Crescent Falls, Idaho 7:30 a.m.
David Ray stood in front of his mirror, dressed to kill. I look good, he thought, like the real deal; like a real killer. He narrowed his eyes, grit his teeth and unfolded his checklist. Sharp blades of black hair dangled in front of his face, covering the brownish rings that encircled his eyes. He peered at his chicken scratch and read the list as he felt his insides tense with hatred.
This is it, he thought. No room for mistakes.
David had learned over time that life needed to be carefully navigated to avoid pain. He had come to the conclusion that the only way to control his life was by controlling the lives around him. The list helped him stay on track. He paced back and forth, quietly going over the details of his plans as his adrenalin increased.
He slouched down at his desk, clinched his hair as it draped over his eyes and pondered how the neglect and abuse he’d suffered had snuffed the music from his soul. David longed for old, familiar melodies to bring him comfort and laughter, but found only the clamoring sound of an off-tempo, out-of-tune dirge. Although he tried to arrange the chords and time signatures and notes in a way that was intelligible to his ear, he stepped out of time, his notes were flat, and those around him cringed and laughed. He was humiliated and he hated them for it.
He glanced at a picture on the desk of his mother holding his hand as a young child. It stood in a bright red clay frame; a misshapen art project from the fourth grade. Neither of them looked happy and a lot had happened over the last eight years. Smiles were a rare commodity in their household. He turned the picture down on its face and stood up.
David walked toward his small window to the outside world. He pushed the roll-up blind to the side, peeked through the glass and watched the fog sink into the sage-covered valley to the east. He observed the sun stretch its arms over the rocky hilltops to wake the ponderosa pines and the mountain bluebirds singing in the distance. For the last time, he witnessed the river water in the valley flow downward in search of rapids and lower ground. He stared into the gorge with cold and unfeeling eyes. The sight reminded him of a time when Bill, his stepfather, had let him shoot his shotgun just for fun. David knew the activity was meant to keep him silent, a form of hush money.
Peering through the glass, he thought about his plan to finally get even with everyone who’d taunted and bullied him. Today was the day they’d finally pay. Today the world would sit up and take notice of David Ray. Those kids and their families would be sorry. Now they’d know some of his misery. They could kiss goodbye their happy days of Mom’s cookies, and home-cooked meals, and playing ball with Dad.
A sliver of sunlight struck his eyes. David squinted and released the window blind. He preferred the darkness.
At 7:41 a.m., Tanner Khan climbed on the yellow school bus, walked down the aisle, greeting kids around him, and then took his usual seat by the window. As the bus continued to fill up, the tranquility of the early morning hours escalated to the clamoring roar of cracking voices. Tanner pressed his face to the window and breathed, creating a foggy circle that came and went with each breath. He drew a smile with his index finger.
The bus stopped, and Tanner’s best friend Kenny climbed on and waved at Tanner. Kenny traipsed down the aisle, lugging a large duffle bag filled with books. He was skinny and stood six feet tall. Tanner was six inches shorter and far less developed. Both were seniors. Tanner had a baby-face with sandy blonde hair. Kenny had brown curly hair with a square jaw line and strong green eyes. As always, Tanner took note of Kenny’s cool look of confidence.
“Hey, Tan. What’s going on?” said Kenny. He sat down and plopped his bag into his lap.
“Not much. Did you finish the physics assignment?”
“Me too.” Tanner looked back outside.
“You okay?” asked Kenny.
Tanner shrugged his shoulders. “I guess. I just have a weird feeling.”
“A weird feeling? What’s that mean?”
Tanner felt Kenny shift his weight and turn in his direction.
“Not sure. I mean, I’m having a bad hair day as usual and my jeans are too short, but that’s not it.”
“So what is it then?”
Tanner wiped the damp smiley face off of the window and said, “I don’t know.”
