I just got done writing my first official murder poem. I show it to Mom and she says, “What in the world?”
I tell her, “Mom, this is my first official murder poem.”
“Get out of town. That’s not right.” She laughs and looks over at the clock, giving the first official murder poem back to me. “Why aren’t you at work?”
We’re sitting in the kitchen. This is lower-income government-run apartments so there’s beige linoleum always cold on your feet everywhere. She puts rugs down from the Dollar Store but still it’s cold. I glance down at this floor littered
with wadded-up official murder poems that just did not cut the mustard. This one, this one right here in my hand, folded perfectly and shoved into a white oblong envelope with “To Doug” written in all capital letters on the front: this is the actual official murder poem I am going to give him.
“I had tonight off,” I say.
“You’re gonna get fired.” She closes her lips real tight. She knows everything. She is wearing a big wig that makes her look slightly clown-like. She’s fat, and in her teddy-bear nightgown, her skin looks like the color of pineapple sherbert. Mom’s got disability, and she likes lording it over me that she don’t have to work and I do. “You are gonna get fired, buddy.”
“No I won’t.” I laugh too loud, satisfied with my project here. I know Doug will be kind of shocked, but that is the price a son of a bitch pays for leaving for the Army. We have watched so much TV together, me and him, I was thinking we were a TV show. He is a good-looking son of a bitch. He carries himself quite well in his apron and chef’s hat. He gives me all-knowing looks over the fires of the grill. Me a lowly busboy. Me a dishwasher without a name-tag. He runs the place, even though the managers think they do. He lives in Building C and me and Mom occupy Building D. It was meant to be, that’s what I’ve been thinking ever since he gave me that first ride home and I asked him to come in and watch my WWF video on TV at 2 a.m., and he did and and we watched the Rock and Deathrod, and then he looks at me while I rewind the tape and he says, “All that wrestling is so fake.”
Then he comes over and he drops me down onto the linoleum floor and puts me in a headlock and I cannot breathe but, hello, this is true love.
Finally I break apart from his grasp and Mom comes into the room with her eyes half shut, this time in her see-through nightgown she bought at Fredericks of Hollywood just in case, but there is at this time no man in her life.
“Goddammit Larry what is going on here?”
“A little wrestling match,” I say.
“Well, who is your friend here?” She smiles like a mother-cat feeding all her new kittens.
Doug gets up from the floor. He is short and compact, like a toy made for small hands in a tiny world. He is muscular and calm and altogether all right.
“Douglas Moon,” he says. He goes over and talks to my mom with a gentleness that is refreshing in this area. He tells her he and his sister live in Building C and isn’t it quite remarkable that both he and I happen to work at the Bonanza Steakhouse and also happen to live at the Linwood Estates Apartments for Lower Income Folk.
“Remarkable,” Mom says, in her I-got-disability-and-you-don’t, superior, sarcastic voice.
I want to tell her how much I could love a guy like this Douglas Moon. I go over and I put my arm buddy-like around the short guy’s neck. I am tall, skin-and-bones, and he is short and clay-like in the body department. We look funny I suppose, and he looks up at me like I am being a little too pushy, so I pull back.
Mom says, “I think Larry likes you Doug.” She’s grinning evil. She knows I am this way for a reason.
Doug looks scared, but all my boyfriends usually do.
Doug says, “I like him too.” He looks confused.
I blush. I don’t usually blush but this time I do. I picture us getting married in a wrestling ring right before a match. Gay marriage is legal in one or two states. We both are dressed up in personalized, extra-shiny costumes. We both look like superstars about to beat the shit out of one another, but we get married first.
I lean over and kiss Doug’s cheek and Doug back away and he says, “What the heck?”
He puts me in another headlock and Mom walks backwards back to her bed, saying, “Keep it down boys. I need my beauty sleep.”
That happened seven months back and we got to be fast friends, although sometimes he excludes me from his other friends, which I understand of course being who I am. Show business is in my blood, as my mother says. My father was at one time a circus performer although she doesn’t say with what outfit or exactly what he performed. I like the feeling of putting on a show: shoot me. But everyday does not usually give you major opportunities to put on a big show. So I practice hard-ass Hollywood looks whenever I can and sometimes feel the edges of my professional wrestling desire slip out of my skin into the real world like knives stabbing backwards. When I dump the garbage cans out behind Bonanza in the freezing cold I sometimes put on a big kick-ass extravaganza for myself. I huff and lift the suckers up and scream out into the night. I climb up on top of the overfilled dumpster and I jump up and down on the bags of garbage like they are the bodies of my enemies, screaming, “I am the Executioner! I am the one and the only death-bringer!”
