killing a bird
(originally posted 3/23/2014 at Yareah Magazine)
While I would love to regale you with a charming coming-of-age story, I’m afraid the facts surrounding this particular one preclude that. Had I been ten or eleven when the events I’m about to chronicle occurred, there might have been a chance but, given I was nineteen at the time, chances are you’re not going to find it endearing.
The lessons learned from the forthcoming narrative should have been learned long beforehand, but taking into consideration they weren’t might allow a little sympathy towards me to creep in.
When my college roommate suggested we buy a BB gun you would think that all my “nothing good can come of this” bells would be ringing up a storm but you have to understand that while my “gathering” skills were unmatched, I had yet to explore the “hunting” side of my psyche. While it was true that it wasn’t the first time I had held a weapon, it was also true that the previous weapon had been nun chucks and after hours of practice the only thing that was in any possible danger of getting harmed were my elbows and the occasional lamp.
As is inevitable when dealing with all thing male, shooting at bottles and cans soon became tedious for reasons that might escape the typical female. I am careful to say “aiming” as opposed to “shooting” because “shooting” infers that the aforementioned were hit from time to time. Try as we might, as close as we crept, we were unable to hit a single bottle or can. We put them up as targets and then twenty minutes later we took them down unscathed.
We had bigger fish to fry.
It was time to hunt.
While we didn’t apply war paint to our faces before departing we did pretend to. The village needed food and it was up to us to oblige.
My friend took a couple unsuccessful shots at a squirrel and cursed the breeze and the faulty manufacturing facility where his BB gun was made. Moments later a blue jay landed on a branch about thirty feet above my head. I aimed and pulled the trigger and was about to curse the breeze and the faulty manufacturing facility where my BB gun was made when I saw the blue jay fall from the tree like a plastic thing.
No final chirp, no twitching. It fell like the dead thing it was. The dead thing I’d made it.
To this day I remember watching it fall. Remember walking up to it as my roommate congratulated me. The sincere admiration in his voice. I remember, as if it just happened, looking down at the corpse.
When I hear about these new 3-D printers I know in my heart that when they have the ability to take images directly from my head that I will be able to recreate every feather on that blue jay.
I couldn’t tell you the name of my high school prom date or my first drink or even where I lived at the time of this hunting expedition but I can picture that bird laying there with complete clarity.
So I talked early on about the lessons that come from such an experience. I can spin it however I want but the truth that was revealed was that I am a gatherer.
I should be back at the village with the rest of the women grinding corn and whatever the hell else Indians eat.
I tried using my intellect to rationalize the killing. I told myself that I had no doubt saved the lives of hundreds of worms. Each of them free to go on and procreate and have little worms. When I thought about it, I was the Oskar Schindler of the Amynthas alexandri crowd. Somehow being the hero of all things slimy and spineless seemed appropriate.
This fucking bird now lives in my head. He visits me when I get too happy or too full of myself. A ghost that lives in my stomach and his fluttering is felt as an ache.
The funny thing is- if you find irony funny- is that, although I’ve never held a weapon since, I don’t think I’d have much trouble shooting a person. Maybe irony isn’t the word for it.
Maybe I didn’t learn dick. About having a dick. Or being a dick.
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