At 7:52 a.m. Steve Gardner, the high school English teacher, grabbed his leather satchel and rushed out of his sporty Geo Metro. His first period class started at 8:10 a.m. He had just enough time to pick up a cup of coffee from the faculty lounge and unlock the door by 8:00 a.m., if he hurried. He dropped his chin and charged toward the faculty entrance.
As he dashed into the school, he thought about David. Steve was worried about him. The day before, David had acted very strangely, worse than ever. He had watched David walk from class to class, head down and mumbling to himself. When he approached David, the young man looked up, squinted his eyes and let out what he swore was a low-pitch growl. It really frightened him.
Steve had tried to reach out to David numerous times, but David hid deep within himself. He hoped that he’d be able to impact David before graduation, which was only a week away, but he was afraid that David was too far-gone.
Over the years, Mr. Gardner noticed the ones crying out for help. Some were frustrated over their awkward adaptation to high school or their uncaring parents. Sometimes their bodies or spirits had been damaged and they were afraid to tell anyone what happened. Steve wanted to make a difference in their lives. He hated watching the lost ones waste away, while the system rushed them into adulthood. His heart broke for David, for all of the lost ones. Sometimes his efforts paid off. Sometimes they didn’t.
By 7:55 a.m. David had gathered up all his gear as planned. Timing meant everything. Others had gone before him with similar plans. However, if he wanted to make an impression, his work had to be perfect. He packed the 15 round magazines and polished the cold steel firearms. After he loaded the guns, he threw a duffle bag at the foot of his bed and placed the guns in the order of their forthcoming appearance. He had a Smith & Wesson 9 mm, a Jennings 9 mm semi-automatic, his stepfather’s Remington 870 sawed-off shotgun and lots of ammunition.
David had traded his Ibanez electric guitar for the Jennings 9 mm when the local pot dealer wanted to start a band. The gun was stolen and the serial number ground off. At that point, David had already decided that music wasn’t for him. He pawned other items to buy the ammo. The other guns belonged to his stepfather, Bill, who kept them tucked away in the back of his closet. David had sneaked into his room the night before and hid them under his bed. Along with the guns, he kept a cluster of homemade maps and timetables under his mattress.
David scrolled his eyes across his dingy room. A fluorescent black light hung from the ceiling and emitted a continuous low pitch buzz that resonated in his ears. The purple glow illuminated white papers and poster texts scattered across his room. Drawings of stick figures with knives and blood and piled up bodies expressed his thought life, revealing the inner workings of his heart. His dark clothing and black hair concealed him from the light. He roamed about like a ghost in the tight quarters where he hid his hatred and black intentions.
He attached two paddle holsters to his black leather belt and shoved the pistols into their new homes. The smell of leather filled his nostrils and gave him a newfound sense of power. Until that moment, he had felt weak and defenseless. In his mind, he had always been a victim. Now, the smell and look of his collection of weapons bolstered his confidence and filled him with a sense of strength.
Fantasies of cinematic heroism rushed through his mind. Thoughts of fixing his world with the click of a trigger gave David a newfound freedom. To him, pulling the trigger would be a bold and valiant statement on behalf of all the lost ones like himself. He put both hands on the holster snaps and pushed down until they popped into place. He followed through by throwing his hands up to his mouth, with both thumbs and index fingers pointing in the form of a gun, and blew as if his fleshy pistols were smoking.
With the guns firmly packed in place, David recounted the day he told his mother, Sheila, that Bill had given him marijuana when he was nine. It started when he told Bill that he thought he was carried out of his room by a group of men in the night, but he wasn’t sure if it was a dream or not. Bill responded by handing him a pipe stuffed with weed.
“Here ya go, Davey. Suck some of this in and you’ll forget all about it.”
He inhaled as commanded and, just like Bill said, he forgot all about it. When he told his mother about the marijuana, Bill yanked him outside by his ear and clobbered him for telling.
He remembered similar episodes, memories that made him feel weak. Yet that morning, he stood in his room pretending to be something he was not: confident and strong. The remembrance was intentional. He wanted to become angry. He wanted to stir up the demons. He wanted to give them reason to sin.
