Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Death of Innocents

The last time I saw him alive, he was angrily pecking at my feet as he and his buddy do every day. For some reason my very presence irritated them both to the point where they followed me around the barnyard, making those specialized turkey noises that say "You really tick me off." Perhaps it came from those days when he was young and still living inside the enclosed bird yard when I'd pick him up, which he hated, but then I'd reach between his belly feathers to scratch his skin, which he loved. His eyes glazed over and his beak parted slightly as though he were hypnotized into a state of peaceful oblivion. Which ended as soon as I put him back on the ground when he became furious with me, as though I had humiliated him in front of the other birds and, as I said, perhaps he never forgave me.

The next time I saw him he was lying dead in a field two miles away where the drunken teenage punks who battered him to death had thrown his mutilated body along with the murder weapon, a metal crutch broken in half by the force of the assault. We knew the crutch had been used to kill him, plus the other dead, the turkey hen and several ducks, thrown into the field by the side of the road because part of the crutch had been left behind at the scene of the crime.

It's amazing we even found their bodies, tossed away as they were off a back road. My brother Christian was by chance driving along the road when he saw a Muscovy duck with its distinctive red head and white body by the road where no domestic duck would be. Stopping, Christian then saw the bodies of the turkeys and ducks and realized they were ours. Words do fail us at times. How to describe the shock and horror Christian felt at that moment, to see such senseless violence perpetrated on such innocent children? One feels violated, as though evil tore into a private place once thought safe. But safety is relative and we've rarely felt safe knowing all it takes is one carload of alcohol and/or drug-fueled teenagers to shatter the evening with their taunts and screams and brutality. Just when one generation matures and grows out of senseless, mindless violence, another comes along to take its place. Education is ceaseless but it does wear; it does wear.

And now I hold the lifeless body of a sweet child I deeply loved in my arms, cold, stiff, bloody. How strange the transformation from life to death, from movement to stillness, from alert, clear, perceiving eyes to cloudy eyes that see nothing. This is a transformation that never ceases to amaze and horrify me, to taunt me with my own helplessness. For every time I see death, I know just how cruel nature can be, but never, ever with the thoughtless, blind, willful cruelty of so-called humanity.