In my mind’s eye, I see a grassy field and a nearby forest. I look up and see a cloudless blue sky.
I open my eyes and see, on a shelf of DVDs by my TV, a photo of my smiling cousin, David, back when he was in his mid-twenties.
I close my eyes and see that field of grass and those nearby trees again. I’m riding a horse, feeling the bumps as it walks. I look behind me and see my father’s palace. I see him and my stepmother out there in the yard.
I also see David, about his age as in the photo (meaning I’m about that age, too, since our births were within weeks of each other). He’s behind me, riding his own horse and smiling at me, again, the same way he did in that photo.
He’s taking me hunting; I’ve never done it before, so he’s teaching me how.
An odd thing about our weapons: sometimes, they’re bows and arrows; sometimes, they’re rifles.
I look back at our home. Instead of seeing a palace this time, I see a rich man’s estate. I continue with David towards the forest…this time, not on horses, but in a car.
We reach the edge of the forest and get out of the car. I look back at our home and see the palace. Instead of rifles, we have bows and arrows again. Instead of a car, I see our horses, tied to a tree.
We look up at that beautiful blue sky and see two birds flying overhead.
“Now’s our chance, Sid,” David says, pointing his rifle up at them. “Shoot! Let’s see who hits one first.”
I raise my rifle up and shoot, as does he. We see two arrows flying up at the birds; we have bows in our hands again.
His arrow misses the bird he was aiming for; my arrow goes right through the chest of my bird. It falls to the ground, a few feet in front of me. We run over to it.
“Good shooting,” David says coolly, with what I suspect is a hint of envy. “Beginner’s luck.”
I look down at the dead bird, and instead of seeing an arrow through it, I see a bloody hole where a bullet pierced it. My shaking hands are holding a rifle, not a bow.
I see the beauty of the bird and remember its pretty singing before I shot it. I frown and feel a tear running down my cheek.
“My goodness, you’re a sensitive one, aren’t you, Sid?” David asks with a sneer. “Quite an emotional guy.”
“Yeah, I suppose so,” I tell him, almost sobbing, and now holding the dead bird in my hands. “Let’s go back inside. I don’t want to kill anything anymore.”
“I didn’t come out here for nothing, Sid,” he says, now pointing a bow and arrow up in the air. I see him aiming again at that bird he missed.
“No, David!” I shout, grabbing at his arms, so when he shoots, the arrow misses.
“Hey, Sid!” he shouts, scowling at me. “What’s the matter with you! If you don’t wanna hunt, go home. I don’t care. But let me target what I wanna hit, OK?” He has a rifle now.
“No,” I insist with teary eyes. “One should be a targeter of enlightenment, of bliss, of happiness, not a targeter of animals.”
David laughs at my softheartedness, aims, and shoots at the bird.
(I hear a loud shot, open my eyes, and remember the civil war outside my window. The fighting must be getting closer to my home. I close my eyes in fear, in spite of my drugs’ numbing of it.)
David has hit the bird, and we see it fall to the grass just before our feet. It has an arrow through its chest.
I pick up the bird. With two dead birds in my hands, I feel even more tears flowing from my eyes.
“What a saint you must be, Sid,” David says with another sneer.
I open my eyes and look at his photo on my shelf. Then I look down at my coffee table, with the marijuana, my glass of bourbon, the ecstasy pills, and lines of ketamine all over it.
The shooting and bombs dropping outside, which indeed seem louder and closer, continue.
“The last thing I am is a saint,” I muse in slurred words.