He goes over the plan one last time. All possible exit routes marked and memorized. Every piece of equipment accounted for. CNN and The Weather Channel checked and re-checked. It goes down soon. He will be a hero.
He snaps the suitcase shut, thinking about his mother and how she died. Sometimes he sees it happen one way, sometimes he imagines it another way. But it always ends the same way. With him, alone in the dark, screaming for the world to make sense, the cold Thanksgiving turkey set before him like some pathetic reminder that everything which matters has to die before it really means anything. He looks at the spread on the table, just like it was those many years ago: cranberry sauce, gravy boat, pumpkin fucking godamn pie . . . and that dollar-a-bag breadcrumb stuffing you buy at the grocery store and add water to. Not the fancy, homemade version his mother would have insisted upon. He remembers three Thanksgivings ago, when she showed up in his crappy one room apartment with all her usual get-a-life rhetoric and overamped motherhood shtick, how she made a beeline straight for the stuffing and examined it for authenticity. What the fuck is THIS shit, son? Haven’t you learned ANYTHING AT ALL? No WONDER you don’t have a girl! Get in the car with me THIS INSTANT! No son of MINE is feeding HIS OWN MOTHER anything remotely resembling this manner of CRAP!!!!!
She’d been really loud at the supermarket, too. Showing him all the right ingredients to buy. Pointing at all the hot available chickies. Telling him she wanted grandkids soon or she was just going put his name on one of those internet dating services and get the job done herself. She whipped up some of the best stuffing he’d ever tasted that night—Mexican cornbread style with red chilis and smoked oysters, a recipe she’d been dying to try out for years. That was the last Thanksgiving she was around for. Then she was gone. And his table was empty. Filled with food, but unattended by friends or relatives. The worst part of him just wants to be alone with his videos and online games and CNN, which makes him cry and scream every day. But then there’s the other part of him. The part of him that must do what it has to. No hesitation. No compromise. Must do it now.
He stares at the spread on the table.
A big dead bird stares back at him.
He never eats the food anymore.
He just makes it the best way he knows how and hopes his mother will show up one last time and make that great stuffing from before. He can’t remember how to do it, but he wishes he could, because the taste would comfort him. Like a smell or a thought or an image that reminds him of home. His home, which he loved and hated.
That’s the funny thing about moms, he tells himself, sliding his thin arms into the black overcoat which he will wear for his moment of ultimate glory. Moms will drive you to the ends of the earth with their chatty madness and nagging, they can make you hate them with the whippings and the punishments and the embarrassing moments in the grocery stores . . . but really, in the end, does any of that matter when you are perched over a streaming plate of the best damn oyster cornbread stuffing a man could ask for? Does it matter at all when your knee is skinned and you cry real tears and there’s no one else in the world who can make it better? Does it matter when your heart has been broken for the thousandth time, and the only friend you have is the woman who brought you into this world and knows all the secret weaknesses and imperfections of your poor, abused soul? Does any of that bad stuff matter at all?
Sure it does, he tells himself. It’s all part of the same love-hate thing which any lasting friendship is built on. You have jealousy, frustration, rage, resentment, all sorts of slimy things . . . but that’s all okay because you have caring, loyalty and unconditional love also. No matter how loud her voice was, no matter how brutal she seemed on the surface, he was her one little boy and she only did it because she loved him. The scars have healed. The wounds are no longer fresh. He wishes she was here.
If she was here, he wouldn’t have to do this.
He buttons his coat slowly, still staring at the dead thing on his table. He wishes dead turkeys could talk. He wants to know what a dead turkey would say if you asked it a question.
Hey, Turk, what’s the Capital Of Oregon?
What’s the average rainfall of the Amazon basin?
Who was President of the United States in 1947?
HEY FUCK YOU, BUDDY! I’M DEAD AND YOU’RE NOT EVEN EATING ME! HOW’S THAT FOR DUMB!!!!
He leaves the envelope on the table in front of the dead turkey.
Inside the envelope is a letter to his mother.
She won’t read it because she’s dead.
He picks up the suitcase—it’s small and black and heavy—and he leaves the apartment, locking the door behind him.
He doesn’t drive because he knows his car will give him away at the checkpoints. He doesn’t travel on the streets because he knows there will be people watching the streets. He’s planned this thing way too methodically to blow it like a bumbling amateur. He takes the pre-arranged route through three apartment complexes, two backyards, and a sewage access tunnel which is big enough for a small crew to hunch through. There’s a reservoir at the far end of this tunnel he frequently visits, but that’s for later. For the escape.
He stops in the tunnel and checks his watch and he’s three minutes behind schedule but that’s okay. The parade begins in ten. Still plenty of time.
He gets to the main opening at five o’ five post meridian, and he sees the tall abandoned hulk of the HALF PRICE BOOKS building he used to work in before they fired him and moved the store downtown.
He still has the keys.
