31 October 2015

Halloween 1992, Part III, The End

7:06 pm, 31 October 1992—The boy walks from house to house, from apartment building to apartment building. A fairly strong breeze occasionally gusts up and blows some trash off the boy’s costume. He chases down a banana peel or a bit of ham, and then pins it back exactly where it was.

The reaction of those opening their door on halloween night and seeing a little boy outfitted in filth, his hair a dirty brown clump of muck, timidly stuttering “t-t-t-trick-or-tr-treat” is almost invariably the same. At first a look of bewilderment, then comprehension, then a brief moment of shock (usually when fixing upon the bloody sanitary napkin) followed by an even briefer moment of pity, then ending in embarrassment as they hurriedly drop candy into the boy’s bag. As the door closes, the boy can sometimes hear a voice inside: “You wouldn’t believe what. . .,” or “Come here! Hurry! Look out the. . .,” or “I just saw the most. . .” as the voice trails away.

The boy walks across an apartment complex parking lot. An old stray dog is rooting around some spilled trash near a dumpster. As the boy passes by, the dog looks up at the boy, then trots after him. The boy stops. The dog stops. The boy and dog eye each other.

“Hey, d-dog. Come here.”

The dog moves forward with a couple slow wags of the tail.

“Y-you’re an old dog, are-aren’t you?” the boy says as he reaches out to pat the dog’s head. The dog jumps up and snatches the bloody hamburger paper from the boy’s costume and then scampers away.

That’s when I figured I would execute God too brother. You don’t see God in people but in animals you sure do so I knew God had to go too.

The boy enters the first building of the apartment complex. He walks down a hallway to the first door on the right. Apartment A-211. He knocks. We don’t get a lot of trick-or-treaters in my building. Not many families live in this part of town. It’s mainly singles. Older singles. Down on their luck. Graying men and women whose television sets are their best friends. I had been reading a book, Le Voyeur, when I heard the knock. Normally I don’t open the door. I don’t want to see or talk to anyone. What’s the point? But I was aware it was halloween. I’m not against giving a kid a candy bar. After all, kids will eventually become adults. So I put down my book, got up and opened the door.

“T-t-t-trick-or-t-t-treat.”

It was a sad sight. A little runt of a boy, dressed in filth. A bloody menstrual rag around his neck.

“Looks like somebody played a trick on you, kid.”

“M-m-my d-d-dad.”

“What a guy,” I said, content at this point to give him a Snickers and send him on his way.

“And my m-m-mom.”

When the garbage bag said that, it was 25 or so years ago again. I relived all the dirty tricks my own mother played on me. All the afternoons I had come from school to find a brown paper grocery sack filled with my clothes and my mother screaming at me to get out because I reminded her of my father. I’d wander the streets for hours, sometimes days. . .I relived a lot of various such episodes.

After a second or a minute, I could hear the garbage bag stuttering.

“C-c-can I h-have some c-candy?”

“I bet your mother is fat as hell, isn’t she?”

The garbage bag’s face turned red. He nodded.

That’s when I knew brother. Of course I didn’t know what I would later come to know but I knew I wasn’t the only one. It almost stopped me from what I had always feared. Almost stopped me. Over and over and over and over I try to figure it out. Almost. ‘He called me long before I heard/Before my sinful heart was stirred,’ as the old hymn goes. But it could be no other way that is the best I can figure.

“I bet you wish you could have Kate Moss for a mom, huh?”

“Wh-who’s that?”

“She’s a nice lady.”

“F-f-first I’d l-like to have a n-new d-dad.”

I had a couple of candy bars and some Jesus tracts sitting on a little stand by the door. I took one of each. I dropped the Snickers in the boy’s bag. I showed him the Jesus tract. It was in the form of a little comic book. . .lots of pictures, not too many words. Even a retarded person could understand it.

“You want a new dad? Read this, it’ll tell you how you can have a Heavenly Father.”

“A H-heavenly F-f-father? Wh-what’s that?” the boy asked as he took the tract.

“The Heavenly Father is God. The only way to Him is through the Lord Jesus Christ.”

A strange look came over the boy’s face.

“I’ll k-k-kill anyone wh-wh-who g-gets in my way t-to my d-dad. I’ll k-kill G-g-god.”

Of course, I didn’t believe him. Why should I have? Instead, I tried to tell him about the Blood of the Lamb, but I didn’t think he heard me. He had that look on his face. It was kind of a creepy moment. A shrimp kid dressed in garbage, threatening God Almighty. Some poor little lump of clay far from the Potter’s wheel. He didn’t know any better. Probably didn’t know anything but hard times. Crap for a mom and dad. And that strange look on the boy’s face. Beyond a faraway look. As if he were staring into the abyss.

“Hey kid. Kid. Kid! KID!”

The boy returned.

“When you get home, make sure you read that tract I gave you.”

“I w-will.”

I closed the door, took a candy bar off the stand, went back to my chair, sat down, unwrapped the candy, took a bite, picked up my book.



8:47 pm, 31 October 1992—The boy enters the apartment, drops his bag of candy, opens a closet door.


The man is in his chair. He sits in his underwear and T-shirt, staring through his bleary eyes at a hockey game on the television. A small mound of garbage appears.

“Gedoudda de fuggin way. An gedme a can.”

The boy raises his arms, holds them straight out from his body, a .38 gripped with both hands.

“Doan fuggin screw aroun wid da.”

“My Dad is the best Dad a lucky little boy like me could ever have.”

“Wha?”

The man blinks, tries to focus his alcoholic’s eyes on the garbage.

