THE DAY I KILLED A MAN
by Christopher Kimball
It was no ordinary Saturday down at Babbott’s Dairy. For one thing, the dairy—which had been in continuous operation for the better part of a half-century and was still going strong despite the recent listeria scare—was forced to shut down when their generator broke free and rolled all the way down the western slope of Jack Robilliard’s hay field.
All of which came to my attention only because I happened past that hay field on my way to pick up the spring hens from Mrs. Havermeyer, from whom I have been purchasing her fine poultry since the summer I turned seventeen. That was also the year I lost my virginity to her daughter Eileen Havermeyer, but between you and me, I preferred the lay of the hens. If you’ve never had the pleasure of an egg scramble produced by Mrs. Havermeyer’s chickens, you simply have never had a true egg scramble. Delicate like an April mist and fluffy like carnival cotton candy. But on this extraordinary Saturday, I never made it to Mrs. Havermeyer’s because of that runaway generator, which had become stuck in the mud right there in the middle of the only road across town.
I always carry a hundred yard spool of number four gauge twine in my truck. Three winters ago this twine nearly saved Christmas dinner. That was the year we hosted my cousin Alice’s family, including her twin sons Alan and Allen. Alice rarely passes through these parts anymore—she left the area during a particularly fervent bout of rebelliousness while still a teenager and joined with a charismatic cult. I don’t always approve of the lifestyle they lead, particularly with respect to their prohibition on the wearing of suspenders, but you simply cannot beat Alice’s homemade apple pie. She tells me that her secret is macerating the apples in a mixture of lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt for no less than three hours’ time. Her sons Alan and Allen are addicted to black tar heroin which they inject between their toes and so their guest quarters are prepared in the newly renovated carriage house about fifty yards from our main quarters.
The spool of twine was tightly wound around the escaped generator and threaded through the ball hitch on my 1978 Ford flatbed. I bought the truck in like new condition from Jed Babbott, who founded the dairy farm that had now lost their generator. Jed himself had bought the vehicle earlier that same year but had trouble making the payments because he owed twenty-seven thousand dollars in gambling debt to the nearby Mohican tribe. The month I purchased the Ford was also the second time I slept with Eileen Havermeyer. I swore it would be my last.
Before I could turn over the engine in an effort to free the generator and return it to the Babbott Dairy, who should stroll by but old Dickie Theroux. Dickie was known to have a mouth on him and this Saturday was no different. He told me he’d just had about the worst omelet he’d ever tasted and that it was made from none other than Mrs. Havermeyer’s eggs! Even cooked quickly over high heat and rapidly stirred, Dickie says the eggs turned out like “greasy rubber”. Well, that was about all I could stand to hear from Dickie Theroux. I also carry a twenty inch tire iron in my Ford, and I used it to crack open Dickie’s head.
Dickie was lying in the middle of the road, the blood from his considerable wound running like a spring river into the muddy pit where the generator still lay stranded. I knew what I needed to do, but digging a six foot grave for a grown man is a far harder job than it looks, even when the road is muddied from the early thaw.
The true colors of a town shine during times of crisis. Within minutes, I was descended upon by none other than the whole Babbott clan. Mrs. Havermeyer was there, too, everyone with their own shovel digging away and catching up on town gossip. By the time Dickie was completely buried and the generator finally pulled from the mud, there was just enough light left in the day to accompany Mrs. Havermeyer back to her farm and retrieve those eggs. We talked about what a hard day it had been full of surprises but laughed about how we would have to do it all over again tomorrow. I said my goodbyes and took with me the three dozen farm fresh eggs, making a brief stop behind the old chicken barn. And that was the third time I slept with Eileen Havermeyer.