Bud Smith lives in NYC, and works heavy construction in New Jersey, building and maintaining power plants and refineries. His books are the novels...read more Tollbooth and F-250, the short story collection Or Something Like That and the poetry collection Everything Neon.
IT MUST HAVE been a lightning strike, maybe some psychic child. It's usually something stupid like that. One minute I’m dead forever; the next I begin to shake and squirm.
I open my eyes in the dark lake, try to swim up to the surface, surprise surprise, the kids have chained me to a big hunk of stone. I vaguely recall how that went down.
I flail around at the bottom of the lake—snapping the thick chains. Then, I break the surface ominously, doggy paddle my way to the shore. I never learned how to swim properly. Also, you try to swim in Frankenstein boots, tell me how you make out.
The moon is full and blood red. This fills me with glee! As you know, there is no better time to seek revenge on camp counselors than under a blood red full moon!
Great! Step one, find something to jam into their eyes, hearts, lungs … some kind of weapon, even an oar from one of the boats. I scan the ground for a machete, a chainsaw … even just a Phillips-head screw driver. Nada. I settle on a big stick.
A big stick. Its not even sharp.
Alright, I've worked with less before. I've beat people to death against oak trees while they were snoozing inside sleeping bags. When the sleeping bag gets opened, the people leak out like goo. I've crushed skulls in with stale loaves of bread. I've chopped heads off with hedge clippers. Not to toot my own horn, but occasionally, I've pulled a head right off the base of the neck... POP! As as easy pulling up some carrots out of the ground.
I'm determined. You can say that about me. Driven. A very motivated individual.
At the edge of the lake, I'm surprised, the rowboats are all gone. The docks are all gone, too. Heh? How long was I dead this time? It varies.
Flashes of what has happened to come back. I get an ax to the head. I get set on fire. My own pitchfork used against me, stabbed through my gut.
Oh, it gets worse every time. I come back for vengeance, I butcher a bunch of them, but ultimately I end up right where I started. Back in the lake. There I am—no matter what I do. Still cursed. It's not healthy how angry I am about all of this.
You'd do the same thing if you were me. I promise you. I stomp into the dark woods in my heavy boots, breaking through the brush. Crushing plants. Scaring some squirrels.
I'm certain every few feet that I'm gonna stumble upon some teenagers smoking weed in the moonlight. That always happens when I rise out of the dark water. A stray stoner in the moonlight, sitting on a log. Its good, it gets me back in the swing of things. Hopefully it'll be a few stoners. That would be nice.
I'm hoping I'll be able to kill them with something a little better than the stick. Maybe they'll have a bong. I hope so. I'd love to kill them with their own bong. The farther I walk into the woods, the more I'm in disbelief. Nobody. Not a single teen.
Then I notice strange lights ahead. Did they put in a baseball field at the camp? Is there a night game? I get a little chill thinking about it. Yeah, they'll all be out there on the field, all those scumbag camp counselors and I'll be able to get my hands on some baseball bats and smash their skulls in one by one. I'll hide under the bleachers and rip some of them underneath, ha! Maybe I'll be sneaky and scare the shit out of somebody for bonus fun.
"Bernie...Bernie, where are you?" A blonde would say ...
The chick'll come walking 'round the backstop and be calling his name … giving up quick—she'll go to get herself a drink of Gatorade. The cooler will be clogged. She'll Open it up, look inside. No Gatorade. It's Bernie's head.
I'll be cracking up in the woods. Pissing my dead pants watching the reaction. "Eeeeekke!!
Whoa. This is gonna be great.
Excited, I walk quick, and come out of the trees—into the camp. What I find troubled me very much. It's not a baseball field.
The lights are from a parking lot. It's a Home Depot.
I stare in disbelief at sign, "Your Home Improvement Super Headquarters"
Where's the camp?
Where are the kids?
I’m a voyeur at the edge of the woods, stalking my prey. There’s a fat man watching a young kid load lumber into his pickup truck for him. Other people, loud talking woman pushing shopping carts loaded with flowers and bags of mulch. Children running, screaming, picking up river stones from the center island of the parking lot. A young girl dragging her feet as she comes into view under the bright lights. I wonder if she’s going to college and working, must be. This might be her second job. Jeez … the economy. I’ve never seen such people—look how carelessly they walk across the asphalt. Have they no idea that a supernatural killer lurks just out of view breathing loud as hell and contemplating murdering them with a stick?