David left his thoughts and picked up the shotgun. He breathed deep, held it close to his chest and said, “Ahhh. Come to Papa.” The seventeen year old lovingly stroked the barrel because he had special plans for it. Since he had never experienced love, he became fixated on death. He stood there next to his twin bed, adorned with superhero bed-sheets, and imagined the damage the heavy firearm would bring. He gripped the gun and pointed it at the musical demigods plastered across the walls of his small bedroom. “Boom! Boom! Boom!” he aggressively whispered so as not to awaken his lethargic and unemployed stepfather. The guns took away his insecurity and made him feel complete and in control.
David carefully arranged the ammunition and shotgun into the duffle bag and zipped it closed. When he lifted his head, he caught a glimpse of himself in a small mirror above his desk, and for a brief moment saw the boy deep inside who was afraid. He quickly pushed him back into the depths of his subconscious where he belonged.
Tanner’s bus arrived at the school at 8:00 a.m. He stepped down from the bus and squinted as he entered the light of day, wondering what was troubling him. Everything seems pretty normal, he thought. Yet something in his gut twisted with nervousness. Noah Berkley stepped out of bus number three holding Lana Jones’s hand. That was normal. Nick Tooley and his twin brother Randy hopped out of their 1983 Silverado apparently arguing about something. That was normal.
Tanner tapped Kenny’s arm. “Hey. Look at the Tooleys.” He pointed toward the scuffling brothers. Kenny glanced at the twins and laughed.
Nick grabbed Randy by the neck, put him in a headlock and rubbed his knuckles deep into Randy’s skull. Their books fell to the pavement. Randy responded by landing a solid blow to Nick’s kidney. Nick let go and grimaced.
“Ah. Whew!” said Nick, arching his back and rubbing his side. “The next time you won’t be so lucky!”
Randy smirked at his boisterous twin. “You’re just a big slab of meat, Nick. All talk. That’s all you are! All talk.”
Randy picked up his books and walked toward the school entrance and saluted the American flag as a group of eighth graders hoisted it heavenward.
Tanner had always loved school. He loved the sounds and the excitement of the beginning of a new school day, but he couldn’t shake the dark feeling. What’s wrong with me, he silently questioned.
Kenny popped Tanner in the back of his head with the palm of his hand. Tanner’s head jetted forward.
“I gotta go, Tan. See ya later.” Kenny threw his duffle bag over his shoulder and hurried away.
Tanner forced himself to smile. “See ya.”
Tanner followed the crowd of students who were walking up the concrete steps toward the large glass doorway at the face of the building. His dusty blond hair waved like a flag across his forehead. As he approached the door, he noticed his reflection looking back at him, worried, scared.
The cool air rushed across his face and tousled his hair. He twisted his neck in all directions, looking at the junior and senior high students laughing and teasing as usual. He watched some of the teenagers make a desperate attempt at completing their assignments, while a few couples grabbed last-minute kisses before class began. An unrecognizable heaviness pressed down on him. Tanner warred within himself. Something wasn’t right; he just knew it.
By 8:15 a.m., school had begun. David plopped down on his bed and threw his hands behind his head, locking his fingers tight. His thin frame barely made a dent in the mattress. He looked up at his ceiling and studied the glowing galaxies that he stuck to the drywall a few years back. The stars and planets represented the hope of something else – a new frontier. When he was younger, he had dreamed that someday he would blast off into a world where he was the super hero and the all-star. As he grew older, the dream faded, crashing like the Challenger space shuttle. He closed his eyes and began the recurring process of placing blame.