So tonight I go into work even though I have the night off.
I have my first official murder poem, and I walk down the ice-covered hill. It’s January and cold, my man, very very cold. Feet on snow sounds like bones being squeezed when it gets this cold. I am wearing my coat and I have the murder poem gripped tight in my unholy hand. When I heard last night that Douglas was joining the Army because he was tried of fucking around in this two-bit town and plus he likes guns and kicking real ass and that whole, you know, military-like culture, I felt stunned and I thought it had to be a big joke because although my love for Doug is not spoken out loud it is there between us like he is holding one wing of a twisting bird and I am holding the other and love would explode if we both pulled at the same time, the bird pulled apart to reveal its big, beating heart.
I go in through the backdoor and that redheaded kid I do not like is doing dishes, the machine is all steam and metal like a crushed submarine and the kid shoves the godforsaken racks in even though I can tell that he has not changed the water in like three hours because the dishes are coming out the opposite end covered in goo. I do not say a word.
I am really not supposed to be here, if you want to know the truth.
I walk up to the front where Tammy, the night manager, is smoking a cigarette and talking to her boyfriend in the closed-down banquet room. She gives me her dirtiest look: “Larry what are you doing here? You are off and Dan told you not to come in if you’re off.”
Dan is head manager, neck-tie and beer-belly, and he does not like me “hanging out” here even though I told him I just come in to see if they need any help. I’m like that.
“I have something I need to drop off, Tammy.”
I have on a serious expression. I am acting a part. I am wounded and cold and sad.
“Well drop it off and leave.”
Her boyfriend is a Harley-riding son of a bitch. They go back to whatever B.S. they were up to, and I walk up front, where people are getting prepared to close the place down, and the lights are dimmed, giving the orange booths and brown tables a haunted-house feel. The huge salad bad is half-taken-apart, like a helicopter cannibalized for exclusive equipment.
The girl who runs cash comes across a bit scared of me. Or perhaps I am just reading into her facial expression a lot. Perhaps she’s disgusted. I just smile. I have the envelope. I am here, and I turn the corner and there is Doug scraping the grill with a big steel wool brush and when he sees me he looks automatically pissed off.
“Man,” he says. “I thought I told you not to come in here when I’m here, mother fucker.”
It was in the bathroom last night when I told him I loved him. I told him please do not join the Army. I had tears like insects inside my face. I got down on my knees and I yelled it. I told him I loved him. I was accidentally cross-eyed.
He said, “Get up off your fucking knees, faggot.”
“Do not call me that.”
And he said, “That’s what you are.”
And I said, “So are you. It takes one to know one.”
And he kicked me in the face then and my nose bled. I got up and got him in a headlock but he squirmed out, and then Dan came in and he asked me to leave and I heard Doug say, “He’s a big queer, Dan.”
Now he throws the brush at the grill and sparks flame up.
“Make me a T-bone,” I say, for no reason.
“Get out of here, fruitcake,” he says and then he pushes me back toward the backdoor, and I trip and he kicks me, and sometimes when I am dreaming this is what makes me feel like he loves me, this kicking, this constant feeling of being kicked in the ribs by him. A professional wrestling match in heaven.
I stand up and I say, “I got a goddamn message for you.”
I happen to be crying.
He is breathing heavy and he looks at me through squinty, I-am-joining-the-goddamn-Army eyes.
I give him the envelope and I say this:
I jump out the door and run back home.
Of course I kept a copy of the first official murder poem I gave to Doug. Here it is if it please the court:
Fruitcake’s First Official Murder Poem
You made me cry
Now you must die
You curse my name
But you are to blame
You beat in my brains
And the floor has got stained
With my pretty blood and guts
But it is you, sir, who are nuts.
For my love for you is true
You’re makin’ me blue
The saddest part is I will have to murder you.
I will slice your throat
Like a billy-goat
I will smash in your head
Till you, sir, are very dead
And after this thing I do
I will say I love you
And you will love me too.
