From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV


A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you watch television or movies, you’ve heard a gunshot before. That loud fiery blast that rings from the screen and bounces around in your ears. It’s unmistakable. War films, mob movies, cop dramas—they’re all wrought with them. Gunshots. You think you know what one sounds like.

I didn’t, no matter how many of the fake kind I heard in my childhood.

When I was still in fifth grade my best friend, Andy, was shot. Right through the head. It was a freak accident. I saw it, but more importantly, I heard it. There was no bang. No fiery blast. The shot came from an air rifle; it was just a soft crack and a hiss—and Andy fell down. Sounds and images that I will never, ever forget.

The doctors didn’t expect him to live. The pellet had gone through his temple and lodged in his brain. Fluid built up around it, and he went into a coma. His family and friends were in shock. People hoped, they prayed, they cried, anything they felt they could do to bring Andy back, but the outlook was grim. There was no one to blame, but still we searched for answers that weren’t there. I, for one, tormented myself with the thought of, Why not me? I was torn between feelings of guilt that it wasn’t me in his place . . . and undeniable relief . . . that it wasn’t me in his place. There were too many feelings and I tried to figure out what feeling was “correct.”

Then came the day when Andy woke up. He opened his eyes, and later he sat up in his bed. I went to the clinic and played catch with him with a foam ball. It was all he could do, really. He couldn’t even speak. He had to essentially relearn everything, and they said he would never walk again. But then they had said he wouldn’t pull through either. It didn’t take long before Andy was in therapy, tirelessly working his way from the bed, to crutches, to his own two legs and feet.

Throughout high school, Andy and I were, as always, the best of friends. He was still handicapped from the accident and couldn’t use his left arm, but he worked it seamlessly into his daily life. He could shoot a basketball as well as ever. He taught himself how to play even the most complicated video games with one hand on the control. But even more impressive and inspiring to those of us who love Andy was that he just went back to being a kid. He went to school every day, did his homework, played sports, was active with his church and had a girlfriend he was crazy about. He was always aware of his injury and accepted it as part of who he was, but it didn’t consume him. And so it was for the rest of us.

Andy taught me what it means to be a friend. To be genuinely happy when they achieve, to feel real pain when they hurt, to smile when they smile. To find hope and strength in the gravest situations. Whether you believe in miracles or not, Andy’s recovery was something truly special. Andy used to thank me on occasion, telling me things like, “I couldn’t have gotten through it without you.” The ironic thing is that I couldn’t have gotten through it without him.

Scott T. Barsotti

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