Celebrity Assassin - a NovelA Chapter by RJLevy
What happens when a Nobody suddenly becomes a Somebody by killing a superstar and broadcasting his confession to the world? Written in the form of a blog, this is the story of how envy turns to fame.
The day she met my gaze and floored me with those awe-struck eyes was the day the locks came off the gun cases and my father’s arsenal was resurrected from the grave. I clearly remember the night before but the events that followed are still obscured in a cloud of confusion. I was, as usual, at home, watching TV while the stars drifted dimly by my window. I had spent much of the day downloading porn and crucifying my c**k on the soft-core altar of c**t. I was weary and forlorn, overtired and tanked on caffeine. I could hear the mournful sigh of the distant freeway, moaning and creaking like a wounded animal, so unlike the sound of waves it so sickly resembles. I heard the kids outside, the same wild chorus of drug and alcohol-induced pandemonium that rose up every Saturday night in the dull sector of a dying town. A girl in high heels running, shrieking, mouthing obscenities to a staggering, gasping, desperate male about to experience the cruel agony of being dumped. He threatened to kill her because losing her at that moment was like dying, the mortification of the juvenile ape cast out from paradise by the disheveled Eve of Darwin’s evergreen garden of blood. I recall that I was about halfway through watching The Birds, a picture I had never seen before and have never watched since. I’m not what they call a film buff and, if I could remember the titles, I can count the number of old movies I have seen on one hand. Yet there was something about this one that grabbed my attention. The possibility that nature could turn its claw on humanity certainly appealed to me, but it was the leading lady who really shook me out of my ugly state of self-pitying torpor. She was not just a classic, elegant beauty from a bygone age. I had seen Marilyn in a film which, apart from the obvious charms of the woman herself, held little interest for me as a spectator. This girl was different. She was both the siren and the victim but at no point did she ever swoon or scream. Even when the birds are pulling out her hair and tearing her skin, she remains oddly detached from the bizarre and frightening events that throw everyone else into fits of hysteria. This makes her stand out from the crowd and when the town has been devastated by the avian blitzkrieg, she is blamed for bringing the evil with her. It’s as if she’s caught between the birds and human society, the beautiful victim of both. But, more than any of this, she reminded me of someone I had known but had never had the fortune to meet. She worked four floors above me but she may as well have been five thousand miles away. I noticed her soon after I joined the company. I’d pass her on the way down to the basement as she was taking the elevator up. She always looked amazing, even when she came in late, her hair ruffled and her face not quite made up. In fact, I felt even more endeared to her when she wasn’t playing the part of the salesgirl, immaculately groomed like a mannequin all done up for the window. I liked that vulnerable, serious and somewhat lonely side of her, the face she kept for herself when no one was seeking to get her attention. I could see how other men were drawn to her as they strayed like alien beings into the ladies’ underwear section, their awkward presence made even more palpable by their awareness of the attractive assistant. She knew this instinctively and kept her distance, letting them finger their way through the lacey frills and satin sheen of French lingerie, imagining their wives and girlfriends in contrast to the curvaceous models on the posters. Just when she sensed that they were overwhelmed by the array of pretty femininity, she would approach discreetly from behind and, in that sweet lilting voice, ask them if they were having a good day, a strategy that provoked them to think of something other than half-naked girls in G-strings. I had wandered only so far into that forbidden zone, a world in which fishnets had a completely different meaning and where the dull routine of store life was charged with the electricity of romantic adventure. It seemed to represent all those things for which people yearned all their lives, the escape into fantasy, a celebration of the flesh dressed only that the nakedness of the body be revealed in a new and more splendid light. I knew that it was a beautiful illusion but somehow the lure of those garments was more powerful than any other manufactured product I could imagine. It had the fascination of a fetish object hotwired into the parts of the brain that no one could ignore. It was a red flag to the primal urge for pleasure heightened to the point of ecstasy, a universal desire deeply encoded into the DNA of every man and woman, regardless of their shortcomings, genetic, romantic or otherwise. Beset as I was by my congenital problem of spontaneous salivation, my inveterate shyness was amplified a thousandfold. I had to keep my distance, so I never had the chance to catch her eye and, even if I had, it would have sent me scurrying back to the pit in which I hid for most of the day, surfacing only to forage for food and treading aimlessly like a soul cast out from Hell to take one glimpse at the vision of angels. I never learnt her name but the morning after The Birds, my heart inflamed by the icy beauty of her double, I decided to take the bull by the horns and walk straight into the ring. It just so happened that it was my day off, which gave me more time to prepare myself for what I knew would be a long and tortuous ordeal. I donned a cravat that once belonged to my grandfather just in case my saliva dripped too copiously from my chin. I had made the effort to look good, got my hair cut in a fashionable style and wore a black shirt and a pair of designer shades to create the impression of being a tall, dark stranger, a potential lady’s man, an intellectual, a musician, whatever! It took several attempts to pluck up the courage to get beyond the elevator and I vaguely recall riding every floor a number of times, encountering the same people on the way up that I had seen on the way down. When I finally got out, I made numerous circumnavigations of the area, pretending to check my cell, flicking non-existent dust off my pants and avoiding the gaze of the staff lest I be recognized by one of the managers or accosted for suspicious conduct. I sneaked behind pillars and peaked between shelves, gravitating inch by inch into a magnetic field whose reversed polarity kept pushing me back. The lingerie store was partly sealed off by a screen of frosted glass, a triptych of panels decorated with black roses that twirled and swirled like vines. This gave me some cover as well as endless opportunities for procrastination. The first time I saw her, she was gently folding garments into a slinky black bag, her tight-fitting skirt and collared blouse reminding me of a nurse’s uniform. Her blond hair was swept up into a tight chignon, revealing the sleek white nape of her neck, the first two buttons of the blouse left open to disclose a seductive hint of cleavage. I had reached the perimeter of the inner sanctum where the racks of regular underwear were giving way to the glory of the superior European brands. The closer I got, the more paranoid I became. My mouth had gone bone dry but I knew that it was only a matter of seconds before my salivary glands started working overtime. There was a subtle scent of flowers wafting in from the glass and I wondered if that was her perfume or something pumped from a subliminal vent in the wall, like the smell of waffles that hits you when you walk past a candy store. My tongue was now soaked in spit, but rather than surrender to my defect, I pulled the cravat up to the point of my chin and braved my way into the secret garden, my nerves running riot inside me. I was relieved to discover that she was with a customer and slid to the far end of the enclosure, camouflaging myself as best I could in the thin veils of fluffy nightgowns and beaded corsets. She passed me at least twice and I had to guess if this was just her discreet way with male clients or if my tendency to be invisible to others was expedient in the most conspicuous of circumstances. Each time she went by, a cool perfumed breeze followed her like an invisible train, the slim, curved line of her calves elegantly slit by seamed black stockings. I felt like a boy at a peep show, too shy to look any closer. The lady she had been serving was now paying up and I realized with trepidation that I would soon be alone. I felt like a trapped animal, unable to move a muscle, the desire to be with her eclipsed by the horror of humiliating myself. At some point she had to spot me so I resolved to come out of hiding and, at the first opportunity, make a quick exit while her back was turned. I made my move but just as I was leaving, I tripped over the foot of one of the rails and fell to my knees, taking a pair of blood-red panties with me to the floor. I shot up like a bullet but it was too late. She was coming towards me, a look of concern and surprise on her face. “Are you OK, Sir?” I think I heard her say. “Yes, Ma'am,” I replied like an unredeemable idiot, my cover blown and my pride in tatters. She motioned to straighten up the rack and I got the impression that this was just a ruse to put some distance between us. I assumed that girls who worked in lingerie stores were trained to recognize the typical behavior of a pervert. I apologized for the mess and handed over the panties, my fingers visibly trembling. She thanked me, telling me not to worry about it. I took this as my cue to leave but just as I was about to make a break, she asked me if I needed any assistance with my selection. I didn’t know what to say and could feel the strands of saliva pooling coldly on my chest. It was at that moment that she stopped and looked at me, her bright green eyes widening into a strange hypnotic stare. I thought I heard her gasp as she parted her glossy red lips and stood there gaping as if I had recently arrived from Mars. “Oh my God! It’s you!” she said in a breathless whisper, her mouth breaking into a nervous child-like smile. I realized that she had recognized me but I had absolutely no recollection of us ever exchanging a glance. How on earth could she know who I was? I was just one of more than two hundred employees, a nobody who worked in the basement and never spoke to a soul. I was lost in disbelief, unable to comprehend what was happening, trying to convince myself that I was about to be woken from a masochistic nightmare. Seconds passed and she still stood there staring, her cheeks flushed pink with bewilderment, her formerly graceful composure reduced to a trembling muddle of nerves. “I…I…I’m a big fan of yours,” she confessed in a voice that resembled a hiccup. “Have all your films on DVD.” It was only then that I realized that she had mistaken me for someone else and not just anybody but a celebrity of sorts. I was about to put her straight when I saw her rush back to the counter, grab a pen and paper and then fumble back towards me.
