Hearts & Brains

by Melinda Fries

[i]”What is explained can be denied but what is felt cannot be forgotten.”
– Charles Bowden[/i]

(This is definitely not an explanation.)

I talked on the phone to my father recently – something that doesn’t happen very often – and he asked me what exactly it is that I do, although he still doesn’t really want to know. I remember specifically the day I stopped telling him. I had just shown him a little super8 film which I thought was goofy, not a big deal. And he says, ‘Oh, Melinda, are you still angry?’ Jesus fucking God. Yes, you idiot. Why didn’t you teach me how to fight anyway. You know, all that Samurai shit. Sometimes daddy, a lady has the right to be angry. I laugh as I say goodbye.

Today a man with no fingers told me that I’m a beautiful thing. It’s the nicest moment I can remember. Memory, well that’s another story these days. You see, I feel like just before dawn when the lights are going out across the city and I have no idea if I can wait for full daylight. I’ve stopped checking my horoscope. I haven’t stopped checking the clock. It’s exactly 3:33. I take this as a sign. Of what, it hardly matters. Good and bad are no longer appropriate measures. My perceptions are so skewed that minutes are incomprehensible and I tick events off secretly on my fingers. There are certain things however that I can’t forget.

I had a stroke in April. I’m 37, it’s now the middle of October.


[i]Dizzy. Tired, I’m so fucking tired. I have never been so tired. House-sitting, lots of records here, the plan was to make some tapes but I’m too tired. It takes me 15 minutes to decide if I should run my errand or take a nap. I can’t remember the last time I had a decent sleep. Everything is interrupted. Usually by my own mental chaos. I make phone calls about nothing. I cancel as many things as I can. I’m too tired.[/i]

[i]Dizzier. I notice it now. Enough to sit down. It’s not something I can push aside and keep going anyway. Should I put my head between my knees? Shit. No. Lay down. Stumbling. Feet are dragging. I start to sweat. No focus, have to focus. Something is wrong here. I decide that if I can just get upstairs and lay down it will go away. Right. I have an idea that I should maybe get to a doctor but I sure hate those sterile places and have always had an amazing overestimation of my own strength. So much sweat, this is gross. I lurch up the stairs and collapse on the bed. I ignore the collapsing part and let myself float. I go many beautiful places.[/i]

[i]The phone rings. Someone is coming over later, maybe that’s him. I stand and fall forward right onto the floor. Needless to say this was quite a surprise. No more walking for you bitch. Get on your knees and crawl. I actually think this you know. Amazing ability for ignoring the obvious. I don’t make it to the phone before it stops ringing as I’m a bit slower than usual. There’s a division right down the center of my body. This is getting serious. (I remember a long night in Germany which ended with the beautiful girl on acid realizing she had to be at work in an hour but she was still tripping her brains out. She puts her hand on my shoulder and looks deep into my eyes and says, ‘Melinda, now it gets serious’. And then she collapses into giggles.)[/i]

[i]I finally make it to the phone. I think I should call someone just in case this is not going away by itself. I call my friend B. He’s supposed to come over later anyway, wouldn’t want to inconvenience anyone. OK, that’s not really true. I call B because he’s the one I want next to me during a crisis. But I’m terrible at asking for help and even though I’m all fucked up at the moment I think of the most plausible reason to call him…well, he’s coming over anyway… I leave a message, ‘Hey I don’t feel good. I’m gonna unlock the door can you come over early and check on me?’ Now all I have to do is unlock the door. The one downstairs.[/i]

[i]I have to stop every few seconds and shut my eyes. I don’t know where I go but its hard to come back. I have a black t-shirt on which is now covered in cat hair. Stop, lay on the floor. Rest. Just let go. No – unlock the door – the door – the door – the door. The stairs are a crazy sensation of steps and movement. Each one seems to take incredible amounts of time. Sometimes I’m sliding sometimes I’m falling. I’m riding the stairs on my ass but I still have to hold on to the banister. Time has stopped. Once I actually get to the door I lean against it. It takes me a while to remember why I’m there. And believe me, when you are laying on the floor the lock is really far away. I notice that my depth perception is failing. OK, I hear it click. I look back across the room. I realize that now I have to get to the phone. I realize the message I left earlier is shit. I realize that the distance back across the room is somehow further than it was before. I realize that I am slipping in and out and I have to move or this is it. Darling, this really is serious and if you don’t call someone soon you won’t be able to.[/i]

