Archive for the ‘Being Pro Social’ Category

“So I made up the whole crucifixion thing…sorry…but still, when you piss off this many weird cat ladies, it’s only a matter of time before they radicalize and come after you…”

For about a week now, I’ve been traveling with an automatic rifle in the front seat of my truck. At dawn and dusk, I find myself cruising the back roads of my neighborhood, searching, stalking, hunting. The beast doesn’t know I’m gunning for him…or maybe he does…maybe that’s why it’s so hard to find him. Or maybe I’m just no good at hunting tomcats.

imageI ought to be, that’s for sure. In the southern Appalachian mountains, far from stop lights, street lights, neon lights, any light beyond God’s great blanket of stars, shooting tomcats is somewhat of a tradition and it stretches back several generations, at least. My dad tells stories of growing up in the 1950s, riding around in the backs of pick up trucks, blasting stray tomcats to pieces with shotguns and .22 rifles. Pops is in his mid sixties now, a little worse for the wear, but still drilling stray male cats like it’s his fucking job.

It’s because it is and, in a way, always has been. In his youth, those heavily armed boys in trucks collected bounties for the cats they killed. Back in those days, see, bird hunting was the hot shit activity in these parts and the uniqueness of a man’s bird gun coupled with the prowess and intelligence of his dogs was a big part of how dudes back then measured off against one another. Of course, you had to have birds to shoot, so collectives of hunters went to great expense to propagate the existence of game birds, particularly quail and grouse, in the region. The thing about game birds is that they are ground nesters, the easiest pickens of all for a lazy assed tomcat, and stray cats were wreaking havoc on the baby birds. Hence the bounty on feral tomcats.

These days, Pops doesn’t bird hunt. We both have really awesome bird guns and the bird dog who lives with me is so damned smart we assign him chores, but no one shoots birds anymore. We do, however, still shoot feral tomcats. Pops just got one last week, as a matter of fact. He claims he nails a couple per month, and I don’t doubt it, but I don’t think these cats are as feral as they used to be, though their impact and behavior aren’t really affected by whether or not they have permanent homes. Free roaming male cats are nuisances…they always have been…and they always will be.

My folks have three barns and a little over a dozen horses. Having horses means hay and feed, which is to say my parents maintain a small army of female cats who help keep them from being overrun by rodents. They, and anyone who employs cats will tell you, to hire females because they stay close to home and hunt much more than the males do. At any given time, they employ between eight and twelve cats for this purpose, and employed is exactly what they are. Their cats have names, health plans, room and board. In exchange, they kill the fuck out of some rats. Part of their health plan, oddly enough, includes the armed protection of a retired Army Ranger when stray tomcats wander in and attack them.

Yes, that’s a real thing. And it’s fucking brutal.

A loose tomcat, feral or not, may range and, in fact, claim several square miles as its territory. Tomcat behaviors, on these prowls, more often than not include vicious attacks toward smaller cats. Throughout the spring, we’ve been waking in the night to the sounds of cat fighting outside. The first few times, it was easy enough to release the hounds into the night, to break up the cat fight and then return. Everyone goes back to sleep. Three months later, the dogs are staying in and I’m going out, at three a.m., in boxers and boots and eight rapid fire rounds of turkey shot, scanning a Surefire light for the trespassing brute but finding nothing.

Our cat, Bunny, a five pound calico female found in the street as a kitten, has enough bald spots and scratches and bites that she doesn’t really even want to be outside at night anymore. Instead of killing mice and rats and moles in her own yard, Bunny is spending her nights sleeping on her spot on the bookshelf, where it’s safe. And I don’t blame her. The fact is, I don’t really like being in the yard either. Besides brutalizing smaller cats, tomcats tend to engage in territorial marking, called spraying.

imageAlso a very real thing. And it’s really fucking nasty.

Ever wonder why your front porch suddenly smells like concentrated cat piss one morning? It could be a stray tomcat, homeless and hungry, but it could just as easily be someone’s “pet,” who has chosen a spot ON your home or IN your vehicle to point his furry little cat cock at and mist with urine, hot and sticky, and specifically for your personal enjoyment.

Think it’s not personal? I used to, till I got to know my ex’s cat. Patch was a big grey tomcat with a white spot and he fucking hated me. When he wasn’t out prowling, he was peeing on my stuff. He ruined MY couch by peeing on the headrest in MY spot…he ruined MY leather armchair…and he hit my laundry basked, repeatedly. Only my stuff. So one morning, after discovering a basket of clean and pissed laundry, I’d had enough. Patch got snatched, pitched and pinned in the bathtub. Then he got a dose of his own medicine. I don’t care what you say. That malicious bastard was hurtin’ for a squirtin’ and deserved every damned drop of it. Fair’s just fair and I’ll stoop to a cat’s level if I have to.