John Ray. Don’t even wanna say his name. Wish I could kill him, but he’s back in jail. Son-of-a-bitch. …Bill and Sheila - I hate’em both. A match made in heaven is what they are. And those damn cheerleaders. What a bunch of sluts. Ask one out and they give you shit for the rest of your life. Think I’m some kind of nerd they can laugh at behind my back, huh? ...And that fat ass, Nick Tooley. God I hate him! Can’t wait to blow his brains out! …Who else? Stupid-ass-jocks. I’m sure I’ll know’em when I see’em. …Bryan Jacobs? Nah. He’s all right. He stood up for me. And his dad gave me a summer job last year. He’s gonna be a doctor someday. We’ll they’re gonna need him when I’m finished. I don’t remember him givin’ me shit. Yeah. He’s okay.
David remembered when Bryan had helped him out earlier in the school year. Nick Tooley flicked his sock cap off his head and tossed the hat back and forth with some of his football buddies. David stood in the middle of the jocks, humiliated, grabbing for his cap while they laughed and poked fun at him. When he turned to one of his abusers, the one behind him swatted him in the back of his head. They’d pushed him around as if he were human waste, and grabbed his long hair and tugged until his head jerked backwards and his body joggled like a pinball. He felt powerless, humiliated, and exposed – a weakling to the core.
“Come on, you little pansy!” Nick Tooley said. “Can’t you reach your hat? It’s right here! Too high for you?”
The others laughed as Nick dangled David’s hat in the air. David awkwardly jumped up to grab it, but fell to the ground. Nick’s twin, Randy, stood at a distance, looking torn, but remained silent.
“Come on! Give it back, Nick!” David yelled.
Finally, out of utter despair and nearly in tears, David shot his fist at Nick and hit him square in the jaw. Shocked and embarrassed, Nick stood still, his cheeks turned as red as boiling lava. The students nearby held their breath, waiting to see what Nick would do. His large blue sweatshirt expanded and his fists tightened.
“You little shit!” Nick gritted his teeth and tightened his thick jaw. “I’m gonna kick – your – ass!”
David turned to run away, but Nick grabbed him by his t-shirt and slammed him against one of the lockers that lined the hallway. His small frame was no match for the girth of the thick athlete. David’s head crashed against a steel locker door followed by the rest of his boney frame. He grunted. Nick reached his fist back to finish him off. David closed his eyes and waited for his lashing. It never came. Bryan Jacobs stopped Nick’s fist in mid-air.
“He’s had enough!” Bryan said. “Let him go.”
Bryan glared at the others, asserting his authority. “Come on, guys! Can’t you just leave him alone for once?”
Nick reluctantly let go of David. Bryan confiscated the hat from one of the athletes and handed it to David. David grabbed the hat and crawled backwards, away from Nick.
“You okay?” Bryan asked. He extended his hand toward David and helped him stand up.
David nodded his head and scuttled away.
Nick rubbed his jaw and watched David escape. “Better run, you fricken loser!”
David remembered faces and names. He kept a list of all of his abusers. He cleared Bryan because of his valiant behavior, but the others remained in his mental inventory. From that day on, David fell deeper and deeper into the depths of despair, cementing his homicidal plans.
He opened his eyes and reached for his cassette player. Bill and Sheila were sound asleep. They usually slept until 11:00 a.m. or later. He put his headphones on and readied himself for the big show.
Tanner entered the school and rushed toward his locker in the senior hallway. He awkwardly balanced his many textbooks and spiral-bound folders, weaving his way through the roaring crowd of students. Just get to the locker without getting noticed – quickly and quietly, he thought.
A nameless voice shouted, “Nice floods, Tanner!”
“Ha-ha!” said Tanner, artificially chuckling along with the other voices, which he dared not identify. He kept his shy eyes locked on the polished tile-work, pushed down on his pants and continued walking.
The hallway bristled with energized seniors and a few underclassmen. Some stopped to stare at the trophy case embedded in the senior wall, and some played cat and mouse with each other on their way to first period. Tanner stopped at his locker and began turning the combination at precisely the same moment that a new figure entered his peripheral vision. He lifted his head, turned to the left, and his heart revved up, full throttle.
