Negative Capability

(If Mean People Suck) Nice People Burn

Negative Capability

(If Mean People Suck) Nice People Burn

Sole Provider (fiction)

Arnold was alone in his room, with the door locked, hands smeared with Vaseline hand lotion, spewing thick bursts of semen all over the severed hands of his sister’s doll. He didn’t remember where the rest of the doll was, but he didn’t much care for her perfect face or her perfect ass, he only wanted her hands. Now he owned her lovely, exquisite, wonderful, tan hands, all ten fingers, every knuckle, every bit of them was his completely. He could suck on them, kiss them, stick them in his nostrils or drown them with his love, and they wouldn’t fly in his face or even try to stop him. They bathed in his adoration.

For just a second he saw himself reflected in an overturned soda can that dribbled cola onto the permanent brown stain on his carpet. His pupils contracted as his dick slowly spasmed in his hand, blending the lubricant with his sweat and embedding the mixture under his nails, where it would crust over unless he washed his hands soon. His knees were wobbly from standing too long. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep unless he did it again, this time prolonging his ecstasy until he knew that even one more desperately thorough stroke would slide him across the blurred line between pleasure and scraping his glans down to the raw nerves.

He momentarily entertained a delusion that his mother had rigged up a mechanism to record his private indulgences, but the voice in his head reminded him that it didn’t matter if there was a camera, and that his mother mattered even less. He occasionally allowed himself to hate his mother. After all she had named him Arnold and that one act had gotten him pummeled on more than a few occasions. She also forced him to wear dresses until he was 11, when he ran away. She also told his principal that he wet the bed when she was called to school to explain why he had set fire to a bucket full of kerosene-soaked rags outside the chemistry lab. At the meeting with him and his mother, the school psychiatrist just nodded his head and Arnold knew that they were conspiring against him. “A boy of thirteen still wetting the bed?” they seemed to ask of each other, like there was something funny about it. The voice had told him to throw a match onto the rags, nothing more and nothing less, and he had had it drilled into him constantly that when he was told to do something, it wasn’t a suggestion, it was an order. There was no connection between him wetting the bed and starting the fire, why, they were complete opposites! Sometimes he was too tired to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and sometimes he just didn’t know and he would wake up and it was too late. No voices told him to lie in bed and wet himself. If he was told to do that he would have politely replied that his mom told him not to, and that would have to be the end of the discussion. He would not have argued with his mother, the voice he might be able to negotiate with, but his mother, never.

He was hoping that the blood that had just drained out would return as soon as it realized that he was the master and the blood was his eternal slave. He was the sole authority, he was the only person in the world who could possibly control his blood, it flowed in a beautiful and solitary world completely under his domination. His blood throbbed in harmony with his dirty little hands, his vaguely stiffening dick, and his mind. He was the master of his small world, and now had complete control and thorough domination over those two precious little hands, who served their new master as if it was their sole purpose and ambition. He smiled at his new and tentative erection.

As he methodically stroked himself he decided that he was uncomfortable standing, so he leaned over and retrieved the hands, relishing their warm stickiness, and wandered backward until he fell deliciously into his cold bed. He took the left hand and placed it tenderly in the gap between his two front teeth, while continuing to manipulate himself with his free right hand. He tasted his own love, salty and viscous, as his eyes rolled back and forth, trying to focus on everything all at once. The orgasm itself was a reward, but the true pleasure came in the act of controlling ever tiny aspect of his movements, every second of his reign. His dick could not refuse his desires, his dick could not argue or insult him, his dick could never laugh at him and make him feel bad for giving so much love.

When he finished the last of his labors his dick was pink and ragged, but he had no pity for any of his slaves if they couldn’t cope; they had no choice. They could hammer his brain with pain, interrupt his sleep, embarrass him in public, but here in his domain, there was no room for democracy. He was monarch for life, chosen by the voice in his head to rule as he saw fit. He heard a knock at the door.

