You Think They’re Normal But Your Parents Could Be Hiring Hitmen Under Your VERY NOSE
Updated: Mar 12, 2019
until the fourth grade, i lived with my dad, brother and sister in gentle suburban massachusetts where i could ride my bike to school. my mom, however, rode and trained horses for a living, so she and my stepdad lived on a big, beautiful farm in virginia. it was my favorite place in the world, but life on a farm is very different from life, like, anywhere else.
for one thing, i sometimes had to shovel another animal’s poop from one location to a different, slightly farther location. for another, i got to experience the miracle of life waaaaaay way way too early.
it gets a lot less magical and a lot more visceral when you’re a 10-year-old sitting in a horse stall watching your stepdad and the vet literally PULL A HORSE out of ANOTHER HORSE.
get up close and personal with placenta just one time and i promise you will never look at babies of any species the same ever again.
and of course, the first thing any farm kid will tell you is that living on a farm teaches you pretty immediately that Death Comes For Everybody, But It Comes For Your Animals First. i know that’s a terrible thing to just put out there in the universe, but it’s true.
mother nature is like if that girl from your middle school who was OBSESSED with horses--you know that girl, we all know that girl--wasn’t ever allowed to get a pony so she grew up to be a hoarder whose kleptomania was focused on all the neighborhood pets.
“all your pets are now my pets,” says mother nature, and we all let her get away with it, because she’s terrifying and will definitely murder you without hesitation.
like all life lessons, that’s a hard one to learn, and i had to learn it like five times before it stuck. anyway, the first time i encountered the whole concept of like, mortality, it was the summer before fourth grade. things around me had died before, but i’d been gently sheltered from it by both the tiny size of my undeveloped brain and the adults in my life.
once, my mother told me that two of our jack russells were being sent to live on a farm where they could herd sheep. i believed her.
i was thirteen.
thirteen is waaaaaay way way too old to believe that your dogs are really being sent to live on a farm.
honestly, i think the fact that i was so old is what convinced me? i was like, “i’m thirteen, there’s no way she would lie to me about death at thirteen. i’m basically an adult! so the dogs must really be going to live on a farm! how neat for them. tra-la-la.”
i swallowed this lie so completely that it wasn’t until i was literally in my twenties that i mentioned it offhandedly and my mom was like, “what? you...uh, no, honey, we for sure put those dogs down. those dogs have been dead for at least a decade.”
but at the tender age of either-8-or-9, i learned about death first hand, because i witnessed a murder.
haha, what if that was the end of the story? what if i just dropped, “i witnessed a murder,” and then left you all hanging and never brought it up again?
i’m not going to do that.
but you have to admit, it would be funny.
it was a sunny day in virginia, which i know because i remember very clearly wearing a very stylish outfit of neon pink soffee shorts and my billabong shirt with the orange butterfly on it.
it was late in what had been an action-packed summer: my mom finally married my stepdad, i decided to move to virginia, and nine days released “absolutely (story of a girl),” the best song that i had ever heard up to that point in my life. i’m not sure what exactly i was getting up to, but as a youth my usual MO in the summer was to wander around until i was struck by an idea for something. on this particular day, i was struck by the idea of going to see our newest barnhand, chipmunk.
her birth certificate obviously didn’t say chipmunk, but i don’t actually remember what chipmunk’s real name was.
on chipmunk’s first day of work her face was swollen from having recently gotten her wisdom teeth removed, and in my family you have to be prepared to live with the consequences of that kind of thing forever.
i have no idea how old chipmunk was, because when you’re younger than ten, everyone older than ten seems like they’re at least forty-five. but i think she was probably in college??
anyway, chipmunk wasn’t in any of the usual places, in the barn or in any of the paddocks, so i wandered over to the indoor ring. our farm had two riding rings, an outdoor one for the summer and an indoor one for the winter and rainy days. the indoor ring was made entirely out of this kind of tinny material that could get really loud when it was raining.
you could hear everything in that ring. the building had these high rafters on it that pigeons liked to perch on, especially when it started getting colder. and because of the ring’s terrible sound situation, horses would freak out every time one of those birds so much as ruffled its feathers. and the thing about horses is that they are really beautiful, soulful, majestic animals but they are also on the edge of a nervous breakdown, like, 100% of the time.
then again, aren’t we all?
let ye who has not spent a night crying for no reason into a pint of ben & jerry’s half-baked frozen yogurt cast the first stone.