Lana Jones strolled down the senior hallway, arms crossed, holding her books, brunette ponytail swinging. Her eyes glistened with excitement. She stepped out of the flow of teenage traffic and stopped at her locker – right next to Tanner. She cocked her head in his direction and looked at Tanner. He smiled. She’s gorgeous, he thought. And she smells good too.
He quickly turned back and attempted to look busy. He shoved his books into his locker in order of his daily schedule, peered into a magnetized mirror stuck to the door and pulled a stray hair away from his eyes. He glanced back at Lana. She leaned against her locker and gazed at the adjacent wall and smiled.
After studying her joyful face, Tanner thought, she’s probably thinking about Noah and how awesome he is. Tanner rolled his eyes. Pfft. I mean, I’m no James Bond exchange student like Noah, but I’m not so bad.
Tanner loaded his first period math book into his arms and almost left when Noah showed up. Noah’s locker was at the end of the hallway, but he always managed to visit Lana before first period. Tanner looked through his locker mirror and watched the two lovers embrace.
Noah towered over Lana. He stood six foot two, and she a petite five-foot-three. Tanner marveled at how composed Noah appeared at all times. He had a charismatic, yet distinguished personality that enticed Tanner to listen to him speak. Lana stretched up to her tiptoes and grabbed his neck. Noah squeezed her and whispered in her ear.
“Hiya, little bird, you ready for class?”
“Yes,” Lana said, wearing the same smile that she had on her face before he arrived.
Lana visibly turned to mush every time she heard his British accent. Tanner watched them everyday, all year long. One day she had told Tanner how privileged she felt to be with such a catch, and that she feared that, like Cinderella, the clock would strike midnight and he’d return to Liverpool without her. Tanner thought he’d never do that to Lana – but he never said a word. After all, she was the captain of the cheerleading squad, perpetually optimistic, outgoing and drop dead gorgeous. Tanner looked at her with admiration. Noah fell in love with her the minute he laid eyes on her. At least that’s what he told her when Tanner was gathering his things for history class one day.
Tanner looked at the hallway clock - 8:06 a.m. I’m gonna be late, he thought, but he couldn’t stop looking in the mirror, which functioned like a television airing an early morning soap opera. Lana’s deep blue eyes gazed at Noah with a tender innocence. Tanner never saw her face light up like that until he came along. It seemed she only knew awkward attempts of love by unskilled boys who had no idea how to care for someone of her caliber.
Tanner didn’t despise Noah. He sort of liked him and felt happy for Lana. Besides, he appreciated the love lessons – love lessons that played out like a fairy tale. That’s what it looked like to him anyway.
He learned a valuable lesson about love the day Lana dropped her journal as she headed to class. She slammed her locker door closed and jetted down the hall. Tanner noticed right away that something had fallen out of her locker. When he reached down to pick it up, he couldn’t help but read a short blurb as he lifted it off the floor.
“I had a great day at school today. Noah left a poem in my literature book and a Hersey’s Kiss on my lunch tray. HE IS SO AWESOME! It’s probably way too early to say this, but I think that one day we’re going to get married. I know it seems impossible because he’s from England but…”
He called her name and returned the journal to her. The lesson; leave poems and Hershey Kisses.
At 8:08 a.m. Tanner peered through the mirror, discretely moving his body as if he were actually doing something important. Noah brushed his fingers through Lana’s smooth brown ponytail. His robust frame pressed ever so gently against hers, making full body contact.
“I’m gonna miss you,” said Lana.
Her typically strong voice grew weak in his presence. Her blueberry eyes sparkled as she looked upon the boy she hoped to wed.
“I’m going to miss you too, little bird. But somehow I think we’re going to get through the next hour.” They both laughed. “And by the way, I dreamt about you last night.”
Lana smiled, eye lashes fluttering.
Noah whispered, “Do you want to know what it was about?”
“Mmm hmm.” Lana bit her lower lip.
Her eyes studied him with passion. He put his hand behind her neck, brushed his lips against her ear and murmured the details of his dream. Lana smiled and giggled. She closed her eyes and curled up inside his arms before they separated for their respective classes. Lana’s smile was rarely absent in his presence and usually stayed on long after they detached from each other.