“I would be deeply honored to have your autograph,” she said. “It would totally make my day.”
Rather than shatter her illusion, I decided to scrawl an illegible signature onto the creased sheet, watching her eyes take note of each meaningless squiggle as if it were the most profoundly beautiful thing she had ever seen. “Thank you so much, Mr.-.” I heard the name of the actor and paused to make the connection between his face and mine. It had never crossed my mind that I could be anyone’s double, least of all one of Hollywood’s biggest names. No one else had ever confused my person with such a personality. I had walked through life as an anonymous shadow, a friendless fiend condemned to bleak obscurity. To be so coldly crowned the impostor of a star by the girl I had fallen in love with was a blow from which I felt I could never recover. I staggered back to the elevator, the repeated chorus of “thank you, thank you!” resounding in a staccato echo through my skull. I could feel the tears boiling up in my eyes, the molten flood of despair sinking into an icy shiver of mind-numbing shock. I had lived to witness my own dissolution, the total eclipse of my ego, the death of a shadow in the glare of a blinding sun. I existed but had ceased to exist, a one reduced to an absolute zero. There was nothing left but the vortex of what had annihilated me. I was an empty fulcrum compressed into a shape that, for a brief and deathly instant, had mimicked the mask of a man. I handed in my resignation the following day and never set foot in that premises again.
Five giants have tumbled and we anxiously wait for the next great pillar to fall, our moral outrage suffused with a morbid fascination. " The New York Times.
Someone is shooting stars and the world seems darker and more electrified by the day. " The Washington Post.
This is much more than a killing spree. It’s a shot through the heart of a culture. " Vanity Fair.
The sickening truth is that this twisted fiend has more admirers than the average pop star. " Newsweek.
The rotten spawn of Envy or a folk hero in the making? " Slate.
The Lord made Adam out of Clay, Eve out of Love, and Cain from the Fire between the Love and the Dust. " Sermon 54, the Reverend Billy Steele.
Some of you say I was made for this age. Some of you think I’m its Nemesis. Either way, you’ll find me on every channel, in every newspaper and pretty soon this blog will be bookmarked on all those drop-down lists of Favorites. I’m buzzing on every search engine in the world, the Hit Man at the top of the Hit List. You peg me there like the Church hangs Christ. You say you want to see me die but you secretly hope that I’ll live forever. I’m like Punch, the endearing little villain who cheats Death, the Devil, the Law and God Himself. Admit it, you’re in two minds, two hemispheres, where dark meets light and Heaven meets Hell, the place where earth and stars collide. One half loves what the other half loathes and between them the media flaps like a hungry vulture, waiting for the predator to become the prey. Someday they’ll write my obituary but by then the myth will have taken care of the truth. So let me introduce myself. I’m the Nobody who came from nowhere, lighting up your smutty sky with homegrown shock and awe. I have more followers than you could pack into a stadium, yet you wouldn’t see me if we passed on the street. I’m not out there. I’m right here, inside your head. You have to go behind the screen and take a look under the hood. You’d have to see that all that glitters is greased in the guts of the foul machine. You’d have to accept that one is worth more than a million and the millions always shadow the few. What they prop up is what they’ll tear down and every idol is a target, mocked, crucified and dragged through the gutter while the cameras zap with glee. The only thing more instantly gratifying than a triumph on the red carpet is the sordid spectacle of human frailty. It’s the worm inside the apple pie that you’re sucking up with barefaced relish. The more you feast, the more you hunger and the more I kill, the more you’ll chatter, tweet and cheer. When the world puts its face on a wall, its head in a cloud and its heart on a wire, anonymity is a rare gift. But when a complete nonentity blows his way through the Walk of Fame, storms flood the sky and lightning cracks the firmament. What I’ve started, others can only ever copy and it won’t be long before it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. So listen up and learn. You wanted to know me so now you’re going to get to know me. But there’s a lot more to this story than you can possibly imagine.
I guess you want me to start at the beginning. Place of birth, mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, the inner city ghetto, the white picket fence, the sprawling impoverished family farm. OK, I’ll start at the beginning. I know you’re looking for a cause, a motive, a congenital disorder, the thorn in the flesh, the twisted DNA, the thing that made me into the monster you think I am. Of course, a person in my position can’t afford to give away too much. I have a job to do and if you want to know more about me you’ll have to give me the liberty of keeping a few secrets. You wouldn’t tell me everything about yourself, would you? There’s way too much false honesty pouring out of the polluted airwaves already, all those desperate losers aching to spew their stinking guts up on TV so that other desperate losers can feel less worthless than they are. Cuz everyone secretly relishes the cruel pleasure of watching someone publicly humiliate themselves. And you can multiply that pleasure by a thousand if the victim just happens to be a celebrity, one of the chosen few, the untouchable Brahmins, the elected and self-appointed Elect of our age. That’s when the vultures come knocking. That’s when the networks start buzzing and the ratings go shooting through the roof. That’s why you’ll never catch me on camera cranking out the crocodile tears and apologizing to the world for my sins. That peculiar brand of celebrity self-flagellation will never be my style. What you are about to hear is a confession of a very different kind. I pledge to tell you the honest truth, not the truth of the hypocrite sworn on the Bible or coughed up all over Dr Phil, but a brutal truth framed in flesh and sealed with blood. You are about to enter a secret door where the bullet holes spell out the deadly tale of a lifetime. You’ll get less than you wished for and a lot more than you ever expected. Confused? Amused? Disturbed? Good. It’s all uphill from here.
I’m an American. I was born in America. My parents were American. My grandparents were all American. As far as I know, my distant ancestors were from distant parts of Europe: England, Ireland, Poland, Latvia. I have never traced my roots. I don’t give a damn if we came from some illustrious bunch of inbred aristocrats or dirt-poor peasants fleeing persecution and hunger to grow cabbages in God’s country. Roots were made to be severed. My dad was convinced that we had blue blood in our tree, tracing the patrilinear all the way back to 1456. He emphasized the English, alluded to the Irish and kept the Latvian and the Polish under wraps. Daddy was an Anglophile and he thought the British Empire was a damn good thing. “America should be to England what Rome was to Greece,” he said. “It’s we Anglo-Saxons that keep this world in check. Once that’s gone, we’ll be yellow dog’s fodder.” He was well read in his own blinkered, self-justifying sort of way. He loved history, he loved hunting and he loved guns. Eureka! A clue I hear you say, a genetically inbred family trait. Wrong. I was never into history, hunting or guns. I rebelled. I rejected all of that. It started on the day I turned seven. Dad always had a hard time remembering anniversaries but this was a rite of passage he had been preparing me for since birth. We camped overnight at the foot of a ridge, my sleep broken by the sounds of night crawlers and the rhythmic drone of my father’s snoring. I was summoned before dawn, the last of the stars drowning in the arctic sky as I peed into the stinging wind. We slipped into our camouflage, daubed our faces with war paint and loaded up without exchanging a word. Then we perched on top of the hill and waited, our barrel tips peering through the budding weeds while the dog lay low at our feet. Dad had figured out a clever way to mimic a jackrabbit’s distress call using a rubber duck I had played with as a baby. He’d tape it to a megaphone and squash it at irregular intervals, the stupid duck face weirdly contorted as the disembodied screech fed back through the wilderness. Creepy as it was, it worked. Within minutes, we had baited our prey. She was moving swiftly along the plain, halting every few seconds to sniff the breeze, her supple form ghosting into the prairie grass. Behind her I saw two pups, then another, and another, the brood whimpering in squeaky unison as they zigzagged through the reeds. The first shot split my ears, the pack scuttling into the brush as the second cracked the air and hit home. Dad had got her in the hindquarters and set the dog loose on the scent. When we found her, she was breathless and foaming horribly at the mouth, blood pooling in a near-perfect circle under the throbbing meat of the wound. She was prone, sphinxlike, ears cocked, acutely aware of her fate. I’ll never forget the look she gave us. She knew who we were. She had smelt us coming. It was like watching a prisoner about to be executed, the blank stare of mute terror wrought into an eerie calm. She was small, not much bigger than a fox, her face bristling with a keen intelligence. I had been taught to regard her as a cunning varmint, at best a nuisance and at worst a threat. I had yelped and squealed as the luckless Wile E. Coyote blew himself up in pursuit of the smirking Roadrunner. Yet, up close, she was barely distinguishable from the family dog and it bothered me that the pet we treated so well had been bred to hate its own kind and rip it apart on the spur of a word. I always turned away when the command was given, burying my fingers so deep into my ears that it hurt. It’s a sound that tears through flesh, as stark and raw as a cut. This time, the dog was held back. It was my turn to take the kill. The gun was huge and heavy in my hands, the butt jammed into my shoulder. I could see her through the slight, the living spirit shivering inside a broken body. The whole world seemed to be dying in those eyes, the brittle grass swaying in the bony thicket. My dwarfed shadow darkened the ground, the giant silhouette of my father looming like an eclipse. I felt his big warm hand on the back of my neck, the spur of encouragement met with a cold shudder of resistance.
