I threw it on the ground and burst into tears. The stock broke as it hit the ground. I kicked it out of my way then ran across the pasture to the barbed wire fence. I crawled under the bottom strand then slipped into the back door of the farmhouse. I walked briskly to my room hoping mama wouldn’t notice me crying. I lay on the bed face down on the pillow sobbing for what seemed like hours.
My daddy had given me this pellet gun in March as a gift for my birthday. Now that summer had arrived I had plenty of time to shoot things around the farm. Everything was fair game in my young eyes despite being told by my father that we only kill for eating and nothing else. I did not adhere to that rule. I killed everything that moved. From rats to snakes as well as birds. Today though, I would do something that hurt my eight year old heart. I killed a meadowlark.
I had killed many birds before this meadowlark. However, in this instance I took the freshly killed corpse and placed it on the top of a fence post next to a dead tree and walked away. Soon I returned to the pasture, walking toward the post. As I approached I noticed another meadowlark perched on a branch above. I stopped in my tracks and just stared. The meadowlark was motionless, its yellow so bright under the beautiful blue sky. “Was this bird a partner of the dead one?” I thought. “Birds don’t have feelings do they?” It seemed expressionless, taking glances at the dead bird on the post below.
That sight of the meadowlark just broke my heart. It was as if it was waiting for its companion to awaken from its sleep. I knew he never would. The bird didn’t.
Still sobbing I heard a knock on the door. I look back at my door. The hand made poster of stars and hearts given to me by my little sister disappears as my father opens it. He walked into my room and ask what was wrong. I looked at him and through tears asked, “Daddy, do birds have feeling?” I explained what I had been doing since he gave me the pellet gun. I told him about the meadowlark I had killed and its visitor.
Through his disappointment he explained that no scientific evidence showed that wild birds have the same feeling of loss as we do. “They don’t feel love thus can’t feel loss,” he said.
He emphasized that we don’t kill in nature just for fun. Like our ancestors, we only kill game to eat.
“I won’t kill any living thing again daddy.”
I had learned my lesson. I never shot another living creature. After repairing my little gun, I turned to shooting beer cans and glass bottles. Nothing more. Now in my teens, I still find myself analyzing that experience. I don’t know the relationship between those two birds or if it was a chance landing that I spotted. Whether that meadowlark could feel a loss or not, I certainly did.
This is fiction written for the speak easy at yeah write #96.