Which brings us back to my mountains in the present day, with my bleeding and battered little calico cat, my front porch reeking of piss, as does the inside of a vehicle after I forgot to put a window up one night…back to the rifle in the front seat of the same vehicle…back to the hunt at hand. A feral cat is my likely target, and I hope this is the case, because discovering that it is someone’s pet wouldn’t make much difference to me, other than the fact I’d be angry at one of my neighbors for being such an irresponsible pet owner as to allow their animal to become a nuisance. Make no mistake, this animal’s days are numbered.

I doubt, however, that I’ll post a picture on Facebook. Or maybe I will. It really depends. If it’s a headshot with an arrow like the one Kristen Lindsey posted, I totally will. What an awesome shot…Kristen, my hat’s off to you…to take with a bow and not document and subsequently share. Hunters kill things with sharp sticks all the time and the pictures get published in magazines, so what’s the difference? Killing game, such as a harmless little bunny rabbit, with an arrow is considered a feat of marksmanship and talent in the hunting community, but for Kristen, killing a loose tomcat by the same means is proving to be a costly error.

imageIf you haven’t read about it, last month (April 2015), Texas veterinarian Kristen Lindsey shot a tomcat in the head with her bow and arrow and then bragged about it on Facebook. It went viral, of course, and a backlash of social pressure cost Lindsay her job and prompted an official investigation. Thus far, the D.A. isn’t moving forward. Facebook is enraged and circulating petitions not only for her criminal prosecution, but for the revocation of her license to practice veterinary medicine. Seems a bit much, to me, especially over a creature whose behavior could easily be considered antisocial to begin with.

Sorry cat owners, but that tomcat who is so sweet and cuddly at home is very likely causing problems when you let him roam, even if you’ve had him neutered. Which really sort of means that YOU are actually the problem and that is this particular tomcat, later identified as Tiger, the pet of an “elderly couple,” was not so much the problem as were his owners. Maybe Kristen should have shot them in the head with arrows…or maybe not…but either way, they were long gone. As in moved. As in moved and left the cat. As in abandoned. According to their former pet sitter, “Amy,” who has created a page telling Tiger’s story and ultimately soliciting donations, Tiger’s owners made some sort of arrangement with a neighbor to care for Tiger so he could continue doing what was most important to him, roaming the countryside and sleeping all day in a “barn.” One day, Tiger disappeared. That is, he didn’t show up to eat food and sleep before leaving again.

I’m not kidding. Read it here.

After a week or so, Tiger’s disappearance was solved when he appeared on social media, speared on an arrow like a shish-kabob by a college educated chick with a compound bow and a hell of an eye. A lot of people are really mad about it. The Bryson, TX news station KBTX, who has been most closely covering the story, actually had to disable the comments on their online news articles due to “repeated death threats being made against the veterinarian.” Small protests of weird cat ladies have gathered outside the Austin County courthouse demanding “Justice for Tiger” and the identically named Facebook fan page has garnered in excess of 50,000 followers, all squealing and wallowing in self righteous anger, seeking to destroy a human life they actually seem to place less value on than a damned pissing old tomcat.image

I don’t give a shit if he did have a name. More power to him. Now his name is mud. How you like them apples, weird cat ladies?

Apparently, you don’t like ’em at all, because like the KBTX news website, Tiger’s Facebook fan page has to specifically ask users not to contribute death threats to the comment threads. That’s right, even more death threats made by even more people who are even more concerned by the rights of a tomcat to prowl freely than a working, tax paying, American citizen’s right to due process and more importantly, her right to protect private property from untagged and unleashed “domestic” animals known for engaging in destructive and antisocial behavior. Remember now, Tiger wasn’t killed in his own yard and I have a solid understanding of how wandering male cats treat the property of others. image

These crazy old bags of shit are even invoking the great and powerful Federal Bureau of Investigation in their hopes that someone else is something close to being just as sinfully stupid and silly as they are. Since the FBI is apparently maintaining statistics regarding animal cruelty, it only seems logical that they’ll be dispatching the Behavioral Analysis Unit from Quantico any moment…that Hotch and Penelope Garcia and Dr. Spencer Reid from TV’s Criminal Minds will be Leer jetting down to Texas to solve the great mystery of the impaled tomcat before framing the events with a relevant quotation like:

“A man has to work so hard so that something of his personality stays alive,” said Albert Einstein. “A tomcat has it so easy, he has only to spray and his presence is there for years on rainy days.”