“What are you waiting for? She’s yours. Take her.”
One shot and it would have been all over. But she was too beautiful to die, so I was forced to watch her quietly suffer, begging my dad to take her to the vet. He sniggered, telling me that no vet in the world would treat such damaged vermin.
“But she has pups, Pop,” I said. “What will happen to those pups?”
“They’ll be fostered by another b***h or make dinner for weasels. Either way, they won’t suffer long and there’ll be plenty more whelping next season. It’s Nature’s law. The more we kill, the more they’ll breed, which suits us all down to the ground. So quit with the squirming and finish the Goddamn job.”
I squeezed the trigger, the blood pulsing in my finger, an eye staring into an eye.
“I can’t do it. I just can’t do it.”
I felt the hand slide down my neck, a black wing falling from my arm.
“Who would you rather be?” he said. “The hunter, or the hunted? That’s the first decision you have to make in this life. Everything else follows from that.”
He seized the weapon, its iron bulk shrinking into his fist, the relief swiftly displaced by the shame. He took his time, lighting a cigar and savoring the sickly sweet aroma before pumping two gut-wrenching shots into the air, the dulled echoes crackling in the breeze and numbing the silence. Then he turned and walked straight past me, my tear-streaked face trembling like a white flag flapping on the end of a barrel. If I could trace my roots to anything, this would be the first scene, a beginning, or the end before the beginning.
It’s time to introduce you to Exhibit A., victim #1, my first prize in the hunt for celebrity blood. Yeah, you know the guy. Veteran of 36 films. Director of 3. A star on the wane, some said. I must have got him just in time to make a big splash in the evening news. He wasn’t number one on my list. I don’t have a hit list. I am not some crazed obsessive stalker longing to get up close and personal with the beloved before shooting him in the back like a dog. I don’t particularly care what celebrities do behind closed doors. I only read the trashy magazines to find out where they hang out. You’ll be amazed by what those rags disclose about the whereabouts of our gods. To me, it’s not who but what they are that matters most. You see, anyone of any significance reinvents themselves and becomes someone else, which may just be a mask, a myth or an imaginative lie. The private self gets sucked into the public persona and sometimes disappears entirely. Appearance is reality and truth is just the fiction that follows. Behind that buffed and botoxed face is the dull, ordinary part that never interests me. I want the thing that makes them shine, the outer soul to which their inner part belongs, like a parasite to its host. I want the actor himself, the role he plays when he steps out into the world, that self-confident stride and strut that makes him so desirable to the plebs and the paparazzi alike. And that’s the trophy I have in my heart, the god in whom the man once dwelt. I nailed him to the cross. Nailed him just as he was leaving his favorite restaurant. One shot, straight through the head. His bodyguard never saw it coming. Too busy on the cellphone to see a Goddamned thing. I was long gone by the time he could gather his senses. They expect the unexpected but they can never handle it when it strikes. There he was, the 5 ft 6 colossus collapsed into a dwarfish heap, a pitiful shadow of his former glory. He was the action man par excellence, the paragon of Hollywood thrillers, the one they all thought was trapped in the closet. Now they may never know and frankly my dear I don’t give a f**k. I started big and that’s what gave me the chutzpah to continue on my quest for the cloth of gold. The rest, as they say, is history, but this is history still very much in the making. I am the witness to my own deadly living legend. The second I pulled the trigger was the moment my star began to rise. If you want to know who fathered the monster, just turn on your TV. Wanted: Celebrity Killer. I can’t recall who coined it first, CBS or NBC, Fox, CNN or MTV. All I know is that I couldn’t have done it better myself. It’s a badge, a brand, an instant hit, a sticky label so loaded with double meaning, it’s uncanny. It binds my star to theirs and makes my darkness shine. That’s the beauty of the media. It brings us all together and turns real events into live entertainment. It’s all in the story and it’s all about ratings. Bad News will always be Good News. Bad News makes the world go Bang!
At Sunday school, I was taught to believe that human life was something uniquely special, a gift from God who had created us in His own image with a free will infected with the seed of an original sin. I could never quite grasp the connection between them but it seemed to have had something to do with sex. The snake tempted Eve who in turn seduced Adam and conceived the first murderer. What was perfectly simple and natural in the animal world had become the most fraught and humiliating act of betrayal. Our pastor was an ex-soldier who had fought in Korea and found Jesus at the butt-end of a good for nothing life. Those were his words, not mine, and while I genuinely admired his gritty, plainspoken sermons, there was something unnerving about the way he denigrated himself, as if he was hiding some deep-seated guilt, the true nature of which could not be shared with a bunch of pre-pubescent kids. He was a lonely soul who needed a sounding board against which to air his personal anxieties. There are only three places you can do that without being ignored or incarcerated, your church, your shrink and your favorite talk show. He had a readymade audience and every now and then he would take a boy under his wing to prolong the echo of his own voice. He took a shine to me early on, perhaps mistaking my shyness for a contemplative nature. Despite my apprehension, I warmed to his conversation and became more and more curious about his life. He told me how he had been raised by missionaries and travelled half the world, that he had been to the pyramids and the Parthenon, climbed Mount Ararat and prayed in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. During the first week of our acquaintance, he took me fishing at a nearby lake. I remember that it was a beautifully warm day, the reflection of the water rippling over the sedge, geese streaking across the sky like a squadron of warplanes. While we waited for a bite, he got out a pocket atlas and showed me all the places he had been to over the years. Each was marked with a green cross and the whole globe was studded with them, like the graves in a cemetery. As he flipped through the pages, I noticed that Korea had two red crosses beside it, one at the top and one at the bottom.
“Why are they a different color to the rest?” I asked.
He said nothing for several seconds, his forefinger circling the map in a constant rhythmic motion. His tone had switched from jovial to somber, his voice inflected with a disquietingly sinister undertone.
“You see, the folks from the North are atheists who wanted to spread their evil creed by force. Our mission was to stop them.”
“What is an atheist?”
“A sinner who has shunned God.”
“How can anyone shun God? God is everywhere.”
“Everywhere but the void in which the unbeliever dwells.”
“So the atheists don’t go to heaven?”
“Some do and some don’t. A good man always has a place in heaven. God works through him, even if he chooses not to believe it.”
“What if a good man kills another good man?”
“I don’t think that’s possible. You know what the Bible says about killing.”
“Thou shalt not kill.”
“Thou shalt not kill.”
“Did you kill anyone in the war?”
He stalled, turned and stared straight at me, his face drained, his eyes brimming, the rod hanging limp in his hand. It was as if the weather had suddenly changed and an icy chill had seized the air. I could feel the dread mounting as the words stumbled out of his mouth.
“I saw my best buddy die. He was shot…by someone in our own platoon. It was an accident, a terrible accident! He fell right in front of me. I took him into my arms like he was a child, a poor broken bleeding child. I breathed every breath I had into his lungs. It was no good. He was gone. Gone forever. The war ended for me on that day. I couldn’t go on. I had sunk so deep that not even Christ could release me from the torments of Hell.”
I noticed that he was trying not to cry, his hand stretched across his brow as if to dam the tears. I just stood there, saying nothing, his sorrow a foreign germ in my blood. He had never spoken about it in church and, as far as I know, I was the only one in whom he had confided, since none of the others had ever mentioned it. I remember him saying that heaven was a reward for life’s losses on earth and he often quoted John 12:25 - He that loveth his life shall lose it and he that hateth his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. He preached it from the heart, his sincerity beaming from his face like a naked flame, his eyes closed as if rapt in a lucid dream. I would ruminate for days over those words, trying to comprehend their meaning as I dolefully plodded through the archaic verses of the Bible, my thoughts drifting inexorably back to that seminal event in his life. I felt that I was the only one who was really listening, that it was to me alone that he was speaking while the others fidgeted, whispered and giggled in open mockery. I saw myself as his lone disciple, a black sheep amongst a flock of Billy goats who would never learn anything beyond the rote. One day, we got caught in a freak storm and took shelter in his apartment nearby the church. I waited in the living room while he fetched me a towel, my eyes wandering aimlessly around the gloomy interior. It was sparsely furnished, the walls lined with cheap makeshift shelves on which bibles and prayer books were randomly stacked in oddly assorted piles. There was a desk by the window whose drapes were pulled shut, despite it being the middle of the day. A light flickered from the rear and, as I approached, I saw a small framed picture of a man in uniform, the sepia portrait carefully mounted on a wooden plinth. It was decked with white flowers and flanked by two short candles that dimly illuminated the image like an icon. There was an inscription in the corner written in a familiar, elegant hand.
All my love will never be enough. RIP.
