On my 12th birthday, I only wanted ONE thing: A Daisy 880 pellet gun. Pump action. All of my neighbors had pellet guns and BB guns, and I secretly longed to be a hunter like my older brother. My father never hunted, but I had no idea why. Somehow I saw that as a weakness. Besides, what could be more exciting that honoring our natural instincts of hunting and conquering beasts for our survival? Or at least that's what they told me...
Two months preceding my birthday, I earmarked the page in the Sears catalogue and showed it to my parents on numerous occasions. They sneered at the thought. One month preceding my birthday, I cut pictures out of the catalogue and taped it to a piece of white cardboard, along with assorted accoutrement such as extra pellets, targets and a scope. It was a mural of a prepubescent arsenal. More sneering.
But come June 4th, after all the kids left from my birthday party, a long, slender box (wrapped smartly with a bow, of course) appeared on the kitchen table. My eyes were as big as dinner plates. Inside the box was my coveted Daisy, complete with a large, shiny scope and several boxes of pellets. It was as if my mural had come to life. After a torrent of "thank yous" and "oh my gosh, oh my goshes" were over, my Dad and I ventured into the back yard for a lesson in handling a rifle.
"First, don't EVER, EVER point a gun at anyone." he said. "You can KILL someone with this thing." I thought immediately of Trevor, my shitty little neighbor. But only for a second. OK, maybe two. "This is not a toy."
"Second, until I say otherwise, you are NEVER to use this gun without your Mom or me here watching you." I nodded.
"Third, I only want you shooting targets with this thing. You shouldn't be out here killing innocent creatures." With this, my mind's eye raised an disappointed eyebrow.
"Yes, sir," I said as if there were any other answer. Satisfied that he'd sufficiently put the fear of God in me--as well as the fear of Dad's Pellet Gun Rules--we went about adjusting the scope and setting up paper and aluminum-can targets around our large back yard. While we did this, I imagined that far up in the trees, wings and tails alike quivered with fear.
For the next two weeks or so, my Dad and I religiously practiced shooting. We had contests to see who was the best shot, and I even learned the fine art of hitting a moving target. I truly enjoyed the time with Dad. I had finally found something I really liked doing with him. That is, until That Day.
That Day where my parents had walked across the street to visit the neighbors. That Day that I snuck my gun out of it's case and toted it outside in the back yard, unsupervised. That Day an innocent bird sat unknowingly on our back fence, just next to the bird feeder. That Day I've never forgotten.
"Just one shot," I thought to myself. "No one's watching. It'll be awesome!" I pumped the gun to its maximum ten pumps, propped the screen door open and steadied myself against the door frame. Inside the scope the bright red bird was as big as an elephant. Its chest was so bright that the cross-hairs seemed to disappear. I steadied my aim and gently squeezed the trigger.
I leapt with joy when I saw the bird fall backwards over the fence. I had hit my target with military precision; executing my plan with stunning accuracy. I ran as fast as I could to see my fallen prey and marvel in completing my mission.
But instead of seeing a slain enemy felled at the hands of a master gunner, I saw a beautiful female Robin writhing in pain. She was gasping desperately for air and a single wing flapped over and over in an effort to escape her executioner. In all of my 12 years, I had never felt such shame. Flush with pity, I decided I needed to end her suffering. I gently stepped on her body, held the barrel directly to her head and finished what I had so selfishly started just seconds before. After mercy had been granted, I dropped the gun at my side and slid to the ground in a tearful heap. I sobbed uncontrollably for what seemed like an eternity.
When the tears stopped, I fetched a shovel from the garage and buried the Robin. I even fashioned a cross with two sticks and a tall piece of grass. Thought I don't recall specifically, I'm certain I also administered a 12 year-old's version of a funeral. I was desparate for anything that might redeem me from such an awful act.
That Day the Daisy 880 was put away. Forever.