Me and David Gergen have this pact. Whenever something was weighing on one of us, we’d call up the other and take our guns and pop off some rounds until we felt better. We did this at the bottom of a ravine near my house, shooting at old appliances people had dumped there over the years.

This one time though Gergen didn’t call first. I was downstairs, reloading empty 12-gauge shells when Gergen comes in through the basement door. I didn’t hear him. Sometimes we messed around in the woods, pretending to be government agents or Navy SEALs, sneaking up from behind to slice one another’s throats. Well, Gergen does this while I’m pouring powder into the shells, putting his hand on my jaw and twisting my neck as if to snap it. Powder went everywhere.

“I could’ve killed you,” Gergen said. I noticed he was wearing those new tiger-stripe fatigues we were looking at the other day at DeJulio’s Army/Navy. I said I was going to get a pair, and Gergen laughed and said they were knock-offs made in China, not the real thing — but here was Gergen, standing there grinning in the same tiger-stripe fatigues. On the floor next to him was a long black plastic case with shiny chrome clasps.

“Shit’s expensive, asshole,” I said, scraping powder off the bench with a piece of cardboard. I nodded toward the case and asked Gergen what was in it.

He grinned again and said, “Let’s find out.”

Something was bothering Gergen. I asked him if his wife was busting his ass again about the truck payments, but he just shook his head and knelt down to unlock the case. I pushed some shells into the magazine of my 12-guage and leaned it against a tree. While I was checking the action on my Glock, Gergen gently lifted from the padded case what at first looked like a Colt AR-15. Looking closer, I noticed it was actually a military grade M-16.

“Jesus, Gergen.”

“Full auto,” he said. He popped in a clip with the heel of his hand. “Working for the man has its perks.”

Gergen’s favorite target was a Sears Kenmore washing machine, streaked with rust from the many holes that had been shot through its white enameled skin.

He brought the M-16 to his shoulder and started firing in semi-auto mode. Pop! Pop! Pop! Clods of dirt and leaves jumped into the air around the washing machine. I was about to make a smart remark about his aim when Gergen thumbed the switch to auto. The washing machine shuddered like there was something living inside it. Gergen yelled something but I had my fingers in my ears. He kept on yelling even after the clip emptied and white smoke rolled out of the barrel.

I raised the Glock in a shooting stance and pumped some rounds into an old hot water heater, but the asbestos covering just absorbed the slugs without much effect. Gergen wiped down the M-16 with an oilcloth and laid it carefully into the case. Then he headed up the ravine without saying anything. I haven’t seen Gergen in a couple of weeks.