Just then, I heard footsteps behind me and darted back to the door. It was the pastor. He handed me the towel with a cold stern look and turned and left without saying a word. The following Sunday, he failed to show up at church, something he had never neglected to do before. Concerned, I went to the apartment to see if he was there. I rang the bell three times and waited several minutes before he answered. His eyes were bloodshot and swollen and he looked like he had not slept for days. A foul odor emanated from his person, the memory of which has never left me. I assumed that he was sick and could not have guessed what was really going on until he summoned the energy to speak. His voice slurred and cracked as he explained how a fire had broken out in the living room. I looked through the hallway but could detect no evidence of flames or smoke, only the rank musty smell of a place starved of air, as grim and suffocating as the man inside it. I then noticed that he was holding a tattered photograph, its crumpled mass trailing brittle ashes to the floor. His hand was black, the skin raw and peeled into a dark scabby wound. When I pointed this out, he leaped back in horror, snarling madly in a hysterical fit of rage.
“Can’t you see? Can’t you f*****g see? It was me. I’m the one who did this. He’s gone forever now. I’ll never be with him again. I’m finished. I’m f*****g finished!”
He slammed the door in my tear-spattered face, his feet thundering through the walls. I heard the sound of running water, the pipes moaning and creaking as it gushed from the faucets. I stood utterly helpless and aghast, the shock paralyzing me into a witless stupor. It was the first time I had ever seen anyone in such a state and I was torn between terror, pity and shame. For some reason, I felt personally responsible, as if I had placed an evil curse on his precious memento. I knew that it had been decades since that tragic accident and couldn’t understand why it still irked him so. I spent the whole night wondering if I would ever see him alive, my mind harrowed by hellish images of drowning, hanging, gunshots and self-immolation. I desperately wanted to help but I was too terrified to tell anyone about what I had witnessed. So all I could do was pray, beseeching Jesus to reach into his heart and save his tortured soul. To my surprise, he emerged the next day and resumed his duties as if nothing had happened. Apart from the bandage on his hand, no one was any the wiser. I felt that my prayers had been answered and that God had performed a small miracle in the world. Still shaken by the experience, I decided to put some distance between us and persuaded my mother that I needed time out from bible class to focus on my school work. A few days later, he called by our house and asked for me in person. He had a big smile on his face and said he was overjoyed to see me again. I had mixed feelings and was reluctant to take a walk as he suggested. He quietly apologized for his conduct and was eager to know if I had told anyone. I quickly assured him that I had not said anything to anybody. But I had been thinking about nothing else and the relief of being able to put it behind me was instantly mollifying. It was at that moment that he dropped the bombshell, informing me that he was leaving town and had come to say goodbye. When I asked him where he was going, he told me he was returning to Korea to join a foreign mission, something he had been contemplating for a while. I could see that he was not telling me the whole truth and it was what I didn’t say that made him open up, the aftershocks of what had taken place in his apartment underscoring the entire encounter. His face sank as he confessed that he could no longer live as a Christian and had decided to become a Buddhist. I did not even know what a Buddhist was so I just said nothing, refusing to look him in the eye. He placed his hand on my shoulder, telling me that his reasons were deeply personal and that I must promise to keep it a secret. I recoiled from his grasp and started to cry. He kneeled down and clasped my hands, his voice decaying to an earnest whisper. “Sometimes you have to face up to what you are and realize that nothing in the world is going to change that.”
He took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the tears from my cheeks. “Don’t worry, son. The Lord will take care of you. He’s with you all the way.”
He then said that he had to leave for the airport and would write to me from Seoul. As he waved goodbye, I saw the dressing on his arm, the bandage blotched with a rusty stain. He pulled his sleeve over his wrist and departed with a broken smile. “With you all the way.”
I nodded, pretending that I was OK. But inside I was sinking fast, my confused feelings spiraling into an inconsolable grief. Being young and credulous, I felt cheated and betrayed. When I looked up Buddha in the encyclopedia, I saw yellow men in orange robes with shaved heads and bare feet, the people we had fought three wars against, the folks my dad thought would take over the world if America didn’t raise its game. I saw grainy photographs of a monk calmly setting himself alight, the flames engulfing his brittle body like a giant rose, his ghosted form receding into the blaze before wilting to a stick of ash. It shook me to the core and I could not understand how anyone could intentionally do that to themselves. Then I remembered the pastor’s blackened hand and thought about Christ being nailed to the cross. I knew that Jesus was a martyr but the image I had of Him was familiar, comforting, radiant and awe-inspiring. I had wept before his eyes and prayed for his return. He was one of us, not some strange alien sage from a tropical jungle in the Far East. They had their gods and we had ours and it was up to the men of pure faith, men like our pastor, to bring the beacon of the Word to one and all. It seemed utterly bizarre to me that someone as committed as he was could suddenly swap one faith for another and start all over again. You could change your car, your job or your house but to adopt a religion whose followers you had once tried to convert was like apologizing to a man for kidnapping his child. He had made me see that God was God and that all others were fake impostors. Now he was the impostor and I was the one left behind to pick up the pieces. I never did receive that letter from Seoul and finally lost the will to return to church. Later, as I learnt more about the natural origins of life, I came to the conclusion that in a world without God, Cain could be Christ and Christ could be Cain since Nature didn’t give a damn either way. It appeared to me that the godly were just as flawed and corruptible as the godless and for as long as there were still humans on this planet, innocent blood would be spilt. I kept my loss of faith under wraps since I knew that it would have upset my mother. Yet I found myself gravitating more and more towards my father’s secular version of reality, even though I knew that I could never live up to his image of what a man should be in a rough and tumble, blood and guts world. Dad believed that religion was a cryptic code designed to fool the majority of mankind so that they would obey the law and accept their place in society. “If you look at it more closely,” he said, “you would see that it was an elaborate stitch-up so riddled with contradictions that no sane person could ever believe in it.” I guess he figured that most people were insane, including my own mother.
The woman who carried me has been dead for more than half my life. The egg from which I was conceived was spawned in my grandmother’s womb and her religion was transferred to me as a birthright. I have no idea if I was planned but I know for a fact that my nativity was guaranteed. You never heard the word abortion in our house. It was known simply as murder. My grandma believed in something called Predestination. God knew exactly how each life was going to turn out, had each and every tortured twist and turn mapped to an intricate set of blueprints. To murder an unborn child was to undo the work of God, which meant that you were doomed from the start since God had already seen it coming. In my grandmother’s eyes, the Lord had sealed my fate before her daughter’s egg could bloom, long before my father’s c**k could spit between her thighs. She used to read me this old folktale about a boy who was born with a huge mole in the middle of his forehead. His parents tried to remove the offensive growth but it kept resurfacing, fatter and uglier than before, its color changing with the seasons like a leaf. The children of the village mocked him and called him “devil’s spawn.” The elders warned that it was a sign of ill fortune and advised that he be kept indoors until they could find a remedy. They tried cauterizing, cleansing and bleeding but nothing worked and the child became more and more distressed, his dread at the hands of his healers making him impossible to calm. One night, while everyone was asleep, he slipped out of the window and ran into the forest. With only the moon to light the way, he soon became hopelessly lost. He tried to retrace his steps but all the lights from the houses had been extinguished. The giants of the wood loomed ominously around him and he could barely see the sky. He cried out for his mother and father, his tiny voice drowning in the darkness. He heard a rushing sound coming from the thicket and saw a wolf lurching towards him, its hungry eyes glistening in the moonlight. He tried to run but the wolf pinned him down and then, to his astonishment, started to speak.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to eat you. I’m here to save you.”
The wolf took the child into its den and gave him a pelt that had belonged to the alpha male of the pack. He told the boy to put it on. Lo and behold, it was a perfect fit, the head of the animal shrouding the ugly mole without obscuring his eyes. It felt so soft and comfortable, as if it had been made just for him. The fur gleamed like silver and seemed indistinguishable from his moonlit skin.
“Now you’re one of us,” said the wolf. “You can hunt with me and be free forever.”
“What about my parents? They’ll be worried sick.”
“Your parents don’t want you anymore. They think you are a child of the devil. But I know that you are special. If you come with me, I will teach you about the magic of the woods. You alone can hear me speak. Isn’t that a wonder in itself?”
The child nodded, his quaking heart lulled by the soothing tone of the wolf’s voice.
“Go home and think about what I have said. I will be here again tomorrow. But after that I will be gone for good and the pelt will crumble to dust.”
The boy was frightened but agreed to return to the forest the next day, knowing the cruel fate that awaited him. He was still wearing the pelt, having become unaware that it was something separate from his own being. It was almost daybreak and he could smell the smoke curling from the chimneys and hear the bells of the chapel pealing from afar. His senses had sharpened and he knew exactly where he was, as if every square foot of the forest was now familiar to him. On his way back to the village, he saw his father who was out hunting for his son. He called to him but the words came out only as grunts and growls, even though he knew he was speaking in his mother tongue. He tried to shout his name but all he could hear was a howl. His father leaped back and reached for his gun. The boy screamed, the howling echoing through the woods. The first shot took him down, the second piercing his chest and ending his life forever.
