As Ms. Gruwell makes the students read “The Last Spin” by Evan Hunter, a story about rival gang members, this student feels excited about reading something that finally relates to his/her life. The protagonists in the story play Russian Roulette in order to decide which one of them should die. During the course of the game, they end up realizing that they share many things in common and that their rivalry is stupid. As a result, they decide to shoot their last round and end the game, but one of them dies during this final round.
The student’s excitement at reading this story suggests her/his acquaintance with a world in which violent rivalry is the norm. The senselessness of the character’s death in the short story evokes the senselessness of gang rivalry.
The student recalls a similar story s/he experienced. A group of boys from his/her neighborhood had just bought a gun and, while they were all looking at it, one of them accidentally pulled the trigger and shot himself. Everybody left after making the scene look like a suicide. When the dead boy’s parents discovered what had happened, they did not believe their son had committed suicide. The student recalls that the boy had been a bully who used to intimidate him and pick fights with smaller children, but that he still didn’t deserve to die, since he had just been playing innocently.
This boy’s death demonstrates the gap between the serious, life-and-death consequences of firearms and the nonchalance with which these young people use them. It highlights the unintended consequences of a war that affects adults and children alike, where children die without even taking part in fighting.