“My Dad is the best Dad a lucky little boy like me could ever have. My Dad is the best Dad a lucky little boy like me could ever have. My Dad is the best Dad a lucky little boy like me could ever have. My Dad is the best Dad—”

“Sh-sh-shuddup you lippy liddle pizz—”

“A lucky little boy like me could ever have. MY DAD IS THE BEST DAD A LUCKY LITTLE BOY LIKE ME COULD EVER HAVE. MY DAD IS THE BEST—

“B-b-buuuuuhhhhpp,” the man belches. His face reddens. His Busch eyes dart. Panic visits. Sweat breaks through.

DAD A LUCKY LITTLE BOY LIKE ME COULD EVER HAVE. MY DAD IS THE BEST DAD A LUCKY LITTLE BOY LIKE ME COULD EVER—

“Are you boys roughhousing again?” a voice calls from the kitchen.

HAVE. MY DAD IS THE BEST DAD A LUCKY LITTLE BOY LIKE ME COULD EVER HAVE. MY DAD—

Urine soaks the man’s underwear.

“N-n-no, God,” he moans.

He starts up from his chair. The bullet knocks him back down, carries much of the back of his head to the wall, against which it splatters and slowly begins to drip down to the worn brown carpet.

The fat woman thunders in from the kitchen, carrying a slab of cheddar cheese in her right hand. She is dressed in an old pink bathrobe. The woman, because of her inordinate fat, comes to a less-than-graceful halt when she spies the mess that has become of the man who just a few hours earlier had been whispering in her ear.

“My God, Joey, what have you done?” the fat woman asks. Instinctively, she takes a bite from the slab of cheddar.

The first bullet enters the fat woman’s midsection before she can swallow the cheese. The fat woman begins to fall as yellow fat tissue explodes from her fat body. Before she hits the ground the second bullet destroys her left mammary.

The coroner’s report on the fat woman (Margaret Lynn Layden) pronounces the cause of death as asphyxia, due to a 3.3cm x 4.7cm piece of cheddar cheese lodged at the back of her throat.

The first two police officers to arrive at the scene discovered the boy sitting on the floor, still dressed in his halloween suit, calmly eating his candy and pinning the wrappers to his costume. He was reading One Way, the Jesus tract he had received at apartment A-211.



March 2000—I received a letter. Only my address appeared on the envelope.

“I don’t know your name. My name is Joe Layden. I’m the guy that killed his parents. You gave me One Way that night. Thanks. I probably read it 1000 times. The first 500 times I thought about killing you. Ha ha. But I knew it was true anyway and the last 500 times I just confessed it. ‘He called me long before I heard/Before my sinful heart was stirred/But when I took Him at His Word/Forgiven He lifted me.’ I got a Bible and started reading. I’m saved by the Blood of the Lamb. Of course nobody believes me. Because I killed a guy in a youth facility after I got saved. It’s a long story as they say. I have a hard time dealing with people. I know the Holy Spirit dwells inside me but I have a hard time following Him. But I guess I don’t have to explain that to you. And I know that you will believe I am washed in the Blood of the Lamb seeing as how things worked out that night. You must be one of the Few. So we can understand each other. The Almighty in His unsearchable wisdom brought us together. We’re all each other has. Trick or treat. Ha ha. I guess you’ve been waiting all these years for this letter. Sorry it has took me so long but you are a lot further down The Way than me. So I’ll be here till I die which may be a very long time if the Lord tarries. But that doesn’t really matter. The Lord Jesus Christ has made us Blood brothers.” 

28 October 2015

Halloween 1992, Part II


5:07 pm, 31 October 1992—The boy dashes through a narrow hall, stops, opens a closet door, grabs an old white sheet, sprints back down the narrow hall, skids into the kitchen.

“Where are the s-scissors?”

“You’re running around this house like you have ants in your pants!” the fat woman says in mock irritation. With her fat stubby fingers she tears into a two pound mass of hamburger and rips away a chunk. With her over-inflated hands she forms the raw meat into a patty.

“W-where are the s-s-scissors?”

“Goodness, Joey, calm down. The scissors are in the junk drawer, right where they always are.”

The boy yanks open a kitchen cabinet drawer, roots through the pencils, batteries, candles, coupons, string, matches—finds the scissors. He drapes the sheet over his head.

“Mom, c-cut out the eye holes.”

“There will be plenty of time for your costume after dinner,” the fat woman says as she slaps a hamburger patty onto a grimy cast iron skillet.

“B-but Mom, I want to leave before D-d-d-dad gets home!”

“You know you can’t go without your dinner, Joey.”

“B-but D-d-d-dad will r-ruin everything!”

“Joey, why would you say such a thing about your father!”

The boy tightens his grip on the scissors. He stares at the back of the fat woman as she tears into the mass of the hamburger and rips away another chunk. She molds the raw, red, bloody meat into a patty.

The things I saw that night. “No, Joey!” “No, Joey!” Fat spurting blood. “No, Joey! No, Joey!”

The boy loosens his grip on the scissors, pulls the sheet off his head, walks slowly out of the kitchen. He sits on the floor in front of the TV. He stares at the blank screen.

'Joey, supper’s ready,' the beautiful thin young woman calls. 'It’s delicious, Mom.' 'Son, I bought you an expensive new Chucky costume on the way home from the office.' 'Thank you, Dad.' 'Nothing is too good for my boy.'

The small apartment begins to stink of burning meat sizzling in hot liquid fat.



5:48 pm, 31 October 1992—The man spits a mouthful of partially-chewed hamburger onto his plate.

“Can’t you get the grease off these goddam burgers before you puttem on the buns? Lookit this fuckin thing!” The man peels the top half of the bun from his hamburger. “Goddam brown greasy lump of bread. Like something outta yer asshole. Is that it? You wanna shit in my mouth, bitch? IS THAT IT?”