Something tells me that the FBI doesn’t really give and shit and isn’t coming, but I certainly hope that all of Kristen Lindsey’s haters are holding their breath for it. After all, every time an ignorant piss-faced fart knocker chooses not to breathe, someone much more deserving of oxygen gets a chance to. And I like that idea. I also seem to like the idea of having a forum where I can rail against people like this…maybe a little too much…so before I go too far, I’ll just bring up one more teeny tiny eensie weensie little thing…

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“Dead Cat Protest…or…The Society of Heifers in Sweats?”

Of the 50,000+ people who support the persecution, prosecution and/or execution of Kristen Lindsey for “cruelly” killing a tomcat, how many of these same people choose to purchase poultry and meat from corporate American factory-farmed sources? From the looks of the asses and bellies of the protesters, I’d say a good portion of the McDonald’s customer base is represented here. Some of these folks are people who couldn’t give a shit less about the treatment of the chicken or cow that ultimately provides sustenance for their worthless little life and don’t hesitate to contribute a few bucks here and a few bucks there to a system which has actually institutionalized real-life animal cruelty.

Maybe ganging up on lone archers like Kristen Lindsey makes them feel less like the mush-filled douche bags that they are. Or maybe they actually think they’re doing a good thing.

It doesn’t really matter, in the end, unless you’re the human being whose life is being ruined by a bunch of stupid assed cat ladies. If you’re a roaming tomcat anywhere in rural America however, you should know that someone, somewhere, likely has your number and your days of terrorizing sweet little calicoes and squirting piss wherever you see fit will result in exactly the sort of “Justice” that old Tiger received.

Weird old cat ladies who befriend and “claim” wandering tomcats would also do well to remember this.

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When I was a boy, my father taught me a lot of things that I’ve come to find useful. He taught me to steal without getting caught. He taught me to lie and cheat and conspire. He taught me how to assault other people in public and get away with it. Coincidentally, he taught me that Yankee people are a vile, distrustful bunch, devoid entirely of morals. Go figure.

Now if you aren’t sure what a Yankee is, or are wondering if you are one and if I’m about to viciously insult you, I’ll explain. “Yankee” is a slang term southern Americans use when referring to northerners. It is a derogatory, dehumanizing term closely akin to the word “nigger” but generally is considered socially acceptable and is more commonly used. Ethnically it is applied to groups with European heritage who have assimilated entirely into the white culture. Sorry minorities, but white southerners have separate epithets for you…Yankee appears to be a white thing.

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“The Yankee states are the blue ones.”

It’s also a perspective thing, which means it depends upon who you ask. Yankees, to most folks, are people from the northeast. Northeast of what, you ask. Why, northeast of the person you are asking comes the answer. To a true southerner, anyone from two or three towns to the north is a Yankee. If you’re from New England or anywhere close to New York or Chicago, you are also a Yankee. Anyone west of Iowa is generally not a Yankee but if you live in south Florida and aren’t Cuban, then you probably are one. Virginia is considered somewhat Yankee-ish, but somehow West Virginia and Kentucky aren’t really. Does that make any sense? At all?

So, back to insulting Yankees, it wasn’t long before I started to see that northern, or Yankee, people behaved a little differently than what I was used to in the small southern Appalachian (pronounced Apple-atch-in) town where I grew up and presently reside. My early dealings with transplants from Ohio and New Jersey supported my father’s statement, but after my first couple of years in the military, I began to see things a little differently. The lack of morality he described was actually, as near as I could tell at least, simply a different interpretation of the term. They had intact moral systems, but they were nothing like what I was used to.

It’s a cultural difference that can only be described anecdotally. On a recent road trip, while the wife was inside a small post office, I was flipping through the rental car’s satellite radio and happened upon the Vivid Video porn radio station. Yep, porn is on the radio and I’d tuned into a call-in talk show. The topic was “cream pies.” Now if you don’t know, I’ll tell you. If you’re squeamish, skip to the next paragraph because this shit is nasty. The contextual meaning of “cream pie” on this show involved a man licking a strange man’s baby batter out of his own wife’s hoo ha. Yuck city.

