.
“How would you like to stay with Uncle Gordon in Switzerland?”
“Oh yes please.”
“He’ll take you shooting.”