Sometimes the folks we remember best are the ones who made the least impression on us. There was this kid from the fifth grade who used to eat a certain brand of yoghurt every day for lunch. We were never friends but I have a clearer mental image of him than of anyone else in school. In all other respects, he was a complete stranger. He was just the guy who ate Alpen blueberry yoghurt for lunch. My late uncle was quite possibly the most inconsequential person who ever lived. He held down the same job for 30 years, ate in the same diner every day and spent the whole weekend watching sports on TV. On any given Saturday afternoon, you would find Unc in the same old easy chair, his head cocked back and his mouth wide open, gurgling like a baby while the football blared out of the box. You never heard him speak at family functions and by the time you’d said Hi you’d forget he was even there. You couldn’t find two more distinctly different characters than my uncle and my dad. In the sibling rivalry stakes, there was simply no competition. Dad was the Alpha Male, confident, corpulent and arrogant to the core while our dorky little Unc plodded through life without a hope in Hell of ever being anybody. He never smoked, never drank, never married and if he ever had a girlfriend we certainly never met her. If you plotted his life on a graph, there’d have been a single flat line from birth to school to work to death. At 53, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and died alone in the hospital. I vaguely recall the funeral, a miserable affair at which our pastor, for all his flair for vivid language, couldn’t offer much more than a standard eulogy to a decent man who had lived a decent life. But there was one thing he could have said that might have provided the congregation with something to remember. A few weeks before he died, Unc seemed to be coming out of his shell. He suddenly became more animated and started voicing his opinion about this, that and the other. He even challenged my father and I recall them having a heated argument about the death penalty that ended with dad stomping out of the room in a fit of rage. Unc said that every rapist and murderer should be executed without exception. Dad disagreed about killing rapists but it was the fact that Unc had stood his ground that really got his goat. He simply could not believe that his half-dead brother could rise to the occasion and take a swing at his big little bro. It was as if death had warmed his dormant soul and stoked him up for the grave. They never spoke again and three weeks later, Unc was heard no more.
Life is a sentence. Death is a period. " prison graffiti.
Few people these days can name all ten of the Commandments but everyone knows the sixth by heart. To take a life is the gravest of sins, a crime worthy of death or punishable for life, depending on which state or country you live in. Whether you believe that life begins two weeks before conception or twelve weeks after the fact, it all boils down to the same thing. Life is sacred, every soul is precious, each person is a unique little gem in the elaborate mosaic of existence. To give life is considered the most beautiful thing on earth. A child, spawned from the pond slime of a few seconds of breathless passion, is held up as the hope of the world and the savior of all mankind. Billions of dollars are spent each year in the endeavor to prolong the lives of the terminally ill when euthanasia would be a far more humane and economic alternative. And if it weren’t for the happy pills that half the population is taking just to get through the day, more dead wood would be dropping from the Golden Gate Bridge. It seems that everything humanly possible must be done to protect people from the brutally simple fact that Happiness, like Holiness, is a glittering illusion manufactured for the purpose of selling a dream that will never come true. And the glitter is the gleam of the stars whose light we all secretly covet. Because most of us will vanish without a trace. Boom. Phizz. A dull damp squib. But out there in the big black sky, the lights are like silent fireworks exploding in a frozen blaze of glory, bright pulsing giants twinkling in the milky sea of stardust, supernovas flickering like birthday candles in the bated breath of time. When a star is born, the world is watching and when a star dies, it casts a lingering shadow. Join the dots. Get the picture? Does it all make sense or is it just a massive man-made delusion? Like our star signs or the phantasmagoric figures we see in marble floors and dirty old walls. Like something we could only ever dream of being, that far removed, rarefied, idealized reality. We have all had that dream. We have all gazed in confused rapture at the world beyond our world. Some never wake up but most of us will hit rock bottom and crawl back under the stone from which we came. And that’s where you’ll find me, the night watchman with his feet planted firmly on the ground and his gun aimed squarely at the stars.
On signing in this morning, I was intrigued to discover that something new and very curious had appeared on my wall. The serene shade of green I had selected for my background had been blighted with an ugly swell of bold capped text splashed across the page in loud offensive red.
WE, THE SERVICE PROVIDER, OUR AFFILIATES AND OUR SPONSORS DO NOT ENDORSE OR CONDONE ANY OF THE OPINIONS HELD IN THESE PAGES. WE, THE SERVICE PROVIDER, DEFEND THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT OF ANY INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP TO FREELY EXPRESS THEIR OPINION AS THEY SO SEE FIT. WE, THE SERVICE PROVIDER, TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY CONTENT THAT MAY BE DEEMED TO BE DEFAMATORY, FALSE OR LIBELOUS. UNDER THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF USE, WE, THE SERVICE PROVIDER, RESERVE THE RIGHT TO MODERATE, FILTER OR REMOVE ANY CONTENT WITHOUT PRIOR WARNING.
I had to read it three times before considering my options. Be warned, my dearly beloved patrons. If I detect even a hint of interference, I’m defecting to the competition. That hitometer of yours has been going ballistic of late, a telltale sign that this is no time to start rocking the boat. The only thing that can silence me is silence itself. I’m what the media folk call a cult figure, a phenomenon, part of the popular imagination, like Billy the Kid and Robin Hood. I take from the rich in spirit what I give to the poor of heart and, in so doing, have become something of a legend myself, the “ugly underside of the American Dream” as Time will have me be.
The workaround: change background color from pea-green to blood-red. Problem solved ;)
I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m a raving homicidal maniac with pathological delusions of grandeur, a crackpot loony with a bitter grudge against the rich and famous. Actually, if you could be a fly on my wall you would see a pretty calm and collected person with a simple, well-ordered life. I may live alone but I don’t resent anything or anyone. I know my place in this anthill. I’m not some psycho on a mind-bending ego trip about to crash out at the sweet feet of Jesus. I’m not pretending to play God. The effect in this case was far more dramatic than the cause. That gunshot ricocheted across the globe quicker than I could possibly have imagined, flashing up on screens and cellphones, in homes, shopping malls, offices and restaurants. You would have thought the world was coming to an end. One dead celebrity and everyone is gasping like it was their closest pal. It was on every channel except Hallmark and Disney. I had made my mark and the world was ablaze. But you may be surprised to hear that I did not crack open a beer, punch the air or smile at myself in the mirror as I shaved off the beard. I was quite humble about it all. I felt satisfied but not overawed. Nothing much had changed. I was still the same person I was five minutes before I pulled the trigger. I was a shadow, a fly on the wall watching the fallout of an action that felt strangely removed. It was as if the gun and not the gunman had committed the crime. I was simply an instrument of the weapon, the servant of some greater force welling up inside me. You might be thinking that I’m trying to make excuses. Next I’ll be saying I heard voices in my head telling me to kill. Not at all. I would never plead insanity. I would never post cryptic notes to the TV stations saying the Devil made me do it. I am not the son of the Son of Sam. I will not repent my sins and turn to God like that loser did. I play to win and I plan to be in this game for a long time to come. You’ll be hearing from me because you want to hear from me. I won’t be boring you with the maniacal fermentations of a mind warped by drugs or the writings of Crowley. I don’t believe in the Devil because I don’t believe in God. I’m a rationalist, a skeptic and a realist. I want to see the world for what it truly is, a zoological combat zone over which one species has risen to supreme power and gotten too big for its boots. If anything, I’m throwing a little stone of humility in the face of the universal Egotist.
When weapons are outlawed, only outlaws will have weapons. " bumper sticker.
I never pay much attention to gun crime. These days, one shooting seems to blur into another like the sand dunes of the Sahara. August was quieter than July but September made up for the shortfall. The shooter was a 42 year old white male whose only previous offense was driving under the influence. He was an ordinary, unassuming middle-aged professional who kept to himself and never caused anyone any trouble. One day, out of the blue, he walks into the local church and sprays the place with bullets. 12 dead, scores injured, heartbreak, headlines, thoughts and prayers etc. When police enter his apartment, they find nothing to indicate that murder was being plotted. It is clean, tidy, insipidly non-descript. Two days later, a detective examining the suspect’s computer comes across a bookmark to a web site. The link opens a peculiar text purporting to be one of the lost books of the Bible. He skims the first few paragraphs and notices that the site is hosted by an obscure militant group in the Middle East. Two and two. The media pounces and the story goes viral. Security tightens across the country. The web is buzzing with apocalyptic rumors as academics and forensics hack into the murky pages of the gospel. Some claim it’s a fake. Others say it’s a mistranslation. Another says it’s an ancient parable that’s been taken out of context. The public is confused, grows bored and moves on. Two weeks later, there’s another shooting at a supermarket on the other side of the country. Six dead, scores injured, same old story. It’s happened before and it will almost certainly happen again. Two thousand years ago, the young Jesus is strolling through a village not far from his hometown. He notices a kid draining a fish pond. Angered by this apparent misdemeanor, he accosts the child and kills him. Moving on down the road, he passes a youth who accidentally bumps him on the shoulder. Insulted, the Lord lets rip and beats the guy to death. Not surprisingly, this provokes an outrage among the locals and Babyface Jesus has to make a run for it. Bet you don’t talk about that one at Sunday school. Of course you don’t. You’ve been blinded by two thousand years of bullshit. Not peace but a sword. That’s what Jesus said. And that’s right there in the Good Book, plain for all to see.