All of the six callers I heard before my wife returned were either from Massachusetts or Ohio, with most being from the latter. Does that mean people from Ohio are disgusting and devoid of morals? Maybe. Ohio also has the highest rate of human sex trafficking in the country. It’s the place where your child is most likely to be abducted a block from home and wind up being pimped out in a truck stop two weeks later. All I’m suggesting here is that the sexual culture in that region of the country may be a little different than what most folks consider normal and when it turns bad, it also happens a little differently.

When I related my story at work, it was met with disgust and contempt, only later to be generalized into a series of epithetic jokes with each being more crass and foul than the last. In a fundamentalist Christian culture, such sexually deviant behavior is considered morally repugnant on every level and for a number of reasons, despite the fact the act itself is a consensual one, between adults and occurring behind closed doors. When a guy from Ohio hoovers up a puddle of some other dude’s man-mayonnaise, he calls a nationally syndicated radio show and frankly discusses it. But if a guy from the N.C. hills ever even had the inkling that he might enjoy such a thing, he’d be on his knees begging Jesus to forgive and redeem his sinful, broken black heart. One guy feels guilty, one doesn’t. Same mouthful of sour milk bubble gum. What gives?

Back in the forties, the U.S. instituted the draft and started shuffling soldiers off to fight the Nazis. The Nazis, as we all know, we’re bulldozing their way across Europe and North Africa looting, pillaging and trucking Jews away to labor and extermination camps. The American soldiers were appalled by what they saw. The big question here is: why weren’t the German soldiers appalled as well? After all, they were tasked with doing the work and saw it much closer than anyone else. Why did the Germans not experience overwhelming guilt and simply stop the butchering? It almost seems as though the Nazis had produced some sort of psychopathic super soldiers, incapable of feeling or remorse or love, like the Terminator but with less-cool catchphrases like “Seig Heil. ” That seems unlikely, considering that psychopathy is thought to be on the rise and presently only figures at an estimated 4% of the population. Note: feel free to replace “Nazis” with any other genocidal social group, including Colonial and/or slaveholding Americans…

It’s more likely that the Nazi propaganda machine created a culture and moral structure conducive to what it intended to accomplish and left the grunt work not to clinical psychopaths, but dedicated citizens and soldiers who believed what they were doing was best for their social group, or at least doing what they could to fit in. It’s hard to feel guilt or remorse when you don’t believe you have done anything wrong to begin with. This statement is key to the understanding of how morality functions both socially and neurologically.

Conventional morality means nothing to me. I do not experience the sensation of guilt. Or remorse. I understand, concisely, the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, but I possess no innate inclination to prefer one over the other, especially when it comes to the way I relate to others, nor am I pathologically predisposed toward one over the other. In a clinically sociopathic brain, morality deals with what is best for the self. For me, right and wrong only really applies to what is either beneficial or non beneficial for me.

Most sociopaths, the ones who will speak openly, report their lack of engagement with traditional morality as an evolutionary advantage. Non-socios see it as a harmful social disorder. Fundamental religion happens to frame it as a separation from God. When I was young, attending private Baptist school, I was taught that my conscience was akin to the Holy Spirit, and that it lived in all of us. The Spirit would pack it’s bags and hit the bricks, however, if we should ask it to do so. The Spirit never “convicted” me with feelings of guilt when I was naughty, no matter how naughty, and I began to wonder if I’d asked it to leave without even realizing.

Maybe I had, but I must have been tiny when it happened. Long time readers of my blog will remember an early post (click to read this post) which depicted a four-year old Jason pitching a kitten into a red hot wood stove. While I’ve never repeated that sort of behavior in any way, I’ve never felt any sort of guilt or emotional torment as a result. The Holy Spirit has never had anything to say to me about it, although my grandma sure as hell did. What I remember clearly are the two sequential ass bustings, separated by a period of time out in the corner. That and the smell of burnt cat. That sort of thing sticks with you.

Lacking a conscience and the capacity to feel guilt, in and of itself, doesn’t make a person a monster. The smoking cat may claim otherwise, but remember that the cat is in fact smoking, which severely biases the cat’s scientific opinion. The supposed lack of conscience, in any context, serves only as a behavioral enabler and to understand it’s true implications, the very concept of morality must be reframed. Right and wrong, it seems, are not necessarily what we think and are a hell of a lot more static than we’ve ever imagined.