Fruitcake is his little nickname for me. As in “nuttier than.” But when one is in love like this you are Mr. Fruitcake no matter what your IQ and/or disposition. You tend to know that there is only one thing on earth: the person you love. And you must have that person, you must bite into that love the way a grizzly bear
digs into a boy scout’s leg on TV. Love, this kind I have, is only three steps short of what it is that keeps you from killing the one you love. Therefore I wrote this poem in order to express this problem I have.
Kill or be killed. Eat or be eaten.
And then Doug is banging on my door. Mom answers it in the middle of the night, and I think from the tone of his voice he is mighty angry.
“Where is that skinny son of a bitch?” says Doug.
“You calm down,” Mom says.
I keep listening, in my bed in the dark.
“He’s threatened to kill me,” Doug says, and I think he is scared.
“He wrote this goddamn poem here.”
“Oh that. Doug, honey, Larry’s not all there. He’s got emotional issues.”
Mom laughs and I get up and I walk into the living room, where Doug is standing in his winter coat. He is pale and his hair is all over his head. I smell the coldness of his skin, the work sweat that has frozen into his clothes.
“Mom,” I say. “Leave us alone.”
Mom turns around, “He is not your boyfriend. Quit writing them poems.” She just shakes her head and goes into her room.
I look straight at Doug, and Doug returns the favor.
“What did you think of my poem?” I smile, even though I am hurting. I keep picturing him in the Army getting killed somewhere in the sandy desert or in a hot monkey-filled jungle. His body strung up in a tree, hanging there, his face soft as a baby’s in a hospital crib.
“It’s fucking shit,” he says.
Doug marches over to me and I reach out to him. He tries to pull away, but I grab him. This sudden burst of strength comes from knowing I will never get exactly what I want until things change completely, until I myself am murdered somehow. Life is about that one challenge, staying alive when what you want is never there. So I grab hold of him tighter. I feel his muscles pinned back against his bones. I am strangulating him. He kicks me in the stomach and I land on the floor. That kick was the hardest one I have ever felt in my whole life.
I am looking up at him. He is shining like the astronaut I know he will be. He is shining and in my pain I see that he has stopped, and when he bends down to the floor where I am suffering he is smiling.
“You want me, mother fucker?” he whispers. “You like boys?” He is taking his shirt off. His pants too, and in his underwear he stands as lonely as somebody who don’t have anybody to fight.
“Come on,” he says. “Come on and try to kill me faggot.”
I stand, a little shook still, but I take off everything too. Naked, ladies and gentlemen. This is the main event, people, this is what is advertised on TV as “ass-kicking supreme,” this is something a little too mature for all audiences. Then I get the lights and I tell him we have to be quiet while we kill each other.
“Oh, I’ll be quiet,” he whispers.
He silently runs into me and he takes me down to the floor, and I pull at his underwear and there it is, what I’ve wanted, plain as a roll of quarters. A little meanness sprouts through the quiet and I hear the roar of a crowd. I hear him whispering, “Come on, Fruitcake. Come on. You want it.”
Of course I do.
He kisses me on the mouth. I smell his kiss right before it touches down. A soft tongue is at the center of my gut’s pain, a sweet sad worm is inside my big fire, and I am not here anymore. In my ear I hear, “Poor Fruitcake. You ain’t gonna kill nobody.”
He jumps on my back and he spits into his hand and rubs me up good and when it goes in I feel my back kind of break and I want to get free but also appreciate the idea of not being free, and I feel him do it and in that little quiet moment I feel what I have been missing in my life. Getting my way causes me to hum and to moan into the linoleum floor like a big moron. Drool and everything.
“You like that, bitch?” he whispers.
I take a deep breath right after he shoots right into me. I crawl out from under all gushy and pretty and fucked. I roll over and I put my hands around his throat and if Mom hears then she hears what she hears, and I will explain this is the way they used to wrestle in Ancient Greece.
I roll on top still holding his throat and as I strangle him I feel him try to break free but somehow I am a strong son of a bitch. The place where we wrestle is a rock-n-roll WWF stadium and we are tiny performers in that huge ring, and I slip what I got inside his hole as he squirms and I am as quiet as a mouse doing this, a mouse whispering, “I love you, you no-good son of a bitch. I fucking love you, I fucking love you.”
When I finally stop, when I am through, he is as limp as a scarecrow made out of plastic garbage bags for Halloween.
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