Tanner looked at the clock: 8:09 a.m. I have to go. He closed the locker door and headed to class. He suddenly felt cold. He looked out at the remaining students in the hallway, weighted by a heaviness that came to rest upon his shoulders, and ran as fast as he could to Mr. Gardner’s senior English class. The dark feeling had returned.
At 8:43 a.m. David sat up from his bed after filling his mind with rage from his music. He slipped out of the house and loaded his duffle bag into the back of his rusty 76’ Chevette. The old clunker embarrassed him. Most high school boys in Crescent Falls drove trucks and sports cars. However, David came from a family of little means. He lived in the local trailer park, where inoperative vehicles and broken dreams were commonplace. That’s what he told himself every time he witnessed another car raised up on concrete blocks. David managed to save a little money for his first car by working a few odd jobs, but his lack of motivation kept him perpetually moving from part-time job to part-time job. Over time he became less concerned with his wheels. Revenge became the crux of his existence; delivering his militant and sulfur laced message at exactly 9:35 a.m.
After he packed his gear in the trunk, David slammed the warped hatchback closed. It barely held. Figures, he thought to himself, shitty car – shitty life. He exhaled a frosty cloud into the air and peered into the emerging blue sky. He took pleasure in his progress and smiled for the first time in the day. Yet, a deviant smirk expressed all the joy he could muster.
With tired eyes from a brutal night of tossing and turning, David flicked his shoulder length hair out of his face and stepped into the subcompact vehicle. When he sat down, he reached into the inside pocket of his black jacket and pulled out two sheets of neatly folded paper. The first: his checklist. The second: his personal manifesto.
The checklist kept him on schedule and the manifesto kept him motivated. He read it daily. It fed his propensity to kill, reminding him to loath nearly everyone around him. Of course, not everyone caused his pain, but the manifesto made him believe that they did. He wrote it after Nick Tooley pulled the stunt with his hat. One of many humiliating and painful moments, it became a turning point for David. He drove home from school that day and ran into his bedroom. He shut out the world, cranked up his music and cried for hours. It was the first time he cried in months. A hard shell had already begun to form around David’s heart, but not so much that Nick’s abuse couldn’t crack it. David already hated himself. Filled with shame and self-loathing from his home life, he didn’t need any help from his schoolmates to make his life miserable. That day in the hallway created enough scar tissue that his heart never felt pain again, and opened a portal for evil to root itself into his soul.
He opened the checklist to review his progress and to affirm that he had not forgotten anything. The checklist consisted of the following: set alarm clock for 7:00 a.m., shower and get dressed, finish loading gun clips, organize guns, load guns and ammo into car, smoke a little weed, kill Bill, drive to school, and finally – fix my world.
After lighting up a joint, David sat in his little car and inhaled the mind-altering fumes. He wanted to relax, because he thought it would make the killing easier and give the demons free-reign over his actions. He sucked the smoke long and smooth.
“In with the reefer…out with giving a shit.” David laughed at his verbose creativity.
His counselor had told him once that he had a misguided case of cognitive dissonance. Whatever that means, he thought. David figured what would appear psychotic and deranged to many would become his infamous fifteen minutes of fame. In one of his counseling sessions, he confessed that he had dreamed about killing some of his classmates, and that he heard voices demanding vengeance for their bullying. The counselor assured him that he could make healthier choices and that the voices were not real. However, after repeated abuses, exploitations, and a long list of crimes against his humanity, David had given in to the voices in his head. He felt that he no longer had a choice, but rather, a calling.
When David continued to bring up the idea that he was hearing things, the counselor had him tested for schizophrenia. Although the test results were still pending as David sat in his car smoking weed, the look in his eyes and the heinous smirk on his face was not one of paranoia. On that morning, his smile exemplified sheer evil. Lost as he was, something unearthly arose in his spirit, and even David knew it had little to do with peer pressure. His expressions that morning did not feel normal; they were paranormal.