I already told you that I felt detached from my actions. What I didn’t tell you is something you should already know for yourselves. There was more than one killer in this instance. In fact, there were hundreds. Confessions poured in from across the country. Hoaxes in the form of texts, emails and postcards rolled into police stations and TV networks like fan mail. There was even some jerk who turned out to be a visually impaired paraplegic with a speech impediment. People were arrested, detained and released as if there were on an assembly line. It was weirdly predictable but not something I had actually expected. I obviously hadn’t accounted for how many idiots there are in the world. You have to be f*****g desperate or stupid to want to confess to a crime you didn’t commit. Some people are so bored with their vicariously numbed existence that they’ll do anything to stuff the void. It bemused me that the people I cared for least were now my impostors. They were pretending to be someone they did not know from Adam, someone who gave them a thrill that they wanted to appropriate for themselves. They were like those contestants on American Idol who never get through the first round because they have the temerity to think they can sing. We all cringe when we see those folks making fools of themselves because we have to accept that they belong to the same species. No other animal would be so dumb. So you see, dear readers, I did not become famous overnight. When all the fog from the smokescreen had lifted and the phonies were back in their living rooms waiting for the real McCoy to be hauled in front of the cameras, I was already preparing the sequel. And the press, instead of getting closer to the truth, created a convenient side show. They were looking for a motive and they found one in the idea of the guy with a grudge. There were rumors that he may have been known to the victim, that there was some financial dispute with a former agent. Others suggested the actor had courted enemies with his outspoken remarks on social and political issues. It may have been a homophobe, a warped fan or, as one conservative blogger would have it, an Al Qaeda operative. I liked the cartoon in the New York Post that portrayed the killer as a critic with good taste in movies. I had a multitude of alibis all conceived and spawned by the very machine that was going to do more for me than I could ever have done alone. God Bless America. God Bless the American media.
Allow me to introduce you to Exhibits B and C. As you all know, this was a double whammy, two eagles with one club, a surprise that even I had not originally anticipated. She was daddy’s little princess, the billionaire party girl who had shopped her way to fame, living proof that in today’s celebrity pantheon you can have zero talent, below average intelligence, a face like a dog and still be a prize b***h. He was the street-smart rapper cum hardcore porn producer, the prince of the ghetto now living it up in Hollywood with his rich white p***y. They had just got back from their honeymoon in Phuket and I spied with my little eye something beginning with D&G floating along Robertson Boulevard like a big white limousine. I counted the bags. Fifteen. I checked the labels, some instantly recognizable, others more cryptic and obscure, the signs and symbols of the rich and famous augmented into a hieroglyphic monogram that spelled Success in every known language on the planet. I had only planned to take her down but as soon as she fell, I saw him fleeing the scene like a bunny rabbit dodging a swooping hawk. I expected the opposite. I thought he would kneel down and cradle her in his arms, drag her behind a car and call 911. But no, he ran for his life, looking back with the smear of terror on his face. He was right in my line of fire so I raised my gun, aimed and crack, hit the jackpot. It was all over in a second. Flat on his face in the world’s most glamorous street, the horns blaring as he collapsed in a baggy heap, almost stopping the traffic but not quite since most of the Mercedes, BMWs and Porsches zigzagged past with little more than a hail of curses, hey a*****e, look where you’re going…Get your butt back to rehab, crazy son of a b***h. Would have been nicer if the old lady in the yellow convertible had yelled “son of a gun” but I guess people are not so polite anymore. Anyhow, the m**********r deserved it. He was looking after #1. Maybe the magazines had got it right. The marriage was on the rocks and those mutual grimaces in Thailand were about more than just bad service or indigestion. The vultures were circling long before yours truly stepped in to spoil their fun. But every silver lining has a golden cloud and we all know what happens to celebrities the day after they die. That’s right. They quadruple in value overnight and go on selling until the grief wears thin. While the fans openly wept on the streets as the star-studded limousines rolled up for the funeral, others were indiscreetly celebrating, all those humble sensible family folks who work hard for their money, the bible thumpers and the gloomy intellectuals for whom the princess and her porn toad were the embodiment of everything that was wrong with America. She had inspired a generation of teenage girls to detonate their savings and party til dawn. Now the party was over and mom was taking back the credit card and reinstating good old-fashioned chores. A renegade Republican was audacious enough to adopt me as his campaign mascot (He should be shooting Taliban!) while advocates of gun control cited me as evidence for a crackdown. I had inadvertently become a household name and it wasn’t long before the media put two and two together. There was a clue, a telltale sign, the same red Hollywood star stamped like a seal on the sidewalk, identical to the one found near the scene of the first crime. Was it a coincidence, or had the Celebrity Killer bitten the bullet and gone serial? Either way, it was BIG and there was a lot more excitement to come. Newscasters were no longer trying to figure out why someone was shooting stars. They wanted to know who the killer was and challenged me to go on air, provoking hundreds of dumbass hoaxers to dial in and waste everybody’s time. There were right-wing fanatics, religious zealots, twisted teens, punks, drunks, clowns and retards, in other words, anything but the Real McCoy. That’s what first got me thinking about going online and putting the record straight. I knew that I was fast becoming a superstar and that culling celebrities could be a full time job worthy of a trademark and brand recognition. I had taken out the biggest name in Hollywood for starters. As for the happy couple, I had done them a favor and reunited them in heaven. They were buried together in God’s backyard, dirt mingled with dirt under a scaled down version of the Arc de Triomphe. No need for that prenup I suppose but I guess the lawyers will take their cut from the estate. You can make money out of anything if you put your mind to it, marriage, divorce, drugs, God, debt, death and porn. As my Daddy once said, “an ugly guy with money can still buy himself a honey.” Yeah, Dad, you were the living proof of the legend, well-heeled, well-oiled, ambitious, successful, ruthless, duplicitous, a corporate cowboy and a lying, 2-timing, 10-gallon, 22 million-buck a*****e. You lost it all didn’t you? Family, friends, girlfriends, wives, and your one and only son. You lost it all and now you’re deep in hell with the w****s you worshipped.
The psychologists have got it all wrong. This is not about some neglected infant begging for attention in the absence of a loving family and a stable home environment. It takes two to make a baby but the twinned coils of DNA that create the self spring from a weird magic trick in which the puppet strings of our genes are just a small part of a much bigger problem. Nine months is a long time to spend in solitary confinement with nothing but your embryonic little ego to keep you company. I may have been made by my parents but I have always felt that my soul was conceived in some dark corner of the universe where the black holes outnumber the stars. Had I been cloned on Day One and sent to the other side of the world, that dark seed would have grown another set of thorns not too dissimilar from these. We are what we were destined to become, one prickly flower bearing itself to the many-feathered world before wilting back to nothingness. Most of what we call human life is a series of flaws bred from one gene pool to the next with a few freakish blooms rising among the weeds, an illusion of perfection that infuses the scent of decay with the exotic perfume of desire. I am not so naïve as to believe that fame can save me from the ugliness of life but that’s the fantasy we get fed every second of every day. The pictures sell a thousand words but the message always stays the same. Celebrity, good, bad or ugly is the closest we get to religion. You can crucify God once but the supply of idols is limitless. It’s like Vegas. The crowds keep coming, the tills keep humming and the wheel goes round and round. I sure as hell have a claim to fame but I won’t be fooled into mistaking the rotten core for the glossy rind. When I shoot, I aim at the black hole of life, the wound that’s been festering inside us long before the hammer comes down.
Fame is a four letter word. To be famous today is to be blessed, not by the gods but by the demons of the lower world. Today we have the democracy of fame. Anyone can make a video and upload it on YouTube, put a little jingle on MySpace, play a role, act a part, get 2000 hits a day and pretend to be a star. You can audition for American Idol and do your best not to make a fool of yourself in front of your family and friends. At some point you’ll be forgiven but even if you make it, chances are you’ll soon be forgotten. Because the truth about fame is that it is actually the most ruthless of tyrannies, the privilege of an angelic elite that seeks to elevate itself far above the bleating herd. And, like angels, they too can tumble from grace. It’s part of the package, a secret clause in the pre-ordained plan. We all savor that fateful day when the Bright One falls from the sky and sinks below the murky waterline. Amidst the gushing adulation, there’s a dagger concealed in the aching heart of every fan, that secret longing to drag the rose into the common garden weeds. That’s why there’s nothing more fascinating than the untimely death of a star. Fame can kill. It’s a homicide and a suicide of the soul. You don’t get a second shot at fame. All those comeback kids had to make it big the first time round. And if they fail on the rebound, they’re even worse off than they were before. Imagine Elvis at 70. Marilyn at 60. Jesus at 90. You see, for them, death was a saving grace. To be a legend in your lifetime may be a blessing for some but to die at the peak of your fame is instant beatification. It all goes back to the dawn of time when we killed and ate each other and ate and drank our gods. Don’t be fooled into believing that we’re all that different from our savage ancestors. Their God is our God. Their gold is our gold. Their world is still our world. You may be a liberal, politically correct, free-thinking atheist but don’t think you can escape from the web of duplicity and deceit. This is the most insincere of ages. And the most anally passive. All these socially networked wannabees sitting in front of their screens, moaning about climate change and poverty while scratching their asses, ogling porn and consuming the Gospel of Gossip. I’m not pointing the finger. I learnt this from my own bitter experience. You see, I was one of you, one of the losers, the rats, the nobodies. But I turned things round. I found my way through this brutal, blood-stained, parasitic world. I took the road into my heart, looked into the mirror of my mind and saw what most of us refuse to see.