“Arnold, are you in there? How many times have I told you that you are not allowed to lock your door? Answer me!”
“Wha? Mother? I was taking a nap.”
“What if there was a fire and you were asleep with the door locked? I’ll tell you what, you would be burned alive and have no one to blame but yourself! Open the door right this instant, Arnold!”
“Sorry, Mother.” He threw the doll’s hands under his pillow and pulled his pants up. He knew that his face would be red, his ears too, but he knew it was a matter of seconds before his mother would lose it. He was panicked as the faint crack of a belt echoed in the back of his head, like a riding crop poised above his back, forcing him to move forward and obey. When everything was in order he opened the door.
“What were you doing with the door locked?” Then she smacked him hard across the face.
“Nothing, I’m sorry.”
“Not as sorry as you’re going to be.” She grabbed him by his arm and picked him up, pulling his arm to the edge of its socket. She threw him across her knee, took off her belt and began hitting him. He refused to cry, he just took his punishment. When she was done, she left him alone. He climbed off the bed and sat on the floor, wishing his mother was dead. She could be, the voice said. He told the voice to shut up as his mother came in with a screwdriver. She fiddled with the doorknob for a second, took out all the screws, wiggled it for a minute and then, finally, it broke free.
“There. Now you’ll never lock the goddamn door again.” She marched off with her prize.

He didn’t want to cry, he didn’t want to show her that she had won. He closed the door and peered through the hole in his door where his doorknob had been. In the next room his sister was laughing at him, again. Or perhaps still, perhaps she was still laughing at him. He went to the closet and took out the plastic bottle that contained the only thing in the world he loved as much as the hands that were slowly coagulating under his pillow. It looked like a bottle that might contain a genie, but it contained Magic Sand, a deep blood red, and it was magic. He took his fishless fishtank and poured a column of sand into the water. It sank quickly and made a pile that looked like a soft-serve ice cream cone, but red. He reached in and pulled out a handful of the sand, and of course it was perfectly dry. It was magic. He watched Mr. Wizard religiously, but Mr. Wizard could never explain Magic Sand. Not to Arnold. Not unless he just said, “It’s magic, that’s all.” But Mr. Wizard was a wisenheimer, and his mother didn’t like wisenheimers. She never liked it if he had an answer for everything, she would beat him if he even hinted at an excuse. There was only “I’m sorry, mother” and “You’re right, mother.” Anything else was not advised. Not unless you liked the feel of a worn belt on your back, and even if he did like it she probably would have found something else that he didn’t like as much. He didn’t like it, but she said that he deserved it and he believed her. The voice told him that he didn’t deserve it, but his mother was right and the voice must be wrong, even though in the most secluded part of his head he suspected that his mother was wrong. He did learn, he knew right from wrong, but without his mother perched on his forehead, he could forget. There were too many rules to remember, too many of all of them. He had reached a point where he no longer associated the beatings with anything but being wrong.

“Don’t laugh at Arnold, he’s your brother,” his mother shouted down the hall. Smack. Then his sister was crying. And Arnold laughed as he scooped out more Magic Sand, wishing that he could play with the hands again, even though he shouldn’t, it hurt now. He knew he shouldn’t touch it anymore. He could ignore the pain, but he could not get caught, not now, not ever. He played with the sand and ignored the voice. He decided to brush his teeth and go to bed. He also decided to furnish his mother with another, “I’m sorry, mother,” and one final “You’re right, mother” before crawling into his bed with the hands.

* * *

It was crazy, but he had to, he just had to. Even though his mother would’ve told him that it was wrong, he picked up hitchhikers with his mother’s car. Loaning him the car was the only concession she would make to him in all of his twenty-five years. It was not because she loved him or even tolerated him, it was so he would go away. When he would go away he would pick up college girls mostly, but he wasn’t too particular. Except that they had to be girls. He was honing his skills, learning the master craft of salesmanship, selling himself to total strangers. It was great. They seemed to like him, they never called him gawky or asked him how the weather was up there. They never laughed at him. They were nice. They were grateful. And they were two feet away from him, completely at his mercy. He didn’t know where it was leading, but if it was game, it was starting to get interesting. Some girls he wanted to kiss. Some of them smoked and he didn’t like them at all. They smelled bad and made it hard for him to breathe. They were killers, those cigarettes. He wasn’t a killer. He wasn’t even Arnold anymore.

