There’s a particular moment of clarity that occurs when you consciously plot the death of another living organism.  It is a moment that is filled to overflowing with an adrenaline rush that is born of a curious mixture of fear, excitement, and power.  It is the last of these that usually controls the situation because the craving for power of any measure is worse than the craving for any natural or man-made substance.  Indeed, the craving for anything is ultimately a craving for power, if only for the power to momentarily diminish the control that other forces have over our lives.

There is also an assumption of responsibility in these life and death situations.  The assumption is that, in this one instant, I am usurping the role of God.  I am imposing my will on the destiny of this entity in the most irrevocable of fashions.  In the idiom of the C.I.A. I have made a conscious decision to `terminate with extreme prejudice’.  I guess I knew what that phrase meant on the surface but it wasn’t until this moment that I fully understood the implications of accepting this as a deliberate action.  Deliberate in that it is untainted by any of the elements that constitute a so-called `crime of passion’.

As I wait I think back to my twelfth birthday and how my favorite grandparents had surprised me with a Red Ryder B.B. gun.  Dad had taught me the rules and had set up a few tin cans behind the garage in the back yard.  I had practiced on the tin cans when my parents were around but, when they were off on a shopping trip, I pretended I was a big game hunter and stalked the iron rooster weathervane lurking atop the garage.

I smiled slightly at the thought.  Closing my eyes I could almost see my younger self drawing a bead on the iron rooster and almost hear the harsh metallic ring as the small copper pellet struck its target.  The smile passed quickly into a frown as I remembered how that childish play had soon turned much more serious.

As best as I can remember it started with that same B.B. gun and that same naive boy when weathervane stalking had lost its appeal.  The garage at the house had a double window on one side that opened outward and provided a virtually unrestricted view of the backyard.  Even then I understood the value of a good cover and a well thought out plan.

Once again I could almost see my younger self pulling crumpled pieces of bread from a jacket pocket, then carefully spreading them in a small circle on the grass outside of the garage window.  Cawing sounds filled my head as I visualized a crow, perched heavily on the telephone wires over that long ago backyard, sounding its intentions to any would be intruders.  I remembered that it had looked around suspiciously, and had then glided toward the pieces of bread.  With a flick of its head, the crow had grabbed a bread chunk and then quickly retreated to the telephone lines to devour its prize.

The pattern had repeated twice more before the crow, at last satisfied as to the safety of its feeding ground, had flown down to eat the bread where it lay.

Reliving that moment, I slid the rifle into position.  As I sighted through the high-powered infrared scope I remembered that back then I only had V-groove gun sights and young nerves to get the job done.  The crow had been greedily gulping down the bread as I had breathlessly brought the gun barrel in line with its breast.  Perhaps sensing something, the crow had hopped to one side with a quick flutter.  Again I had held my breath, drawn a bead, and tried to  freeze the crow in place with a hunter’s cold intensity.  The seconds had seemed to grind forward then, suddenly, a small copper pellet had spit out of the gun barrel as if impatient to complete its task.

Shifting uncomfortably in my cramped position I watch as the slowly setting sun and rising trade winds transform the town from a dusty. parched outpost into a vibrant festival.  I flinch slightly as fireworks are shot into the air in celebration then, one at a time, I stretch my arms to relieve the tension before resuming my wait.  As the town bells strike the hour the general steps onto the hotel balcony, raises his arms overhead in triumph, and smiles at the raucous crowd in the courtyard below.  Bringing him into view with my scope I focus the crosshairs on the silver wings adorning his breast pocket.  Slowly I take a breath, hold it, then gently squeeze the trigger.