I had killed before, but only by accident. Today, I hired an assassin. I made the decision out of fear, alone, under duress. After all, the intruder came into my home, uninvited. I needed to prepare for a weekend vacation. There was no time to be gentle, and the intruder scared me.
So I called the village hall, but they told me they couldn’t do anything once the intruder was inside my house. And they gave me the name of the assassin. I called, and within an hour, he arrived – an unassuming, slender young man with a dark truck. In his hands were some glass vials and a small drawstring bag. His name was Vince.
“I want her out,” I told him directly. “But I don’t want her hurt or terrified.”
“It will be fast,” he replied. “Some chloroform, then the injection. It only takes a minute.”
“I hate to do this, but I don’t know what else to do. She got in and I don’t know how to get her to leave.”
“You can’t take the chance,” he assured me. “There are too many risks. She’s a juvenile, and they often come in uninvited.”
“You don’t need me to help, do you?” I asked with great trepidation.
“No, when I come back up it will be over, and I’ll remove the body.”
He told the truth. Not two minutes later, he left the house, came back with a clipboard, and I paid the fee.
Now, the tears come. You see, I made her a promise that I would get her out safely, but I lied. The small skunk had gotten into the window well, and now I know that was the source of the smell the night before last. Maybe the storms scared her, maybe she slipped, and they can’t climb, I was told. I found her when I took some laundry to the basement, lying on an old plastic bag under the shelves next to the sink, in a filthy corner.
She raised her tail once, but didn’t spray me. I brought some pieces of dry cat food and laid them on the floor near her, then a bowl of water. I thought she might not have eaten, and might be scared.
So, I soothed her, told her I was trying to help, then began sprinkling cat food across the basement and up the carpeted stairs and into the garage, feeling foolish and wishing I had some long leather gloves and the right tools to capture and release this small trusting animal. I’d spotted the tail first, known it wasn’t a squirrel, then spotted the head and the white stripe.
I lied to her, and she trusted me, and had gone to sleep when I brought the killer to her. No reasoning with him or his dispatcher – the state law required skunks to be euthanized, they told me. A stupid law, I griped. Not fair. Your town has a skunk problem, the dispatcher said. So what? Can’t we share the territory? Now the killer was here and there was no retreat.
I stood at the top of the stairs as he crept back to the killing field, and did the only thing I could think of – waved my hands in the mudra for “love” and wished her “infinite love and gratitude” for her passing from life into the spirit world. I wanted to undo everything as the wrongness settled over me and I knew the weight of a bad decision. That small body carried past me and slung casually into the back of a truck – no dignity in death, if such a thing is even possible.
I sat in the kitchen afterward, and my husband came home. He had returned the call and there had been no real discussion. The deed had to be done, and there was a risk of disease, injury to us or our cats. We weren’t equipped for this sort of thing. Now, he assured me that there had been no other option, even as he worked through his own soft-hearted secondhand guilt. The cats were unsettled, eyeing me as if they did not know me, feeling my strangeness. I was supposed to be the calm one these days.
I rationalized. She hadn’t suffered. She might have been sick anyway. If we had released her, she might well have been killed, or poisoned, or died a slow horrible death. As I wept, my husband helpless to comfort me but trying anyway out of love, I felt something kick in – animal communication? As if she wrapped herself around my right shoulder, and whispered, “It’s okay. I understand.”
I fight to believe it and resist it as a trick of myself to assuage the guilt. A promise to any living thing should be honored. And I broke my promise, like so many people who discount particular animals as “nuisance” species, assuming humans have no contract with or connection to other beings and presume some cosmic right to take their lives. So many times I have been self-righteous at the notion of killing for convenience, for sport, for no particular reason, and now I had done the same thing and become the kind of person I loathed.
It rains tonight, and the tears still come. It will take time to accept this action, and part of me never will. I am a disappointment to myself, a violator of my own ethical code. I will have to win back my own self-trust. Such a small creature to have such an impact.
Perhaps people are the nuisance. I don’t know. I do know one thing with certainty. This was wrong. I hired an assassin – for all the wrong reasons. And I broke my promise to another living thing who trusted in me. Only people are capable of that. The superior species? I think not.
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