Exaltation of Self

(This story was published as part of a novella under the name ‘Wrath’ and is available here.)

Two nights ago, I murdered a ten-year-old child and buried his body under the willow tree in the backyard of the house I grew up in.

A new family lives there now. Nothing like mine, of course, as they have the real picturesque Americana family; both parents, a boy and a girl. I wondered if the boy would grow up to be anything like me, as if a house had such power to shape a life. I sure hoped it didn’t.

You see, it was a Wednesday night, and those are truck days at the store. Stocking during any other day is no problem, but doing the truck is a real bitch. Pick up the pallet. Move the pallet. Unload the pallet. Rinse and repeat for eight hours. The most mind-numbing work you can imagine. If anything would drive someone to kill, that was it.

I finished unloading the last of the pallets from the truck and situated them to the right like we’re supposed to if we can’t get everything onto the floor by the end of the night, but apparently something about that day had my boss’ hemorrhoids flaring. He walked around the back area, flinging his arms all over the place to indicate his displeasure at various objects. When he got to me, exasperated and petulant, I could see the constipation in his eyes.

What is this, Gary? You’ve been here for eight hours and still have half a load waiting to hit the floor? What have you been doing all day?”

I bit back the urge to spit in his face. “I’ve been by myself. This is usually a two person job and Marlita never showed up.”

Well I expect every employee to step up and get the job done in the face of adversity.” Gabe, whose name I liked to spell with a y so it said Gaybe, waved his hand again at the pallets closest to us. “At least get this out of the way before you leave.”

My shift’s over, I’m clocking out and going home.”

Do it or it’s your job.”

His last sentence settled on the back of my tongue like you would imagine dandelion seeds would on a hot summer day. When you’re running around with your friends and a deep breath sucks them in and plants them in your dry mouth, or even down your throat. So you cough and cough until they get dislodged and you make a beeline for the garden hose. Unfortunately for me, the only garden hose in that situation was hanging up for sale.

You’re really going to fire me over a few pallets that Josh can finish in the morning?”

I’m giving you a choice,” said Gabe, “you can either do your job now or find a new one tomorrow.”

The corporate voracity in his voice made me sick, and in that my decision was made. I pulled my cigarettes out, lit one in front of him, much to his shock and dismay, then stood and took a drag off it with a smile.

Alright then Mr. McMannis, you’ll need to vacate the premises immediately and your last check will be mailed to the address on file.”

Gabe began to walk away with the hurry of someone that had too much to do in too little time. I flipped him off with my right hand, adjusted my package with my left, then set out to find something to drink.

Most bars have some kind of Thirsty Thursday special, but since it was Wednesday, I opted for pitchers instead of shots. The bar was dark and smelled like the artificial nacho cheese you get at sporting events. Since it was only nine thirty the place wasn’t particularly busy and the jukebox was eerily silent. I worked through the first pitcher in about thirty minutes and slowed down on the second, taking time to people watch. My grandma used to do it a lot and I picked up the habit, even though most people were as exciting as a colonoscopy.

Two couples came in around the end of my second beer of pitcher two. Both of the girls were the slutty type, choppy, dyed hair and fake tan skin. One of them was a little bit taller than the other and looked like she had a little beaner in her. I worked with a guy from Mexico once, dumber than shit and barely spoke English. Always brought his own lunch that looked like something I threw up after too much Evan Williams. Anyway, I think he died of a heart murmur.

The other was about as bleach-blond as you could possibly get, with too much makeup and a loud, annoying laugh. She spoke really angrily, her voice carrying all the way across the bar, the words heavy and offensive to the senses. She reminded me of that one conservative mouthpiece from whatever piece of shit news website she spouts her hot garbage on. Just looking at her pissed me off.

While the two guys stopped at the bar to order drinks the girls made their way to the jukebox. I instantly sighed and downed the rest of my glass, preparing for the verbal diarrhea that was about to seep out of some clown’s mouth like the rectal discharge of a woman injured in childbirth. Money, sluts and drugs. ‘I’ll kill you if you cross me.’ The only experience half of the bonafide retards that talked about that stuff had with it was just that; talking about it.

Music started and they gathered at one of the billiards tables. The stockier of the two guys set up the game, though he looked absolutely ridiculous doing so. His face seemed to turn a deeper shade of red with each step he took, as if the task at hand was the most laborious thing he’d done in weeks. Bending down to pull the rack out of the side of the table practically made sweat bead on his forehead.

I couldn’t watch anymore. Every single thing they did irritated me to the point that I wanted to smash my glass against the table and watch the shards as they expelled outward. In my head the fantasy grew; I took the broken glass and drove it into the fat man’s neck, twisted and pulled away. The whores screamed but it didn’t shake me, I just stood there watching the blood pour out.

Would you like another pitcher, sir?” the waitress asked, jarring me from my fantasy. She stood with one hand on her hip and looked down at me with a genuine smile, one that made my stomach turn even more.

No,” I said sharply, “I think it’s time for me to go.”