Most religions teach that God, besides being the Creator, is also the “law giver,” as in the decider of what is moral and what is not. In other words, the idea of conventional morality, to a believer, is a universal constant defined by a higher power. The problem with this is that the idea of right vs. wrong varies between individual cultures and according to time period. Four hundred years ago, the moral way to deal with “witches” was to crush them with large stones. While this behavior was acceptable in 17th century Christianity, it is no longer considered justifiable. In a few centuries, the dividing line between right and wrong shifted drastically. These American centuries also saw the enslavement of the black man and the genocide of the native people, all justified in the minds of the offenders by the popularized form of morality present at the time. Sometimes, religion itself was used to explicitly justify such savage offenses. In the film Django Unchained, Tarantino depicts a slaver quoting Genesis 9:2, common piece of scripture used to normalize slavery as he uses a bullwhip against another human being for breaking eggs.image

Morality, the idea of right vs. wrong, is a concept that evolves within the culture in which it presents, and nothing more. It exists as a behavioral framework that provides a consistent standard wherein people may coexist peacefully with one another. It’s the reason our societies have come so far and is absolutely necessary for the survival of our species. Morality, at its root, serves as a tool for the perpetuation of the species and therefore, must evolve with the times in order to remain effective and beneficial to the larger group.

If I experienced guilt, it would not be a feeling that I had sinned against an instituted universal order. This paradigm is no more measurable than it is tangible when considering that standard moral programming is not a feature humans are born with. What I should have experienced after I burned the cat is a form of anxiety. Things like roasting live cats are considered deviant in terms of common behaviors exhibited by the majority in a culture. Committing such acts, for most people, results in a fear of being ostracized by their social group. Morality, rather than referring to the intangible and static concepts of right and wrong, actually reflects the societal standard of normal behavior. The feeling of guilt is not related to the Holy Spirit, but is in fact a sensation of emotional displeasure experienced after behaving in such a way as to risk the security of one’s social identity and status. It’s an important tool which exists to link humans together and help them relate peacefully and harmoniously with one another.

For me, it’s not that easy. There is no little voice in my head providing an evolutionary cue as to how I should behave with regards to others. In this aspect, the anti-sociopath crowd has a point; I, and others like me, seem to be at a disadvantage when it comes to naturally fitting in with the rest of society. We are presented, as such, with a choice. A person with an antisocial personality can choose to either ignore social convention and live at will or cognitively engage the system, mimicking the moralities imposed on others, and fit in the best way possible. Or, at a bare minimum, not be burned at the stake by a bunch of pissed off villagers. While fitting in takes considerable work and finesse, it is in the ability to make this conscious choice that the sociopath derives his own evolutionary advantage.

Unconstrained by any sort of neurological directive to conform, I am free to define my own personal code of morality as I see fit. On the one hand, were I a malevolent sort of a creature, a pathologically offending victim of intense childhood trauma, then you could see how lacking this behaviorally inhibiting brain function might cause a lot of problems. But on the other, that isn’t the case at all and not only am I completely free to choose my own right from wrong, I am able to do so objectively.

For example…

I’ve done my level best to convince a close friend of mine that eating commercially processed chicken, especially from fast food joints, is socially irresponsible and perpetuates cruelty. Chickens are not protected by cruelty laws, they are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, raised in tiny boxes, cooked and sold by people not being paid enough to live, the whole spiel (read more about this here). His answer:

“The Bible says nothing you eat can defile you, only what comes out of you can defile you. And I like me some chicken.”

You don’t really see the cost of being locked into an institutionalized system of morality until you observe said behavior being framed by such a ludicrous and contextually inappropriate justification. The pathological need to be a part of a certain social structure usually serves to inhibit harmful antisocial behavior, but in this case, the behavior’s lack of significance within the moral framework only serves to perpetuate it. The social culture of Evangelical Christianity, amongst others, not only fails to identify the social issue as a problem, it draws on the Genesis 1:28 claim of man’s dominion over the Earth as justification to say nothing.

In other words, if my friend and I eat factory farmed chicken for lunch, we should both, by all rights, feel guilty for doing so. But neither of us do. He doesn’t because it’s not a part of the social-moral paradigm to which he subscribes. The Christian belief system simply doesn’t choose to prosecute the perpetuation of cruel acts against defenseless creatures as a sin…so there is no reason for him to feel guilty. I don’t feel guilty either. Not that I would have actually eaten the chicken, but it wouldn’t matter to me if I did, not from an emotional standpoint anyway. I’m free, remember, to define my own terms of morality and in this case, humanity sits in the sociopath’s corner, as does the evolutionary advantage. Think I’m full of it? Change the example of two guys eating chicken to two German soldiers in World War II arguing about how ok it was to go along with the popular Nazi definition of morality in those days.