[i]Movement is even slower now. I try to stand again. The cats scatter as I hit the floor and I have a vague memory of the bookshelf flying past my face. Obviously that’s not going to work. I’m not really crawling as half my body has turned to rubber and tingles/burns in an extremely distracting way, dragging dead weight is more like it. I try not to think about how the sweat pouring off me is making the cat hair and dust collection on my clothes even more abundant. I try not to think about what’s going on with my body which isn’t that hard because staying in focus is taking all I’ve got. I make it to the kitchen and want to sit in the chair to call. Something about salvaging dignity. It’s extremely important for at least five minutes. Until I understand that I just can’t do it. Vertigo has taken over. (It lasts more than six months.) I pull the phone off the table and bring it very close to my face and lean back onto the floor. Numbers are very hard now. B answers. I say, ‘Something is wrong with me, I think I have to go to the hospital’. He says he’s on his way. I can relax now. I have a small but persistent feeling that I could let go completely and be gone.[/i]

[i]B walks in and I hear him say ‘shit’ and I understand that I’m still sprawled on the kitchen floor. We talk. Sort of. He’s very calm and so am I. We silently agree that no one can freak out until later. No, I have not been drinking (ok I had a screwdriver earlier, one only, no big thing). No, I am not high. He calls his doctor brother in Maryland. This is very funny in retrospect, but think about it, do you have health insurance? Well if you didn’t, would you think twice about calling an ambulance? Of course you would. So the brother says, ‘She’s gotta go, NOW’. And so we call. He calls. And I know I’m slipping in and out and that I need to talk so I tell him how I feel and what has happened in case I slip out completely he can tell whoever needs to know. My eyes begin to twitch. I can’t see for shit. B is more freaked by my eyes that anything else.[/i]


I think I’ve made this my own personal myth. Bigger than life. This way I no longer have to take responsibility. Inseparable from my every thought, inseparable from my every movement. I refuse to wash my feet in supplication. They are thick and cracked with heavy black dirt. My house is a pigsty. I walk barefoot anyway. Look at me I’m walking! I’m the only one amazed. There’s no way out and I’ll keep banging my head on this wall as long as necessary. If it feels weird repeat the movement 100 times. Self taught physical therapy. Reroute those neurons somehow. I’ve learned more about how the brain possibly works than I ever wanted to know. Anger as the great motivator.

I think well, if I could just get a piece. Of ass. I like to watch the ladies also. Men’s asses do not offer the same hope of salvation. The same promise of fulfillment. And I so badly feel that I need to be saved, not from some unknown outside force but from myself. I like high heels as much as anyone, I just can’t walk in them any longer. Or climb a fence. Or get away. And really will I ever again want to touch another? Touching, well it just freaks me out at the moment.

I read trashy novels. My eyes still get weird but I watch movies anyway covering my bad eye with my right hand. I hide myself as much as possible. I begin to lie to certain people about how I feel. Or I bluntly say what I need. Social niceties are not an option.

I tried to run last week and fell flat on my ass. The bruises were beautiful. No one around me understands why I did it. ‘What the fuck are you trying to do?’ Two people screamed at me. What should I do stay at home in self pity? Fuck I have headaches everyday. Fuck my back hurts. Fuck I just want to be able to walk the way I used to. I would like to walk alone without thinking that I could be knocked over at any second. I would like to quit thinking about the movement of my body. I would like to ride a bicycle. I’ve never been afraid of walking alone at night, it’s always been my time. All the fucked up things that have happened to me have happened in my own house. Or baby, in your house.