Oh, how embarrassing. I throw it into the woods. I walk around the back of the Home Depot, as slowly and as ominously as I possibly can.
By the loading dock, there’s a few punk teenagers smoking cigarettes and talking smack as they break down cardboard boxes.
“Oh, finally,” I say. I’m pleased, some teenagers to butcher.
Who knows they might even be former camp counselors. Could they be? I studied them for awhile. I tried to look for some distinguising characteristics. Hmmmm, some goatees. One was taller and had a diamond earring. The other kept saying, “Seriously.”
The other kid just kept smoking. Ok, diamond earring, saying 'seriously' a lot and smoking what I believed to be menthol cigarettes. Shit, I couldn’t figure out if any of these things were things that the camp counselors used to do.
I’d have to kill them anyway. Yet, I’m reluctant. Usually I would have immediately come at them, first kill after a long nap … yet, I just can’t bring myself. I hesitate. I think about it. Then I think about how I can’t believe that I’m even thinking about it. Am I past my prime?
Just then the tallest one started heaving the cardboard boxes into the compactor and it hit me. I could toss these idiots right into the compactor. What a fantastic idea!
“Seriously, bro! Look at that thing crush stuff.”
“I know, bad ass isn’t it?”
Then, the door on the loading dock opened, there’s a large figure
"You two birds … what are you doing out here."
"I see that. You're supposed to be stocking the birdseed aisle."
All three of them go back into the door. I wait a little while, but eventually I get so bored that I give up. Which is saying a lot, usually I can hang out in the shadows all night if I think it involves getting to do something as fun as crushing somebody in a compactor.
To tell you the truth, I was antsy and I was beginning to feel like my life had no real purpose. I was starting to feel like the reason I wasn't happy was because I was letting other people determine my happiness for me. I walked up on the loading dock, went Into the Home Depot.
The store was quiet. I do what I do best, I go stalking around. I see a woman looking at toilets on one aisle. I consider stuffing her into the toilet tank. Nahhh. Then I find a father and son looking at hardware. Nuts and bolts. The father is teaching the son all about nuts and bolts. Showing him all kinds of things. "This is a washer … this is a bolt thread, there's fine thread or there's course thread."
I creep upbehind them and think about making them both eat all the hardware. All of it. What a way to kill somebody.
But, I don't. Part of it, is that I'm charmed by the father and son element. The other part of it is that I have to use the bathroom. I stomp off.
In the bathroom, I'm in a stall, doing my business when the door opens. Two teenagers start to get all hot and heavy on the tile floor. It's disgusting really. I peek out from my stall, amazed at how filthy these two kids are. The guys on top of the girl and then they roll and he's on top of her. She's got toilet paper stuck in her hair.
Ughhhhh. Can you believe this?
I open my stall and sneak past them, head back Into the store. I need a chainsaw. That's exactly what I need. A chainsaw. I'm gonna hack them apart. Teen Sex in the Home Depot bathroom? Maybe a sledgehammer too. I'll start them off with the sledge hammer.
I go out to the home and garden section. The closer I get, the more lousy I feel about things.
I mean, really when is this all gonna end? Is it always gonna be like this?
By the time I'm at the wall of chainsaws I can't believe it. I'm weeping. Me. Weeping? I don’t weep. I’ve never weeped. Yet, here I am ...
Suddenly, it’s like I’m not even in control of my own body. I just see everything moving past me. I’m down the aisle. I’m out of the store—walking through the parking lot, crying so loudly.
I go back into the trees, balling.
I’m clawing at myself and punching myself in the shoulder. This isn’t who I want to be. This isn’t who I wanted to be when I was a kid. What happened to my life? Where did it derail? Is it possible to fix things? No. It’s not. I wail even louder and I can’t even believe it.
My mask is filling up with tears. I rip it off, I throw it into the lake.
Then, I leap into the dark water. It’s the only way. It has to be like this. I am gonna drown myself.
...read more (5/7)I doggy-paddle out to the center. Then I just close my eyes and let myself sink.
