I had never seen this particular relative before and my father did not say anything to me or my mother or sister about him before we arrived to their house that evening. I remember that night vividly and it shall be forever tattooed into my brain.
We pulled up to our relatives house and my sister and I were very excited to see our cousin, Jay, for the first time.
My father knocked on the door and a boy that was in his mid teens answered it. My dad looked scared and confused as the teen who had answered the door was dressed in camouflage from head to toe. He looked like he was preparing for war. He didn't say hi as all he did was look at us suspiciously. Seconds later my uncle came to the front and asked us to come in. But as we walked by his son I knew we might be in for a strange evening.
We all sat together in the living room, except for Jay, who stood off to the side with his arms crossed and continued to stare at us suspiciously. My uncle started to talk but everything seemed so awkward with his son standing there like a guard. Then out of the blue Jay walked over to me and asked me if I wanted to see his room. I agreed and we walked down the stairs into the basement which was where he dwelled. I could not believe what I saw. There had to have been close to 1000 firearms in lockdown. There were handguns, rifles, shotguns, assault rifles. It was the first time I had ever seen a real gun before. He then jangled some keys in his pocket and opened up one of the cabinets and pulled out a handgun and said, "Go on, don't be shy, hold it. Feel the power in your hands. That's what's known as the great equalizer."
I grabbed the gun and couldn't believe how heavy it was. I then pointed it at the television and said, "Pow!"
He smiled and said, "Atta boy."
He then handed me a shotgun and after that an assault rifle. He would explain in great detail the parts of the gun, where it was made, how it worked and how it was different from the other guns. I found all of it so fascinating but scary at the same time. I wondered what my father would have thought if he would have seen his nine year old son handling all of those dangerous weapons.
After he finished showing me some of the guns he introduced me to his three pitbulls who guarded his guns. The dogs were not friendly to say the least. He then put them in another room and told me to follow him.
We entered his bedroom which had posters of guns and various special forces from the American military. He had shelf after shelf of books and magazines that were dedicated to guns and the army. In his giant closet he showed me his several hundred authentic military uniforms. They were fascinating and I listened to him talk about where they had come from and what the various insignias represented. Intermittently he talked about a third world war and possible civil war in America and told me that one had to be prepared for war at any time.
We then entered a massively long soundproof room with targets at the end of it. This was where he practiced his shooting. He handed me some ear guards and some eye protection. He then grabbed a massive assault rifle and with a killer look in his eyes said, "Watch this."
He then whipped the gun up to his shoulder and started firing like a maniac. After he finished shooting he told me that he practiced his shooting up to 13 hours per day. He then handed me the gun and said, "You try."
I held the gun, which was incredibly heavy and pointed it at the target and pulled the trigger. I laughed as the target shredded to pieces. After I finished firing my rounds there was a knock at the door of the shooting range. Jay opened the door and it was my dad. He looked at me holding the assault rifle and said, "What are you doing?"
I looked at him and said, "Preparing for war!"