Mr. Tate jumped off the porch and ran to the Radley Place. He stopped in front of the dog, squatted, turned around and tapped his finger on his forehead above his left eye. “You were a little to the right, Mr. Finch,” he called.
“Always was,” answered Atticus. “If I had my ’druthers I’d take a shotgun.”
He stooped and picked up his glasses, ground the broken lenses to powder under his heel, and went to Mr. Tate and stood looking down at Tim Johnson.
Doors opened one by one, and the neighborhood slowly came alive. Miss Maudie walked down the steps with Miss Stephanie Crawford.
Jem was paralyzed. I pinched him to get him moving, but when Atticus saw us coming he called, “Stay where you are.”
When Mr. Tate and Atticus returned to the yard, Mr. Tate was smiling. “I’ll have Zeebo collect him,” he said. “You haven’t forgot much, Mr. Finch. They say it never leaves you.”
Atticus was silent.
“Atticus?” said Jem.
“I saw that, One-Shot Finch!”
Atticus wheeled and faced Miss Maudie. They looked at one another without saying anything, and Atticus got into the sheriff’s car. “Come here,” he said to Jem. “Don’t you go near that dog, you understand? Don’t go near him, he’s just as dangerous dead as alive.”
“Yes sir,” said Jem. “Atticus—”
“What’s the matter with you, boy, can’t you talk?” said Mr. Tate, grinning at Jem. “Didn’t you know your daddy’s—”
“Hush, Heck,” said Atticus, “let’s go back to town.”
When they drove away, Jem and I went to Miss Stephanie’s front steps. We sat waiting for Zeebo to arrive in the garbage truck.
Jem sat in numb confusion, and Miss Stephanie said, “Uh, uh, uh, who’da thought of a mad dog in February? Maybe he wasn’t mad, maybe he was just crazy. I’d hate to see Harry Johnson’s face when he gets in from the Mobile run and finds Atticus Finch’s shot his dog. But he was just full of fleas from somewhere—”
Miss Maudie said Miss Stephanie’d be singing a different tune if Tim Johnson was still coming up the street, that they’d find out soon enough, they’d send his head to Montgomery.
Jem became vaguely articulate: “’d you see him, Scout? ’d you see him just standin’ there? . . . ’n’ all of a sudden he just relaxed all over, an’ it looked like that gun was a part of him . . . an’ he did it so quick, like . . . I hafta aim for ten minutes ’fore I can hit somethin’. . . .”
Miss Maudie grinned wickedly. “Well now, Miss Jean Louise,” she said, “still think your father can’t do anything? Still ashamed of him?”
“Nome,” I said meekly.
“Forgot to tell you the other day that besides playing the Jew’s Harp, Atticus Finch was the deadest shot in Maycomb County in his time.”
“Dead shot . . .” echoed Jem.
“That what I said, Jem Finch. Guess you’ll change your tune now. The very idea, didn’t you know his nickname was Ol’ One-Shot when he was a boy? Why, down at the Landing when he was coming up, if he shot fifteen times and hit fourteen doves he’d complain about wasting ammunition.”
“He never said anything about that,” Jem muttered.
“Never said anything about it, did he?”
“Wonder why he never goes huntin’ now,” I said.
“Maybe I can tell you,” said Miss Maudie. “If your father’s anything, he’s civilized in his heart. Marksmanship’s a gift of God, a talent—oh, you have to practice to make it perfect, but shootin’s different from playing the piano or the like. I think maybe he put his gun down when he realized that God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things. I guess he decided he wouldn’t shoot till he had to, and he had to today.”
“Looks like he’d be proud of it,” I said.
“People in their right minds never take pride in their talents,” said Miss Maudie.
We saw Zeebo drive up. He took a pitchfork from the back of the garbage truck and gingerly lifted Tim Johnson. He pitched the dog onto the truck, then poured something from a gallon jug on and around the spot where Tim fell. “Don’t yawl come over here for a while,” he called.
When we went home I told Jem we’d really have something to talk about at school on Monday. Jem turned on me.