He pulled over, rolled down the window and asked, “Need a lift?”
She hesitated for a second and leaned over, “Maybe. Where’re you going?”
“I was going to go visit a friend of mine in Santa Cruz. He’s having a little beer party and I haven’t seen him in a while.”
“Oh. That’s sounds cool. Okay, I just need a ride down to the campus. Whenever you have to go your way, you can just let me out.”
“Cool. I’m Arnie,” he said, as he imagined her in a bra and panties.
“I’m Laura. Nice to meet you. You know, I normally don’t do this kind of thing.”
“Oh, gosh, me neither. I just haven’t been out in a while. My social skills are kind of rusty and I thought a little company wouldn’t hurt. Do I look okay?” He turned and smiled. She wasn’t perfect but she was attractive. He pictured her naked in the trunk of his car and his smile grew even wider.
He felt her eyes on his body. “You look very nice. What do you do?”
“Not much. I live with my mother. I wanted to be a policeman, but I’m too tall. I’m thinking of taking some classes at Santa Cruz next semester.” The voice whispered to him, Do it now. He clenched his teeth. The voice was ruining his concentration.
“Oh, that is very sweet. Your social skills seem just fine to me.”
“I was in a hospital for a while, I was very sick.”
“What was wrong?”
“I was just sick, but I feel better now. Much better.” He tried to smile, but he couldn’t. Shut up, stupid or you’re going to fuck it up like you fuck up everything. Stop being so fucking stupid and do it already, you pussy. They drove for a few minutes in awkward silence, he didn’t know what else there was to say to her. The voice in his head had degenerated to a polite murmur, but its intentions were unmistakable. He didn’t think he could concentrate on the road, the voice was too distracting.
“I better let you out, I think I should be alone for a little while.” He clenched his teeth and grimaced. “I said to shut up, you fucker, I was doing just fine by myself!”
He heard her suck in her breath as she sat upright in her seat. Her eyes were wide as she scanned the inside of the car and then the darkness that surrounded them.
“Fine. Let me out. Here is fine. This will be fine. Let me out here.” She jumped out of the car and ran straight into the darkness of the woods, disappearing in seconds.
“Be careful, the woods are dangerous at night.” He was talking to himself. I told you to do it, stupid. You blew it, Arnold. As soon as you said Arnie, you fucked it up like you fuck everything up. You are such a fucking idiot. You are worthless. “She liked me, why can’t you leave me alone?” Why didn’t you kill her? Because you are a fucking little girl. That’s why your mother made you wear a dress. That’s why no real girls like you, because they like men and you will never ever be a man. “I am so a man. Just because I don’t do everything you say doesn’t mean I’m not a man.” You know that you’re only kidding yourself. You’ll never be a man. Give it up.

* * *

While he drove, he tried to figure out how old she was. Maybe seventeen. Limited upper body development. Maybe fourteen. Maybe not, too young for a college town. She was dressed like she was at least twenty, but kids these days grow up faster and faster. Arnold felt that there was something fascinating about knowing the future when no one else did. He was going to kill her. He was going to have sex with her. He was going to take pictures. He was going to cut off her head and bury it in the backyard, face up. He was going to have a sandwich and go to sleep. In that order. She thought that she was going to an address that was on a piece of paper on the dashboard of his mother’s brown Nova. He knew the future and she didn’t. It was amazing. He had stopped fighting the voice. They were trapped together and if they were going to get along, they would have to just get along together. The voice would let him sleep if he would let the voice have girls. The only concession was that he would not rape anyone and the voice reluctantly agreed.

