Gideon’s War | Howard Gordon
Gideon was given his first firearm, a Marlin .22, when he was five years old. He learned early that one thing, and one thing only, could ensure his father’s affection. That one thing was good shooting. When you went to the range with Father, you didn’t mess around, you didn’t talk, you didn’t smile, you didn’t shuffle your feet. You simply loaded and fired. With precision and accuracy.
From the moment he touched the Marlin .22, Gideon knew he had a gift. Trap, skeet, air pistol, bench rest, offhand, prone, practical handgun shooting - no matter. He had it - that magical trick of eye and brain and finger that allowed him to aim a gun and hit what he wanted to hit. Kill was the word that Father used.
For the first three years, his father taught him. After that, all his father had to do was man the spotting scope and let the boy work. “Good kill, son,” he’d whisper. “Good kill.”
Tillman, on the other hand, struggled to keep up on the range. Compared to any other kid, he was excellent and could drive tacks with a rifle or run clays set after set. But he did it through gritted teeth, flinching under his father’s perpetual scrutiny. Every near miss, every stray shot earned him an ear-ringing slap on the back of the head, a pinch on the inside of his upper arm, or - worst of all - a few cutting words. These ranged from “useless fool” to “you’re no son of mine, boy.” Always whispered softly. Even at his most violent, Father never raised his voice.
But the violence was always there. When the dark rage came on him, he struck out at anyone within reach. Anyone except Gideon. While their mother sometimes absorbed his wrath, Tillman was always their father’s main target. It had taken a long time for Gideon to see it, but Tillman hadn’t absorbed the belittling and the beating and the abuse by accident. As the older of the two, Tillman had routinely stood between their father and Gideon - deflecting his anger, absorbing his blows, protecting the younger boy. In fact, Tillman had been his protector throughout his childhood - whether it was from bullies at school or opposing linemen on the football field. Thanks to Tillman, nobody messed with Gideon Davis. People came to understand that if you put a late hit on Gideon Davis, when the next play rolled around, Tillman Davis was going to cut you off at the knees.
It was only as he grew older - and increasingly estranged from his brother - that he began to understand what that protection had cost Tillman, how much pain he had absorbed on Gideon’s behalf. The realization came only slowly and grudgingly. But eventually Gideon realized that only through Tillman’s self-sacrifice had Gideon been given the space to grow into the man he had become.
It was a debt that Gideon knew he had never adequately repaid.
Howard Gordan is an Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning writer and producer who served as executive producer of the hit television show 24 for its full eight-season run. He was also a writer and executive producer for The X-Files.