Bill Ectric seeks the nexus between mysticism and science. His writing often blends the genres of mystery, science fiction, psychological drama,...read more humor, and metafiction. Bill likes to take long walks, drink coffee, sleep & dream, contemplate the nature of reality, read, and write. One of his favorite sayings is the Zen proverb, "Before I was enlightened, I chopped wood and carried water; after I was enlightened, I chopped wood and carried water." Bill's novel, Tamper, takes takes its name from a phrase used by 1940's by pulp science fiction writer Richard Sharpe Shaver, who believed that unseen fiends were tampering with his mind.
The big janitor at the school was good-natured but mentally slow. His name was Gravis. The kids picked on him all the time. They played jokes on him, like one time they pissed in the floor wax when he wasn’t looking and another time they put wet paint up on the top of the doorway where, he was so tall, his bushy hair got paint in it. They made his life miserable.
One day they put a plastic bucket full of water on top of the door to the supply closet so it would fall on his head when he went in. But what happened was, when the bucket fell, it didn’t tip over. It plunged straight down and knocked him unconscious.
As Gravis lay there on the floor of the supply room, two 12th graders, Jink and Fawley, had an idea. Giggling with cruel glee, they squeezed a tube of super glue onto the top of the janitor’s head. They put the bucket over his head like a hood and pressed down so it would stick to his scalp. They left the poor guy in the supply room, shut the door, and went out to skip class and get high.
Gravis woke up confused in darkness. He slowly stood up and fumbled for the light switch. It was hard to breath with his head in the bucket. Gravis panicked and tried to find the door. He tripped over a mop and crashed into a shelf of cleaning supplies. A bottle of solvent cleaner spilled all over him. Gravis reached into his pocket for his cigarette lighter, thinking it would give him some light. When he flicked the Bic, the flammable liquid solvent cleaner went WHOOSH and the big janitor felt the flames of hell engulf him.
Within fifteen minutes, people in the hall saw smoke coming from under the door. In the past, Jink and Fawley had pulled the fire alarm as a joke, so they laughed and giggled at the irony that they were now actually doing it for the right reason. The fire trucks came. By now, all the kids and teachers were standing outside. When the firefighters entered the school, the halls were thick with smoke. They heard the loud crack of busting door hinges as Gravis exited the supply room, but they couldn’t see him stumbling through the smoke and out the back door.
Nobody knew where Gravis went, so they assumed that he had started the fire and ran off because he was afraid he would be in trouble.
The following Saturday night, Jink sat on the carpet in front of the TV in his parents’ nice new house in the new subdivision where they lived. His parents were out of town so he had snuck some Bacardi rum from their liquor cabinet. Jink sat there drinking rum and playing a video game called Grand Theft Auto. He had his back to the sliding glass doors that led to the back yard patio. He didn’t see the tall, Frankenstein-looking figure as it loomed up in the moonlight with the flat head and grotesque, partly melted face.
Gravis, the big janitor, had plastic from the bucket melted right onto his face like a hideous mask. In fact, it had burned away some of the skin and replaced it with a charred hard veneer. There were gaping eye-holes where he had peeled back the melting plastic like clay to see where he was going. His mouth was a gaping grave, mostly just teeth and tongue. There wasn’t much of a nose left, and the whole face was running down like a dried candle and the bottom of the upside-down bucket gave his head a wild, flat headed robot shape.
When the big, horrible brute crashed through the sliding glass doors, Jink the 12th grader jumped up and turned around, eyes open wide with fear. Gravis walked right into the living room. He saw the half full bottle of Bacardi 101 sitting on the floor. Remembering a trick his dad had taught him, Gravis picked up the bottle. His dad had been a bartender.
Gravis stepped forward and grabbed young Jink by the front of his T-shirt. The brute took a big swig of rum. The first swig was to kill the pain of the burn. But the second swig he let fill up in his mouth and cheeks. As he held Jink’s shirt-front with his left hand, Gravis brought his cigarette lighter out with his right hand and held it to his lips. He flicked the lighter and sprayed 101 proof rum from his mouth, igniting it, like he was blowing a big flame thrower from his mouth, right into Jink’s face. You can really do this. But don’t.
Jink screamed, “OOWWWW! Let me go!” as the flame singed his eyebrows off. He wriggled to break free but Gravis had a strong grip on him.