Whether it involves torturing chickens for profit or the mass murder of millions, the implications of how a person defines what is right and what is wrong can be a very serious business, even more so if a man decides to trust another man to do his moral reasoning for him. Religious institutions, for example, provide much of our moral framework. Despite their tax-free, non-profit status, these organizations still function as bureaucracies and by their very nature, create self perpetuating ideologies which may or may not be beneficial to the overall social group. This is why the Catholic Church has been behind so much mischief, historically speaking. An institution, like a clinical sociopath, is incapable of experiencing attacks of behaviorally inhibiting conscience.

Objective morality is the middle ground between a lack thereof and that which is externally imposed, both of which result in selfishly motivated and anti social patterns of behavior. No matter who you are, building an internal moral framework which is objective and based truly upon “Do Unto Others” principles takes hard work and a discerning eye for the greater social consequences of your behavior. All of it.

Something which seems so trivial as purchasing a chicken biscuit from Chik-Fil-A should by all means be deemed socially irresponsible…immoral. A four dollar decision enables the abuse of animals for the pure selfish sake of profit margins as well as the practice of dramatically under compensating employees. It’s only four dollars, but it’s still four dollars. I can see this objectively because, ironically, I don’t have morals. Or a conscience. Or a guilt complex. The same lack of neurologically forced social engagement that let John Gacy sleep soundly atop the corpses rotting in his crawl space enables me to point a bony finger in the face of popular convention and proclaim, in the words of ultra-galactic asshole James MacDonald,

“For shame!”

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Ain’t the world a funny place?

The last thing that I killed was a dog. But don’t start hating me. Not yet at least.

I did have a good reason…

My good friend’s dog came home one day with half his shoulder peeled back. He’d been, as dogs do, fighting in the neighborhood and the dog he’d been fighting had proven himself a consistent threat. Unfettered, unneutered and untrained, that dog oversaw a loose conglomeration of mutts that gathered daily at the end of the street to chase cars and menace the neighborhood. Axel was the de facto leader of this group and he seemed to rule with an iron fist.

Axel had been a problem for some time. He’d nipped at and bitten children on several occasions. His owners refused to keep him at home, which was actually several miles away. And animal control? In the country, animal control doesn’t really exist and the sheriff’s department answers your complaint with a question:

“Do you have a gun?”

I took one look at the big, nasty flap of torn skin on the affable Lab with whom I play fetch on a near daily basis and understood what was coming. My friend, bless his soft Christian heart, just doesn’t have it in him to do what sometimes has to be done. He didn’t ask me to do it. I just did it. Call it love, possession, call it what you want…but if you fuck with one of the few people that I value, I can and will correct that behavior. Without remorse.

I remember pulling the trigger. Vividly. That kind of a killing happens, partially, in slow motion. The instant your finger wraps around the trigger, when it realizes true intent, time nearly freezes. Your heart beats in your ears. The constriction of your hand and index finger around the grip, the nanometer by nanometer movement of the trigger, it’s like time is crawling, presenting you with every opportunity to disengage from the permanence that’s coming. But it’s all a fraud…before you know it, the firing pin drops and the primer explodes. In a literal flash, time begins again.

Axel saw it coming. From about six feet away, he saw the muzzle flash and a full load of 00 Buck headed his way. I’d say that was all he saw but I seriously doubt he felt anything. 00 Buckshot is the equivalent, if you don’t know, of eight .380 handgun slugs being fired at you. Simultaneously. Axel never had a chance to feel anything.

Neither did I, for that matter. I think that’s what always really bothers me afterwards. Most people describe sensations of guilt or remorse after committing such a deed. Some people probably experience fear. A considerable number, likely more than we’d prefer to admit, feel some form of elation and a few, a small chosen few, have mind bending orgasms when they pull a trigger. Me, I experience more stimulation when I pull the mailbox door open.

It took ten seconds to toss the dead animal onto a piece of plastic in the back of my truck and away I went. Yeah. It happens that fast. No one saw me. When I flopped the plastic wrapped Chow into the big green bin at the dump, the attendant didn’t even look up. It was a good, clean killing. No mess. No witnesses. An hour later, at breakfast, my then fiancé asked if I was ok.

She knew what happened because I tell her everything. So over eggs and coffee, I told her I was fine.

And I was.

So therein lies the problem, or at least that’s what I used to think.

It’s supposed to be hard to take a life, any life, isn’t it? I’ve always interpreted that from tv and from other people, at least. A friend refused, at the last moment, to shoot the deer he’d been stalking. “I just couldn’t do it,” he said later. Guys freeze up in close combat all the time. Soldiers admit to missing intentionally. The tv protagonist, when presented an opportunity to gun down the villain, is often shown to hesitate at the last second, or even backing out entirely. Killing…violence in general…is supposed to be fucking hard.