I pulled out my wallet and handed her a twenty, which covered the two pitchers and a tip for her and the bartender. She took it with a cheery “have a good night” and made her way over to the table the two couples had draped their coats over. The beaner reached out and touched the waitresses’ hair, no doubt fake-complimenting it like women do. I took one last look at the fat man’s neck and the cholesterol-thickened arteries pulsed the same way a distance runner’s might.

It was cold outside but the alcohol had already raised my body temperature. I was still aggravated and Gaybe’s stupid fucking face floated in the front of my mind’s eye. He was slightly cross-eyed and I routinely wondered during his mini safety rants in the back room if maybe I punched him in the face hard enough I could knock his eye straight. He seemed like the kind of person to be self-conscious of it, with his corporate providence and collection of silk ties, so whenever he talked to me I made it a point to stare directly at it the entire time. I continued to even though he was nowhere near, in my mind’s eye, and the image drove me to the liquor store.

The guy that owned the store was an old ‘Nam vet named Grizzly who was missing his left arm. ‘Fuckin’ swamp rats ambushed us during a medevac,’ he told me. I don’t have any particular sympathy for soldiers, so I didn’t say anything. I mean, you go to another country and start shooting people, you’re gonna get shot back at. If someone tears you a new one, you kind of asked for it. You know?

Inside the store was little more than the buzzing of fluorescent lighting and coolers. He carried everything you could imagine, from thirty-year-old single malt to Wild Irish Rose, but as the area was filled with mostly small-town hicks the only things that ever sold were dog piss and malt liquor. The good bottles had dust and the cases of Natty Ice up front were fresher than a cocky little prick after Friday night lights.

Grizzly was sitting behind the counter with a Guns & Ammo magazine lying open to a slick-looking Sig Sauer P226. When he looked up and saw me he mechanically reached behind himself and grabbed a fifth of Canada House from the shelf. I tossed a ten-dollar bill on the counter and spun his magazine around so I could check out the weapon.

Without looking up from the page I asked, “How many kids you think a pissed off white boy could take out in a school cafeteria before he gets caught?”

He pushed out one of those single, silent chuckles and shook his head. “I don’t know, boss. Miss your calling?”

Beats me. I do feel like I could separate a soul from a body right now.” I reached across the counter and grabbed the bottle before he could bag it, pulled the stopper out of the mouthpiece and took a swig of it right there in the store. “You ever feel dangerous? Outside of the military, I mean. Like you could, I don’t know, reduce a human being to nothing? Make it so he doesn’t exist anymore?”

You don’t need a bottle, son, you need a god damn therapist.” He gave me my change with a sigh and planted his eyes back on the magazine in front of him. “You sound worse than some of the boys did when they got home.”

The heat of the drink ripped through my veins and all I could do was smile. “Yeah, well-” He looked at me in wait for the rest of my sentence, but I just turned and left.

It was starting to get dark outside. The sky dusted with pastels and the wind kicked up, pushing the increasingly bitter air down my whiskey-heated throat. I walked aimlessly for a block or two before I realized I was around the corner from the park I used to play at as a kid. It was still light enough that by the time I got there some kids were still running around with a football, little puffs of cold air like cigarette smoke billowing from their mouths.

Two of the three kids looked like they were practicing plays while the third, the youngest one, pranced around, trying his hardest to be included. He acted as a defenseman but the two bigger kids just plowed him over like he wasn’t even there. The biggest kid, who I guessed to be around ten years old, drove his shoulder into the little kid’s neck area, then proceeded to showboat and dance while the kid laid on the ground and cried.

Seeing the youngest boy in a ball on the ground drudged up an anger in me that I hadn’t felt in years. I began doing double shots from the bottle. Two by two by two. His huddled mass shuddered and shook; clouds of water vapor formed by hot tears and chest heaving emanated from all sides. I imagined the cloud enveloping his whole body, so thick you couldn’t see through it. Then the boy shot out like a canon, nothing but teeth and claws and tore the piece of shit that so easily laughed at his pain to shreds. The skinny faggot shrieked and thrashed violently, but the boy had transcended; his rage had manifested into something terrifying.

The middle-sized kid backed up with his hands in the air, obviously trying to plead with the blood-soaked monster in front of him. The boy seethed and his anger poured out of him as a crimson fog, eventually obstructing my view. As soon as they disappeared I heard the scream of someone that could only be described as simultaneously experiencing great pain and coming to terms with the fact that they were going to die.

The sound of a car turning onto the side street behind me broke me out of my trance and I took a long pull from the bottle.

After getting hurt the little kid sat on the ground by himself and tore grass out by the fistful. The second largest kid, who I shortly after realized was his older brother, picked him up and helped him over to their bikes. The night was ending, and they were heading home to probably have some soup and play video games. That left just me and the bully. What a night for him to be the last one out.

He picked up his bike and adjusted the seat a little. The two other kids had gone one way while the bully’s bike faced the opposite, toward me. He got on and began to pedal, and by the time he reached the bench the other kids were out of sight. The sun was dropping fast and there was no more traffic. I saw his face as he was about to pass me. Blue eyes and perfectly straight teeth. The moment might have passed as nothing more, until his mouth curled up into the kind of sneer that shitty little rich kid has when you compare an object and his is obviously of better quality. I saw that sneer and something inside me unhinged.

