A Henchman's Honor
A Henchman's Honor
1. The End...I Think
The Reaper and I sat on my bedroom floor. We had been close for as long as I could remember. He was often offered the chance to take me without resistance. In fact, I had stalked him for a lifetime. Now, I would force the issue.
The message I left on my brother's answering machine from Ottawa was brief. "I'm finished. There's nothing left for me to do. I'm just calling to say goodbye."
The cold steel of my Beretta 92F pistol pressed hard into my temple. If you're truly intent on suicide, you need to know the best place to put a bullet. You don't want to fuck it up. I knew if I put the weapon in my mouth I might just blow my face or my jaw off. But a bullet to the temple meant swift and sure death. I had seen it hundreds of times.
The weapon felt as comfortable in my hand as a pen would to an accountant. I'd pointed weapons with malicious intent many, many times before-but never at myself.
I was eight years old the first time I held a gun in my hand. It was a .22 caliber rifle, almost as tall as I was. I'd fire at every tin can or tree stump that got in my way and tallied how many times I hit the target.
Two years later a bird would become my first genuine casualty. Killing a living creature for the first time was an unforgettable experience. It was summer and I was out by the marsh with a few of my friends. As we approached a copse of trees, a snipe-a little bird about the size of my hand-swooped down at us, squawking frantically. We realized that the fierce and furious little bird was protecting its nest and wouldn't go anywhere. I put the shotgun up to my shoulder and followed the bird's repeated swooping, circular flight path with the barrel. It was easy to anticipate where it would be next. I lead the gun a little ahead of the bird and squeezed the trigger. There was a puff of feathers and the bird dropped like a rock. My buddies yelled, "Holy shit! Good shot!" We walked over to where the bird lay in a tousled heap of feathers. I had no feelings of sadness or elation, just a hollow feeling of accomplishing a task. In many cases, successfully killing something comes down to really wanting the target dead. The first one to calmly aim will usually win the scrap.
I held the barrel of my Beretta to my head with justice in mind and grim intentions in my heart. Death wasn't a shocking subject. But fucking things up and ending up as a disfigured incompetent was not an option. My hand was steady. I smirked. I've always smirked as the stress of any situation cooled and I became focused. Clarity is joy. Suicide was just another dark mission that would end in peace. I was very pleased with myself for buying the pistol years before. It had become my best friend. What would I do without it? I would be forced to cut myself or strangle myself at the end of a rope. A bullet would be an instant, painless death. Humane.
As I fingered the trigger a deluge of thoughts raced through my head. I wondered if suicide was honorable-or an act of cowardice? The ancient Japanese considered it an act of courage to end one's own life. The ultimate dishonor was for a warrior to survive a defeat in battle. It meant he had failed, and required the Samurai warrior to kneel down and plunge his sword into his belly, right under his chest. The Samurai killed themselves with the same stoicism with which they did battle. The bushido-the 'way of the warrior' demanded that a soldier be brave and honorable. Failing to uphold the bushido virtues in any way was dishonorable. According to the tenets of bushido, a soldier should be victorious or dead.
After twelve years as a NATO soldier, had I been victorious? Had I advanced the cause of freedom? Or had I been instrumental in exchanging one evil cause for another? Or worse, had I magnified an evil force? Was freedom even my mission? Was I a failure and therefore subject to the te