[i]OK, want to hear the rest? It gets even better. The Chicago fire dept. guys make fun of the house I’m in. And then the ambulance arrives. They’re ok but they put me in one of those gurneys where you have to sit up. The problem is they don’t strap me in and I almost fall off as I’m leaning heavily to the right. He implies that this is my fault, ‘Don’t lean, honey sit still’. I get a glimmer of what the next days will be like. In the ambulance they joke and ask me what it’s like to be on heroin (I made no pretense about my past) and I say, ‘It feels better than anything you’ll come close to.’ All this time they’re trying to show the new guy how to find a vein. Problem is where they’re looking I don’t have too many. He tries six times I think. They all get serious real sudden when they read my blood pressure (super low), shoot me full of something and decide to take me to the hospital around the corner. Never baby, never, go to the ghetto catholic hospital. They won’t touch you until all the drug test results are back, they hate you if you have no insurance and if the tests are inconclusive well… ‘Take an aspirin every day, don’t drink ever again, and never come back here.'[/i]

[i]B had wrapped me in his hooded sweatshirt when we left the house. I wear it the first few days in the hospital. When they make me take it off I use it as a pillow. It smells human. It feels familiar. It’s an amazing place. I have a nun come and ask if I need anything and a neurologist tell me I’m an alcoholic. (They can find no evidence in my brain of a stroke.) He diagnoses me with ataxia which is not a diagnosis only a symptom of something. Something like, well a stroke for instance. Yes, you asshole, I have ataxia because I’ve had a minor stroke.[/i]


I asked my friend who picked me up off the floor to record what he remembers. Its funny what’s different in our memories and although his is full of fear and love we do not reach the same conclusion. Mine is simple really, I’ve had no balance since April. And I can’t see much more than this. It’s getting better, however, I fell flat on my ass again the other night in front of some people who as far as I’m concerned didn’t need to see that.

I see the hospital from every window of my apartment. This was greatly motivating as I was stuck here for the past months. One recent evening B wanted to climb the fence and deface the sign. Well really he wanted to take it down. He kept asking for a Sawzall. We almost got into a fight about it. In retrospect I think that I was mad because I couldn’t climb the fence too.

There is no explanation for why I had a stroke. After several thousands dollars worth of tests I’m told it’s just one of those things. ‘The brain is very mysterious,’ said one neurologist. No shit. Maybe if I could afford to live alone. Maybe if I could only replay this scene one less time in my mind. Yeah, according to statistics my recovery is fast but maybe that’s because I’m dying to be able to walk alone. I find strength in movement but I really don’t want to end up as anybody’s poster child. I make my own way however sloppy it is. No apologies, but oh yeah a few regrets. I see no way out these days. This, as I have learned, is a bad attitude.

Unfortunately B and I aren’t very good at talking anymore. This is hard as he’s a part of my heart. I wish I could say that it’s just that we were so close and the moment was too raw. But sadly its more about the fact that I fight so desperately in places where its not even necessary. As I said I wish I had learned how. Recovery is such a weird fucked and selfish place. And a very lonely one. Unless you are an angel you make a lot of chaos along the way. I spend so much of my time now fighting/struggling to do the simplest things. It affects every aspect of my life. You might say well, of course, but that’s not true. There is no, ‘of course’. There are only unknowns every single minute. One day I walk fine. The next day I fall down. And there is no guarantee that it will get any better. I get up again anyway and wonder if this is strength? No I think it’s simply desperation.

(First published in the [i]ausgang, winter 2000, version XI[/i] — www.ausgang.com)

Double Action

a short story
by Nicolas J. Aguina

More than anything I had never intended shooting someone, but I did. He was lying on the floor. Open hands covered his face completely, but did not stop blood from seeping through every crevice of his closed fingers. He was on his back. Knees in the air. Rolling left to right. He moaned loudly, in too much pain to form words. He coughed, then his body cringed. His head and feet lifted off the floor. He removed his hands from his face only to spew saliva, deep red with blood. It was stringing from his mouth to his cupped hands, slinking down his chest like red melted cheese. I looked down at the writhing man and considered what next.

A friend gave me the gun about a year ago when I was 20. He’s still very close to me, so I do consider him a friend. He called it a “peashooter.” The metal was stained brown, and the chipped pearl handle suggested it had a history. I knew about guns. I was in the service. A lot of gun-talk goes on in the Marine Corps. My new toy was a .22-caliber. I don’t remember who made it, but I knew an important fact: It was double action. When the trigger is pulled, the hammer cocks back and the cylinder rotates the round to be fired into position beneath the hammer – that’s the first action. The second action is when the hammer falls and fires the bullet.

He didn’t give me bullets, so I had this pistol around for a while. I would think about ways to cheat at Russian Roulette and practice my quick draw from my waste band, or click off all six rounds as fast as possible. Sometimes I would just break it down, clean it, then reassemble it. In the Marines, the drill instructors trained us to remember your weapon is your best friend, and you should know everything about it. Finally, I went to the K-Mart near my house to buy a box of rounds. It was that easy. But there were two things I had not done: test the sights and my proficiency with the weapon.

