Ross Hickerson

My Grandfather Explains A Killing
it ain’t so much that it’s murder.
sometimes you just have to take
care of your own. this was away
back in ’55 maybe ’57.
i wasn’t more than your age, and no
i didn’t want to do it.

rebel, he was a good dog
sometimes they just go bad.
never know why really
ain’t no use tryin’ to figure it out.
it’s what they are.

like i said i was maybe your age when I trained
that dog from a pup sit stay lie down roll over
and he listened but he was wild.
I remember one time I’d been out in the field
gleanin’ corn, and I sure as shit dropped
my wallet and hell if I hadn’t been headed
to the bank. that’s near a thousand dollars
gone off somewhere in 60 acres
and here come sunset.
your grandmother cried like to break her eyes

me, i was sittin’ at the table
lookin’ at my hands and damned
if here don’t reb come trottin’ up to the door
with that wallet right there in his mouth.

so when the sheep bones started showin’ up
well I thought it was coyotes didn’t i?

now, sorensons up the road mighta been no better’n
a bunch of dumb swedes but they had to eat
same as we did and when bob come askin’ if
i knew what was happening to his livestock
i told him maybe i’d seen some coyotes
and bones drug round the farm,
and we trapped us some.
thought that was the end of it.

i don’t recall what it was
exactly that set me off.
maybe it was the way he grabbed
that knucklebone with his head down mean
like i was gonna take it from him
like he’d maybe fight me if I tried
but i got to thinkin’. i knew you see
there had only been sheep carcass on our farm
and i knew if bob figured it out
i’d be payin’ him back til God only knows.

so i got me a chain, and i looped it
around old reb’s neck, and I hauled him
out behind the shed ‘n’ he whined
fit to kill me. it hurt me
puttin’ a collar on that dog
but it’s what you do.
couldn’t let it keep on couldn’t pay bob back
sure as shit can’t give no killer away.
so i go on back to the house grab the .22
and when i come back rebel
he thinks we’re goin’ huntin’ and i tell him
sit lie down stay ‘n’ he does
just as neat as you please.

you know what i thought about?
killin’ chickens. ain’t the same thing,
not like you’re thinkin’ but what i remembered
while i was lookin’ full bore down at him
tryin’ to nerve myself up into the doin’ of it
was how he come runnin’
when the chickens started cluckin’
and how he got his head
between my leg and my hand
and how he’d lick on me
with the blood all up my elbows.

i shot that dog right then
and i didn’t wait a second longer
because what i’d been lookin’ for
was a way to make it his fault.

maybe it ain’t that they go bad.
maybe we just didn’t know
what we were doin’ bringin’ ‘em in
with us like we did.

some things
wild things

they weren’t made for bein’ gentle.

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