The fat woman stares down at her plate. Her fat cheeks flare bright red.

“I can’t eat dis CRAP! This shit outta yer ass!”

The man fires the grease-soaked hamburger bun at the fat woman. It clings to the side of her head. The man laughs.

“You look like Kennedy with half his fuckin head blown off! Ha ha ha ha. Oh, man! Clean yer fat ass off and get me a can!”

The fat woman gets up from the table, dejectedly plods to the kitchen sink. The man laughs as she peels the greasy bun from her hair and dabs a damp paper towel against her head. The fat woman’s shoulders heave.

“Get my can first, then you can cry.”

With tears hot as the liquid fat from a frying hamburger burning down her fat red cheeks, the fat woman dutifully opens the refrigerator and brings the man a can of Busch.

“Yer too sensitive,” the man says as he pops the tab on the can. “Lighten up a little, will ya? Christ, I come home from a hard day’s work and hafta eat a crappy dinner with a crybaby. With two crybabies. Why am I so fuckin lucky?”

The fat woman sits down, digs her spoon into a pile of mashed potatoes, lifts the spoon to her mouth, her mouth opens, her three chins sag down to her shirt collar. She feeds herself. And she digs her spoon into the mashed potatoes again. The process repeats. Again and again and again. When her plate is clean of potatoes, she scoops another giant mound from the serving dish and begins anew.

The man drinks from the can. Shortly thereafter, the first “buuuuuhhhhpp” of the evening.

The boy closes his eyes, takes a deep breath.

“D-d-dad?”

“What?”

“C-c-can I g-g-go tr-tr-trick-or-tr-tr-treating now?”

“Yeah. Go. I can have some peace and quiet for once.”

The boy gets up from the table, goes over to the junk drawer, grabs the scissors.

“Whaddya need those for?” the man asks.

The boy tightens his grip on the scissors.

“Answer me, boy.”

The boy looks at the fat woman. Her fat cheeks bulge with potatoes. She chews slowly, eyes cast down. Gravy leaks from the corner of her mouth.

I saw the Blood just pouring from the sky. But I didn’t know who the Blood came from. Hate is a small thing a toy for the unbelievers.

“Whaddya got those shears for, boy?

“T-t-t-to make m-my cos-costume.”

“Yeah?”

The boy nods.

The man picks up the Busch, takes a long swallow, sets the now-empty can down, wipes his mouth.

“Buuuuuhhhhpp. Get me a can.”

GET ME A CAN GET ME A CAN. I was a giant. Hate is a look on the puny unbeliever’s face or a wasted thought that stinks in his self fish mind. But I was a GIANT. I took action. I did not twist my face and think. I executed.

“A halloween costume, huh? What kinda costume?”

“A g-g-ghost,” the boy says as he stares into the cold white light of the refrigerator.

“Lemme see if I can put two an two together,” the man says as the boy hands him the Busch. “You got your mama’s shears in yer hand and—” the man pops the tab on the can, brings it to his mouth, tilts it, drains away half the beer, “and you wanna make yerself a ghost suit. Sounds to me like—”

“Are we all done with our supper?” the fat woman asks as she gets up from the table.

“What the hell? You don’t innerup me when I’m talkin. I’m puttin two an two together over here, you understand? YOU UNDERSTAND?”

The fat woman nods, her three chins bob up and down. The boy stands two feet from his father, scissors in hand.

“It’s rude to innerup someone when they’re talkin. CHRIST. Yes, we’re done with our fuckin dinner. If you wanna call that crap dinner. We been done. We been sittin here waitin for you to eat yer fill. Sittin here for God knows how long watchin you stuff yer fat face. And that ain’t a pretty pitcher. Believe me. Believe you me. Fat. Go on a diet. CHRIST. ‘Are we done with supper?’ Yeah, we’re done. CHRIST. Do these dishes. Get some fuckin exercise.”

The fat woman has an empty look on her face as she clears the table. Clumps of generic fat melted on a skull.

The man stares at the boy, brings the can to his mouth, tilts it, drains away the rest of the beer.

“Your mother,” the man says with feeling, in a genuinely sad tone as he shakes his head. “I’m sorry. I know it can’t be easy havin that thing for a mother.”

The man looks at the boy.

“Well, such is life. Get yer ole man a can, will you?”

The man surveys the scene. He sees the boy go to the refrigerator. He sees the fat woman fill the kitchen sink with hot water and pink dish soap. He sees the boy walk toward him—Busch in one hand, scissors in the other. He sees the fat woman’s fat soapy hands wipe a dirty, crumbling sponge over the greasy, chipped dishes. He sees the boy holding out a can of Busch. He sees his big, hairy hand take the can, pop the tab. He sees his hairy hand bring the can to his mouth. He sees himself drink the whole can in several long gulps. He sees his lips puff out as he burps.

“As I was sayin, two and two equals you cuttin up a sheet for yer Halloween suit. But I don’t work my fuckin ass off all day long so you can waste my paychecks on sheets. Not the way you piss yer bed every goddam night. We don’t have enough fuckin sheets that you can go around like some fuckin Casper. I can drink twenny canzabeer a night an I don’t piss in my sleep. When you can do dat, then you can be Casper.”

“B-but D-dad, I n-n-need a cos-costume.”

“CHRIST. If you knew how that baby talk killed me.”

“I’m s-s-s-sorry, D-d-dad. I c-c-c-can’t h-help it.”

And I truly couldn’t help it brother I will never forget how the old man said CHRIST the poor doomed unbeliever. I didn’t believe then either of course I was a giant but not of faith I was an executioner and I meant to execute all.