This is where Troy comes in. Now, I hung out with this person, but it was more like a business thing. I sold him weed and ‘caine. He was a customer. I called him up and asked, “What’s up dude? Whatcha doing?”

“Not much, just slamming a few brews,” Troy responded. He probably would have given the same answer any other time.

“Hey, I got this gun from this guy. Want to go shoot at the quarry behind Wing Park? No one will hear the gun shots from way out there.”

“Cool, Why don’t you just come by? I still gotta take a shower.”

I remember the walk to Troy’s house so clearly. I was praying, “Please God help me. I need you. I don’t know how I got so far from home.” A tear trailed its way down my cheek; visions of the past began flowing through my head. I see my spiritual father bending over whispering in my ear. I was envisioning myself in church.

“Diostado,” Brother Joe whispered his breath caressing my ear and neck. “God is keeping you alive for a reason. That reason I do not know.” The words provoked me to think that it is God’s will, and his will alone, that preserved my life – that without him I would have been so helpless as to not have lived this long.

In the same instant, I saw another vision. Doctor Read was examining x-rays of my neck and lower leg. While showing me with his pen the small lines that represented the fractures in my fibula and sixth vertebrae he said with great concern, “You’d walked into this hospital? You better thank God. I can’t believe that your vertebrae didn’t shift. If it did, you would have been paralyzed.” And while I saw these visions, my mind continued in prayer.

“Lord, I’m out of control. My soul is hurting. Please, help me.” The prayer was over and so was my walk.

I stood at the door of the apartment complex. It was a well-kept building. I climbed three small flights of stairs. Each covered with cheap red carpeting. At the top was the door. I rang the doorbell that was high in the center of the door with the peephole. It chimed high as it was depressed, and low as it was released. I heard faint rustling behind the door and saw a shadow pass the peephole, then it went black. Knowing I was being watched, I lifted my arm and displayed my middle finger prominently in front of the peephole.

Troy opened the door and stood in the doorway, his eyes wide with expectation.

“You got anything?” he asked, without even inviting me through the door.

“Could I come in?” I asked with obvious irritation. Once inside, I complained. “What the fuck’s wrong with you? You think I’m gonna talk about shit all in the hallway?”

Then I slid my hand into my pocket, catching the tale of the plastic sandwich bag that was tightly knotted. In one movement, I withdrew my hand tossing the bag and its contents onto the table. Troy’s eyes grew even wider when he saw the size of the crystal white nugget in the bag. With no hesitation, I asked, “You got money?” Troy handed me a wad of cash and proceeded to untie the bag. I quickly organized and counted the bills. “You’re fifty dollars short!” I complained.

“Let me owe you?” Troy asked, punctuated by sniffles. I quickly agreed. I knew even without the fifty, there was still a 300 percent profit. Aside from that, a little credit keeps customers on a leash.

So I was at his house and we were hanging out, drinking, smoking herb, and doing some bumps. A couple of people stopped by and left. Then Troy started getting bold with his racial comments. I guess it was the beers he had. When I got there, there were only two beers left in a six-pack of tall boys.

“You want a brew?” Troy asked. “There in the fridge.”

I walked through the living room area, past the table and into the kitchen. It was like one giant “L” shaped room that was separated by the furnishings. The living room had a TV, couch and a baby diarrhea colored recliner, the dining room had a table and chairs, and the kitchen had appliances and cabinets. I grabbed a tall boy and asked, “You want one?”

“Yeah!” Troy said before tilting his head completely back with the beer can to his mouth. When he was finished, he swung his arm down and crushed the aluminum can as if it was actually a feat of strength. Then he stepped to meet me half way to the garbage can’ tossed the spent can and grabbed the replacement I carried on my way back to the recliner that bordered the living room and dining room areas. I pulled out the gun for the first time and started playing with it, which must have intimidated him because remarks really started flying.

“I thought Mexicans carried knives and drove Chevy’s” Troy joked.

“I just want to hurry up to the quarry before it gets dark” I said, ignoring the remark.

“Man, if anyone shot me with that little thing, I’d kick his ass!” Troy said, becoming more cynical.

