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I can’t remember if I said something terrible to him or not. If I called him a name or said I never wanted to see him again. All I know for sure is I ran away crying, back to my grandma’s house, and whether I said it or not, I left him thinking I hated him for what he had done.
I was upset with myself for the way I had acted, but I couldn’t help it. Not only did I not want that kitten to be shot, I didn’t want to change feeling that way. I was glad I didn’t want it to be shot. It felt right. For the first time in my young girl’s life I thought maybe I didn’t want to be a boy if being a boy meant I had to be the kind of person who could shoot a kitten.
Sunday evening before my mom came to pick me up I was sitting on the back porch helping my grandma shuck corn. My grandfather was standing in their neighbor’s driveway talking to the neighbor while he took a break from working on the new garage he was building. My grandfather was not a handy man but like all men I knew, he found the tapping of a hammer to be an irresistible lure. It was one of the few things that could make him put down his Sunday paper and get out of his recliner.
I decided to ask Grandma’s advice about my dilemma.
“Do you think girls are as good as boys?” I asked her out of the blue.
“What kind of question is that?”
I shrugged in reply.
“When I was a kid we would’ve never thought of things like that,” she added.
I had heard this kind of response from her before. My mother always rolled her eyes at it. In my mother’s opinion it meant Grandma had been raised in the Dark Ages when women were told what to do and what to think by men and never questioned the injustice of it then and still don’t question it now.
“Because you were always taught that boys are better,” I volunteered on behalf of my absent mother and even thought to add in a rather lofty tone. “You think men are superior.”
Grandma surprised me by laughing.
“I was never taught men are superior. I was taught men are different. And it’s a good thing for men and women to be different and just cause we are doesn’t make women inferior. All these women nowadays are running around saying they want to be equal to men, but I think a lot of the time they’re confusing being equal with men as being the same as men and those are entirely different things.”
“What do you mean?”
“Women nowadays are so concerned about trying to do everything men can do to prove they’re as good as men. Well of course we can do anything men can do. And they can do everything we can do. Except have babies,” she added with a smile and a nod. “A woman can be a mechanic. A man can be a baker. Those are skills and you can have them as a man or a woman. I’m talking about our natures. Our natures are different. And that’s the way it should be.”
I watched her hands – old before their time from all the years of hard work and the arthritis already beginning to settle into her knuckles – rip away a handful of green leaves and yellow corn silk then gesture with it toward my grandfather making a tour of the half-built garage.
“Where would we be if women stopped wanting to take care of things and men stopped wanting to build things?” she asked me.
I didn’t visit my grandparents for a couple weeks after that so I didn’t see Randy. I’m not sure if I wanted to see him. But I spent a lot of time thinking about what my grandma had said and thinking about my own gut feelings about what had happened when he shot that kitten. He didn’t want to do it but he knew it needed to be done so he did it. In my heart of hearts, I knew it needed to be done, too, and I also didn’t want to do it; the difference is, I couldn’t do it. Was it because I was a coward, a wimp? Was it in my nature to be weak? Was it in his nature to be a killer?