You’re probably wondering how I get away with it. One murder in broad daylight is bad enough. Three is taking the piss, as the English are so fond of saying. OK, here’s the secret to my genius, the cunning method to my soberly calculated madness. I am for all intents and purposes an invisible person. Ever since I was a child, people would overlook me and even talk about me as if I wasn’t there. We all get that when we’re kids, mom and dad are too busy to hear about your little imaginary world, big sister doesn’t care about Batman, grandma is too deaf and too culturally alienated to understand. That was me all over but the thing is it never went away. At school, instead of being teased, I was ignored. Teachers would forget to return my assignments unless I reminded them of my existence. One of them forgot my name so many times he gave up trying and called me by a completely different one. I was getting graded on work I never did. If I showed up at dances, people would turn around to check out who’d just left. In soccer, no one would pass the ball. I came off the field as squeaky clean as I went on, socks pristine, pants snow white and still smelling of laundry liquid. Admittedly, I never had any enthusiasm for sports. It was something my dad excelled at as a youth, a requisite skillset he had naturally expected me to inherit. After all, it’s only the obsessively competitive and dominant alpha males who really get the attention of the cheerleaders. So, in the game of love I also scored zero. I had a penchant for pretty girls combined with a total dread of the female sex. I would have palpitations whenever I saw long hair and short skirts and would literally salivate every time I plucked up the courage to speak. And if I got past that hurdle I would stutter and slur like a drunk. If the success of sexual selection relied on me the human race would most probably be extinct. It was an intolerable situation so I compensated for my social inadequacy by withdrawing into my own world. I took long walks in the forest close to where I lived and began to wake up to another reality beyond the forbidding limits of home and school. Sometimes I would rise before daybreak and slip out of the house, my torch illuminating the treetops and vanishing into the stars, the blue notes of barn owls subsiding into the trebling chirrup of the dawn. I loved birds and animals and could watch them for hours without the slightest desire to shoot them down. Even the thought of hurting a fly sent waves of horror and disgust through me. My father insisted that I went with him on hunting trips but I always turned away when he bagged a buck and deliberately missed when it was my turn to prove that I was a man. He thought that being a bad shot meant that I was somehow impaired in other ways and that this did not bode well for my future. My mother tried to reassure him that I was probably destined for a more cerebral career but academically I was always hovering above or below average, passing by like a car you never look for on the track. Then came the breakthrough that gave us a little ray of hope. Dad took me clay pigeon shooting when I was 12 and, feeling no sympathy for the fake fauna, I surprised us both by blowing them all to smithereens, hitting dead center most of the time and watching in amazement as solid mass shattered to instant powder puff. I’ll never forget the thrill of the kick, the thrust, the bolt into the wild blue yonder and the glittering stars of dust trailing into the air as dull clay was reduced to pure angelic nothingness. And I’ll never forget the smile on my father’s normally pinched and grimaced face as he realized that his son and heir was a real sharp shooter. “You’ll be a fine soldier, kid,” he said. “I know you don’t want to be a hunter but you’ll make a mighty fine soldier.” And there I was, Little Boy Blue finally incarnated as the Child Prodigy. I was going to be a hero. I was going to be big and strong like my dad. I was born to win. I was born to kill.
So, what went wrong? Why didn’t I end up in a platoon somewhere in the Middle East blowing poorly armed sand n*****s to dust and turning ancient cities to glass? I told you that I was invisible, which could have been a major asset to the military. I could have been a sniper. I could have been a spy. I could have been the American James Bond with a sports car, medals pinned to my chest by the President himself and pretty girls hanging off my arm like Heff at the Mansion. Yeah, I could have been Somebody. But in those days, the only stars I was interested in were the ones that littered the sky. I used to sit for hours at night with a pair of binoculars mounted on my pillow, mapping the constellations and trying to imagine how they were conceived by people who could see so much more clearly than we could under our famished, smog-stained vault. They did this not just for pleasure. It was a matter of life and death, the coming of the seasons and the harvests, the portent of good or evil, the points of navigation by land and by sea, a panorama of gods, birds, beasts and fishes wrought into a blazing reflection of the earth in all its beauty and its drama. I understood why the Egyptians and the Mayans set their stores on the world above and sometimes wished that I had been born in another place and another time. I would often read by candlelight and went for days on end without watching TV or listening to the stereo. I preferred silence to music and ancient myths to modern tales. Our world seemed so jaded and dull in comparison. We lived inside screens boxed up in cardboard houses, our technology lighting up the world while eclipsing the sky. I fantasized about a huge asteroid slamming into the planet and wiping everything out so that the earth could be purged, purified and renewed, even if that meant that no human being would ever be there to witness it. I was a dreamer by day and a drifter by night, my mind like a comet floating through the ether, its light growing fainter and fainter as it skirted the edge of the galaxy. What I lacked in myself I sought from the stars. Along with the animals and the trees, they were my talismans and I was their watchful guardian against the scourge of the human parasite. I wanted to lose myself in the forest and become one with its spirit. I wanted to see and feel the world as it truly was, the pulse of life beating through me, not just within me. I loved the smooth rippling skin of the aspen, their long slender limbs welled with strength and surging towards the Sun, their golden hair like weeping fire in the fan of the Fall. When I watched a bluebird fluttering in the treetops, I wanted to know what it was like to be that bird, to fly, to soar, to sing and to die without a single regret in the world. That was perfection. That was beauty and I was happy to be a small part of it, a fly on the wall, a spectator to the unfathomable majesty of creation. But no one can really live like that or make a living doing that. Even painters and poets cannot escape the curse of imperfection that reminds us of who and what we are, of the emptiness cluttered with the mess of human existence, the clumsy furniture of the ego with its pretensions to grandeur and its walls and drapes of denial and deceit. I wanted to be a poet but I never had the patience for language. I could enjoy the thing itself but not recreate it in words or pictures. I could never draw. I could only shoot. That was the one useful and deadly talent that I could not harness into something creative or self-fulfilling. I didn’t want to raze cities. I didn’t want to kill Third World dictators and their henchmen in the name of freedom. I didn’t want to throw a baseball for the Dodgers. I was a nobody and I wanted to stay that way. I wanted to be left alone but the world never leaves you alone. The world is not like the rest of Nature. The world wants you to sell yourself so you’ll buy into the dollar dream. We have built this glittering fortress on the butchered bones of our bestial ancestors and we continue to raise our faceless skyscrapers higher and higher, taller and taller, farther and farther until we can no longer see the ground.
When I look back on my youth, I see a long shadow creeping towards a flat horizon, a dull monochrome gloom that persists in an eternal twilight. The trajectory that catapults some into high flying careers and others into the abyss never happened for me. I stayed exactly where I was, a creature living under a rock while the rest of the world raced by at supersonic speed, creating, procreating, buying, selling, winning and losing while I remained on the sidelines, curiously confused by the buzz. I sometimes took comfort in comparing myself to the tortoise and everyone else to the hare but in reality I was a rabbit with two broken legs and a head in a tailspin. Having scraped through school with no prospect of a college degree, I drifted into a grey interzone between anxiety and boredom. I spent my 21st birthday alone on the 11th floor of a concrete stump, co-existing with random strangers separated by cardboard walls, a human termite colony cut off from the very source of its food, air and water. I took odd jobs in offices, book stores, department stores and libraries, ping ponging from one dead end to the next like a fly trapped under a glassed-in sky. My network consisted of a meager set of shallow acquaintances, the kind of folks who want you to listen to their life stories but who couldn’t give a damn if you lived or died. I never wanted that kind of attention anyway and did everything I could to avoid it, actively seeking roles in which I could work solo. This was rarely a problem since I was generally overlooked wherever I went and slotted neatly between the gaps while the conversation swirled in fetid clouds around me. Solitude was not so much a choice as a condition and so I learnt to adjust to its climate like a tree adapts to the desert, paring itself back in order to retain what life-giving moisture still resides in the ground. I owe my life to boredom. It got me thinking about who I really am. I know some people might do that for a living but that in itself is just another profession, an escape route from the thing itself. The writer writes and the painter paints but the one who can do neither is stuck in the mire out of which everything grows and turns to seed. If an actor could play himself, the story would still be a story but I knew that no one would ever make a movie about a Nobody like me. In boredom I came to know the stranger that inhabits my heart, that lazy, greedy, petty little villain with his hand in the cookie jar and his head in the clouds. I think you know who I’m talking about. It’s the guy staring straight at you every time you look in the mirror, the one who drives you to think the craziest thoughts when you’re all alone jabbering to yourself like a lunatic. He’s there when you sleep and he’s there when you dream. Come rain or come shine, he’s with you to the end but you’ll never know how and you’ll never know why. He’s just there, the flesh inside your holy ghost and the closer you think you are to the angels, the greater the risk you’ll succumb to what lies beneath.