Not so for me. My lack of personal emotional repercussions associated with such events leaves me pretty well ambivalent with regards to the commission of the act itself. I can just do it. Without hesitation and especially any sort of unnecessary reconsideration. If you hesitate, the target has a chance to move its head and you lose your opportunity. If you back out, you don’t eat venison for dinner or someone else’s dog gets the skin peeled off his shoulder. Or your six year old is scarred for life.

These days, I think it’s all about balance. I think the whole world, human society included, operates in a sort of harmony and it needs people like me to keep it in tune. Make no mistake…I’m not a pathological killer. There is no enjoyment, no stimulation, no chemical charge. The act in itself, to me, is not rewarding. But I can do it, and then eat breakfast and take a mid morning nap afterward.

When you first discover what you are actually capable of, how far you can really go, it’s a little scary. Realizing that sort of power is something that only a fool, or a true psychopath, takes lightly and I’ve always struggled with understanding it. The ability to inflict harm and pain without remorse, or fear for that matter, just didn’t seem like it could be a good thing. I always felt like something was wrong with me.

During my military years and the chaotic adjustment period that followed, I had a weird relationship with violence. The antisocial personality shit, along with a good bit of alcohol, the steady exposure to violence, testosterone and increased opportunities to engage in it made me a ticking bomb during my early and mid twenties. I treated my ability to behave violently the same way I treated the first fast car I ever owned and that car red lined in fifth gear at 168 mph. I never found my own red line. In retrospect, I consider my experiences in the service as a series of experiments in violence, sanctioned by both society and the state. Legal wise, it was all ok.

In the time thereafter, I found it difficult to disengage and slipped into a pattern of criminal behavior. Engaging in violence had not necessarily become pleasurable, but it had become habitual. Fucking shit up was normal behavior and, all of the sudden, it wasn’t, so what had been considered normal in that world was, even in the criminal subculture with which I began to experiment, extreme. And sort of profitable. I guess.

But it didn’t last. Violence doesn’t fit well within many social constructs. It almost always attracts other, more violent behavior, the same way Axel attracted me. And for that matter, the same way I attracted two well armed gentlemen in Juarez who effectively ended my criminal career by nearly ending me.

That’s balance. And the world needs balance.

There always needs to be somebody bigger. Somebody meaner. Somebody willing to go a step further with a pair of pliers in order to make the point that it’s not ok to use pliers and other assorted hand tools on other living creatures. It keeps the rest of us honest.

What the Columbine kids did wasn’t ok, not by any means, but it gives kids who like to bully other kids something real to consider. Frame by frame.

That’s also balance. It’s fucked up. But it’s balance.

I tend to avoid violence these days. I hadn’t even thought about the Axel incident in over a year until a couple of days ago when my Christian friend randomly thanked me. Apparently, his children had said something to him about feeling safer in the neighborhood since Axel disappeared. For a moment or so, I felt like a lost puzzle piece that had fallen into place.

I still do, sort of. It’s not possible for me to ever really, truly, fit in to a social group. I can make believe or play monkey see-monkey do and I do a damn good job, but it’s all for show and ultimately, it’s all for me. So the incident with Axel, for me, was monumental.

For once, a negative behavioral trait I carry and engage naturally served as cause for my puzzle piece to truly fit in somewhere, even if it was in a dark corner. I’d like to fit in all the time, but I know that’s not really possible and I’m definitely not seeking out similar opportunities. It was nice though, if only for a moment, to feel like I actually belonged.