At 8:55 a.m. Bryan Jacobs sat in his first hour English class. He glanced at the clock and then looked at Kate Schmidt. She peeked out of the black hair hanging over her eyes and smiled at Bryan. He grinned and turned back toward the balding Mr. Gardner, who was sitting on his cluttered desk, littered with papers, books and other school supplies. He stood up, loosened his tie, rolled up his white sleeves and began to write a few notes on the chalkboard.
“Okay everyone – just a quick reminder about the year-end award ceremony at nine thirty this morning. Be sure to go to your second period class, and then you’ll walk to the cafeteria together with your teacher. Okay? Great! And finally, I’d like all of you to read the final chapter from The Grapes of Wrath tonight, and we’ll discuss Mr. Steinbeck’s use of imagery tomorrow. Any questions?”
Kate Schmidt raised her hand and pulled her hair away from her eyes, revealing the black eyeliner that encircled her rebellious punk-rock eyes.
“Yes, Kate. Go ahead.”
Bryan heard a hint of exasperation in Mr. Gardner’s voice.
Kate looked away from Mr. Gardner and her jaw made large dramatic chewing movements because she had a wad of gum in her mouth. “So, is it true that you could sandblast your silverware by putting them in front of a key hole during the black blizzard?” She turned her head and grinned while the other seniors marveled at her audacity.
Mr. Gardner curled his lips and dropped his chin, expressing his disappointment in Kate’s lack of seriousness.
Alexis Fairchild and Sydney Frey rolled their eyes. They were on the cheerleading squad. Bryan watched their reactions, but knew Kate didn’t care what they thought about her. Besides, Bryan had heard that they had questionable reputations, which diminished their credibility. They openly resented Kate for being with Nick. On a separate occasion, Bryan heard one of them say that she didn’t fit the jock girlfriend image.
Bryan put his head down and smirked.
He liked Kate, but he didn’t want to get in trouble. He had too much going for him, but there was something about her that drew him in. His attraction centered on her inner beauty and her wit, although many considered her somewhat of an oddity, because of her black clothing, independence and punk-rock attitude. Bryan knew she could verbally take anyone down, including himself, at any moment. He liked her strength, sense of humor and deep-seated confidence, even though his lack of action demonstrated how intimidated he felt around her.
Regardless of his feelings, Bryan had a dilemma; Nick Tooley already claimed Kate as his own. Ironically, Nick had a roving eye and flirted with other girls when Kate wasn’t around. As a result, Bryan patiently waited for the right moment to win her heart. Kate seemed to be waiting too, but didn’t hold Bryan’s hand in the process. Bryan assumed that he had all the time in the world.
David checked his watch – 9:05 am. Time to go, he thought to himself. He blew the remaining smoke out of the side of his mouth and swallowed the remaining portion, the roach, as customary. When the air cleared, he marched into the house, knowing that his mother and stepfather would still be asleep. They made a habit out of staying out late at the local bars. David’s mother, Sheila, had a lot of mental anguish to drown out. Her first husband was depraved and abusive. Unfortunately, her second proved to be much the same.
Once David arrived at the humble door to the master’s bedroom, he smelled a strong, masculine odor and remembered why he hated them. He stood there staring at a large hole that Bill, his stepfather, punched through late one night when he and his mother were fighting. Covered with duct tape to maintain privacy, it certainly didn’t hide the memories. They were crystal clear in David’s mind.
At that moment, his thoughts flashed back several months prior when the couple returned home drunk from bar hopping. Bill staggered to the door and yelled to Sheila, while he waited for her to come in.
“Come on, bitch! Get in the house!”
Sheila leaned against Bill’s truck with her head down and responded, “I’ll come in when I’m good ‘n ready!”
“What the fu—? Oooh-ooh-ooh! I’m gonna beat the shit out of you…and your big ass too!”
