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Poetry #317
(published February 15, 2007)
Killing Season
by Charles P. Ries
I did what I had to do. I had no choice. I was the son of the man
who raised them. From kittens in May to an early death in November.
Our mink dressed the fashion elite. We cared for our animals like
they were our furred children.

We gave them a good short life and a quick painless death. We'd drop
them like quarters into a wooden box containing cyanide powder and
wait a few minutes until they expired, slowly, silently, into eternal sleep.

We didn't always kill them that way. We used to break their necks.
But it took a big man many hours to break 10,000 necks each pelting
season. So we changed with the times and went with cyanide.
This allowed me, at fourteen, to become the chief executioner.

I wasn't thoughtless. It never became like breathing or picking corn.
I'd run wheel barrows full in to my father who peeled their skin off and
readied them for New York furriers who'd select the best for full length coats.

My prolific ability at killing 40,000 mink over four seasons left me hanging
when I filed for Conscientious Objector status with my draft board. They
asked me, "If you had no qualms about killing thousands of mink, how come
you have a moral problem with killing the enemies of your country? I mean,
killing is killing, ain't it son? Aren't you just a natural born killer?"

The purity of their logic confused me. I had always been an absolutist, like
those Jain monks who see God in an ant. Who, when inadvertently stepping
on a beetle see a sentient being crushed to death.

If I could kill mink, why not men?

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