When I wake up in ten days, I’ll be married. First time. Last time. Only time. And I’m good with it. I’m taking a lot of flak around work for it. It’s good natured and well intended flak (at least I think it is) but it’s flak nevertheless and it’s all coming from the married guys. “You’re in your thirties. You’ve held out for so long. Why now!? Why!?” “When I was you’re age, I just wanted to eat her up. Now, I’m 61 and I wish to hell I had.” And of course my favorite: “Say goodbye to your sex life…it won’t come home with you after the honeymoon!” Maybe they know something I don’t. What I do know is that the clock is tick tick ticking and I have yet to write my vows. It’s not for lack of trying, that’s for sure. I sit down…I start…and nothing comes. Do you remember “Mini Thins?” They were OTC diet pills sold at gas stations in the 90s – legal speed, basically. When you ate too many, you could feel your hair grow. Seriously. They also made you feel like you really had to pee but when you’d lock and load on the nearest tree, nothing happened. It’s like that. There are no words spewing towards the screen at full force, hitting and splattering everywhere, pooling into a puddle of sheer marital perfection. Nope. Not even a trickle. Hell, I’d settle for a leaked drop in the old skivvies after giving up and putting everything away but, alas, it ain’t happening. I guess I don’t really know what to say. Or what I’m supposed to say rather. I’ve only, after all, seen three weddings. One was last week. The preacher spoke all the vows and if I know anything for sure, it’s that Adam and Eve have nothing to do with marriage vows and if I mention anything about anyone having to obey anyone, the deal will be off. The other two were in American Wedding and Bridesmaids, respectively. Something tells me I shouldn’t consider the Jason Biggs character as a role model, of any sort, that I’d be better off finding a Mad Libs Wedding Vow edition. To be completely truthful, some part of my brain, at least for a second, actually gave serious consideration to the Mad Lib plan. Maybe I’ll file it under Plan C, the obvious path to take when Plans A and B either fail dismally or never get made to begin with. It’s not looking good for me. I even looked up the definition of vow. I’m that guy. From what I discovered, I’m either making a solemn promise or giving myself up to some dreadfully repressive sort of religious monkery. Depending on a particular persons perspective, like the guys at work, it could be both. I suspect, however, that I should refrain from shaving my head bald, chanting, abstaining from sex and showing up at public events barefoot and bathrobed. And intentionally setting myself on fire. At least until after the wedding…and definitely not during. It does make sense that the wedding vow is a promise that one person makes to another, or rather, a set of promises that two people make to each other. That was basically what the preacher said except he wrote the promises himself and my two friends simply agreed to them. That seems entirely irrational to me. Considering that wedding vows are, for the most part, a binding legal contract that you only get one shot at and that there are no established provisions for negotiation of terms, I think I damn well better write my own. God only knows what a preacher might sign me up for. Maybe it should read like a disclaimer or a warning label on a pack of cigarettes. After all, I’m supposed to lack the mental capacity to experience things like love and I am, according to some people, devoid of any sort of conscience and capable of nearly anything. All this could be true, but I just wish I was as capable of composing wedding vows as I am of being a colossal prick whenever I choose to be such. I could just make some shit up. I excel at that, at least. Instead of creating something real, I could just create something touching that makes everyone cry. I could probably even cry myself. But, that simply won’t do, even someone as disconnected as I am can understand that. Following the definition of “solemn promise,” it seems that vows need to be composed in a way that communicates one persons feelings toward and devotion to another person. And they need to be honest…not just an honesty that feels right at the moment, but one that I am, ultimately, capable of living up to. Holy smoking gorilla shit Batman, I think I’ve just had one of those epiphanies. From what I can make out, wedding vows exist as a pledge to maintain and continue a specified set of behavioral patterns – consistently throughout the marriage. So, like I said, they need to be based upon expectations that I have the capacity realize in my life. So here goes… I promise: to be both supportive and faithful to engage you with honesty (except when I know I’m not supposed to) to protect you from harm (this includes not hurting you) to recognize and engage your needs/feelings in my decision making processes to hold you in higher regard than all others to maintain a willingness to place your needs above my own and respect your boundaries to respect your personal identity and encourage your growth as an individual to recognize the individuality of the marriage itself and nurture it’s growth to maintain a culture of emotional stability and openness/awareness and this last one is going to be the hardest: to not sneak up behind you, make a buzzing sound in your ear, jam my thumb in the crack of your butt before screaming “CARPENTER BEE” and running away, laughing like a mad man. I think that’s a good beginning. I also think it’s a high standard to set for anyone, much less a guy with a limbic system that only fires on two cylinders. Of all the married people I know, none of them are meeting my list ten out of ten. I think if they were, mutually, they wouldn’t have the problems that they tell me about and that I see. Marriage, just like any relationship I expect, needs more than just love or affection in order to be successful. It needs a code and the code needs to be followed. This is where wedding vows come in and why it’s so important, at least in my case, to create and take ownership of the guidelines of how I will interact with my wife for, well, forever. It’s a big deal, for me. As for her, all these things come naturally; she doesn’t need two stone tablets filled with little rules to keep her honest and upright. Things like that are usually only needed by early child sacrificing Hebrews and sociopaths. Me…I need that shit. Or rather, she needs this from me, the same way the rest of the world needs me to follow the “no violence rule.” I’ve been violence-free for going on 12 years now, by the way. A man, especially a man such as myself, has got to have a code.