He eased the car onto the shoulder along a deserted stretch of highway. He stopped the car and turned off the headlights.

“What are you doing? Why are we stopped?”
“I think there’s a flat tire. I’ll go check.” He smiled and she screamed.
“Listen, Arnie, I don’t know what you’re thinking, but please don’t do anything to me. You’re really scaring me.”
“It’s just a flat. Really. I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m sorry.” Do it, you pussy! Now! He went around to the back of the car and stooped to look at the tire that he knew was fine.
“I was right,” he said to no one in particular. He opened the trunk and took out his .45. He walked over to her window.
“It’s just a flat, you can see for yourself. It’ll take me a few minutes to change the tire, so you can walk around or find a radio station that you like.” She didn’t want to get out and she didn’t want to sit still. She figured if she got out she could be sure and put her fears to rest.
As she got out of the car she smiled and said, “Sorry about that, Arnie. You know what mom always says about hitchhiking.”
“Yeah, don’t.” He pulled out his gun, put it to her temple and splattered her brain across the roof of his car. Yes. Yes! Nice work, Arnold. That was perfect! That was beautiful! Perfect! Her body slumped to the ground and started to form a puddle in the dust. Is she dead? Is she dead? Yes! Oh, yes! Feel like a man now, Arnold? You must, because that was the first manly thing that you have ever done, and I am so pleased! The next one will be even easier! “What next one? You said you only wanted one.” That’s your mistake, not mine. “I guess that was pretty easy, wasn’t it?” Yes, now fuck her like I told you. “Not here, someone could come by, I’ll have to take her home where it’s safe.” Just do it quickly, I am losing my patience. He placed her body on the plastic sheet that lined his trunk and folded her arms over her chest. He decided to take her shirt off, he had been thinking about her tits the whole time while he was driving with her and he wanted to see them. It was like looking through your bag before you get home on Halloween, nothing wrong with working up an appetite. When he pulled her shirt up and saw her bra, he stopped. “She is real pretty, isn’t she?” Yes, now take the bra off and let’s get a move on. He tried to pull her bra up but it was on too tight. There didn’t seem to be any way to open it up. He took out his knife and cut the middle open. There they were, nipples the size of quarters, full and round and pointy. He touched them, tentatively, and they were lovely and warm. He kissed one, for the first time in his life, and it was everything he had hoped for. He reluctantly pulled away and closed the trunk.

His mother was still awake, or she was asleep in front of the television, he couldn’t tell from the driveway. He turned the car off and walked up to the front of the house. Through the front window he could see his mother on the couch with her head back and a stream of drool running from the corner of her mouth into the folds of her neck. The television flickered soundlessly and he decided that it was safe. He opened the door quietly and went in. In the darkness of the kitchen he ran on instinct, feeling feral and alone, the voice suddenly gone. He couldn’t remember exactly when it had stopped, but he was grateful. He found the battery operated carving knife, held it down near his legs and turned it on. It hummed in his hands, gently. He turned it off and slipped out through the screen door, which floated in place without closing.

Out by the trunk, in the dark, he was alive, fully awake, doing things his fantasies could not illustrate satisfactorily. The smell of a fresh wound, the sound of rushing air and seeping blood, the hollow pop! as her head was freed in his hands, the almost subliminal buzzing of his own blood rushing from his heart to his two heads furiously. He was sliding in and out of his own skin as he felt a high that might have been like powerful drugs in a clean system, if he had had that experience to compare it with. He just wanted the head for now, it was enough. She was still quite pretty, though the color had gone from her face, but it was still dark, and he couldn’t tell and didn’t care.

He put her head into her handbag, which had been dumped into the trunk, and carried his booty into the house. Once inside he sat on the floor of his room, pushing aside his dirty clothes so he could talk to her. He put a towel on the floor and rested her head in the center.