a horse’s entire self-defense mechanism is “RUN AWAAAAAAAAAY” which, look, i get. all of my self-defense mechanisms are also “RUN AWAAAAAAAAAY” except usually that means turning down dates with boys i like and not, for example, getting scared by a fly and running into a tree and shattering my entire leg.
that really happened.
not to me; to a horse. just to be clear.
in an attempt to keep startled horses from accidentally killing themselves or their riders, my parents had to be pretty vigilant about what was going on both in the ring and outside it while people were riding. no fast cars, no loud noises, and absolutely no shenanigans.
which meant: the pigeons had to go.
i’m going to pause here for a second.
remember all that hogwarts, a history about death’s inevitability and that joke about murder?
i’ve given you fair warning. don’t @ me, folks.
now, the thing is, i was a gentle kid. i mean--terrible, like truly unbearable, but very gentle, ultimately. in my heart. i used to trigger the mousetraps in my mom’s house to save the mice.
well, it was one mouse, and his name was chubbychubbs, and i loved him even though we only saw each other once.
i think my mom thought we were dealing with like, pinky and the brain because chubbychubbs managed to evade her traps for so many years.
SORRY MOM!!!! IT WAS ME THE WHOLE TIME!!!
so you can imagine how i reacted when i walked into the ring just as chipmunk hit a pigeon with a pellet gun. you can imagine how a small round drama queen with a love of animals might respond to seeing a little gray pellet fall out of the rafters and land on the ground. you can imagine how someone with an underdeveloped understanding of how diseases are carried and transmitted might scream, “YOU'RE A MURDERER!” at the top of her voice, sprint to where the little gray bird is laying, stunned and bleeding, and scoop it up in her hands without bothering with protective gloves.
“OH GOD PLEASE PUT THE BIRD DOWN,” chipmunk yelled. “OH GOD, THEY’RE SO DISEASE-RIDDLED, PLEASE PUT IT DOWN!!!”
“JUDAS!!!” i would have shouted as i sprinted away, if i had known what a judas was. instead, i pulled the bird to my chest, blood getting everywhere as it understandably began to panic and flap its wings to get away from me. i don’t know if you’ve ever been punched in the face by a bird, but it hurts more than you’d expect.
“CALM DOWN I’M TRYING TO SAVE YOU,” i shouted at the bird, which did not calm down because it did not speak english.
“COME BACK” cried chipmunk, chasing after me.
a furious, panicked pigeon, trying to get away, flapping its wings and repeatedly face-slapping -->
a tiny child, in a billabong t-shirt with an orange butterfly that is now covered in blood, screaming at the top of her lungs, pursued by -->
a frantic twenty-something, cheeks still slightly swollen, waving a pellet gun in the air like that pigeon-child duo swindled her out of a vast fortune and she wants revenge
i broke for the door, but the poor pigeon, at this point very slippery and very desperate, wriggled free and dove for safety under the building’s bathroom unit. the unit was on a platform a couple feet above the ground for reasons i have never known or cared to look into.
if you know, don’t tell me.
i do not want to know.
in what i felt at the time was a very heroic move, i followed suit, scrambling under the toilets with my hands outstretched, explaining to the pigeon in high-pitched screams that i was saving its life.
“molly,” chipmunk begged, “please come out from under the toilets. you are going to get a disease and you are going to die.”
“i don’t take orders from murderers,” i hissed, making a point not to think about any of the things i was crawling in. “come on, pigeon. we can run away together.”
“coooooooooooo,” said the pigeon, which i assume is bird for, “get the fuck away from me.”
chipmunk gave up on reasoning with me and reached under the toilets to drag me out by my ankles as i screamed like the scene in a horror flick where the best friend of the final girl gets dragged into a pit. the pigeon watched me go unblinkingly.
“oh, god,” chipmunk said, looking at the swamp creature that had emerged from beneath the toilet: pants ripped, hands and shirt covered in pigeon blood and a mysterious dark substance neither one of us wanted to investigate too closely. i looked like how a cartoonist would anthropomorphize the black plague in a new yorker cartoon.
poor chipmunk dragged me to the house, freaking out the entire way about what she was going to tell my mom, her employer, the one who was paying her to get rid of the pigeons. “well, i was doing what you asked, and then your daughter came in and high key ruined everything by bathing in pigeon blood and probably some human waste”?
by the time we got there, she’d worked herself into such a state that she simply shoved me through the front door, shouted, “IT'S NOT HER BLOOD,” and ran back to the barn.
my mom looked at me from where she was standing at the sink.
“o......kay,” she said, after a second. “you know what, let’s just. let’s hose you off outside.”