Somewhere in your neighborhood, a full-scale guillotine stands in a backyard. Maybe this guy—and it is a guy— lives right next to you. That suspicious structure was never going to be a swing set—the bastard doesn’t even have kids.

He started small, testing scale model prototypes in the basement, beheading previously frozen trout. At a certain point he ‘graduated.’ Movies and TV tell us that’s the right word for moving up to bigger fish. Octopus is available down at that same counter where he purchased the trout on special for $5.99/lb. Octopus have large eyes and rubbery skin that appear remarkably human in basement lighting conditions.

Watching an eye go glassy at the moment it is disconnected from a conscious brain must have taken some working up to. After a frustrating day at work and a bad commute, he graduated to warm blooded animals, starting with opossums, because, gak! Next was one of those raccoons that used to come around and go through the garbage cans. He had a battle extracting it from the trap, the pole loop hard to manage with heavy gloves, fending off claws and teeth capable of eviscerating a beloved pet Pomeranian. Maybe he rejoiced at the raccoon’s resistance, but the blade chunking home to tip the head into the waiting basket produced no satisfaction, just a need to vomit in the bushes. Only afterword did a sense of redress surface for the abusive bosses, the rejected romantic gestures and the horrible commute suffered day after day after day. Did you know that wicker receptacles have remained the traditional repository for severed craniums since the guillotine’s first use on April 25, 1792?

Wait. I know what you’re thinking. It’s not me. I have a wife and kids. I can’t even assemble Ikea furniture, let alone build a precision capital punishment engine. I gave blood once and passed out cold. Everyone knows me from the annual block party potluck. This is your neighbor we’re talking about. Hardly any outdoor cats remain on your block, and virtually no urban wildlife. Think about it.

Also consider that Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin proposed, but did not invent, the eponymous device. He intended it as an improvement upon less humane methods of execution such as breaking on the rack, drawing and quartering, firing squads and plain old hanging. Even a headsman’s axe in inexpert hands can mean twenty minutes of hacking. Just ask the ghost of Oliver Cromwell. Don’t get me started on the electric chair or lethal injection. What a mess.

It’s only a matter of time before this neighbor of yours perfects his full-scale guillotine capable of decapitating warm-blooded animals with big eyes, and I’m not talking about dolphins, pandas or lemurs. He’s already lurking around homeless encampments, casing high schools, observing the slack vigilance of playground parents.

The big objection to the guillotine is that the brain retains consciousness for five to seven seconds, during which the octopus or raccoon or person in question knows he, she or it is going to heaven or hell or some pointless atheistic oblivion. Five seconds can seem like an eternity. But it isn’t.

So let’s recap. We know this guy is out there right now honing a heavy slant blade to a pitiless edge. You’ve sat on your asses a lot longer than five to seven seconds doing nothing about the situation. Your inaction is tantamount to complicity, rendering you an accessory before the fact.


Two- Mississippi,