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.
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.”
“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?”
“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 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.”
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.”
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