misfire

Photo by Imogen Straub

Emlyn Cameron

is a journalist living in New York City, where he works for Law360. His work has appeared on Pendust Radio, and in Law360, Zenpundit, the Indypendent, and the Saturday Evening Post. He also worked as a researcher on David Duchovny’s latest novel, Truly Like Lightning. At Law360 he writes about federal level U.S. tax policy and tax cases, and in his free time he likes to write about local government, historical subjects, philosophy, and (self-indulgently) his own experiences.

He is a proud graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school (Roar, Lions, Roar), where he studied magazine writing, investigative techniques, audio journalism, and historical writing, and practiced beat reporting in Brooklyn’s Russian-speaking community.

Before attending Columbia, he studied criminology and criminal justice at Southern Oregon University (He is not sure whether they have a fight song). While there, he took courses on policing, criminological theory, constitutional and criminal law, police ethics, forensics, philosophy, and video production. He also worked as a research assistant developing a proposal for alternative courts in Josephine County, Oregon, and editing a textbook for a member of SOU’s law faculty.

He grew up in suburban California. The buildings were low and the temperatures were high.

Memoir

Misfire

written by Emlyn Cameron

Misfire is a story about a day when a friend takes Emlyn Cameron shooting. They leave the suburbs of Northern California with a shotgun, two handguns, a 22. calibre rifle, two AR-style rifles, and a black powder muzzleloader, to go shooting in a remote location. It looks to be a simple holiday lark, until things start to go awry. 

The day—which involved a snow-filled ditch, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, a sheriff’s deputy, and a temperamental muzzleloader—doesn’t exactly go as planned.

 

© 2022 Emlyn Cameron  | Recording © 2022 Rivercliff Books & Media. All rights reserved.

Read by Emlyn Cameron

It was the morning of New Years Eve, and a friend of mine and I were easing his wife’s Kia Serento down an icy hill with a bunch of his guns in the back. My friend, who prefers I use the pseudonym Aaron Dandelen, is affectionately caricatured among our hometown posse as a gun nut.

High in the snow covered mountains where we were supposed to go shooting, the path had taken a noticeable decline. The path went steeply down, with obvious ruts of hard packed snow. He started to drive the SUV slowly downhill, skidding slightly here, losing traction there.

Now, Aaron, whom I love and whose friendship is one the longest and most foundational relationships I have, sometimes does some stupid shit.

I aimed the rifle at the water cooler like I was about to lay into a row of redcoats.

“There’s gonna be a little kick, but not a lot,” Aaron told me.

“I’ve been around firearms all my life, I know what a muzzleloader is–but what happened?” the deputy said, interrupting Aaron.

misfire

Photo by Imogen Straub

Emlyn Cameron is a journalist living in New York City, where he works for Law360. His work has appeared on Pendust Radio, and in Law360, Zenpundit, the Indypendent, and the Saturday Evening Post. He also worked as a researcher on David Duchovny’s latest novel, Truly Like Lightning. At Law360 he writes about federal level U.S. tax policy and tax cases, and in his free time he likes to write about local government, historical subjects, philosophy, and (self-indulgently) his own experiences.

He is a proud graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school (Roar, Lions, Roar), where he studied magazine writing, investigative techniques, audio journalism, and historical writing, and practiced beat reporting in Brooklyn’s Russian-speaking community.

Before attending Columbia, he studied criminology and criminal justice at Southern Oregon University (He is not sure whether they have a fight song). While there, he took courses on policing, criminological theory, constitutional and criminal law, police ethics, forensics, philosophy, and video production. He also worked as a research assistant developing a proposal for alternative courts in Josephine County, Oregon, and editing a textbook for a member of SOU’s law faculty.

He grew up in suburban California. The buildings were low and the temperatures were high.

Q&A with Emlyn

Tell us about your story...

It’s an attempt to capture some of the humor and affection of a New Years Eve day I spent with one of my oldest and best friends when I was visiting California. He has this black powder rifle that I’ve liked for a good long while. He offered to give it to me, but I said I wanted to use it before I accepted the offer, having only admired it in his house up until that point.

He and I have a really close, brotherly friendship, and we’ve known each other long enough to develop both a lot of love and a teasing knowledge of each other’s foibles. So, when he invited me to go shooting with this blackpowder rifle to decide if I wanted it and nothing went right, that came out very vibrantly. I’ve tried to put down a little of that egging on, a bit of that teasing reproach, and cram as much of the absurdity and love from that day as I could into it.

What inspired you to write this story?

Well, my friend and I have been close since middle school, and over the years we’ve accumulated a lot of humorous stories about one another. In our friend group I’m kind of joked about as emotionally and physically clumsy–like a well-meaning alien–and he is treated as this stalwart but foolhardy gun-nut, and we’ve got a backlog of anecdotes pertaining to those traits.
So, when he suggested loading his wife’s SUV up with guns and driving into the hills to fire them at dirt mounds, I was thrilled at the prospect of doing something cool with my friend. But I was also aware that from the outside it looked like Laurel and Hardy meets Heckler and Koch.

And I was counseled to be very safe, and I was extremely earnest and direct about taking precautions, and he clearly wanted to both put me at ease and establish that this was kind of “his thing” and he could be trusted to do it safely.

So, when the whole adventure went sideways, I knew it was going to be one of those stories we like to tell, especially given the offbeat quality of our home town. (It isn’t in the story, but I’ve got a photo from the gun range of this kid in a flannel shirt and a Roman Centurion’s helmet taking aim at a target). And when I related it to a friend over a drink one night, she found it very funny and recommended I write it up as a humorous essay (and very kindly edited the first draft – thanks Liz!). And, that’s how we find ourselves here.

What are you most looking forward to, post pandemic?

You know, I’m not really sure. It seems in some ways we’ve already made efforts to reengineer daily life as a kind of compromise between things we enjoyed beforehand and the new necessities of keeping people safe, and I don’t really expect that to fully go away even after COVID-19 itself is a more managed part of our existence. I’m not really imagining things I want to do post-pandemic. I’m just thinking about what I want to do next with things the way they are now.

What have you recently read that you enjoyed?

Around my father’s last (posthumous) birthday I read Losing Mum and Pup, by Christopher Buckley, about the death of his father William F. Buckley Jr., and Christopher’s mother Patricia Taylor Buckley, which was very enjoyable. He managed to talk about some of the sardonically funny aspects of that kind of loss that I wasn’t able to touch on in full in what I wrote about my own father, and I saw some flashes of the idiosyncrasies of my own family.

I also read SPQR by Mary Beard, about the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire, which I found just utterly captivating and very humorous. And I’m following it up now with Are We Rome, by Cullen Murphy, which is also very good.

 

 

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Many. At this point, they may have my other pleasures outnumbered, even surrounded.

For starters I truly, and without irony, love Smash Mouth. I had the high enjoyment of seeing them in concert with another friend of mine. He told me he sums up our friendship by describing us going to see a showing of Double Indemnity and then running to the local fair to see the concert. Thoroughly grand–and anyone who would reprove me for thinking so has an IOU where their sense of fun should be.

Coffee or Tea? Whiskey or Wine?

Coffee. I keep tea stocked, but really only in case my outrageous coffee consumption gets to be too much and I need to pace myself by getting caffeine some other way.

Wine. I find it a more enjoyable thing to drink when relaxing at the end of an evening.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Oh, no, I think that covers things for now.

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