I gripped the neck of the fifth and swung at him as he passed, connecting the fat part of the bottle with his forehead. The sound, oh god. The sound of glass reverberating the connection with bone, the high-pitched sparkle of shards as they collided mid-air. I felt the shockwaves travel through my forearm to my elbow and before I knew it the pint-sized asshole was unconscious on the ground a few feet away from me. The front tire of his bike was still spinning.

Since we were still in an open area I tried to make it look like he had crashed, leaning down to pick him up and lay him on the bench. I glanced around quickly to see if I could spot anyone watching, but I didn’t see anything, so I picked his bike up and pushed it over to the bench. After sitting him up and swinging one of his arms over my shoulder I transferred his body to the bike, holding him up the best I could, and began to wheel him out of the area.

It was just minutes before darkness and the bluish-purple of the sky made the blood pouring down his face look like sludge. I vaguely noticed that I was making my way toward my old house, a bit of muscle memory coming back from all of the years playing in the area. I cut between two houses as quietly as I could and wheeled the bike into my old backyard, stopping just short of the big willow tree. I pulled the kid off the bike and sat him against the tree, then set the bike by the fence so it wouldn’t stick out.

Memories of playing baseball with neighborhood friends flooded back to me. I stood frozen for what seemed like a good five minutes, watching a ghost-like vision of my younger self and my friends playing games like TV Tag and Hit The Deck. The not-quite-corporeal versions of us passed through me like smoke, laughing or arguing about who won. A light flashed on in one of the windows of the house, and at first I couldn’t tell if it was in my vision or if it was real, but reality slammed into me like I did my freshman English teacher at my ten-year high school reunion and I remembered that a small, dick-headed little kid was unconscious a few feet away from me. I decided not to take any chances.

I dragged him to the other side of the tree, where I couldn’t be seen from the windows. The house behind my old one faced the road adjacent to it on the right, and the part of it that was facing me was the garage. It was completely dark then, and I couldn’t even see if the kid was still bleeding or not. I didn’t really care, either.

More than once I caught myself fantasizing about what it would be like to end another person’s life. Usually it was at work when I had to deal with some shithead customer with a smile on my face when all I really wanted to do was cave his face in. Even back in high school I fantasized about taking the good-looking girls out on dates, pumping them full of compliments to make them feel all important, then watching all of that hot air leak out through a puncture wound in her throat. I never actually thought I would do it, though.

The kid squirmed a little and I realized I had spaced again, but since he was coming to I couldn’t afford to do it again. I leaned over him and squinted hard, trying to see if his eyes were open. They flickered a little bit, and as mine adjusted to the darkness I got a clearer picture of his face. The right side was coated with a thick layer of partially congealed blood. As I watched him twitch and eventually open his eyes, all I could hear were the cries of the little boy who just wanted to be included. And the floodgates opened.

His eyes fluttered from slits to 8-balls, and when he realized he was in an unfavorable situation, the look of fear I would imagine all serial killers masturbate to contorted his face into an almost animalistic look. He tried to get up, but I slammed my fist down on his chest and pinned him back to the ground. Before he could cough at the sudden expulsion of air I covered his mouth, shifting so I could put my knee into his solar plexus and apply pressure. I stared into his face as hard as I could, as if I was trying to bore forty years of pent up aggression into his soul.

Seconds felt like years. Every shitty thing in the world flooded into me at that moment, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Every time I fucked up as a kid and had to pay the price. Every time my parents ignored me and every time I asked for help with something in school and never got it. Every news story of mass shootings and drone strikes overseas leaving ditches full of dead kids. Every time the asshole got the girl and every time the underdog left broken and discouraged.

I wrapped my hands around his throat and squeezed as hard as I could.

He made a valiant effort to escape. I felt the kicking and punching as his survival instinct kicked in, though he was no match for me. I squeezed harder and gritted my teeth, chipping the left canine. His kicks and punches became seizure-like; his body was starting to give up. I watched his eyes bulge out. The blood vessels burst one by one and redness overtook them. A froth started forming at the edges of his mouth. As the struggle started to wane, I watched the life leave his eyes.

All at once, the anger, the hatred, the sadness, all of it, melted away. I didn’t even feel buzzed anymore. It was like a beam of light had gone through my chest and stripped away everything negative I’d ever felt. It was a moment of pure euphoria. I tipped my head back and breathed in deeply through my nose. The crisp air felt welcome in my lungs and my shoulders felt lighter than they ever had. I imagined that that was the way the people on those televangelist infomercials were pretending to feel.

I finally opened my eyes and looked down to see the body at my feet, and just as quickly as it came, it disappeared. Seeing the lifeless husk of some self-important turd just reminded me that there were millions more of them out there, talking and laughing and shitting and fucking and creating more of themselves. He was a drop in the sea, and my shining moment of bliss, my contribution to the cleansing of the scourge of the fucking Earth was essentially meaningless. And on top of that, I still had to bury the body.


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