I admit the title My Brother Killing Shit is more of typical brotherly piss-take – an excuse to post childhood pictures of my bro which I know will annoy him. It possibly started much further back.
Years after I renounced my own killing ways (and now carrying a pristine vegetarian constitution) I enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts degree specialising in Culture & Communication. In Film & Television 102 a media case study was recounted to the class involving a conscientious young couple who wanted to raise their two sons outside the vitiable influences of media and modern culture. So they relocated the family to some godforsaken little lighthouse island on the Outer Hebrides or some other uninhabitable place.
There the couple’s two young boys grew to a jocular age free of electricity and television, news broadcasts tolling a fresh gruesome list of daily events, ultraviolent comics, internet hardcore porn, and toy stores selling fun shit like lightsabers, cap guns, water pistols, gings and an arsenal of Nerf weaponry.
Then one day the mother (indubitable a child psychologist or some other unorthodox quack of academia) famously observed her sons outside playing Cowboys and Indians with bent sticks for side arms and short bows.
Without a lick of tender violence from a bloodied reckoning on print or screen, and with no exposure to other people beyond the monthly mail and supply vessel, the boys still exhibited fabled roles and cultural stereotypes that their methodical and irrational parents were trying their hardest to eschew.
The experiment albeit somewhat flawed, demonstrates how pervasive and imperceptible cultural influences can be. So growing up killing shit it’s very difficult to discern what elements of motivation are cultural, innate, paternal approbation, or brotherly encouragement.
And seeing my brother kill shit usually made me want to copy him but look better doing it.
My first memory of killing something (and feeling bad) was a dragonfly. I beat the mechanical life out of it with the plastic top to our top-loading washing machine that mum left out by the clothes line.
I justified it by convincing myself it could hurt me. It had majestic glass-blown colours of red candy and green-gold that adhered to Nature’s colour code of avoidance, like all the other bitey, stingy, poison-pumping arthropods living in the backyard. And it emitted a hum more sinister than a wasp. Last time I broke the treaty was over a bee the previous autumn. Despite being devoured alive by a poppy-seed roll of ants, he still managed to plunge his protective sting into my thumb like a revengeful last rite when I tried to bequeath it a more human death.
I knew a time would come when the dragonfly and me would eventually dance. The backyard wasn’t big enough for the two of us. I imagined a whopper stinger appropriate to its prehistoric size and dexterity. I’d seen dragonflies in tandem attack fallen Jacaranda flowers. For pollen, or the colour purple I wasn’t sure – but they never landed or paused long enough for me to observe them properly. It vexed me that I couldn’t confirm or deny friend or foe.
I admit it was a pre-emptive strike – and if I was truly honest with myself I think a major player in my lust to smash the dragonfly dead was an impish desire to observe it in still form. Its colour and beauty reminded me of sun-struck stained glass windows at church on Sunday, and is why when years later I saw White Hunter, Black Heart I immanently appreciated Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of director, John Wilson’s obsession to shoot an elephant:
It’s a sin to kill an elephant.
Do you understand? It’s a sin.
It’s the only sin that you can buy
a license and go out and commit.
That’s why l want to do it before
l do anything else in this world.
Do you understand me?
Yes Clint I do! And I knew killing the dragonfly surmounted to killing an elephant because they were ancient too. But I got caught in the hunt. I stalked it with my heart thud thudding, and when it momentarily paused to hovered over a piece of bark I smashed it against the grass and ground.
My sister told on me and my mum hollered at me something which I didn’t understand – about unicorns or something equally fanciful that was magical and didn’t exist. For punishment she withheld my pocket money for the week. And although in years to come I would come to know the word absolution to describe the void of regrettable actions, what really hurt way more at that tender age was not having money to buy lollies that week.
It’s strange since I’ve always held a stronger affinity for cold-blooded creatures over the hirsute mammalian kind. Maybe it was because my mum lied about being allergic to dogs and cats, and is why I was forbidden to have any pets in the house.
I was being respectful to my mum’s dishonesty when I defied her and came home one day with a goldfish in a plastic bag. And I admit a goldfish is a gateway pet that then led to a two foot aquarium and albino axolotl that my school mates chipped in for on my fourteenth birthday.
Axoyl didn’t exhibit any outstanding characteristics to warrant more than the rather bland derivative name I gave him. But I was still affected when Axoyl got sick and died a year later while I attempted to turn him into a salamander by gradually reducing the water level in the aquarium. I even custom built a coffin for him out of balsa wood and buried him in the large ceramic pot plant that held my mum’s favourite carnation bush.
But don’t mistake this event as a portent of change. As I extrapolate in My Brother Killing Shit: Part II both my brother and I would continue to kill shit, including just about anything that breathed water. The primary reason behind burying Axoyl was I wanted to see what his skeleton looked like and I’d planned to exhume him in a year or so to satisfy my curiosity. I even played with the idea that if his skull looked cool I might make a necklace out of it in some fukd up adolescent Lord of the Flies notion of respect to his memory. I probably didn’t wait more than six months before I excavated Axoyl’s grave at the base of my mum’s carnation bush. I couldn’t find a trace. I asked mum about the matter. She said she repotted the carnation a few months before and vaguely apologised in a customary mum way that sounded like she didn’t give much of a shit.
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