After inspecting the chamber, I put the gun to my head and pulled the trigger, then pretended I was dead, mocking depression from the conversation we were having.

“Spics ain’t shit. They always got to use guns.” he said, clearly instigating. If he really believed that, he wouldn’t be talking shit. What he said was nothing major; but I was irritated; low class whites who don’t even count take a lot of pride in believing they are the superior race. I always knew he was an undercover racist because he let his tongue slip a lot, but I let it slide.

That is, until now. It was strange. He stood mockingly in his drug-induced state actually waiting for me to respond. I leaned forward from the recliner and grabbed the box of rounds. I took one out with my thumb and forefinger and displayed it prominently as I inserted it at the top of the cylinder, just beneath the hammer. Anger ran through my mind at it’s own pace.

“You don’t even have the balls to use it” Troy said, as if he was reading my mind.

I held my hands up as if in surrender. The gun hung from my forefinger; the handle rested appropriately in my palm. I grasped the handle and brought both hands down. When they came together, the heal of one hand was against the cylinder. I rolled the cylinder across the heel of my hand. In my mind I counted the clicks as the cylinder turned. Three. I counted three. The look on Troy’s face seemed serious. I stood up and raised the weapon to my temple. Click. That’s one. Then I put it to my chest. Click. That’s two. Then I looked him in the eye and placed the end of the barrel just beneath his nose. He said nothing. He just stared fearless into my eyes, knowing in his mind that I was a dumb spic that doesn’t have the balls to use the weapon. Bang! Click. I pulled the trigger twice.

I started to think of my parents. I thought about prison–live or die, I was probably going. I believe my decision to stay was because I started thinking of the idea of taking two lives. If I pissed my life away, that was my business, but now I was dragging this sorry son of a bitch down with me. I remember cleaning his face with a rag I found on the floor. I talked to him to prevent him from going into shock. He was choking on his own blood, so I turned his head to the side allowing the blood to drain onto the carpet.

“Whyyyyy?” Troy moaned while still rolling left to right.

I bent down on both knees. Laying one hand on Troy’s shoulder the other on his knee, I pushed firmly to bring both his feet and head flush to the floor.

“Troy, I’m getting help. You’re gonna be all right. Can you hear me?”


With that I quickly rose to my feet and dialed 911, and was soon speaking to an operator. “I shot someone in the face. I need an ambulance.”

“Is the person still alive?” the operator asked routinely.

“Yeah. He’s in a lot of pain.”

“Where are you calling from?”

“I’m at Silver Street Apartments. I’m not sure what building; all I can tell you is it’s the last building on Silver that’s still a part of the complex.”

“I’m dispatching a unit right now.”

“I think it’s best if I leave now,” I said quickly, hanging up the phone, and I went back to my knees to attend to Troy.

I lost focus of all that was happening and uttered a quick prayer. “Dear God, don’t take this man’s life. Please God. Don’t take a man’s life for my mistake.”

After the quick prayer, I regained focus on the situation and began to ask Troy questions, again to prevent him from going into shock.

“What’s your name? Come on dude. What’s your name?”


“Troy what?”

“Troy Adams.”

“Stay calm and just keep answering my questions.” I instructed just as Troy’s body coiled up in agony and he groaned heavily. I heard the rustle of equipment and the staggering static of the paramedic’s radios in the hall. I stood up and walked to greet them at the door.

“He’s over there, just around the corner in the kitchen” I directed.

“How many times was he shot?” the first medic asked.

“Just once. In the face, at point blank range.”

The medics rushed to their patient. My mind became clear. No longer thinking of Troy’s life, my own life came into perspective. I looked directly at the police officer.

“I’m the one that shot him,” I said, passing an officer the twenty-two-caliber weapon that was used. Just behind the officers, I could see a crowd gathering in the hall. Troy was silent now. I told the police the story. While I talked, the paramedics were putting Troy on a stretcher. He no longer moved. I was convinced he was dead.

“Has this guy been searched,” asked one of the undercovers.

“No,” one of the uniforms responded. He patted me down and found a quarter-ounce of weed in my pocket. He let the sandwich bag roll out to reveal its contents.

“This looks like some good stuff. What do you sell it for–50-60 dollars?” he asked trying to be clever.

“I don’t sell weed,” I responded.