“I’m sorry, I forgot your name. Shirley? Betty? I know it ends with an ‘e’ sound. Amy? Amy is a nice name. I like Amy. Is it okay if I kiss you? It is? Good.” He kissed her and her head toppled over as the open side of her head drained into the towel. “Now don’t make it worse in here, sweetheart, or my mother will yell at me. This place is already a mess.”

* * *

When he was seventeen and in the hospital, drugged to the gills, sharing a room with a man who possessed a fondness for pubescent boys, he would dream of the womb. It was never comforting, he was always out of breath and drowning. He wasn’t taking in lungfulls of water, he was like a diver in a bell whose mother stood in the boat above, gleefully pinching his airline until he was blue. Then he would fall out of bed onto the floor or be smacked back to reality by Freddie, his roomie. He would remember his mother wasn’t there, it was just his apnea. He never slept well, if he didn’t roll out of bed he would end up snoring and drooling on his stomach while he crushed his arms to sleep. Or he would have to pee six or seven times during the night even though he hadn’t had a drink in hours. Or Freddie would play with himself and make the top of the bunkbed shake until Arnold was awake. It was always something, he could never get used to it. He would never be refreshed, he was always close to sleep, but never fully there.

He didn’t want to be in the hospital, he didn’t want to be near Freddie, he didn’t want to go back to his mother’s house. But he had no choice, like most things, they happened to him. He was supposed to go to jail, only the authorities couldn’t rationalize sending a bright and friendly young boy to the gas chamber. There was no doubt that he had killed his own grandparents with a shotgun at fifteen, and he explained to the police that he had only wondered what it would be like to shoot grandma. He wasn’t expecting his grandfather to come home so soon, and he felt it was necessary to avoid hurting his grandfather by not letting him find his wife bloody and headless. So he killed grandpa for his grandpa’s own good. And the doctors said that it was his mother that he wanted to kill, and they were right, but he was afraid of her, she knew exactly where to dig her nails into his mind. Scraping scars, that was what she wanted to do. She was saying, “Let me cut you open and as soon as you are completely healed, I will drag my nails across the numb and raised flesh.”

The hospital was better than jail, though he wasn’t quite sure how, everyone just said that it was. He was becoming a man, faster than he realized. On the outside, he was a man when he was thirteen, but inside he was still a little boy at twenty-five, terrified of bullies, trapped in darkness each night before he could sleep, listening under the bed for monsters. Even with his eyes open at night, he knew it was just Freddie, but he could close his eyes and return to dreams of dangling over a snake pit, hanging from his bound feet, staring down the rancid throat of a fanged creature who still had pieces of fingers and hair between its teeth. The darkness was without comfort, the daylight brought worse images into his mind to be integrated into dreams, and the voice couldn’t make it stop.

Freddie would never touch him, Arnold just knew that. Arnold easily towered over most people, even at sixteen. He didn’t remember ever being less than six feet, those years were mostly a blur of profuse masturbation and regular humiliation. The only thing he wanted was to be alone. The voice would never let him. It whispered to him in his sleep, told him what he needed to do, what he needed to say, how to survive with Freddie and the others. Lunch was always the worst. There were always too many people, some chattering incessantly, some with their hands in their pants, some just drooling and smacking bedpans into their foreheads. It was easy to be paranoid. He never knew what they were all up to, they could sneak up behind him, they could sit across the room and blindly stare at the space above his head, and that would be enough. He would feel his teeth clicking and his nose getting clogged up and his feet would feel like they were encased in congealing oatmeal.

He remembered his sessions with Dr. Franklin, it was always white in his office. The sun was always behind Dr. Franklin, the windows were always open, even if it was cold outside. He would tell the doctor about his mother and the good doctor would nod like he knew it all along. Arnold would even tell the doctor about the voice and Dr. Franklin would always reassure him. It always made Arnold feel better. When Dr. Franklin was there, the voice was silent. Dr. Franklin said that everyone has a voice in their head. He called it a conscience. He said it was the thing that kept everyone normal. According to the doctor, it was the voice that told everyone that what they were doing was right because a conscience never lies.

