Volume 28, Number 3


It was supposed to have been a humane way to kill
a rat. The small white rodent, eyes swollen with pink,
squirmed in my lab partner’s hands in biochemistry lab.

The thump to its head was supposed to deliver a quick
blunt force trauma to the dumb animal—a clean death,
but it wasn’t. I watched the repeated slams, each one

unsuccessful until its walnut-head cracked and sprayed
blood on the corner of the formica table—the chosen
executioner’s instrument. Why not a simple guillotine?

It would have been no bloodier, and more sensitive
to the lab experiment. I understand that lethal injection
would mess-up the chemistry we were to study. So would

asphyxiation, electrocution, or poisoning. A simple
bullet to the back of the head could work, but not here,
the calliber is too large for its small head, heart. Not like

the prisoner’s on Death Row. For him, that bullet would be
the quickest, cheapest, cleanest option. The most humane.
Instead, we thump his heart with chemicals until it stops.

We tell ourselves he doesn’t feel a thing.

—John C. Mannone