The man winces. He puts both hands to his head. He slaps his hands against his head.

“I c-c-c-can’t h-h-help—”

“SHUDDUP! Gimme those!”

The man grabs the scissors out of the boy’s hand, springs up from his chair, gets caught between the chair and the table, shoves the table, kicks the chair away, pushes past the boy, thunders around the kitchen, yanks open drawers and cupboards.

“Can I help you find something, dear?” the fat woman asks in a mechanical voice. She wipes the dirty, crumbling sponge back and forth, back and forth over a plate.

“Found it!” the man says. He tears one bag free from a roll of fifty gallon plastic trash bags. The man cuts off the two corners at the sealed end of the bag and then makes a semi-circle cut in the middle. He slings the bag over his shoulder, reaches into the junk drawer, pulls out a box of safety pins. He bends down, grabs the handle on the cabinet door under the sink, pulls, the door bangs into the fat woman’s leg. “Get outta my way, stupid.” The fat woman steps aside, wiping the dirty, crumbling sponge back and forth, back and forth over the same plate. The man takes out an overflowing garbage pail. He sets the pail and the box of safety pins on the kitchen table, opens the refrigerator, takes a Busch. He returns to the table, sets his chair straight, sits down. He opens the beer. Takes a sip, then another sip, then a series of long gulps. He bangs the empty can onto the table. He rubs his hands together, wipes his mouth.

“Let’s get yer suit on you, boy.”

The boy stands there.

“C’mere, c’mere, I ain’t got all night.”

The boy stands in front of the man.

“Put yer arms straight up.”

The man drapes the plastic trash bag over the boy, pulls the boy’s arms through the two holes at the ends, and then works the boy’s head through the hole he has cut in the middle of the sealed end of the bag. He pulls the bag down over the boy’s body. The boy is clothed in the brown plastic trash bag.

“We gotta be honest aboud ourself, boy,” the man says as he reaches into the garbage pail. He pulls out a rotting brown banana peel, takes a safety pin and pins the banana peel to the trash bag. “Yer not scary enough to be a ghost,” the man says as he reaches into the garbage pail and grabs the greasy hamburger bun he had thrown at the fat woman. “Examine the facks,” the man says as he pins the grease-soaked bun to the plastic trash bag. “Yer a studdererer, a bed wedder, you get lousy grades, yer always sick. The fack is, yer garbage,” the man says matter-of-factly, his beer breath carrying the facts into the boy’s face.

Of course he was truthful there brother he was a truth teller and it was probably the only thing he ever got right.

The boy stands silent and still as the man finishes designing the boy’s halloween costume with an assortment of rubbish: the blood-soaked paper the hamburger had been wrapped in, broken egg shells, a bit of fried egg yolk, crumpled, dirty paper towels, a soggy coffee filter caked with grounds, a juice can leaking orange concentrate, a wadded-up ball of junk mail, a small piece of swiss cheese and a sliver of ham, three chicken bones.

The man studies his work, shakes his head.

“It’s not quite right. The body is garbage but de head is too clean. Mama, bring some of dat gravy over here.”

The fat woman sets the dish she has been scrubbing for the last fifteen minutes into the sink, dries her hands on the front of her shirt, picks up the gravy bowl and plods expressionlessly to the table.

“Pour de gravy in de boy’s hair.”

The fat woman turns the bowl over the boy’s head. The brown liquid spills onto his hair.

“Now mush it around. Like a shampoo. Be creadive fer once in yer life,” the man says as he walks to the refrigerator.

The fat woman massages the gravy into the boy’s scalp with her fat stubby fingers. The man opens a can of Busch. The fat woman works the boy’s hair into a pointy clump. A half-giggle escapes from her mouth. The man hears the sound, stares at her huge rear end, drinks the beer in one long swallow. He walks over to the woman, stands behind her, whispers in her ear. She wiggles her fat ass against the front of the man’s pants. The boy stands silent and still.

Soon I’ll have a bag full of candy Soon I’ll have a bag full of candy Soon I’ll have a bag full of candy Soon I’ll have a bag full of candy.

The man whispers in the fat woman’s ear again. She turns and tramps out of the kitchen, a crooked grin on her face.

“Buuuuuuhhhhpp. You jest about ready, boy. You wait here an I get the rest of yer suit.”

I saw myself eating the candy after I had executed one and all. I was alone the giant of the universe.

The man leaves the kitchen, walks down a hallway, he passes the bedroom, peers in, sees the fat woman taking off her bra. He continues down the hall, enters the bathroom, unzips and drops his pants, urinates into the toilet bowl, though a stream or two splashes onto the toilet seat. After he pulls up his pants, he roots around in the bathroom trash can, pulls out a blood-stained sanitary napkin, walks back down the hall to the kitchen.

“Yer mother’s dirdy rag will make a nice collar,” the man says as he pins the sanitary napkin to the top of the trash bag around the boy’s skinny neck. “There. You look like one of them priestez. Father Garbage. Ha ha.”

The boy looks down at the soiled napkin.

“C-c-c-can I g-go now?”

“Get me a can. Den you can go. An don’t take off yer suit when you leave. An don’t take off any of dat garbage. When you come back, yer suit better look de same.”

26 October 2015

Halloween 1992, Part I

9:08 pm, 26 October 1992“Buuuuuhhhhpp,” the man belched.

If I was to explain it I would say that the things that happened to me was never what I had fear of.

The man raised a large hairy hand to his face and wiped a thin film of sweat from his brow. “Hoddin here,” he muttered. He painstakingly tugged at his sweat-dampened T-shirt. With a great lethargic effort, he freed one arm and managed to get half the shirt over his head, then he had to stop and take a break from his labor. “Too hod,” he muttered.

