And in the cold gray hours before the sun rose, you would tell me stories about being a kid on the farm in Vermont. Your dad made you kill a chicken when you were eight, made you grip its soft shaking body between skinned knees and cut its throat with a little splitting hatchet.
On your thirteenth birthday, he dropped you off at the clinic in the city and told his brother not to come home for Thanksgiving that year. You got kicked out of your junior prom because you held a boy’s own blade against his neck.
Hold it steady with your knees, your dad said. Use your hips to balance. Don’t take your hand off its chest. Hit it cleanly, not too slow, not too fast, so you go all the way through the first time. Don’t flinch at the blood. It can’t feel anything, so neither can you. Throw sawdust on the mess when you’re done. No one’s gonna clean it up for you.