I'm a vegetarian. I don't like to kill living things. Honestly, I don't even like to kill plants if I can avoid it.
As far as food is concerned, I shop at the grocery store. I buy my vegetables butchered and frozen.
If I do have to kill a plant, I do it quickly, so that it's as painless as possible--painless, that is, for me.
Sometimes, when I take a shortcut, I feel guilty for not using the sidewalk. There's no telling how many lives I've taken.
Last year my wife and I moved into a foreclosed house with an unkempt yard and an already dying apple tree. At first glance, the apple tree was clearly in trouble. One whole side of the tree was already rotten, and the neighbors assured me that the apples hadn't been any good in years.
There was no doubt about it: the apple tree had to go. Nervously I thought, "I wonder if it knows what's coming?"
Over the next couple of months, we trimmed branches off the tree to burn in the fireplace. We thought it might make cutting the tree down a little easier, but I secretly considered it a form of torture. I was disgusted, but I told myself that I was just cutting the limbs off a corpse.
One afternoon in spring I walked into the backyard and couldn't believe my eyes. Most of the tree was dead, but part of one side had bloomed. It was alive.
The pink blooms were beautiful. Although pitiful, the tree was beginning a new phase. I wanted it dead, but it wanted to be alive. The guilt flooded back. "Had I acted too rashly in deciding to get rid of it?" I wondered. "Was there a way to undo what I had begun?" Could I nurse this dying tree back to health and somehow make this right?"
I was kidding myself. There was no going back. The tree was still alive, but it was going to die. I had to accept that.
The experience must have hardened me. I began weeding.
I weeded obsessively, but no matter how much I weeded, I couldn't get ahead. The weeds just kept popping up, and I was far outnumbered. The guilt over the apple tree had long since faded, and now I found myself filled with anger.
And then it hit me. If I couldn't do this by hand, I needed herbicide.
The first dozen plants or so came easy. I just poured the solution on them and over the course of a day or two watched them wilt into oblivion. After a few days, I had more or less taken care of my weed problem. They were all dead or dying. Nonetheless, I found myself wandering aimlessly through the backyard in search of something to kill. It was so easy and so gratifying. I couldn't get enough.
Within a few weeks, I even found myself sneaking into my neighbor's yard just to kill a few weeds. I had the perfect view from my kitchen window to watch them die. Out of fear of getting caught, I started taking the poison to the park with me. I kept it in a plastic water bottle in the car.
One day when I reached for the water bottle, it was missing. Trying to be discrete, I asked my wife if she had seen it. "Oh yeah," she said apologetically, "I meant to tell you that I used it the other day to water the lilies in the pot out front. It was just a used bottle, right? Do you want me to grab you another one at the store?" I was stunned. The lilies had less than 24 hours to live, and I had to find the courage to tell my wife that I was their killer.
It was a long night. She said she still loved me but she didn't trust me. She said I disgusted her. Within a month, she moved out. She didn't want to be with me, and she certainly didn't want the house. Honestly, I didn't want it either.
It's been several months since I've cut the grass or poisoned a weed. I haven't killed again, as far as I know. I'm thinking of planting a new apple tree later this year. The only problem is: I'll have to kill again to do it.