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The flame only lasted a few seconds. Then Gravis picked up Jink and rammed his head into the TV screen, shattering the glass. The TV was on, so sparks began to fly and pop and Gravis poured rum into the cracked-open TV with one hand while he held Jink by the back of the neck, forcing the boy’s head into the TV, where more electricity and steam popped and crackled around the broken glass. Gravis felt the shocks and they made him feel wild and alive, but they were killing Jink.
Jink’s body went limp and actually bled to death before the police arrived.
Gravis was gone but his fingerprints were on the bottle and elsewhere. He didn’t give a damn.
I was with Fawley and his girlfriend Blimba when we heard the news that Gravis murdered Jink. They showed a picture of Gravis on TV, but of course, it was just a normal picture because they didn’t know he had a bucket fused to his head.
Fawley was worried.
“Oh, man, oh man,” moaned Fawley. “Ohh, ma-a-an.”
I tried to console him.
I said, “Just because he killed Jink, what makes you think you are next? You didn’t do anything to him, did you?”
“Oh, man…oh…uh…OH, ma-an!”
Blimba stroked Fawley’s hair to comfort him. Her real name was Belinda but we called her Blimba because that’s what her brother called her when he was learning how to talk. I added this fact so you wouldn’t think I made all this up and was too stupid to think of a real girl’s name.
Jink’s parents came home after three days. They were actually kind of glad Jink was killed because they had been wanting to send him off to, like a military school or whatever because he was out of control. The insurance money they got from his death provided a nice cushion for them. Fawley became even more despondent when he learned that his parents went and took out a life insurance policy on him.
“Oh, man,” he moaned. “Oh, man!”
I poured some Boone’s Wine into three cups and we drank, me and Fawley and Blimba. Drinking helped us to not worry about school, or the future, or Gravis the insane monster.
After getting drunk, Fawley confessed to me and Blimba that he had a part in locking Gravis in the supply room which caught on fire.
Blimba pulled away from Fawley and said, “Oh, my God.”
I said, “DUDE. You need to be trucking your ass on out of my house!”
“Not when you’re going to lead that crazy bastard over to my house!” I said.
Blimba said, “I’m sorry, Fawley, but I think we should start seeing other people. This just isn’t working out.”
They both left my house and I suspected it might be the last time I saw Fawley alive. I thought about asking Blimba out on a date.
By now you may be asking, if I am a part of this story, how do I know about all the events that took place when I wasn’t there? The fact is, I used to peep into people’s windows at night for fun, and I saw the whole terrible thing go down in Jink’s house when Gravis killed him. And how did Gravis know which two kids put the bucket on his head?
I told him. Better them than me. I saw how they turned him into “Bucket Head” and I figured he’d be out for revenge on the whole school unless I singled out the culprits. I probably saved countless others.
But I felt guilty about Fawley being so scared and I decided to help him. Blimba wanted to help, too. I don’t think she really knew who she wanted to date, me or Fawley, and we all just said screw it, let’s all face the monster together.
We would have asked our parents for help but they were all out of town on a retreat. We were on out own.
We formed a plan. Fawley would be appear to be home alone. Blimba and I would hide in another room, sneak up on BucketHead, and stab him with a butcher knife. In the back. It was an immature plan now that I look back and I blame it partly on Ritalin.
Now, in Fawley’s nice new house (we all lived in a nice new subdivision), there were three big, unopened bottles of liquor sitting on the breakfast bar that divided the kitchen from the living room. I had noticed that Gravis enjoyed a stiff drink, maybe because of his freakish condition or because his dad had been a bartender, so the bottles of liquor were extra bait. Also, we figured, if we killed him we would need a few drinks when it was over. We could toast our victory and get plastered. We had vodka, scotch, and gin. Good brands, too.
We went ahead and started drinking and watching TV. We took turns hiding in the shrubs, watching for Bucket Head Gravis.
Fawley was saying, “Oh, man…oh, man…” and I was getting tired of it. ...read more (5/7)
Suddenly Blimba came running into the house, breathless, whispering, “He’s coming, he’s coming! Oh, my God!”
We jumped up and did a little nervous dancing and scattering and finally Blimba grabbed Fawley and said, “YOU stand right HERE.” She held his arms by his sides, placing him in his spot in front of the TV in the living room.
