Something a boy finds exciting.

What's in the DNA of little boys that causes them to take pleasure in destroying life? Is it a coincidence that the "Y" chromosome is shaped like a slingshot?

Growing up, my brother captured frogs and worms, fish and spiders—cuddly things like that. I don’t think he loved them, but he sure loved to torture them! Can’t give you too many details, in case he ever wants a job with PETA, but I can assure you that local insects and reptiles had a special warning signal when his shadow crossed their boroughs. One time he made a sweet boy cry by microwaving a frog. “Stop crying!” he said, “It’s on ‘low.’”

With dark curiosity, common to boyhood, he wielded all the standard instruments of terror: BB guns, slingshots, unventilated jars, electric chairs. ... Sometimes he'd retreat to the woods with comrades, dressed like G.I. Joe, and execute top secret missions against field mice and centipedes. In mellower moods, he would lean on our bedroom windowsill waiting to snipe unsuspecting robins, who were cheerily bedding down their nests. 
"Bluejay, 20 points!"

Let me assure you, this macabre fascination is not something unique to my brother, but to boys everywhere. My own husband, the kindest and gentlest of men, killed a duck with a skipping rock then bludgeoned a fish to death to make up for it. I've also heard tell of neighbor boys pulling legs off crickets for sport and, even into the college fraternity years, swallowing goldfish as a rite of passage.

Some of my most vivid memories involve anole newts—little green things that are $0.69 each or $5/dozen. He’d buy a bunch, bring them home, and “experiment.” Talk about using “science” to cloak cruelty—Petco should have a policy against selling animals to boys under 18. Anole newts have magical tails that detach when threatened, allowing them to escape with their vital organs. Well, brother sure thought that was funny. I remember one newt dropping his tail at the precise moment of being placed between hamburger buns and offered to my Mother. Don’t know what happened to all those lost tails, but it sure makes sense of the nursery rhyme claiming little boys are made of “frogs and snails and puppy dog tails.” Not the whole puppy, you'll notice, just the tail … the little boy shot it off with his BB gun, no doubt.

Here's a paragraph that doesn't really fit with the theme, but still mentions the topic indirectly: The maddest my brother ever got at me was when he left the room for a second, having paused the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game at the end boss, and I purposely ejected the cartridge. The second maddest my brother ever got at me was when I left his remote control car out in the rain, less than a week after I stole his Princess Leia figurine and buried her in an unmarked grave. But the third maddest my brother ever got at me was when, having found out his pregnant guppy died, I beat him down the steps to tell my Mom. He almost killed me. But blinded by rage, he had forgotten to grab his magnifying glass, and I was too spunky to be shoved in the dryer without a fight.

Now my brother has two little boys and thus the chance to redeem the past by teaching them respect for all living things, by ushering them into the stewardship of nature, and by refusing to buy chapsticks tested on chimps. Or he can simply hand down his heirloom instruments and finely-honed strategies.

I don't have any answers or even any theories about this destructive streak, but I am proud to be a woman whose nurturing streak is helping to keep the earth and all its living things from annihilation.