The man sat there for several seconds, watching the TV through the neck hole of his shirt. And then: 

“SONUVABITS.”

Brother it was always there. The fear. Not of what would happen to me but of what I would do. Nothing I could do about it which they can never understand. I never did grow much but the other was a giant.

The man exploded from his chair. He stomped and cursed. He ripped the T-shirt off and swung it rabidly through the air. “COCKSUGGERS. COGSUCKERS.” The T-shirt whipped against an open can of Busch sitting atop a cheap end table. The can fell to the floor. The man cursed the TV until the growing beer puddle reached his bare foot. Aware of a cold, wet sensation, the man looked down. Naked to the waist, covered on back, chest and overhanging beer belly with thick tufts of reddish-brown hair, the man stared at the beer reservoir dammed at his foot. “Buuuuuhhhhpp.” He turned his bleary gaze to the TV. “Fugg. . .fuckers.” He looked again at the beer puddle. “Stupit bits. Stew. . .pid.Whyzit so HOT?. HEY. HEY!” He dropped his T-shirt on the beer puddle. He pressed his bare foot onto the shirt. “I SAID ‘HEY!’”

A fat woman dressed in bulging jeans and an XXL white sweatshirt with “MOM” printed in red across the front wearily and heavily trekked into the room. She stopped about ten feet from the man. She saw the man’s hard look. She winced. She spoke in a soft voice. “Yes, dear?”

She was always fat which you know is a crime. I have a lot of time to think so I see that she ate a lot and grew fat. I never did grow much because what I would do in the future took all the nutrition.

The man flung the beer-soaked shirt at the woman. She tried to cover her face with her flabby arms, but her muscles, weighed down by fat, could not respond quickly enough to the motor commands of her brain. The T-shirt, the sweaty T-shirt, the shirt soaked in beer, the shirt ground into the beer puddle with the man’s sweating, stinking foot, slapped hard into the fat woman’s face. The stench of beer, the stench of a beer drinker’s armpits and the stench of a beer drinker’s fetid human foot violated the woman’s nostrils. She gagged as she peeled the shirt from her triple-chinned face. Her fat cheeks burned red. She blinked furiously. She opened her mouth. She was about to speak, then saw again the man’s hard look. She closed her mouth.

She was always scared but she was always scared of what would happen to her. But I was never scared of what happened to me of course I did not like it. I did not like it one bit but it was what I would do that scared me.

“Is too hoddin here. Look what. . .look what you did, look what you made me did, you stupit bits. Bits. Bitch. Turn down de heat, bitch. And clean my sh, and clean my shirt. Bits. Buuuuuhhhhpp.”

The woman trudged into a small, cramped kitchen. While working away at a sink full of dirty dishes, she quietly sobbed, wiping tears from her eyes with her fat soapy hands. After the last chipped plate was set in the plastic dish rack to dry, the woman took two plodding steps to the scratched-up refrigerator, opened the freezer door and removed a tub of Breyer’s Vanilla Marble.

After the fat woman had exited, the man dropped back into his sagging easy chair. He stared at the TV for a few seconds, then turned his head. A boy is sitting cross-legged on the floor.

“Whuddye mizz while yer mudder wass boddering me?”

The boy trembles.

He’d start on me then. First the old lady then me but I was never scared of it. I didn’t like it who would? But I wasn’t scared of it because all along I knew what I would do.

“The B-b-bills got the b-ball and then K-k-kelly—”

The man sighs violently.

“Fergeddid.”

He drums his fingers on the arm of the chair.

I couldn’t talk right. I never did grow properly. What it was was that the first thing I can remember of my life is knowing what I would do and that is what did all the growing.

The boy sits motionless. He is pale and red-haired and skinny. He has twig arms and a peanut brittle torso.

“Gedme a can.”

The boy springs from the floor and darts quickly into the kitchen. His mother sits at a small, wobbly table, methodically spooning Vanilla Marble into her mouth.

“Would you like two scoops, Joey?”

She was always eating. Chewing chewing chewing. Always something had to be in her mouth and you know she was a pig because it didn’t matter what was in her mouth. There wasn’t a thing that was too filthy to go in her mouth.

The boy opens the refrigerator and takes out a can of Busch.

“Joey, two scoops?”

I couldn’t talk right and I think it has effected me to this day because I can’t find the right words to tell about what I knew I would do because it was not that I hated them. No brother, hate is for the unbelievers.

The boy turns his back on the ice-cream eating fat woman in the XXL “MOM” sweatshirt and leaves the kitchen. He hands the man the can of beer, then sits on the floor and stares at the TV. The man pops the tab on the can, brings it to his mouth, tilts it, drains away half the beer.

“Buuuuuhhhhpp.” The man wipes his mouth. “Lissen, it omost, it’s om’smost hafftime. Then me and you haff to haff a liddle man-to-man.”

The unbelievers hate and it is a small thing and you and I know it is a small thing because they are not afraid of it. They laugh and brag about it and sometimes they do small misdeeds which they are proud of. Too bad for them.

“Because I worg my ass off all day fer you and yer sag of shid mudder. Why’re you so luggy and me so fuckin unluggy I don’t even fuggin know. But waydill hafftime an den we talg some more. Monday nide fudball.”

The man drains the rest of the can.

“Can.”

Again the boy springs from the floor and darts into the kitchen. The fat woman is standing over the little wobbly table. She is opening a loaf of white bread. A knife, a roll of Saran Wrap, a package of Oscar Meyer ham and a jar of French’s mustard also sit atop the table.