Dr. Franklin liked him, and even though he couldn’t understand why Arnold killed his grandma and grandpa, he was sympathetic. And he was able to forgive Arnold, though Arnold’s father never would. But Arnold’s father didn’t care about him, he had other things to concern himself with. Like burying his own parents.

Once there was a fight in the courtyard outside the hospital and Arnold found himself alone. There were some people that had weapons, some just smashing their own heads into things. The voice told him who he should hit, where he should run, who he needed to tell. When it was all over, he was grateful to the voice, it had protected him, like his conscience was supposed to. He imagined that Dr. Franklin’s voice never told Dr. Franklin to do bad things. He learned that the conscience was supposed to prevent you from doing bad things. Only his voice didn’t know that, or, if it did, it didn’t care.

He spent many nights discussing the events of the day with himself, the voice was patient and caring. It shared his pain, soothed him and let him sleep from time to time. Freddie never understood what Arnold was talking about, never could see who he was talking to. And Freddie didn’t care. But Arnold was glad to have the voice, it meant that he was never alone. The voice never judged him, the voice never made fun of him. And the voice promised to get him out of the hospital. And the voice always kept its promises.

* * *

The first day out of the hospital was the scariest day of his life. His mother was told that she was supposed to have no contact with Arnold until Dr. Franklin said that it was okay. But the voice wanted to see Arnold’s mother. The voice had some business to settle with her. The voice knew that Arnold would be with his mother again. And the voice was usually right.

When Arnold was twenty-one he was moved into a group home with the other former mental patients. Dr. Franklin helped him unpack his things and even got Arnold a few housewarming presents. It was a pleasant place, very sunny with a nice garden out back. There were only men in the house, it was probably safest that way. Arnold and the voice agreed that they should meet some women, but that could wait. It would have to. He would have to do what Dr. Franklin told him, he would have to avoid certain activities, and he was not allowed pets, no matter how many times he requested one. If he could prove to Dr. Franklin that he was better, that he was going to be good, then Dr. Franklin might leave him to his own devices. The voice made sure that Arnold knew what to say and how to walk and the voice always reassured him that his difficulties were going to be over soon.

Within two weeks of his arrival at the group home, his mother petitioned the authorities to release Arnold into her custody. Arnold could not figure out why his mother wanted him to come home but he was glad that she seemed to have forgiven him. He didn’t want to live with her, but all the medicine he was taking made it difficult to concentrate. Besides, he didn’t have any skills and knew he would have trouble getting on his feet all alone. His mother said she would send him to school so he could learn a trade and be a good boy. He wanted to impress Dr. Franklin. He wanted to be away from all the other people that made him nervous. Against the doctor’s advice, he agreed to move home again. Fuck the doctor, the voice said, because it wanted him to go home again. So he did like he always did; he listened and obeyed.

* * *

He found it harder and harder to talk to his mother. In her old age she had become more frail, more shrill and less patient. So he spent his time in his room, enjoying his freedom, amassing a collection of porno and fantasizing about losing his virginity. But he hadn’t had the chances other boys had. He didn’t know what to say to a girl. He had no idea how to approach a woman. When he’d try to practice talking to girls in his mirror, he’d catch himself grimacing painfully, his eyes downcast. His mother told him to forget about girls, they were all too good for him. They’d never want him. Men were evil. He was a failure, she said, and no woman would ever love him.

