You can imagine the scene, a boy and a girl standing in the corridor by the toilets in the club. They are both a bit too young to really be there, but the doorman knows he needs as many young girls as he can get in these days. The boy got in because the bouncer couldn’t convince her to leave him at the door.
They are standing in the middle of all that noise and sweat and he asks her if she’ll come back to his. He’s planning to get lucky, and she just doesn’t want to know. She steps back and slightly further away. He knows he only has one more chance so he says, “but… I love you”.
It’s a parting shot, a last ditch attempt to save things, and while I keep you in suspense* about the outcome I’ll explain why it isn’t really a parting shot, in fact it’s a Parthian shot.
Back at the height of Roman times, the Roman Army felt pretty darn good about themselves. They thought they could really do anything. At the particular time of this story they had just conquered Gaul which was all of the land that they cared about to the west of them, but if they really wanted to rule all of the Mediterranean then they would have to conquer the lands to the left. These lands were held by the Parthians. And these guys were a little bit different than the Gauls.
The Parthians, came from the area which is modern day Iran. And their civilisation was so far ahead of the Romans that the Romans didn’t even understand how much trouble they were in. When they invaded they were suddenly faced with a cavalry something that wasn’t seen in Europe for more than 1,000 years.
The Romans ran is as they always did but were in big trouble, pretty quickly. The Parthian horsemen fired on the Romans from horseback with bows and arrow. And the Romans just didn’t know what to do. They were in big trouble. Then after a short time of this the Parthians played another trick. They fell back. The Romans felt they had suddenly started to win. The Parthians fell back and the horses started running away. The Romans started running after them to start the killing. But when you’re running you aren’t holding up your shield. The Parthians kept riding away but the men turned around and fired back into the approaching Romans. It was a concept that was completely alien to the Romans, up until then anyone retreating was.. Well… in retreat not attacking at the same time. This was the Parthian shot.
And over the years it has been turned into the parting shot that we know today. So really it is a Parthian shot.
So how are our couple doing? Well of course she came back towards him. With all the noise in the club it was difficult to hear exactly. He might have been saying he loathed her. But when she came back towards him and leaned in for him to repeat what he had said he used the opportunity to kiss her on the ear, and one thing led to another and they got to hook up. So happy ending?
Well unfortunately they were young and reckless and didn’t use protection. So she fell pregnant at the tender age of sixteen. So sad ending?
Well she dropped out of school to have the baby, but despite what her parents said the boy would do he too dropped out of school and got a job to pay for her and the baby and they got married. So happy ending?
Well after a few years of scrapping through, the boy had gone to buy his lottery ticket (like he always did every week) when he suddenly realised that he didn’t have any cash on him. So he didn’t buy a ticket. And that week his numbers came up. He was so distraught that he killed himself. So sad ending?
Well actually although the girl had appreciated the boy taking care of her for the first three years of their babies life it hadn’t been a happy time. He had become a drug user and was an angry drunk. So while she was devastated, in many ways it was a relief for her and the child. So a mixed ending? Yes.
* How do you keep an idiot in suspense? I’ll tell you later.