“I’m fixing your lunch for tomorrow. Would you like an apple or a pear with your sandwich?”

The boy opens the refrigerator and takes out a can of Busch.

“An apple or a pear, Joey?”

“C-can you please tell dad I have to go to b-bed right now?”

The fat woman tenses. She bites her thumbnail.

“Don’t you want to watch your football with your father?”

“He w-wants to talk to me.”

“Well what’s wrong with that, Joey?” the fat woman asks in a strained voice.

“P-please! Please! P-P-PLEASE!”

So you see that I tried. You see that it is true that I knew what I would do and that I tried to kill this giant that I would become but the unbelievers always pretend.

“Don’t be so silly, Joey,” the fat woman says in the strained voice, the voice of a poor actress, as she busies herself with the bread and the ham and the mustard. She assembles the sandwich and then starts to cut it in half.

“Wh-wh-why won’t you—”

“CAN! CAN! CAN!”

The fat woman jumps. She cries as the knife slices into her fat stubby fingers. The boy watches as she bleeds into tomorrow’s lunch.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Good. The bitch. That is what I thought. Ha ha ha. So you see how the giant grew.

The boy leaves the kitchen. He hands the man the can of beer, then sits down on the floor and stares at the TV. It is halftime. The man pops open the tab on the can, brings it to his mouth, tilts its, drains away half the beer.

“Buuuuuhhhhpp.” The man wipes his mouth. “Lissen, you godda stop talging lige a baby. To gedahead in dis worl, a man hasta talg lige a man, nodda baby. You hear me?”

The boy nods.

“Good. Now I wan you to say ‘my dad iss the bess dad a luggy liddle boy lige me could effer haff.’ You say dat until you can say id ride.”

I knew that one day I would say it right.

“Star talging.”

“M-m-my d-d-dad is the best d-d—”

“Stardover. Do id ride.”

The boy takes a deep breath, closes his eyes.

“C’mon! Diss ain some fuggin skydivin! Jus talg! TALG!”

“M-m-m-m-my—”

“Ten years ole an you talg lige a fuggin baby.” The man mutters to himself, swallows the rest of the Busch in a long gulp. He sighs. “Stardover. ‘My dad iss the bess dad a luggy liddle boy lige me could effer haff.’”

“M-m-m-m-m—”

“Stardover.”

The boy begins to rock back and forth on the floor. The man leans his naked hairy upper body over the worn arm of his chair and slaps the boy in the head.


“Stobb dat roggin! Sidd still an agg lige a man. Talg lige a man.”

It was not that I was scared of what was happening to me it was that maybe now was when I would do what I would do.

“Talg.”

“M-m-m-m-m-m—”

“YOU FUGGIN SIZZY!”

The man grabs the boy by his hair, yanks him off the floor. The boy sees a large hand covered with thick red hair ball into a fist, the fist trembles, then the hand opens, then the hand smashes against his mouth. In the kitchen, upon hearing the blow, the fat woman dressed in the XXL “MOM” sweatshirt opens the refrigerator door.

The force of the blow knocks the boy to the floor. His lips are torn against his teeth. The boy gets to his knees. He hyperventilates. Blood collects in his mouth. The man stands over the boy. He is sweating heavily, his face beet red.

“WHY YOU SUCH A SIZZY? I. . .I. . .I DO THE BESS FOR YOU! I. . .I. . .I”

The man’s nostrils flare, his bleary eyes now wide open. He grunts like a beast of the field and then kicks at the boy as hard as he can. The man’s bare foot stubs against the old thin brown carpet. He staggers forward as his foot continues into the boy’s back. The boy groans and falls face down to the floor. The man nearly trips over the boy. He stumbles and hops in a crazy circle, an alcoholic chasing his own drunken tail. He regains his footing. Dizzy and exhausted, he sways back to his chair.

“An. . .you. . .you. . .bedder nod wed yer. . .wed yer bed,” the man says, huffing and puffing. “Ha-huh, ha-huh,” he tries to laugh while catching his breath. “Piss. . .piss boy. A studdererer an a piss boy. Daz my boy. Sumbuddy else musdda poked yer mudder. Sum haffa sizzy musdda dribble sum jizm in yer mudder’s stangy hole. Hahahahaha. Gedme a can.”

The boy tries to rise from the floor. He slowly eases up. He walks stiffly, bent to one side, into the kitchen.

The unbeliever is afraid of what will happen to him and is not afraid of what he will be.

“Joey, what was that noise I heard?” the fat woman dressed in the XXL “MOM” sweatshirt asks in a strained voice. “Were you and your father roughhousing again? You boys and your football,” the fat woman says in her poor actress’ voice as she plunges a fork deep into an apple pie.

The boy’s teeth clench. His eyelids are tinged with red. He stands in a broken heap in front of the refrigerator. It’s an old model with a humming motor. The boy opens the refrigerator door. The cold light shines on his face.

“All that fuss over a silly game,” the fat woman recites her lines.

The cold light shines on the boy’s face. He stares into the light.

Hate is a puny thing fit only for the unbelievers. To become a man of FAITH, brother, a GIANT OF FAITH you must YOU MUST take the LEAP.

The boy licks the drying blood from his lips, grabs a Busch. He hobbles out of the kitchen and hands the man the can of beer. The man slaps his hairy hand hard against the boy’s ear. The boy totters and falls to the floor.

“You hustle when I ass fer a can!”

The man pops the tab on the can, brings it to his mouth, tilts it, drains all the beer.

“Ged my. . .buuuuuhhhhpp. . .ged my .38”

The boy struggles from the floor, stands crookedly, drags his bent frame to a closet by the front door to the apartment. From here the boy can hear sounds from other apartments. . .other homes. Hysterical laughter. Music. A crying baby. A man and woman shouting.

