I wanted to be kind but all I could achieve was cruelty. I wanted to be kind to the friend who had been dumped by a guy she thought she would marry and grow old with, only to realize all he wanted from her was sex; I acted concerned and hugged my friend and we got drunk and then I fucked her; she called me this other guy’s name the whole time and when she left, she never talked to me again because a month later she committed suicide, leaving a letter blaming that guy for destroying her soul. I couldn’t go to the funeral and mutual friends left me nasty text messages and emails. I sent flowers to the funeral parlour because that seemed like the kind thing to do.
Her sister smeared dog shit on the windshield of my car. That was not a kind thing to do but I understood.
I tried to be kind to a young woman who was jogging with her dog and the dog was hit by a car that sped off. I told her I could drive her and the dog to the vet and she yelled at me: “My dog is already dead, you goddamn jerk!”
I did not understand this; I was trying to be a good person and she acted like it was my fault. I told her to fuck off. That was a kind thing to do because she would later meditate on why I said it and realize what she did wrong. She will never treat a stranger offering kindness like that again, should another dog of hers ever get killed by a car.
A guy at work was in a jam. He was short on his rent by $210. His landlord was not happy that he always paid the rent late and told him he would be evicted if it happened again. I loaned him the $210. He promised to pay it back. A week later, he stopped coming to work and people said he had moved to a different state where rent was cheaper.
There was a small island that was hit by both a hurricane and an earthquake the same week. Two-thirds of the 23,000 people who lived on the island had their homes destroyed and were living in Red Cross tents. I sent the Red Cross $100 through their website.
The next morning I sent another $100 because I didn’t think the first was enough.
There was a snail on the sidewalk. Someone had stepped on it: its shell crushed, green fluid oozing out like sap from a tree, eyestalks looking frantically about for safety. I stepped on it and killed it.
That was the kind thing to do, like shooting, in the head, a horse with a broken leg.
Michael Hemmingson‘s collection, Pictures Of Houses With Water Damage, is available from Black Lawrence Press. Other books include Hard Cold Whisper (Black Mask), Wild Turkey (Forge) and The Comfort Of Women (Blue Moon).