She said, “Don’t worry, we’ll be in the kitchen. We won’t let you down.”
“Dude,” I said, “You’ve got to trust us. We’ve got your back. You might want to unplug the TV.”
Blimba and I scampered off into the kitchen, turned off the kitchen light, and crouched down behind the bar which separated the kitchen from the living room.
No sooner did we get out of sight when CRASH! Through the door came our boy Gravis, stinking something terrible and looking big and crazy. He strode into the living room like he owned the place and snarled horribly at the sight of Fawley.
Gravis’ teeth and tongue were writhing like a fat snake in a cement mixer when he spoke, “Ahhh, yooooo…I’ll kill yooo!” His eyes flashed madness in the melted plastic sockets.
Fawley stood frozen with fear. Piss darkened his pants and flowed down his leg.
Gravis lumbered toward Fawley then stopped at the bar. He picked up the bottles of scotch and gin. The Gravis did another trick he learned from his dad. He began juggling the two liquor bottles. He gave a distorted laugh. What a sight, this big monster man with the bucket head juggling two liquor bottles.
Fawley thought maybe Gravis was trying to be friendly and showing off his juggling skills, so the boy forced a weak smile and went, “eh, hehehehe…” and just then Gravis brought the gin bottle down on Fawley’s head with a hard, wet crash & splash. Fawley crumpled limply to the carpet and didn’t move.
I had been standing back there with the butcher knife in my hand. I couldn’t move until Blimba gently pushed me from behind, reminding me of my mission. I walked around the bar as quietly as I could and approached Gravis from behind with the knife raised in the air. Bucket Head Gravis was gulping from the bottle of scotch.
I walked right up behind him and, for the first time, I noticed the silver metal handle of the bucket. It hung down in a semi-circle just below the back of his neck. I aimed for the middle of that target and swung the knife.
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But just as I attacked, Gravis bent down toward Fawley to finish him off. The knife barely grazed his back, but the blade slid behind the hanging metal bucket handle. The monster spun around quickly and the wire handle caught my wrist. I felt a sharp pain as the momentum from the brute’s “about-face” yanked me around, so I ended up behind him again. I dropped the knife.
Gravis didn’t see anyone but he heard the knife fall, so he spun around again as the wire handle twisted around my wrist, jerking me around again, lifting my stumbling feet off the floor. So again, I’m behind the confused giant, trying to get my balance and pull my hand out of the bent wire handle.
But damn if he didn’t twirl around again, with a hard tug that threw me off my feet. I flailed helplessly. The brute was breathing hard from all the exertion. He growled with anger.
Gravis turned completely around two more times, tossing me like a flopping rag doll. Then he finally realized what was happening and he started laughing and spinning around even faster!
Spit flew from his mouth as he laughed.
“HAWWW, HAWWW, Hack, HAWWHAWW!”
My feet left the floor. He was swinging me, on purpose, around & round in the air until the bucket handle finally broke and I went flying across the room and landed in a cloud of black dust in the fireplace. There was no fire, lucky for me.
Gravis was dizzy, staggering around, but laughing like he was having the time of his life. Fawley slowly began crawling on the carpet. Gravis calmly watched the teenager crawl and took another big pull on the bottle of scotch. Some of the liquor ran down his chin as he sighed and laughed some more.
Suddenly Blimba walked into the living room and said, “Gravis.”
In his slurred, raspy voice Gravis said, “Blimba! Fun, Blimba!”
It turned out Gravis was Blimba’s brother, the one who couldn’t say her name right. He sat down on the living room floor and said, “Blimba wanna drink?” He seemed to lose all interest in killing Fawley.
The authorities couldn’t try Gravis for murder because (1) he was already a mental case before the fire, and (2) the fire had put him over the edge into insanity. So they placed him in a “facility” until some doctors decided he was no longer a threat to anyone.
Bucket Head became a minor celebrity, sort of like the Elephant Man.
The youngsters had met him on the beach and wanted to put sand in his bucket. With the help of a sturdy lifeguard, Gravis stood on his head while the tykes filled up the bucket, but the weight of his enormous body pressed the bucket down into the sand and Bucket Head suffocated before anyone realized there was a problem.