The boy opens the closet door, leans his scrawny, bowed body inside. He sifts through a tangle of discards: a half-filled photo album, a deflated basketball, hats, gloves, cardboard boxes and tin cans stuffed with useless junk. Then he opens a wooden box and removes a .38. In his small hand, the gun appears enormous. He creaks back like a broken wind-up toy and hands the gun to the man. He crinkles to the floor.

“You and yer mudder kill me,” the man says as he points the .38 at his own head.

The boy stares at water stains on the ceiling.

“You’d be happy if I pulled de trigger.”

The unbelievers want to be happy.

"But I won’t. Because I am. . .a man. I’m nodda pizzboy studdererer or a fat sag of shid cund. Cunt. I’m a man who can dring twenny canzabeer a night an when I geddup my bed sheeds are as dry as yer mudder’s crag. You hear me?”

This was the night I saw the Blood for the first time. But I could not understand because I did not know who it came from.

“You hear me? You bedder nod wed yer bed tonight. I kill you.”

The Blood was everywhere but I saw “MOM” running over and licking it up. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. The giant knew who the Blood came from. My brain absorbed the giant’s lies.

The man stares blankly at the TV screen. The boy stares blankly at the water stains on the ceiling. Minutes pass.

“Huh? Wha? O dey gott good cheerleaderers. O I’d fugg dat cund. O! Hey. HEY!”

The boy shifts his gaze from the ceiling to the man.

“You go bed now. Keepid dry. An sen yer mudder in here.”

Again the boy fights a hard battle to gain his feet. He slowly, carefully transports his sore body into the kitchen.

The fat woman dressed in the XXL “MOM” sweatshirt is sitting at the table, reading Globe. She does not look at the boy.

“Is your football over already?” she asks in the strained, poor actress’ voice from behind the Globe.

“He w-wants you in there.”

She drops the magazine, stares in fright.

“What does he want?” she asks with genuine alarm.

You see this? It’s just as I told you. The unbeliever is only scared of what will happen to them. Everything about them is small even when they are as fat as she was fat. They are small with their little hate and their selfishness their fear only of what will happen to them. Selfish selfish selfish. A Self Fish. Not a Fisher of Men but a Fisher of Self.

The boy turns his back on the fat woman and limps into his bedroom. He takes off his pants, his shoes, his socks. In shorts and T-shirt, he gingerly lays on the mattress. The bed creaks as he tries to find the least painful position to sleep in, the he pulls the covers to his chin. Through the thin wall, he can still hear the TV. And the man and the fat woman.

“You sug id. You geddown dere and sug id. You sug id or you sug dis.” A thud as the fat woman drops to her knees. “Yer so fad de whole house shages.” The clink of a belt buckle. The rustle of pants being pulled down. The burps and grunts of the man. The semi-thuds of a fat body moving from point A to point B to point C. “Geddid in yer mouth already!” “Doan blogg de fuggin TV!” “More!” “G’mon, geddid all!” The triple-chinned gagging of a fat woman. Quiet for one minute, two minutes, three minutes. The drone of the television. “Fergeddid.” “I SAID ‘FERGEDDID!”

The boy pulls the covers over his head.

“How gan I when yer so fuggin fad? So fuggin ugly. Krize, gant you lose sum wade? Stobb eading so goddam much. I SAID ‘FERGEDDID!’ Ged yer fad azz oudda my faze an gedme a can before I shoot yer fad azz.” The rustle of pants being pulled up. The huffing and puffing of a fat woman trying to get off her knees. The clink of a belt buckle. “Only anudder pig could ged eggzided by yer fad body.” The heavy trudge of a fat woman on her way to the kitchen. The drone of the television.

Now I can rest. Tired.

“Joey.”

It’s tiring.

“Joey.”

I’m sleeping.

“Joey.”

Free. Free. I am fr—

“Joey,” in a hushed voice, “Joey, wake up.”

The boy’s eyes open. The fat woman dressed in the XXL “MOM” sweatshirt is standing over him.

“Joey, your father is not feeling well. He needs our bedroom to himself. It’s best if I sleep with you tonight.”

Fish.

The fat woman pulls off the XXL “MOM” sweatshirt. Her fat drooping breasts are barely restrained by her old, dirty, stretched-out bra. The multiple folds of stomach fat fall like water over Niagara as she wrestles off her jeans. Tufts of thick, greasy hair appear at the edges of her old, dirty, stretched-out pink panties.

The bed sags as the woman settles her fat body around the boy. Her obscene weight crushes the boy’s already-battered peanut brittle torso. She opens her two huge blubber thighs and closes them around one of the boy’s stick legs. He feels a warm damp spot through the woman’s thin pink panties. The tufts of hair scratch his flesh as she grinds against his stick leg. The bed’s box springs creak a wild tune. A foul odor drifts up from under the covers and fills the boy’s nostrils. He hears, as from a faraway land, the drone of a football game, and then a “buuuuuhhhhpp.”

24 October 2015

Niki Of Dollar General

She stares at the dollar bills as if she's never seen one before.  Niki.  That's the name on the yellow tag on her black uniform shirt.  Now she looks at the cash register.

I'm in Dollar General, probably the shabbiest store in my town.  It's a run-down dump with a pot-holed parking lot.  Every now and then I stop in here for a Diet Coke on my way to work.  Everything about Dollar General is cheap and sorry-looking, except the mini Coke cooler by the check-out lane, it's got the coldest pops in town, almost ice cold.  

