If you want to know about a seminal event in my young life, there is one that I only vaguely remembered, until just now, probably because it is still too horrifyingly bizarre to admit as real - but it was all too real.
I was not quite a teenager when walking along a road in Glenwood Landing on Long Island, situated near the head of Heapstead Harbor on the the northern coast of the island, I heard a small russling sound from some tall grasses that I was passing, and turned to look.
What I saw was a pathetic excuse for a small bird that was clearly in distress. As I looked and neared the terrified thing, it became clear that it had its wings, and one leg cut off, along with most of its feathers, not with any surgical precision. The bird had also been smeared with something like tar, shivered, and made almost no sound at all. The strange thing was that the bird actually approached me, and seemed almost to look into my eyes. Without even thinking, I bent down and put my hand in its erratic path.
I had no idea at all of what was or had happened, but didn't want to scare it. As I remained prefectly still, the little bird stumbled into my hand. Rightly, or wrongly, I folded my fingers gently around its body, and could feel the rapid beating of its heart. Even in that act of putting itself in my hand, the bird was clearly terrified.
Then, when it was so close to me, did I see the slender steel spike that protruded from its open beak. Still having no idea, I carefully pulled the spike out, and discovered that the steel spike was actually a hat pin that had been forced down the bird's throat, and that it had been choking the bird to death. That all this had been done deliberately to this little bird became instantly obvious.
I had never imagined such deranged cruelty in my life. I didn't know whether to cry or scream - and did neither, being paralyzed by my own emotions. For a short time, I figured, delusionally that I had saved its life, but the pounding of its little heart increased and then, suddenly, stopped. I have no idea how long I crouched there with its lifeless, but still warm form in my hand, having no idea what to do.
Then, I cried - and screamed - with a terror and despair that I can never really describe. Eventually, I buried my short term friend, along with the hat pin that I could no longer bear to see or hold.
I simply could not imagine that anyone could do such a thing then - until I later discovered history, religions, governments and the US government in particular. The normality of it all has not ever given me much solace or made the suffering of that poor little bird less than what it was for me then.
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