A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. " 2nd Amendment of the Constitution, 1791.
I grew up in a household where guns were more precious than pearls. They were the crown jewels, the pride and joy of the hearth. They glistened and gleamed and were like silk to the touch. You had to earn your right to fire one. The first thing you had to learn was the proper way to clean it, which was an extended ritual in itself. I still do it to this day, disinfecting my hands and paring my nails before unclasping the case, unfurling the cloths and rolling the patches onto the bore brush. It’s a task undertaken in complete silence, a solemn rite akin to communion. As my daddy once said, “there’s nothing like holding a pistol. It gives you that warm cozy feeling of personal security that no ICBM can possibly provide. Only a teddy bear comes close.” But unlike my dad, I don’t have a love affair with the gun. To me, it’s not a fetish object but the embodiment of a fundamental, undeniable truth, a profoundly simple and devastating fact of life as significant and powerful as the primitive urge to hunt, eat and breed. The gun is the piece de resistance of Man’s evolution from intelligent ape to all-conquering god, the solid core of molten iron upon which this whole stinking edifice turns. A ballistic missile is just a glorified bullet, a bigger, bolder version of the original tried and tested model. You have to treat it with the utmost respect. Our erstwhile enemies in Japan knew exactly what this meant. To the Samurai, it was the sword and not the swordsman that did the killing. The weapon was the master and the man but its devoted servant, a human instrument for a divine and deadly purpose. This is no job for an amateur. If you want to shoot up the school or the post office, you won’t last long and you’ll be forgotten in less than a year. You’re just a victim taking revenge on yourself. I never pay any attention to those fucked up losers. They’re as predictable as the weather. Few surprises. Another tornado-like ripple in the diseased bowels of an ugly, ephemeral world. As someone once said, you can’t polish a piece of s**t. But I’m after the crown jewels. I’ve got the big game in my sights, that strange and rare breed of circus animal we all love to bait. I’m just trading bullets for barbs. A pro assassin is not some screwball teen or freakshow fanatic. He’s been around for centuries and he’ll be here when the sun goes out and blows the world to ash. It will end just as it began, a gunshot ringing out from the subatomic core of the universe, bursting through the cervical layers of space-time like a comet on its way to seed the earth with the fire and flood of life-bringing death. We are just the faint echo of that first big shot in the dark, a swarming colony stuck on a stray piece of shrapnel zooming around a bright swollen star. You wanted a beginning so there you have it, the savage origin of you, me and every other creature on this rock-smacked poisoned plantation of a planet.
The LAPD, the FBI and the gaggle of celebrity-hired P.I.s are all at a loss as to the identity and whereabouts of their suspect. Every time they appear on TV, I see the familiar sight of their long drawn faces struck dumb by the relentless assaults of the press, their bleary eyes and beaten brows downcast in the vacant gloom of the tortured hour. It’s hardly surprising. They’re looking for a male Caucasian between 18 and 45 living alone somewhere in the United States of America. Only Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico have been eliminated from this vast territorial surveillance scheme. Mexico and Canada stretch the amorphous limits of their investigations even further. Do they really think that they can follow up on all those false leads before their resources are overstretched and the pursuit of serial killers, suspected terrorists, pedophiles and king pin drug lords becomes seriously compromised? The suspect could be anyone of 30 million souls, an ineligible bachelor on the top floor of an inner city tower block, a quiet unassuming mole in the basement of a suburban condo, a lonesome cowboy camped out in the middle of the Great Plains or a lone wolf lost in the derelict heart of a dead end desert town. You have more chance of finding Elvis in the Grand Canyon. Keep looking fellas. You’ve got a lot of stones to unturn and a bunch of tough nuts to crack before you even get close. And if you ever get yourselves a warrant to search these premises, I can assure you, officers, that I have no incriminating evidence to declare, no sprawling collage of celebrity cut-outs wallpapering my kitchen, no hard copy print-outs or back up of this blog and not a single firearm you could uncover without bulldozing the entire building like a Palestinian village. If you happen to stop me in any one of my leased cars or at the back of a Greyhound bus, I have ways of concealing a weapon that would baffle David Copperfield. You’re on the scent of something as fluid and odorless as the Yellowstone River. Sometimes I’m under ice for months before the flood breaks and the track of the hunter resumes its forking path from steady stream to rapid run. I’m quite literally in the Cloud, hanging out with the other 3 billion droplets of water vapor that cling to the sky before plopping back to earth in a good for nothing splash. The only traces you have of me are the multiple IP addresses that I ping back and forth from state to state and the circuitous path of this meandering text, a tight red kitten ball of wool that leads me straight to you but keeps you all tied up in turns. Beware if you ever get lucky enough to catch me on the prowl. There’s a leopard at the end of this leash and his bite is more deadly than his snarl.
The storm starts when the drops start dropping. When the drops stop dropping the storm starts stopping. " Dr. Seuss.
I have more than 500 books on my shelves, most of them inherited from my father who read far more than I ever will. There’s everything from biographies of Napoleon, Jefferson and Wellington to the rise and fall of Greece, Rome and Britannia. I have leafed through a few but never gotten very far. Unlike my dad, I will never be an avid student of history (or of anything else for that matter) but there’s one thing on which he and I could conceivably have agreed. This is a world made by killers. I’m not talking about the small town criminal or the prime time serial killer. They may be the stars of the movies but in truth they’re just the extras that fill up our overcrowded prisons and get flushed through the sewer of time. I’m talking about the big guns that have run the show and held down the fort since the very beginning, the kings and queens, emperors and empresses, sultans and viziers, popes and cardinals, presidents and prime ministers, drug lords and mafia bosses, CEOs and CFOs, mullahs and juntas, their accessories, enemies and accomplices, the wives, lovers, brothers, servants and mistresses of killers. History is the litany of murder and the murderer could be any shape, size, color or creed. He could be a man of God or a man of the people, a liberator, a tyrant, a saint or all three rolled into one. No one is all bad just as no one is all goody two shoes. The man who saves someone from the burning wreck today could shoot his wife and kids tomorrow. Like the day I accidentally crashed my bike into my dad’s brand new Pontiac. He had murder in his eyes. He was foaming at the mouth. He was Attila the motherfucking Hun. To some folks, Napoleon was a villain while to others he was a hero. But you can’t build an empire without breaking a few hearts and cracking a few heads. Victory, like Fame, is all about conquest and with every triumph there is always rage, tears and grief. You can forgive the beauty queen for being a weeping prima donna and pity the runner up as she graciously smiles through her teeth. For each success there’re a thousand failures whose names you’ll never know. It’s like a train wreck from which only a handful of survivors emerge and live to tell the tale, write the book and play the part. No one wants to be ordinary and anyone who says so is lying. There’s a petty little princess and a big greedy despot lurking in every single one of us. Look at it this way: if Charlie Manson had made it as a rock star, do you really think he’d have been convicted of mass murder? We all want to be loved and that’s how we learn to nurture our hate. We’re all made of ego and it’s ego that sets the world on fire. It’s the molten core of the self, the very thing that makes us tick, spark and explode. You might be the quiet retiring kind but you sit and fiddle while cities burn, stuffing your face while catastrophes unfold on the news. And if you’re feeling generous or guilty enough, you can mail that charity check, adopt that orphan, flaunt that bumper sticker and pray for world peace but deep down in your bleeding heart of hearts you know it’s just yourself you’re pleasing. How secure and cozy you are in the knowledge that while others are suffering you can still afford the privilege of a little empathy. A drop of water may save a seed. But it won’t stop the rot. It won’t bring back the dead. It won’t end the pain, the grief or the misery. You’re just putting hell on ice for a few more days. It’s like that old arcade game where you hit the moles over the head. They just keep on coming back, quicker and thicker still. There is no peace on earth. Peace is just the intermission between the shorts and the action-packed main feature. The modern world is still an ancient battlefield, a hi-tech, computer-generated, moneymaking whorehouse of flesh and filth. We doll it up with cute illusions and sell it with celebrity-sponsored fantasies but inside this bubble of interconnected narcissism we’re just a bunch of barbarians pretending to be cool. That’s why the most popular movies at the box office are the gun-slinging thrillers. That’s why the news is a hyped-up perversion of reality in which fear prevails over fact. That’s why your kids are addicted to virtualized violence. We kill with our hearts and minds what we don’t rip to shreds with our teeth or blow apart with bullets and bombs. Don’t tell me you’ve never had an urge to kill.
© END OF EXCERPT
© 2012 RJLevy