The Killing

At his son’s birth, Montgomery Bly guided his crowning head, felt the wet contours of his body, but it was his eyes he wanted to see and read, though he could not. He was a soft, purring baby—Jonathan—wondering, wonderless. Seeing him in his mother’s arms, Montgomery remembered snow falling through stars while a mare stayed in the softness of the pasture and the moonlight to watch. Remembered the mare feeding earlier, ice in her nostrils but still she sniffed the hay when the sun blued the stable, rays lying down to enter the windows.

As Montgomery watched his son grow, he looked at him warily, watching for the killing gene, that ease of slitting away life that had won him medals in Vietnam. Even when his son was in his crib, he whispered to him from his own darkness. You take a life like this: a pressure, a swift movement of the hand. Cut. Life leaving. Emptying. And if you feel a coolness then, a watching stillness, you have it. The family gene.

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