Bill angrily stepped off the threshold and hurried toward Sheila. She pawed at his truck to keep from falling over. David watched through his bedroom window. Although he anticipated what might happen, he felt powerless to stop any of it. He tried on several other occasions, but Bill beat the shit out of him as well.
Sheila never saw Bill coming toward her. David opened his window to warn her, but Bill turned and bitterly pointed his finger at David, exhorting him with a silent glare. As previously trained, David shut the window. He said nothing.
Sheila turned away from Bill, unaware of his impending wrath. When he approached her, he grabbed a wad of hair from behind her head and pulled. He yanked her so hard that she nearly toppled over. Somehow she regained her balance, but stumbled wherever Bill led. Her head obeyed the whims of her abuser. When he tugged, her head jetted forward. When he turned a corner upon entering the house, her head followed.
“Don’t you ever mouth off to me like that or I’ll kill you! I swear on the Holy Bible!” With his lips tight and eyebrows compressed, he pulled her into the trailer. David watched Bill drag her inside and then followed them through the home, keeping a safe distance.
“Let go! Stop, Bill! You’re hurting me! Stop, you prick!”
Sheila screamed to no avail.
Bill punched a hole through the bedroom door in his debauched attempt to enter the room. With his hand still clinching Sheila’s hair, he thrust his knee hard into her gut, and followed through with a swift uppercut to her face. She fell backwards on the bed and uncontrollably rolled off to one side. She tried to crawl backwards to escape him, but came to an abrupt stop. She pinned herself between the bed and the wall.
David tried once again to assist his mother, but she screamed, “Get out of here, David! He ain’t hurtin’ nobody!”
Bill threw a bottle of cologne at David but missed. The bottle shattered and filled the room with a wild, untamable fragrance. At that point, David mentally checked out. He closed the door and stood there staring through the hole, while his mother screamed in agony from the blows and slaps that cut and bruised her already scarred face.
Mentally entering back into the moment, David’s eyes glared at the duct tape that covered the hole. Unlike the last time he entered his mother’s bedroom, he had no intention of helping her. In some ways, David hated her just as much as Bill.
She didn’t keep her promise.
With sweaty palms, David turned the knob with caution, opened the punctured door and walked in. He stepped up to the bed and stared down at the two bodies wrapped in booze stained sheets. Bill was snoring. Son-of-a-bitch. Thanks for the gun, Bill. David examined his soon to be victim, eyes squinting with hatred. I’m gonna use it today – just for fun.
He covered Bill’s Smith & Wesson with his superhero pillow, shut off his conscience, pointed the weapon at Bill’s head and pulled the trigger. He quickly turned the gun toward his mother. She woke and sat up, startled and shocked to see David standing there.
“Wha— what are you doing?” Her eyes struggled to open.
David stood still, pointing the gun only three feet from her face. It took her a few seconds to come to her senses. She looked at Bill and saw the spray of red fluid.
“David! What did you do?”
She looked at Bill again and shook him to see if he was alive. She threw her bloody hands into the air and grabbed her head in a panicked frenzy.
“Oh, my god! Oh, my god! You killed him! David, you killed him!”
Sheila threw her hands in front of her, afraid that she would be next.
The voices told David to shoot, but he couldn’t do it. He felt his finger start to move over the trigger as if it had a mind of its own, but he refused to let the demons take his mother. Instead, he smacked her in the head with the butt of the gun. She collapsed and fell into the blood that began to accumulate around Bill’s head. She continued breathing. Bill did not.
David watched Bill’s spirit drift way, while his ears were ringing from the blast. Blood flowed from the back of Bill’s head and soaked the dirty sheets. David looked at what he did with little remorse, and wiped the splattered blood on his face with the pillowcase. His mouth contorted in a spasmodic swirling motion; the result of a tic that visited when he grew anxious. I better get out of here, he thought. Someone’s gonna call 9-1-1 soon. He turned and ran outside, started the Chevette and sped off toward the school.