The Man

He kills a butterfly when he is only an infant: wing in each fatty hand, a gentle tearing, a crush of the skull with the heel of his palm; the colors of it go away, are just so much brown mush streaked across his hands and face and lips. He kills a troop of black ants by dumping dirt down its hole; rasps a Sketcher across the dirt. He kills three frogs by taking his mother’s Callaway driver and swinging it into the marsh beyond their backyard and sending the three things flying up into the air, like lobbed grenades, like green and red fireworks. He kills his father’s heart when he tells his father he hates him, hates his guts, wishes he were dead. He kills his mother’s heart when he says he wishes he himself was dead. He kills the birch tree outside his window by taking a machete to its trunk and leaving it half-cleaved, splintered and leaning, like a fractured bone held together by sinew; he watches the tree from his window, for days, for many days, watches it lean, with the wind, with gravity, watches it bow earthward, toward his window, in deference. He kills an opossum with his truck, hits the front of it and snaps its neck, and he brakes his car and parks and gets out and looks at it, lying on the ground, front half curled backward, spine like a parenthesis marking.

He kills a soda can on a park bench, crushes it, mightily, in his fist, talking to a woman. He kills the engine on a bluff overlooking the city and she leans into him. He kills the lights. He kills his wedding vows. He kills the bad guys in a video game with his son, shoots them in the head, the chest, the groin. He kills his son, tickles his son until he says stop it I’m gonna pee. He kills his job, walks right out the front door one day with his belongings in a little cardboard box, turns in the parking lot and makes a gun with his forefinger and his thumb and shoots out the windows of the office. He kills his son and his wife and they kill him back because of what he’s done. He kills himself struggling to find a new job, kills his job interview. He kills his son sending him off to college. He kills his back shoveling snow year after year. He kills his knees running and jogging and then giving it up and then trying again. He kills his heart and his brain and his liver. He kills himself in a dream, where the house is on fire, and his wife and son are charred badly by flames but are still begging for help, and he cannot bear the sight of their black lips, their deflated eyes. He—an old, old man now, very pale, spotted, bald, hunched, withered, forlorn—almost kills a deer when he is out driving late at night, but he cannot bear to kill this, too, and he brakes, and fishtails all over the road, and the trees rear up before him, and the deep, deep ditch throws itself at him, and his life really does pass before his eyes, and he sees all that he has done, and he doesn’t know what any of it means—and the car comes to a screeching stop just at the edge of the ditch; and the deer, a doe, belly full with new life, stops, just at the edge of the trees, and looks back, as if it might have known the old man in some other life, and then it turns and bounds off into the trees and the dark.