It was conceivable that the girl would shoot me. "I wouldn't take her to a shooting range," her mother told me. "She might get some ideas."
I had been on the receiving end of enough deadly glances from her 14-year-old daughter to warrant such a warning. You see, I am a step away from becoming the girl's stepfather, so when the teenager said she wanted to know what it was like to fire a gun, the assumption was that the target she had in mind was me.
Call it "Angry Adolescent Syndrome," the only known cure being adulthood.
But I wasn't backing down.
Faced with such predictable terror, families who can afford it are urged to contact one of the many adolescent attitude adjustment clinics that are popping up all over the place. After a 28-day stay at say, "Commit-A-Kid," your teens return chocked full of clinical rationalizations about why they really ought to kill you.
Nothing fancy like that for me. I just called the police (Frank Scafidi at the FBI, to be exact) and asked for a supervised shootout for me and the kid.
The weapon of choice: a Heckler & Koch MP-5 9mm submachine gun -- a firearm made famous when British special forces stormed the Iranian Embassy in London in 1980.
Barry Subelsky, an FBI SWAT team leader, came through with the hardware, which also included a SIG-Sauer 9mm semiautomatic handgun, a SIG-Sauer .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol and a modified M-16 assault rifle.
Don't get me wrong. This is not an ad for the NRA; nor a promo for the FBI -- just an example of how far a father, even an acting one, must sometimes go to clear the air with today's teen.
I could almost hear her thoughts as she fired the H & K on full automatic.
" . . . and this is for making me do homework before I could use the telephone."
" . . . and this is for coming home with a hickey on your neck."
"This is for embarrassing me in front of my friends."
"This is for talking back."
Spent shells and flashes of fire filled the air on the FBI shooting range at Quantico. When the smoke cleared, I had been outgunned. The kid had hit two bull's-eyes. (Actually, I had more scores inside the next closest circle, which meant we were both dead meat.)
The SWAT team leader was impressed.
"The kid's a natural," Subelsky said. Then she told him that she wanted to be an FBI agent, go to law school and eventually become a judge. Subelsky beamed, pulled out full riot gear from his truck, complete with shock grenades, goggles and shield, and let her try it on.
It was a sight.
Here was a girl I knew at home as Sister Souljah's soul mate. "Yeah, go get 'em, Sister," she'd say during the Bill Clinton flap. "I got your back." And with an FBI issue submachine gun, at that.
I couldn't say who was more confused. I was the highly touted adult male father figure in her life, the dude sociologists say makes life better for kids when paired with a mom. But the truth was, I didn't have a clue about what really worked.
I know that her mother didn't, and still doesn't, like the idea of her daughter playing with guns. But the more Mom said no, the more the daughter wanted to shoot one.
"You've created a monster," the mother chastised me. After overhearing the girl's delight in telling her friends about the joy of producing automatic gunfire, I had to wonder if her mother was right.
Thankfully, her final school report card suggested redemption. The teenager had been promoted to ninth grade with three A's and three B's. The A's were in science, mathematics and art. Science had included work with nuclear equations. MIT would be impressed.
Her teachers certainly were. They said she was gifted, had a knack for foreign languages and, as a budding cellist, might someday perform for the National Symphony, if she really wanted to.
Her sports coaches said she was also a very talented athlete, with the makings of a world class sprinter.
Subelsky says she's a hot shot with that Heckler & Koch and has what it takes to make a great agent.
I gotta love her; and hope to be around long enough to see how she turns out. Meanwhile, I've learned that even a teenager can have some helpful hints about what it takes to make a good parent.
I'm glad I listened to her.