I was eleven. My father and Dr. Jackson took their sons pheasant hunting.

Dad and Dr. Jackson were about forty yards away in the Autumn stubble of a corn field. A pheasant took flight. They aimed and fired and missed. The pheasant flew toward me. I led it a few feet ahead in my sight and pulled the trigger. The pheasant went limp in the air. I felt an ancient exultation.

But in the two seconds it took the shot pheasant to plummet earthward, then thud against the ground, dead, I experienced an inner transformation of 10,000 years. That feathered thing of air fell down, but I was falling too, from power to grief to shame...

Yes, I was only eleven. But I pledged to my secret heart that I would never use a gun again. I have not told this story until now.

I'm sorry. Forgive me. Thank you.

Painting: Dead Pheasant, J.M.W. Turner

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