She ran a tight ship when he was younger, but mellowed out a lot when he turned twenty and moved away to Austin. There were still the annoying outbursts about finding a real girlfriend and going back to college or joining the army like she did when she was his age, all that crap about discipline and duty and honor and courage, and about how he had none of it. He just stopped listening to her after a while. They were different kinds of people and they both learned to accept it after a fashion. His life was always simple and she always resented it, but at least he wasn’t on the street or selling dope to schoolkids, and his job was safely anonymous. He read books for a living. She sent him money to live on every so often and acted concerned about things in his private world. They went to movies together and for long walks in the park when she visited. They talked about many things they might like to do together, once he’d found the right girl and settled down. That all seems like so long ago. Some weird dream he had that was swept away.
He crouches in the half light of the abandoned bookstore, remembering her last letter to him from across the ocean. She’d been worried she wouldn’t be home in time for Thanksgiving. She always came to see him at Thanksgiving, and was hoping he’d have a nice girl to introduce her to this year. Always the same worries. Grandchildren before I’m an old maid, son. I want to be able to spoil your beautiful daughters and sons before I’m too old to even bounce them on my knee. Now that your father is dead, it’s all I really have to look forward to. Don’t you care that I worry so much about you? I only want you to be happy. You date so many beautiful girls, don’t you? Couldn’t one of them be the marrying kind? Couldn’t you do it, just to make me happy?
None of them were the marrying kind.
He’d made sure of that.
The last one was a fighter, but he still made sure.
Getting rid of the bodies was always the hardest part. Picking them up while they were still alive was easy because he worked in a used bookstore, and all the smart hotties eventually stumble into a used bookstore for a quick fix of something. And even though he had no real friends to speak of, no social base to spring from . . . he was smooth enough from watching all those Jack Nicholson movies to sweet talk his way into bed with dozens of availables, and even a few non-availables. It amazed all of those ball-breaking lesbian workaholics who slummed alongside him at the bookstore: the way he would come alive in the presence of a particularly smoldering bespectacled college student at the checkout counter, how his eyes would turn on the lovelight and his smile would reel them in. He could get a phone number inside of a minute on a good day. Rarely was he ever turned down. It didn’t hurt that he was so gorgeous. That was one of the reasons why his mother was always so frustrated with him. Here she had turned out this beautiful boy, and he was such an aimless fuck-up. Some of the lezzies started calling him JD behind his back at the store, because he looked so much like Johnny Depp, and they even tried play-flirting with him to his face, but it never worked. Don’t mix business with pleasure. You’ll get fucked every time. He’s only bagged a lesbian once and she was hard to kill afterwards.
He kills them all, of course.
It’s his talent, figuring out ways to do the deed after sleeping with them—because, really now, what the hell is a woman particularly good for after you’ve done the nasty with her? He moved away from his mother to end all that nagging noise and have a better relationship with her. Why would he want to start it all over again? And kids? Good fucking lord no. What a disaster that would be.
Besides, the killing is fun.
It’s getting rid of the bodies that sucks.
Before he found the reservoir, it was much harder.
He opens his suitcase and gets to work.
He runs his fingers over the smooth steel, crouched low just inside the window, the cold light of Thanksgiving Day bathing him, but not blowing his position.
Outside, just a block away, the procession marches on. The street is filled with people, and they all want to get a look at the man who sent their fathers and sons and daughters and mothers off to die. The Thanksgiving Day parade is new this year—something special because our fearless leader wants everyone to know he is a man of the people.
You killed my mother, you piece of shit.
She was all I had and now I have nothing.
You sent her to fight your cold cash war and now she’s dead.
Just like all the others I’ve murdered with my own hands.
We are both murderers, you and I.
And now I’m going to murder you.
For what you did to my mother.
He rests the gun on the sill of the open window and takes aim through the scope. It’s an easy shot from here. He could even whack the six secret service guys surrounding the float if he wanted to. Just the same way he whacked the three secret service guys who were guarding this building. Two of them he caught playing cards in the employee break room, the other one was in the pisser. He took them all out with the silenced forty-five caliber handgun. (He bought the gun last year to make killing girls easier and safer.) He has three minutes left before backup agents come looking for them, but it won’t take three minutes to get the job done. He knows all about these rules because his mother taught him when he was a boy. She was a soldier, and she knew these things. She wanted him to be a soldier, too, but he disappointed her. Now here he is. Fighting the good fight at last.
And it’s all for you, mom.
Cheap stuffing on Thanksgiving Day.
A dead beast staring me right in the eye.
I love you, mom.
And the whole world changes.
People run screaming for weeks, allies and enemies go up in arms, panic erupts and pandemonium prevails well into the days leading up to Christmas. There are riots and there is looting. Government buildings burn like matchstick sculptures. The police and the military are trampled beneath the feet of an angry mob. He will not see this revolution. He doesn’t care to. He misses the whole thing, stuffed in the reservoir along with his thirty-seven girlfriends—just another a serial killer suicide rotting away with a bullet in his head while the world above him chugs and churns and screams and eats itself at zero hour. He wouldn’t have even cared. He didn’t do it for a revolution.
He did it for her.
And he got away clean. That’s the real irony. The letter he left for his mother—the one that explains the whole thing and even tells of the murders and the body dump—will never be read by a living soul. Because the apartment building is burned to the ground now, and nobody cares. Nobody. Truth is for suckers, after all.
That, and cheap stuffing.
for teighlor darr