Then one of the uniforms came from the back saying, “Look what I got.” He threw a handful of empty cocaine seals on the table.

“This too.” It was about a quarter gram of cocaine wrapped in plastic.

“What, did he owe you money?” the detective at the door asked. They kept suggesting I shot him for drugs. Then the uniform started to search me again and found another bag of weed. He announced his discovery to the room. The detective told him to put it with the other bag, but now, that one was missing. I know for a fact that I had two bags, but I wasn’t going to say a thing. I got quiet for a moment, then they moved about, letting the whole missing weed thing drop.

I was handcuffed and escorted to the car. There were about six squad cars outside. People were everywhere, trying to get a glimpse of the action. I made sure to look everyone in the eye. I wanted them to know that this is what happens when you mess with me.

The detectives questioned me all night, trying to piece together a phony drug story. When the hospital sent word that a shard of lead was lodged in the victim’s brain and he was not expected to live through the night, the detectives tried to use that to intimidate me into cooperating with their story. I was released on bond the following morning.

As it turned out, Troy made a remarkable recovery. He was out of the hospital in about a week. He even stopped by my house. We didn’t talk much about the shooting. The doctor informed Troy that he would recover 100%. My prayer had been answered.

I still had to go to court in thirty days. I’m pretty sure that gave everyone time to think about what happened. Troy showed no malice toward me, but a mutual friend heard him voice his anger. I was sure I would have to go to jail, maybe prison. As long as Troy was alive, I wasn’t going to be charged with murder, but they still had the weed and Troy’s testimony. The truth could mean I wouldn’t see sunshine for a long time. When my day in court finally came, Troy and I drove together in silence. In the distance of my mind, I heard him complain that he couldn’t snort cocaine anymore; he’d tried the previous night.

The State’s Attorney was waiting.. Immediately, he greeted Troy and escorted him to a room outside the courtroom. I was left alone to wait for my name to be called. I listened carefully to each case to try to detect leniency in the judge’s rulings. Finally, Troy, the State’s Attorney and two men I recognized as the detectives filed into the courtroom. They all sat in the front row. I felt as though they had gathered to coordinate their stories.

My name was called. I had decided I could live with three years, maybe four–one year on the drugs, three years on the aggravated assault with a firearm. I waived my right to a jury trial, and the judge droned off the proceedings. My lawyer asked for a moment to speak to the State’s Attorney. When court resumed, my layer advised me to plead guilty to all charges. He promised me no jail time. Everything went that quickly. In the end, I received time served, a fine and probation. The interesting thing about it is on our way home Troy told me with a disgusted look on his face that the State’s Attorney had insisted he testify that the shooting was drug related. He couldn’t believe he was asked to lie. “You didn’t shoot me for drugs.”

(First published in the [i]South Loop Review, Vol. 4, Columbia College Chicago, 2000[/i])

As Nero Played The Fiddle

Hysteria. The head has become so steeped in sickness and depravity that it now feasts on the tender, manicured hands that were once used to hold itself up with. This masochistic cannibal is none other than the conservative and charming town of Naperville IL. Metaphorically, much like the urban legend of a young boy who upon rousing after a nights slumber discovers a tiny boil on his neck, as the day progresses the ‘tiny’ boil advances in growth to become a seething, tawny cyst. When the slightest pressure is applied, the fetid contents bursts to the surface to reveal hundreds of pulsating suckling arachnids pouring out of the gaping wound. That’s right, the seemingly flawless pearl among oysters, the ‘Gold Coast’ without the coast, was torn asunder by the writhing inner turmoil of several occurrences, in two months time.

A $90,000 bank heist, a brutal slaying of a disabled mother; a child buried on his seventeenth birthday due to an apparent overdose; a police officer discharges the contents of his fire arm into the center of his head; mother sedates and suffocates her three children; fifth former employee at near dormant Amoco plant dies of brain cancer. These events, if viewed over a five year span, would be no less horrific, but possibly more consumer friendly, more digestible. Your run-of-the-mill SUV navigator is overwhelmed with the complexity of these trespasses into their Faberge egg-like utopia. Much to our misfortune, the chances that a polite FBI agent with slick black hair will pull up on a Harley praising our local diner’s coffee and delectable cherry pie�all the while dreaming of a bow legged dwarf sporting a red tux who enunciate words like he has a mouth filled moist peat moss�has grown slim to none. Still the public needs a rationalized martyr to heave their emotional stones at. The effigies the media are offering, if any, are the mindlessly reiterated bastard offspring of some foul drunken Spock and Freudian copulation. For some in this drive-thru culture these bad seed and postpartum justifications are feasible. Still, close inspection on both individual and a broad sequential scale warrants further speculation that a far more sinister nature lies beneath the pale, livid surface.

