Wednesday, June 15, 2005


It was a perfect shot. A .22 rifle, no scope, standing up at 100 yards. The bullet was hollow tipped, the sound echoed like two cupped hands clapping as the bullet burst inside the throat of the erstwhile ground squirrel.

My dad favored an old high school rival of mine, a young man not unlike himself -- crass, fiery, a first responder with his fists. I was like Ferdinand the bull. While all the boys were boxing for the title, I sat under a tree and smelled the flowers. Many are the bullies who have beguiled me, but a few, a few mind you, have learned that sleeping dogs should not be poked.

I've always been tall for my age, eligible for the attentions of every stumpy kid with a Napoleonic complex, and grist for every bully's mill. My dad always told me, when someone gets in my face, jump right in and knock them down, but my heart wasn't in it. He was right of course, because the more I backed down the more they would come. It seemed like there was a surprise waiting around every corner.

Kips was one of those bullies, who as luck would have it, worked for my dad after I dropped out of my first college. I had worked out and filled out substantially since my senior year, and I wasn't afraid of him anymore. But I was still the same old me, you know, Paul McCartney, a lover, not a fighter.

It all came to a head one day because I tied an undoable knot on the end of a log we were hoisting into place. Dad was below operating the winch and oblivious to our exchange.

"You stupid son of a bitch!" Kip yelled at me as he tried to untie the rope.

"Sorry, you guys were in such a hurry, I just did it the best I could!"

"God dammit, you're so fucking stupid!"

The feeling poured through my insides like cold mercury. I looked him in the eyes and clenched both fists into white balls. "Yeah, Kip, well you can go fuck yourself."

He looked up at me, and let me tell you that this man was a wild animal; the look in his eyes reminded me of a werewolf, devoid of human intelligence, just pure, unabated hatred.

"You'd better watch your mouth," he threatened.

"I said," with the same force and conviction, but my resolve was shaken, "go... fuck... yourself."

Kip looked to the ground, then stormed towards me. For one breathtaking moment I thought he was coming at me, instead, however, he brushed within inches, stomped down the stairs and hopped into his pick up truck; dirt and rocks spewed like hail as he left with a deafening roar. I stood shaking from the loss of adrenaline, then retired to the stairs and waited for dad.

"What happened?"

"Kip got mad because I tied a knot on the end of the log."

"Well no shit he got mad, with 3000 pounds over your head, someone is going to get killed!"

I couldn't believe it. "You've always liked Kip better than me. Perhaps, DAD, you should just adopt him. As father and son you can beat the shit out of the world!"

"At least he has the common sense God gave a warthog."

Such betrayal. This was more than I could take. "Sorry I'm such a disappointment to you dad!"

He pointed a finger into my chest, "You know what disappoints me, you should never have dropped out of college."

He was right of course, but I was beyond listening. "I'll tell you what dad, give me all the money that you owe me and I'll strike out on my own."

"That's just fine with me."

I walked home, just a few fields away, and sat on my bed. It was the first day of my manhood, the first day that I realized the future was uncertain, that I didn't have any skills, not a single marketable skill, no hope of supporting myself, totally reliant on my father. I was a kid. The tears came from some place I have never felt before, wrenching themselves free as the soul of my childhood hissed through the fissures of my self perception.

I heard something and looked up, and there was my dad, embarassed at the impropriety of this unguarded moment. He looked at the ground and mumbled that he was sorry and walked away.


I searched the field where the ground squirrel had disappeared. Holes were everywhere, making it difficult to find the one he had come from. Then I saw his little feet sticking out, unmoving. I pulled him out, his body still warm, as if only asleep. The bullet went through the esophogus, and but for a prick of red, the damage was all internal. I gave him to our Pit Bull Jumper, who gently picked it up in his jaws like a beloved child, and spirited it away.

He was sheepish and afraid, and didn't know me anymore.

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