Then I sink some more.
Before long, I’m standing on the bottom of the lake. Yeah. Like I was scuba diving. I concentrate really hard on drowning myself. I squeeze my eyes shut. I try my best to die. I really don’t want to have anything to do with this Earth anymore. End my curse. Send me somewhere dark, this time forever.
After awhile, my sobs stop.
Every have ten minutes of underwater sobs? It's cathartic.
Try it sometime. You will reach a level of clarity that is unseen in your life. You will see all of your mistakes as if each mistake was back-lit against a wall of brightest white. A calm will set over you. It doesn’t have a name. Nothing has a name at that point. It’s an utter calm, a pure brilliance. Your whole life is no longer a fire that burns in a wavering turmoil of pain—rather there is a lull, that you never knew existed. A quiet that seems so odd and comforting ... Comfort? You never even knew what that was. Now, look at it. Look at it so deep, don't ever look away. Suddenly, you're aware of an endless list of choices. Options. Now you are even more afraid. Looking at all of your mistakes ... you see exactly who you are. You realize that you're not completely to blame for it. But you are certainly to blame if you accept it. There are choices. Yes. There are choices for everybody.
So I re-surface, doggy-paddle to the edge of the lake. When I get to the Home Depot parking lot, I don’t even look in it’s direction. Instead, I walk out to the road and I slowly and easily make my way down the shoulder of the two lane highway.
I get myself a room in the Crystal Motel. The neon sign draws me in—like an insect. The first day I stay to myself in my room and I think about things. I really beat myself up about it. The second day, I order a pizza and don’t butcher the pizza delivery kid when he shows up. Then, I think about things some more.
I clean myself up. I do my best to look presentable with what I have to offer the world.
...read more (6/7)The third night, I go across the highway to a little bar. I sit alone and I drink a beer. I order a bacon cheseburger. People give me strange looks, I imagine it’s my face. I imagine it’s my torn coveralls. So long being underwater. The stink. I don’t blame them for the looks. But they don’t run. They don’t attack me with bar stools or try to push me out of a barn window onto sharp spikes. Mostly they just play darts and yell like crazy every time somebody scores a touchdown on the TV.
It goes like that for awhile. Sure, I still think about how angry I am at the camp counselors and how I should be finding them wherever they are and getting my revenge, but little by little, I forget about them, what they’ve done. Revenge is hard. You forget what even started any of it after awhile. Who is wrong. Who is right. What anyone deserves.
I run out of money, but that’s not why I went back to the Home Depot.
I wanted to prove to myself that I could do something positive. I filled out an application and couldn’t believe it when I got hired.
Then—I’m back there behind the loading dock, breaking up cardboard boxes with one of those kids. The tall one with the diamond earring.
He says, “Seriously, you’re tall and wide. You play football?”
“You should've, dude. Missed your calling. Seriously.”
This makes me smile. First smile ever. I did good there.
I didn’t crush the kid in the machine. I did real good. I focused on my work. I applied myself. I got accustomed.
The manager seemed very impressed with my knowledge of the garden center. Tools … how comfortable I was with them. The hedge clippers. The axes. The pickaxes. The pitchforks. The chainsaws. Let us not forget the chainsaws.
Within two months, I was assistant manager of the entire department. Me! Home and Garden Assistant Manager!
Can you believe it? I sat on the dge of my bed, staring at my name badge. Proud of myself for finally doing something constructive with myself.
Things got even better when my benefits kicked in.
I’m not embarrassed to talk to you about it.
I found myself a therapist in the yellow pages.
...read more (7/7)She is very kind and we talk very deeply about my problems, my issues—my trouble. Twice a week. Mondays and Thursdays. 7pm. Her name is Sheilia and she is nothing like my mother, which is very nice. My mother loved me dearly, but she had her own issues—some of which still cling to me.
I look forward tomy therapy sessions, They keeps me going. When things get rough, I just do what Shelia says, "Close your eyes and picture a flower .., breath in and smell the flower; then picture a candle, exhale and extinguish the flame."
This technique grounds me inside the calm that is possible in this life.
It fills my heart with a light you could not hope to understand—though I want so desperately to show you.