For some time the common optimistic and social lethargy inducing phallic has been that children are the ‘Hope of the Future’. This has almost become the self-imposing cliche of the last decade in this century. These futile ignorant ‘opti-mystics’ never entertain the possible scenario that unravels before them at an alarming rate. The youth of Naperville have, over the past five years, under gone a truly consternatious metamorphosis. The adolescences have amassed into hoards of heathenish Philistines with fiber optic IVs and accomplish nothing more than acts of pillaging, massacring, and senseless procreation. In comparison, their cranial capacity is sub-par even to the most asinine mongoloid. Adjoined to their mass ingestion of whatever squalid bathtub pharmaceutical they can get their deviant hands on, they are utterly drained of any instilled morality and social decency.

No less than two years after Naperville is hailed by numerous forms of the mass media as the “greatest place in the United States to raise a child” does the sugar coating crumble and the decayed cavity of reality occupy its place. Shortly after these accolades are betrothed, the ‘ideal’ children venture outside their Eden-like playpens to make daily Meccas to Cicero Av. and other such tributaries. There the ‘well adjusted’ babes develop an insatiable lust for heroin and its ugly stepsister, crack. The ‘child friendly’ town’s solution? To run a week long, hard-hitting expose in the Naperville Sun on degenerate teen junkies from the suburbs surrounding Naperville. Having thought this placebo cured the plague the expose is praised. Thereupon, little less than a month later, a child was nestled beneath six feet of soil on his seventeenth birthday, due to an apparent overdose. This in fact was not the direct cause of death, the heroin he snorted late at night a few days before his funeral had been cut with powder Clorox bleach, causing his heart to explode.

A few days prior to this ‘mishap’, a disabled, middle-aged woman is brutally murdered and is left in her bathtub. The culprits? Three eighteen year olds, two male, one female. The female was the expired’s trusted caretaker. While two of the associates ransacked the meager living quarters, one of them brutishly torqued the handicapped woman’s cranium back forth until her brittle upper vertebra shattered. During the groups’ appearance in court to enter a feeble plea of not guilty to the charge of premeditated first degree murder, the demented girl looked only once, to give a wide tooth grin at her parents.

In the following week a gang of eight youths stage a bank heist, under the nurturing guidance of a pathetic swindler who is employed with these Tarintino refuse. The young entrepreneurs make off with $90,000 and proceed to spend it on inane tripe such as jewelry and electronics, a shimmering reflection on the spending pattern of their adult contemporaries. It would seem in the past two months that Naperville has broadened its child life cycle adaptability. Not only is this a great town to raise the little hyper-capitalist portages, now it’s also a delightful place to bury and incarcerate them as well. My how we’ve grown!

To think that it is merely the refuse permeated drainage ditch of youth that pollutes the pristine lagoon waters of Naperville is to peer through the identical cataracts that the local news suffers from. The previously stated youth affliction, no matter how deprave, is merely a canker sore on a leprosy-ravaged body. There are countless volumes of preordained justifications that rape the child of self-accountability and the parent of responsibility. Such is not the case with the carnage that sodomized their most trusted staple citizens.

