It wasn’t a pretty death. But it seldom is.
Kenton lived just up the road from where we moved to Moorelands. We faced Hale’s Passage, and Kenton lived on Horsehead Bay. It was a long ways to go from his house to mine on the water, but only a short walk overland. That was backwards from the way most things were around Gig Harbor. We played together for only a few months. His folks got a divorce and lost their home on that beautiful bay, and Kenton had to move away.
Kenton had BB guns, and I loved to run up there so that I could shoot them with him. We would practice shooting all kinds of things: targets, cans, mostly. Then I shot a robin.
It’s not easy to hit a bird as small as a robin, especially with a BB gun. It was probably a lucky shot, in that sort of way. I was as surprised as anyone that I hit it.
Otherwise, it wasn’t so lucky. The robin startled from the fence, It half flew, half fluttered, onto the side of the road. I went over to it. It was bleeding, like the crow my father had shot. Only the robin wasn’t dead.
At that point, I had no idea what to do. Didn’t things die when you shot them? This was not the way it was supposed to work. I had to do something. So I pumped up the B gun and shot it again. At point blank range.
The bird jolted, and started to bleed more. But it didn’t die. I shot it again. It writhed. I shot it again. It started to bleed from it’s beak. And again. Each time it didn’t die. And again. I was getting desperate.
I should have picked it up and wrung its neck. That would have been the right thing to do, but I didn’t have the guts then to touch it. I should have stepped on it and crushed out it’s life. I should have done something that worked. But it was as if, without the gun working, I was helpless. I just kept shooting until, finally, a slow bubble of blood came up from its beak and it was dead. I didn’t shoot BB guns any more.
Seven or eight years later, Todd and Bod and I were driving. I think it may even have been our comical four wheeling episode where we ended up in the back yard of some poor s.o.b. mowing his lawn. We were coming up Harborview, and saw a plume of dust and smoke. A car had gone off the road, down a bank, and was resting in a mangled heap in someone’s front yard.
We pulled over, and rushed down with a few others who had also witnessed the accident. Four of our classmates, two girls and two guys who were a few years older than us and drunk out of their minds, had come down the hill past Stroh’s way too fast to make the turn onto Harborview and had flipped over. The driver was screaming, out of the car. The two girls, faces dirtying with dust and blood were in a heap in the front. Their other friend was writhing in the back seat.
We got the girls out the front, but the car was too mangled to get to the guy in the back seat and we didn’t know if we could move him. It was pretty easy to tell, from his crushed face and the broken windshield, that he (like the rest) hadn’t been wearing a seatbelt. He had flown forward, struck the mirror and window, and then collapsed back into the back seat. He looked real bad.
Suddenly two paramedics were there. “We gotta get him out,” one said grimly, and we all pitched in. He climbed in the car and began trying to give the guy mouth-to-mouth while we tried to pass his body out the broken rear door window. He kept at it all the way until we lowered the guy to the ground. But there was no way to get air into that body. “His chest is crushed,” he said, wiping the blood from his face, “I can’t get anything in.” A slow, dark bubble of blood, already black from oxidation, grew on the guy’s lips, just like the robin. It popped, ever so gently, and that was it. “There’s nothing,” said the paramedic, “We can do.”
I really didn’t see much of Kenton, after he moved, until many years later when his mom moved into the duplex that next to where I was building a home on Burley Lagoon. She babysat Kenton’s daughter, and I got to re-know Kenton a bit when he came over to pick her up. He was driving truck for a large construction company. I needed fill dirt for the back lot where I wanted to build a small barn and garage some day, but couldn’t afford it. One day, dump truck load after dump truck load of fill began appearing in the back. There was probably a couple of hundred yards. Kenton appeared in one of the trucks. He needed to get rid of the fill from a job, he said, and I was closer than the place they usually took it; a straight shot, in fact. It was a favor for old times, I suppose. Old Gig Harbor ties run pretty strong among people who grow up there.
Kenton died soon thereafter, his dark, red, blood wrung out when his leukemia came out of remission. I’ve always felt bad that I couldn’t, somehow, acknowledge what he did for me. But now I have.
Shortly after that, I went through a divorce. I lost my home on the water, and had to move away. Strange symmetries crop up everywhere if you just look hard enough. I suppose they probably mean nothing.