The boy had killed things before, but those things had died silently. The freshly shot robin flopped and screamed. Its frantic presence was a bluster of dark feathers and incongruous shapes bouncing off the red-clay dirt. —Lie, breathing—then dancing absurdly again. —It cried in shrill squawks. Nothing else the boy had killed before had made a sound: The snake he had captured in the Mason jar was silent when he poured a little gasoline through the air holes he had poked in the top. He covered the holes with his meaty hand and watched through a glazed distortion the silent snake dance in the jar. It poked its golden head near the top; its gray tongue brushed the boy’s palm through the jagged air holes in the brass-yellow lid. Before the snake could settle in the pool of gasoline at the bottom of jar, the boy opened it and dumped the snake into the grass. It drunkenly wondered out and died. —In the same jar a summer later, the black widow that he caught made a whine before it popped after being doused in lighter fluid and set afire. In the afternoon summer-sun a halcyon-blue flame swirled around the black widow. Its body shook and wheezed and then poof. A frail-gray wisp of ash exhaled from the jar’s mouth before it cracked. But the robin danced in fits and screamed. —When it rested he walked over to it. —Breathing heavily, the robin’s red breast needed to swell past its limits. The bird looked up at him through motionless eyes that were like black glass. The boy stood with shoulders slumped, the pellet gun lowered, trying to understand why this bird had not died. He had seen birds killed off power lines, in trees, in barn rafters. His grandfather said that killing sitting birds wasn’t sport, yet during dove season the boy’s other grandfather sat in a pick-up truck beside the road with an ancient single-shot .410, killing anything that lighted on the state’s lines. Their bodies dropped from the wire like weighted sacks into the thigh-high weeds from where they were not retrieved. The boy was accustomed to this inconsequential sport. —He put the gun down in the dirt and lifted a flat, sun-warmed fieldstone. It glinted under the sun. He covered the robin with it. He knelt and glanced under the stone to make sure it covered the robin evenly. The bird, moaning in short bibble-like noises, didn’t struggle to get out from beneath it. Stuck to one of its wings was a burgundy paste of dirt and blood. The boy felt something constrict in his throat; a sense of something large pushed in his chest and stung his breath. He got to his feet, dusted himself off. He stood atop the stone, closed his eyes and jumped up and down. With each leap his own young breath burst from his mouth.