On a chilly March afternoon a house wife and mother sits in the kitchen of her attractive Victorian home methodically mixing several doses of heavy tranquilizers for various over the counter drugs. The precision gained from being employed by Edward’s hospital as a nurse aids her in the task. This Sunday school teacher administered the dosages to two of the three children. Each one she calmly laid in their bed to sleep. Then her soft, tender hands cut the flow of oxygen to their young, pink lungs. One hand pinched the small button nose restricting its function, the other, placed firmly over the delicate lips so that she felt the hot breath of life slip through her maternal fingers one last time. When the third child returns home from school, she sees in her motherly wisdom, that his life too, is not worth the energy it takes to live it. All three children lay lifeless and blue in each of their rooms as this giver and revoker of life attempts to drain her crimson fluid out of boorish holes in her arms. Then, a MOMENT OF CLARITY, her life is now worth living! This powerful deduction of destiny seemingly manifests itself while she lies half-conscious, caked in the half-dried pool of blood. Strength is mustered up to phone police and her life is saved thanks to the help of modern medicine. While residing in the hospital that she once deployed life saving measures, her former fellow co-workers have to draw straws to decide who would treat this new angel of death. Meanwhile, a city frantically searches for rationalization, or justification for this A.C. Wells’ like story. The best the towns’ people can muster is that a belated case of postpartum syndrome reared its horned head. The novelty sweeps through the town more rapidly than the terror of the actual deed. Soon most of the city alternates shifts of macabre milling in front of the police tape with flowers waiting for the CBS news team to appear.

The day prior to the mother/nurse/Sunday schoolteacher’s brain producing or not producing enough of a certain chemical causing a praying mantis like backlash, a guardian of truth and justice resolved he could no longer protect his body and soul against tyranny of his mind. The day this conclusion is deduced, he enters a forest preserve and with his police issue fire arm, the Naperville officer uses the lead projectiles to displace the contents of his skull onto the snow laden forest floor. He leaves behind no written confession of inner guilt, no evidence that is admissible, not even a warrant-worthy inkling of probable cause. He exits instead, a happy family, as the highest decorated officer on the elite Naperville police force and head of crime investigation unit. Opposed to the long and vapid out cry over the children’s slaughter, the public is given few details and fewer reasons. The local media left this conundrum of self desolation on the cutting room floor for half page photos of children staring at three white, haphazardly assembled ply wood crosses placed in front of the morbid, Victorian home. The rest of the montage consisted of inane quotations from the readily available, and publicity ravenous village idiots. A man, who felt his life of protecting and serving was not fulfilling, and his daily walk was not important enough to be missed, was swept under the carpet by these he protected.

This accursed city of fast food ideals and microwave morals demands ratiocination to be dictated quickly and in bite-sized morsels. They need to be able to expel all incomprehensible horror with a brisk swipe of psychology buzzword and a reaffirming and self-empowering quip from their Chicken Soup for the Soul library. They need to construct a protective layer between them and the atrocities at hand. This makes evil a debunkable term, individual and conceivable only under certain pretext, thus becoming easily avoidable. Much like trying to access the seas’ one creature at a time.

The thought that these incidents could be some sort of karmic recoil is so grossly self incriminating and cumbersome that it is quickly dismissed as to not disrupt the ‘ego’ barrier. There is a Chinese proverb that says, “He who defecates upon his doorstep is soon to step in it.” The retrospective glance quickly reveals that there are quite a few injustices waiting in the cosmic wings. Over the past forty years, farmers have been forced off their land by the spread of the festering plague of suburban excess and the rabid dollar nipping closely at its heels. After the astro-turf is laid, the feverish need for convenience sets in so the virus infects the last few farms as to establish strip malls were fresh food may be shipped in from other states. Prior to the dust bowel survivors there were the Native Americans. They are considered the single largest blasphemy in American, as well as suburban mentality. The abstract concept of working with the land is one that seems to go against the entire North American theology. Up until the semi-recent present, nature was our stepping stone, a wild and mindless prairie beast who need to be broken and bit placed in its mouth. Then, once the land has been spayed, what of these sun worshipping pagans? The feckless few that remained after prairie genocide are pushed into separate plots of unworkable tundra and demeaned to the point of rejecting their proud heritage and ingesting hair spray for its intoxicating properties. The cultural sympathizers in Naperville concur that naming the plush neighborhoods they congregate in after the defiled tribes is the best tribute they can bestow. Second best in fact, the always liberal people of Naperville reward them the utmost honor of having high school athletic teams named after a derogatory jeer.

The preeminent consternation of the latte-consuming public is that there is no grandiose elucidation, karmic or otherwise. The notion that pure evil exists in that farthest folds of our gray matter, and the ability to act upon its wickedness lurks in the eclipses of our souls, is most haunting of all. No matter how pious an individual, the spiritual-batter for evil lies in each of us. No matter how many garages, no matter how many zeros behind the paycheck, no matter how many degrees, when it comes to the recesses of evil, we are all on a level playing field, and that concept frightens the city of Naperville the most.

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