On Killing and then Writing
May 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
This sounds like a fun, exciting post!
I just want to say quickly that quite a few more people read this than I expected. I’ve had about 100 people view the site in the last 5 days, which considering I’m advertising this in 2 places and just started this a few weeks ago, makes me extraordinarily happy. So thank you, and I hope you’re enjoying it so far.
Now on to the killing.
Killing? John, I thought this was a happy, sunshine-filled blog that farted rainbows and leprechaun rainbows?
That it is, but it’s also a place where I get to ruminate about what I do and write what I think. And I think that killing things is very, very weird.
A mouse was hanging around my house on Thursday in the middle of the day, which isn’t a weird sight in and of itself. I live near to a park and small ravine, so we occasionally get wildlife in the vein of turtles, foxes, woodpeckers, and the ever-present raccoons (how I hate them with all the fibres of my being). Seeing a mouse is common but not usually in the middle of the day. Now, I’m no vet, but I saw the House episode about rabies. I got my cane and caustic wit, and investigated.
By high afternoon it was clear he was sick. We figured he had been poisoned (Not by us. We have Ornery Bastard to deal with rodents) because he wasn’t bothered by me when I walked up to him. Reduced awareness is apparently a symptom of rat poison, and the fact he didn’t move in 6 hours suggests something was wrong or he was Nature’s Worst Rodent. Nor did he seem to be doing well in the grand sense of the word. We first saw him at around 11am, and by 4pm he had collapsed and was breathing shallowly. At that point, I had to make a choice.
We have a cat and a bird feeder in the backyard. Not only is our cat (The Ornery Bastard) an outdoor cat who occasionally eats mice, we’ve got the aforementioned foxes and the occasional hawk (not bad for Toronto, eh?). As much as I don’t want mice eating poison, which, though I won’t get into here, I believe is a cruel way to kill rodents, I certainly don’t want the Bastard and hawks eating it. Not being versed in rodent medicine, I decided I would kill it. It seemed to be the best way.
Have you ever held a life in your hand, been able to look at it and have it look back at you, and know you were going to end it? It’s very, very strange because it’s so hard. The mouse wasn’t big, maybe the length of my middle finger and completely unresponsive in my (gloved) hand, but it was alive.
And then I did something to it and it wasn’t.
It was very, very strange. It wasn’t sadness, though there was some regret at the necessity, in the end I am convinced it was the right thing to do, nor was it joy, because I didn’t exactly want to do it; it was, I think, a reminder that death and life are real things. They exist even if I rarely see them for what they are, and when one is true the other is not and cannot be. Until it is, and then you are left and you know that you killed something and it can’t come back. I guess it’s a little like having a baby. There isn’t anything there, just a big belly and someone who has been angry for 9 months and them all of a sudden you’re holding a baby and despite the 9 months you have no idea how it got there. How you went from nothing to something. Or, how you went from something to nothing.
It wasn’t a feeling that filled me up like happiness, nor was it something that emptied me out like depression, but there was definitely something there.
Something very, very strange.
I now understand a little about how my friend, who works in a lab and routinely has to kill dozens of mice, feels. Killing doesn’t feel bad per se, but it makes you feel something inside you. Something not entirely pleasant.
Disclaimer: the death was as humane as I could make it. I’m not in the business of being cruel to anyone but my characters.
And now, to writing!
I’m currently working on a submission for Machine of Death 2 (MOD2), which I highly advise anyone who enjoys writing to attempt. As a novelist and essayist who’s used to scholarly work (that I can’t wait to finish) and novels (that go on and on an on an on an on), it’s a hilariously fun exercise in writing short and sweet. I’m not used to every word and every letter being important, and it’s fun to be in a situation where it is. I have a cool story idea and characters that are really coming to life after only 1,500 words. It’s set in 1910’s Berlin, and is a crime drama that I’m so close to finalizing the plot on. Oh yeah, and I’m on a timetable and nearly done.
So why the hell do I want to work on everything but this story?
Goddamn writer’s block. And this is why I want to get a job as a writer somewhere, so when my boss lights his cigar with my paycheck and sits on my desk, obviously annoyed but not willing to show it, and asks for my x000 words of copy, I better have things to show him. As it is, I’m my own boss, and I lack gratuitous 20s to light my non-existant cigars with.
But hey, that means I’m technically upper management. Take that, Schulich school of business!