Two Deadly Feet

When I was ten I killed my sister. Well, almost.

This is how it happened.

Over a few exciting days I had fashioned a very good bow from a long, thin juniper trunk—strong, flexible, almost alive (and almost as long as I was tall)—and a thin, strong, slightly tarred string. I had also whittled an arrow from I’m not sure what kind of wood, but it was long and straight and to make the arrow fly relatively true I had added a small lead weight very close to the awl-sharp tip. Of course, not being a fletcher, I had not added stabilizing feathers (didn’t know how, to be honest), but I had shot plenty of featherless arrows in the past, and they had flown quite well, so that did not bother me much.

Bow and arrow done, we’re now standing in a field, my little sister and I, and I am about to demonstrate my brilliant creation for her.

My first shot flew the arrow well over a hundred meters, away from us and toward (though not quite reaching—luckily) the little river at the western end of our field. And I hadn’t even pulled the string back all the way. Great bow this. Oh, man.

I trotted off to collect the arrow while my sister, five at the time and pretty much unimpressed, waited for me to return.

The second shot—since I didn’t want to run another hundred or whatever meters to retrieve it—was straight up into the air. This time I pulled the string back as far as I could, with the tip of the arrow (with its lead weight) very close to the puffed chest of the bow itself. And I let go.

The arrow shot up and rose to, I swear, well over a hundred meters. It rose and rose and rose forever before it finally stopped, turned (thanks to the lead weight, I think) and now set out on its way back for Mother Earth at an ever-accelerating pace. To soon, with a murky thud, strike the ground at an almost sickening pace about two feet from where my by-now-uninterested sister stood looking at her shoes or something crawling in the grass. The thud had a strange finality to it for the arrow had struck the ground at such a pace that I actually had to work and work to pull it out—the tip had borrowed close to half a foot into the fairly compact soil.

At that point the image flashed, two images actually.

The first was of a baby’s head and that soft skin on top of the skull where the bone has yet to shut its doors, and the second was of my arrow reaching earth two feet to the north and sinking about as deeply into my sisters uninterested head.

I realized, beyond a molecule of doubt, that at that sharpness and at that speed (a bullet fired into the air will arrive back to earth at the same velocity with which it left the nozzle, and the same holds true of arrows), the arrow would have killed her on the spot. Dead. Dead sister.

My arrow missed her by two feet, the significance of which did not seem to hit anywhere home with her for she looked up at me from her survey with a so-now-what look that knew neither danger nor fear.

I did not make a third shot.

That evening the second image, the one of killing my sister, returned with sickening clarity and insistence. Two feet. Two feet was all that separated the luckiest boy in the world from the sibling-killer.

This was an event and image that would come a-calling at least once a month for the rest of my life, and each time I would draw a sigh of relief and thank whatever angel had guided that arrow from up on high to the Earth that day.


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