When he watched porno movies in the middle of the night, alone in his room, he tried to find a man in the movie that looked like he did. No one was tall and gawky. No one had shaggy hair. No one had pimples on their forehead. He realized that, as usual, his mother was right. No woman in her right mind would ever want him. No one would love him or tell him he was great. No one would bake cookies for him, kiss him on his neck or let him have sex with her. He’d be a virgin forever. There was nothing he could do. Sure there is. You can get a girl. You can do it. I will show you how. He looked at himself in the mirror, disbelieving. I know how. Let’s get started.
Let’s pull back the curtain and tell the folks what they’ve learned, shall we? The title is a bastardized derivation of something from Full Metal Jacket, one of Kubrick’s best films. The drill instructor exhorts his men to go to Vietnam to kill, because a Marine’s job is to keep heaven stocked with fresh souls. That makes them “soul providers,” which is one way I meant it. I also meant it in a way that I never fully realized within the story, namely that Arnold is the person whose work provides for his mother. She torments him and yet he is her sole provider. In any case, I think the title works both ways. It also refers to the fact that in each of the scenes in the story, one person is providing the action. Arnold is always left alone with one person at a time, which is one of the reasons why I think he has so many problems.

The killer in question is Edmund Emil Kemper III, or just Ed to his friends. He is the subject of one entire non-fiction book, Margaret Cheney’s The Co-ed Killer. That book is a piece of shit, and even though it’s been out of print for years, you know I have a copy, right? Her book has a quote that I found incredibly offensive, something along the lines of, “American men are always griping about their mothers.” Fuck you, stupid. Ed’s mom, Clarnell Kemper, tortured Ed as a kid. She made him wear dresses. She divorced a few times. She locked him in the basement and called him a weirdo. She told him he’d never date a girl because all girls would find him repulsive. She humiliated Ed on a regular basis. One of the men who divorced Clarnell actually said that he volunteered for two additional tours of duty in Vietnam rather than stay home with her.
The facts are not in dispute. Little Ed was a wacky kid who killed neighborhood animals, didn’t date and was cowed by his mother. He killed his grandparents when his mom forced him to visit them. He shot his grandmother first and then, in order to spare his grandfather the sight of his dead wife, he killed his grandfather. He was fifteen at the time. He spent his critical, formative, teenage years locked away in a mental hospital. Because he was so smart, he learned how to fool the doctors into thinking he was okay. Toward the end of his stay, he was actually helping the staff to administer tests and give treatment to other patients.

When it was time for Ed’s release, his doctors said she should NOT be sent to his mother, because she was incredibly cruel to him. It didn’t matter. Ed’s mom told him he could never date the girls he saw at the college where she worked (the University of California at Santa Cruz) because he was too stupid and ugly. In order to get laid and to pay his mother back, he started killing the girls his mother coveted, the same ones that his mother told him he could never have.

One of the more amazing things about Ed was that he went to cop bars and hung around with them, like a groupie, and pumped them for information about their ongoing investigation into the “co-ed killings.” He even became good friends with the cops. He used his knowledge of police procedure and evidence to conceal his crimes for quite a while. In an interview he said he learned it from watching cop shows on TV.

After years of intense hatred toward his mother, he finally killed her. He bashed her head in with a hammer while she was asleep. According to his own statement, he tore out her voice box and stuffed it into the garbage disposal so she could never yell at him again. He also cut off her head, jerked off in her mouth and then put the head on the mantle to use as a dartboard. I know, it’s across the line, but those are the dirty facts you crave and don’t kid yourself into thinking differently, okay? He then killed his mother’s best friend to calm himself down a little and then he took off on a cross country drive. Along the way, he stopped every now and again for coffee and caffeine pills. As he calmed down, he started calling his friends at the police department to turn himself in. Here’s the most important thing, to me. He could have gone on killing forever because he was smart and was in no danger of being caught. But the war he was really fighting was with his mother. He killed the co-eds as proxies of his real target and once his true nemesis was gone, he was finally free. He has said, in his own words (sampled on the audiozine, Misfit Toys, yada yada yada) that he was destroying that which his mother coveted, namely young women. In fact, he actually buried some of the heads in his mother’s garden and joked to her that “People look up to you.” That, to me, is why Ed is so funny and interesting, because his life, like all of my fiction, has a comic-horror thing going for it. I’ll come back to that later.

