Posted 01-28-2004 at 18:22:27
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Brutus, the dwarf billy was being his normal obstinate self this afternoon, breaking out, and getting into mischief. After we fed everybody and got everything else done, Fred and I caught him and set about putting him into the south pasture where he can't possibly get out.
Rather than having to open the gate and deal with the electric fenceline, we decided to drop him gently over the fence. We were just easing him over when Jake came walking up from the woods with his rifle. He glanced at us, and then headed to the house to put his gun away.
"Hang on there a minute Jake, don't go anywhere."
Fred said, and then, "You see anything?"
"Nah. Nothing in the trap, either." Jake said. "Hang on for what? You need my help? Cause I was gonna..."
"Nope." Fred interrupted him. "I need your gun." He said, his eyes trained on Brutus.
"Huh? What for?"
I was listening to this exchange with only half an ear, struggling with my end of that nasty stinking little billy goat, thinking that he was just horsing around, threatening to put Brutus out of our misery. His answer knocked the wind right out of me.
"I have to shoot Clementine."
It wasn't so much his answer that caught me off guard, as he had been threatening to do it for quite some time. It was the conviction behind it that made me feel as though I had been punched in the stomach.
"Shoot....shoot Clemetine? You're going to shoot her?" I asked. "Right now? Right this minute?"
"Yep. I should have done it a long time ago and out of fairness to her, I can't put it off any longer. It was bad enough when she was just not gaining weight, but I noticed that everything she eats lately, she throws up. I suspect she may have cancer or something else that we can't fix. We've done everything humanly possible to help her. It's time."
Brutus was over the fence now. My throat was closing up so I couldn't speak, and my heart was thudding dully in my chest. Wait. Wait a minute! Clementine is my blue-eyed baby! She was our number one sow, way back at the start. She was the beginning of our dream to raise show pigs. She was, and this is the truth, the pig who taught me most of what I know about pigs, and she was no less a part of Fred's life than mine, and I wondered where he got the strength to even think about doing such a thing, even though she is gravely ill and it has been obvious for a while that both of us had been selfishly, quietly, waiting for her to die on her own.
"Do you want me to do it?" Jake asked, his face calm and serious.
"Yes." Fred said. "I would like you to do it, but your mother wouldn't. To tell you the truth son, I would rather take a beating right here and now, than have to shoot that pig. It tears me up to have to do it, but it's the right thing to do."
"Why doesn't she want me to do it?" Jake asked, perplexed. I stood there like a dummy and let them talk about me like I wasn't there. All I could think about was not seeing Clementine looking up at me with her beautiful blue eyes anymore. Ever.
"Because she's told me that she doesn't want you to always be put in the position of the 'executioner'."
"But...it doesn't bother me." Jake replied.
"I know, and I think that's what worries her."
"No, what I mean is...I don't, you know, care about her like you guys do."
What he was saying is that he didn't have the emotional investment in Clementine that Fred and I had. What he was saying, was that to him she was just another pig, just like the ones he had been hunting in the woods not a half hour ago. What he was saying is that he could do it and it wouldn't break his heart. It made sense to me, what he was saying.
I found myself leaning towards his suggestion. Fred is a strong man. Both emotionally and physically and I knew he could do it, would do it, and do it well, and would go on with his life being satisfied that he had made the right decision because by now, he had reached a point where he was doing it solely to put her out of her misery. It was no longer about us, or the show pigs she would never have. It wasn't even about how much he hated doing it. It was purely about Clementine, and ending her suffering.
"Are you sure, son?" I asked. "Are you sure you can do it, and do it properly? It has to be fast, I don't want her to suffer any more."
"Mom....I kill hogs all the time. I think I can get it done."
I just shook my head.
"It's between you and your father. You know if I thought I could do it right, I would do it myself."
That wasn't the biggest lie I had ever told, but dam close to it, and it didn't hold any water with either Fred or Jake.
I turned on my heel and headed for the house. I was half way across the yard when I started bawling. I let myself into the house and went directly to the television and turned it up, then I stood right beside it, my fingers plugging my ears, waiting, tears running down my face. I had known this was coming, losing my darling Clementine, but I like Fred had been hoping that it would come naturally, not violently.
Jenny came in right behind me.
"Is it done? Is it over?" I asked. She just shook her head gravely.
"I'm being ridiculous!" I said.
I turned down the television and went to the kitchen, where I started cutting up chicken for supper. The sound of the shot couldn't have been any louder if I had been standing right there at Clementine's pen. There was another shot immediately following the first, and then silence. It was good. I couldn't have stood it if I had heard Clementine cry out, but I didn't. It was over. Nonetheless, the tears just kept coming.
Jake came in several minutes later to wash his hands and I put my hand on his back as he stood over the sink.
"Thank you son."
He didn't say anything, and it was then that I knew that he had been the one who finally pulled the trigger. Fred had allowed him to do that, but he had stood at his side when he did it. Just to be there, and to make sure that it was done right, which is a he11 of a lot more than I could have done.