The cacophony raised by the flock of sparrows drowned all other trivial sounds. The birds were busy pecking at the grain, oblivious to everything, even to the boy sneaking up on them. The boy had eyes only for the birds, tensed as he moved with infinite patience to get within range of the birds.
There was a strange look of grim determination on the boy's young face, finding the right spot, he stealthily armed his slingshot and froze, eyes scanning the flock for a target, an arm drawn back to stretch the slingshot to its limit, he let fly the stone. The whirring sound of the slingshot alerted the sparrows as they took off. One flew right in the path of the stone, a burst of feathers and the sparrow crashed to the ground, thrashed for a while and lay dead.
The boy grunted in satisfaction, glanced at the dead bird and walked away, he never went near his kill. The thrill and the joy of the hunt didn't last long, he was soon caught up in other activities and totally forgot about the kill he had made, but then it was nothing new to him. He knew he was an expert with that slingshot and had snuffed out many a sparrow before its rightful time. He was considered the best shot among his peers, cruelty, pain, death were not factors which were considered, seven year olds do not think much on those lines. What mattered was how many birds one had killed.
The boy was very possessive about his slingshot, he had made it out from the strongest fork he could find and had spent hours scouring the garages for the right kind of rubber strips. He even went to the extent of creating small mud balls and drying them out in the sun, so when he shot with them they would be lethal as they burst on impact showering their shrapnel. Oh yes!!!! He took great pains to be good at that, practicing hours on end shooting at fence posts from 20 yards.
It was evening that day, the boy walked cockily about, with the slingshot strung around his neck, scanning for something to shoot. He froze. Within 10 paces was a squirrel foraging in the grass. The boy had never managed to shoot a squirrel before, they were too fast and alert for him, and this was like a gift had been delivered to him at his doorstep. It was all over in a moment. The mud ball flew like a bullet, hit in front of the squirrel and burst like a mortar shell and the squirrel lay writhing in agony and bloody.
A deep gash had opened up on its head by a splinter. The boy gave a shout of glee as he rushed to that squirrel he had brought down, he had at last bagged a squirrel. Bending down as he picked up the thrashing animal, something strange happened, maybe the squirrel in his death throes reached out to him. Maybe the tiny paws with their tiny nails as they dug in the boy's small hands communicated the pain. The boy didn't know what happened but all he could feel was that he had done something terribly wrong, something nobody would punish him for but still it was a feeling of deep pain as if somebody had hit him hard and the pain was unbearable.
Clutching the furry bundle in his hands, he ran home to his father and burst out crying 'Daddy, save it, I am sorry, please make him live '. The father looked at the boy and at the tears streaming down the face and sadly shook his head 'Son, I wish I could do that, but its dead, its dead' 'but Daddy, YOU can do anything, you CAN, I promise I wont ask for anything else again' blubbered the boy wiping his tears. The father hugged his son and in a soft voice said 'Son, in my wild days I too used to hunt for sport and one day I shot this deer and I looked into its soft brown eyes as it died. I gave up hunting after that. It took me a long time but you are lucky you have seen it when you are just 7 years old. You have felt the pain and suffering of the animal you have killed, felt a life ebbing from a body. Son, in a way I am glad that you are hurt and in pain, cry if it makes you feel better, cry for yourself and that tiny dead squirrel in your hands. Now you will truly know that you have no right to destroy something that you cannot create.
Small hands patted the loose earth back into place on the mound. A pearl of a tear was wiped by the back of a hand, another fell on the mound of earth.
A broken voice murmured ' I have destroyed what I had created ' and there buried in the earth lay a tiny, curled up dead squirrel and a broken slingshot.