Unfortunately, the cops that knew him didn’t believe him. They thought he was a sweet pest and not remotely capable of killing. They thought he was trying to impress them. So he freaked out and got back in the car and kept driving. Then he stopped and called again. They still didn’t believe him. After a few calls (he had driven as far as Colorado from Santa Cruz, CA), they finally called some local cops and sent them to pick Ed up. He confessed to everything, told them where the bodies were and was eventually convicted of the murders.

Last I heard he was reading “books on tape” for the blind at a maximum security prison in California. The interview I saw with him broke my heart and I rarely find killers interesting. As I’ve said before, the crimes themselves don’t really interest me all that much and the killers are invariably vacant monsters who barely understand what they themselves have done. It’s motivation and dedication that piques my interest.
I wanted the story to be in three distinct parts, but out of sequence chronologically. The story goes A-C-B, which, to me, makes it more interesting.

Now, to the nuts and bolts of it. The reason I mention the severed hands of the doll is because many killers fetishize parts of their victims and I wanted the doll to be an antecedent of his hand fetish. Kemper in particular had odd fetishes, but being into hands is relatively common and removing the hands of a victim can sometimes prevent identification of the corpse.

The chronic masturbation, paranoia and conflict with the mother I thought would be best illustrated by the scene I wrote, which encompasses all three things. It also mentions wetting the bed and starting fires, hallmarks of a nascent killer. The idea of his blood as his slave was used to illustrate that even those people beaten down by life need to have dominion over something. No one wants to be at the bottom of a pecking order, so they create someone below them, even if it’s just blood and not a person. The whole scene to me hinges on the Magic Sand because the story came to me while I was thinking about the sand. I had some as a kid. I think the way it stayed dry was related to the shape and size of the sand crystals, which made them incapable of holding water. I’d like to think it was magic, but I know better.

The second part of the story was a little tricky. I wanted to illustrate a schizophrenic mind negotiating with itself, and that’s not easy. I wanted the first incident to be a prelude and the second one to happen so quickly that the reader is just as surprised as the girl. I wanted the horror of what he is doing to be so banal that it loses meaning. I mean, killing someone and cutting off their head is really fucking twisted, but trust me when I tell you that Ed did much worse things. I wanted it to have an almost horrifyingly comic effect, the blackest of black humor. I had a cool professor once (Steve Simmons, for those of you as obsessive about details as I am) who said that most of my stories all share this kind of “comic horror,” where sick things are funny and funny things are sick. I mean, kissing a severed head on the mouth and having it roll over is funny, if you don’t think about it too much.

I made reference to apnea and dreams of drowning in the section about being in the hospital for two reasons. Freud said that dreaming about water was an expression of anxiety about sex and dreaming about being in the womb is an expression of anxiety about growing up. This is entirely made up, so don’t think I know a thing about Ed’s dreams. As a metaphor and an expression of his subconscious feelings, I thought the dream was beyond perfect. Sorry if that sounds arrogant of me. The story isn’t perfect the whole way through, but it has moments that just transcend words, if you ask me.

The stuff about the doctor is how it seemed to me when I was reading other people’s accounts of Ed’s treatment. They all seemed to know that it was his mother that had fucked him up. Nowadays Ed would’ve been given some medication and been cut off from his mother. But he did his killing in the 70s, long before the advent of useful psychoactive drugs.

The last part of the story concerns the transition from the hospital to the real world. I wanted to show how he tried to make something of himself. He wanted to be normal and was thwarted at every turn. His inner voice took care of him in the hospital and protected him. And everyone’s inner voice wants to have sex, especially if you’re a twenty-five-year-old virgin who lives at home. I wanted to end with the voice making its intentions clear, especially in light of what we see in section two.

I realize that my story doesn’t exactly follow the course of events of Ed’s actual life, but that’s why it’s fiction. The truth is that the true story isn’t mine to tell, it’s Ed’s. I like that at the end of the story the reader is left with the impression that the killing is just about to start because to me, that’s the scariest ending of all.

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