A year ago Gideon got a pop gun for Christmas. It’s just a plastic tube with two handles that you pump to make little orange balls pop out the end of it. He loves it. He has played with it constantly for a whole year. For the entire month of January he would scurry up to me with a hand full of orange spheres and a gun and ask me to load it for him. Then, as soon as I handed it back, he would immediately pop every one of the balls into my face while I fell over backwards. It was good fun, but I can’t say I was entirely upset when he finally lost all but one or two of the little orange bullets.

But a boy will not be denied, and he quickly discovered that his little gun could fire off any number of small round objects, all they had to do was fit in the hole. This means anything the size of a small mandarin orange could be shot from his cannon. Including things like small mandarin oranges. Life became a bit exciting and dangerous when he found one of his sister’s large marbles and starting firing it across our living room like a tiny glass canon ball. Luckily, we took that one away from him before he shot a hole in the wall or broke a window.

This evening he was launching the last of his little orange balls back and forth in our family room. I watched as it bounced off a table and rolled behind the Christmas tree. He scurried after it and crawled underneath, his gun stuffed down the back of his shirt like a commando. I shook my head and looked away, continuing with what I had been doing.

I was interrupted a few moments later when there was a loud POP and something flew across the room and hit me in the chest. In the single instant that I saw of it in the air I noticed that it was not the orange foam ball he had crawled under the tree to look for. This projectile sparkled as it hurtled towards me. I slowly looked down. Lying in my lap was Gideon’s new discovery. He had found his source of ammunition.

I looked back up at the boy. He was still standing next to the tree with a look of absolute wonder and joy. A smile was frozen on his face and his eyes were wide with the magic of Christmas. He slowly reached up and picked another small red ornament off the tree and started to stuff it down the barrel of his pop gun.

“Oh no no no no no!” I lunged across the room directly into the path of incoming fire.