There's a depressing surrealism to Dollar General, with its fat people's poverty food, ugly clothing, disposable housewares. . .it's like a gag gift to the poor. . .a plastic dog poo for minimum wagers to step in.

I feel sinful, spending my $1.80 on the Diet Coke at Dollar General, with its fraudulent *bargains.*  Dollar General is a remainders scavenger, and it's no friend to the poor, with higher-than-retail-average mark-ups on its shoddy merchandise.  But, as I say, these Diet Cokes are almost ice cold, and anyway, I'm poor, myself, so. . .

Niki puts the dollar bills in the register, starts to close the drawer, stops.  She smiles.

I wonder how many people I have not seen today, not seen this week, this month, this year, this lifetime?  People all around.  At work, in my neighborhood, in stores, the library, in cars driving past, on sidewalks and at bus stops.  They are everywhere.  People.  Hundreds of them must circulate around me.  Maybe thousands.  I give them no notice.  Technically, I do see them. But I see them as extras, like the background crowd in a movie scene.  They are not central to the action of my life.  They surround me, but mean nothing to me.  They live and die, but the noise and stink of my last fart is of more interest to me. . .

And yet. . .

Every now and then one emerges from the background, from the haze of the nameless, faceless mass. . .

Such a one is Niki of Dollar General. . .

She smiles.  She takes two dimes from the register, closes it.

What makes Niki shine out from ashy humanity?  Her physical appearance?  I must live among dozens of attractive women every day.  Niki's been working here for several months, cashiering and stocking shelves. . .I see her maybe once a week or every ten days. . .I never speak to her except to thank her for scanning my Diet Coke.  And yet from the first time I handed her two dollars, I sensed her extra-ordinary life force.  Unlike the forest of human timber I pass through, it was clear she was prepared in the image of God. . .the Light of Life was in her.

She stares at the dimes as if she's never seen one before, and as if she's unsure of their purpose.

At first I thought she might be mildly *retarded,* as they used to say.  But she's been working here long enough that even the *slow* would have mastered the details of the money exchange, by now.  

"Your change, sir," she says, holding out the twenty cents.

No, she's no dummy, this Niki of Dollar General. I figured it out, her curious behavior, about the fourth or fifth time I saw her here:

She doesn't know how to act.

She doesn't pretend.  There is nothing artificial about her.  Unlike most of us, she lives, instead of acts.  Thus she has the glow of God.  She is alive.

I take the dimes.  I grab the Diet Coke.  I stand there.  I cannot leave.

Most of us, by our mid-teens at the latest, fall into patterns of learned behavior. . .we mimic our peers, who mimic their role models.  We act like we are living, when, in reality, we have given up our lives for scripts, programs, rituals, gestures, etc., etc., etc.

Niki does not seem surprised I am still standing here.  For the person who is truly alive, anything can happen, therefore nothing is unexpected.  A *normal* person, a person I take no note of, a dead person, a person acting as a cashier, would expect me to have left, by now.  By my not following the script, that person would become alarmed, and ask if something is wrong.  But Niki has a pleasant, peaceful expression on her face.  I would like to reach across the counter and brush the hair from her forehead, to see if she has been sealed by God. . .but that cannot be done.

Another customer comes along.  An old woman.  I step aside.  An old woman in a cheap ugly old dress.  She's buying a magnifying glass and a box of envelopes.  The dress is so ugly, faded flowers of blue, purple, red.  She struggles with the zipper on her purse.  "It won't open," she croaks.  A horrible scene.  Horrible and pathetic.  My spirit is crying for leaving.  I look away.  The first thing my eyes land on are the *impulse items* displayed by the register.  I see a rack of little red bottles.  5-Hour Energy.  I feel exhausted, staring at them, the little red bottles of energy.  I didn't sleep well last night.  I dreamed for the first time in years.  A disconcerting dream:

Hurry, I hear somebody shout.  Then I am in a room, a white room, brightly lit, there is a bed with white sheets.  A woman is on the bed.  Fat and naked.  We are kissing, but her mouth tastes like sand.  Her nude body is not anatomically correct.  The female anatomy has not been rendered correctly by the dream program.  Her cunt is misshapen.  I fuck her, anyway.  It becomes a chore.  I'd like to stop, but it is clear she does not want me to stop, so out of charity I keep on. And then, then her human head becomes the head of a baby hippopotamus.  I am fucking a nude human female with a misshapen cunt who now has the head of a baby hippo.  A smiling baby hippo.  That is the dream which weakened my sleep.

It may be that the baby hippo head was not rendered correctly, either.  I have never actually seen a baby hippo's head.  But in the dream, I knew immediately and with absolute certainty that the human head had changed into a baby hippo's head.  I remember thinking in the dream, while I was fucking that fat woman with the misshapen cunt, her head has become the head of a baby hippo. . . 

I stop daydreaming the dream.  I see again the miserable reality of Dollar General.  The old woman in the ugly dress is gone.  Niki is looking at me.

"Have you forgotten something, sir?" she asks.

I've been standing here long enough, now, for her to wonder about it.

"Uh. . .no.  No, you know, actually, I was remembering something."

Such a pleasant, peaceful expression on her face.  I yawn.  Niki has the face of a lullaby. 

The next customer approaches with a shopping basket full of *ready meals* from Hormel and Kraft.

The poor now eat as if they are on a journey to Mars. . .

It takes Niki a few minutes to scan the items, bag them, process the payment via some sort of poor person's food-only debit card.  I still don't leave.  Why don't I leave, I ask myself?

There's nowhere to go.

Niki stares at an Easy Mac Triple Cheese Cup.  "Aren't these a blessing?" she remarks to the customer.  

There's nowhere to go, and this is a nice final resting place. . .a place of peace, and good will.