© MANGROVE, 2000.

No one talks about the music you hear inside your head after you kill someone, like the person's soul singing or the souls of all the other people dead and gone, or just the collective love-song of humanity. No one tells you about it, but there it is. And you just kind of listen for a minute before dropping your gun. Then it's quiet, real quiet. Not like in the movies when all that huge music starts playing, filling in the space that really exists; that quiet, dead quiet, the moment when you start thinking, Okay, now what?

It's not like I know this stuff all too well. I've only killed one person in my life and he deserved it, so it's not like I'm a professional or anything. Maybe that's why I had time to listen to the music and to cry like I did. Later, all hell broke loose. After I had sat there for like half an hour staring at the body and freaking out, after I finally had managed to dial 911 and the police got there, well, that's when it got crazy and became something closer to what it is like in the movies.

I've tried to remember that music so many times. In chorus I even tried to sing it, and then at home with my guitar, and on my mother's piano. But it's nothing you're supposed to recreate, apparently. It's just there to remind you, deep inside your head like the taste of fear, something you can't explain.

Back before I had killed someone I was eighteen years old and a senior at Wampatuck High School in the great town of Mason, Massachusetts, thirty-five miles west of Boston. I had a bunch of friends - who have all gone off to college now - a fine girlfriend - whose parents no longer allow her to see me - and a dog. There was other stuff, too, that still exists, like the house, and my mom, and my room, and all the crap that I keep in it.

My dog was a fully papered AKC Rottweiler named Geronimo, but I called him "Mo." And every night Mo would sleep on my bed, and in the morning he'd wake me up by kissing my face. It was Mo who got me involved in the whole mess, who got me to hear the music and join the ranks of people who have killed someone. Before that I didn't even kill bugs; just eased them into a cup with a piece of cardboard from one of my father's shirts, and brought them back outside.

But everything looks different now, like when you're wearing 3-D glasses or have been away for a really long time. And I'm different too, or so says the shrink who sees me once a week. She's a real nice woman, but you can tell she's a little afraid of me because of what happened, and that makes me want to fuck her, but that's another story altogether from the one I'm trying to tell. My shrink, I'll call her "Dr. Love" to protect her innocence and general nonchalance about everything, says I went into shock. I didn't tell her about the music because no one talks about it. She'll find out one day if she ever has to kill someone, like I did.

Anyway, it's true I did kind of black out for a while and when the cops arrived it was like they just had happened by of their own accord. There were no witnesses so believe me, I had a lot of explaining to do because it doesn't look too good when an eighteen year old with a gun is standing over a dead body. But there you go. And anyway, working in my favor, was the fact that I'm a girl.

Once the crime scene was "established, the cops took me aside, as in away from the body, which they assumed was contributing to my overall state of trauma and disbelief. They, themselves, just had spent the last fifteen minutes outlining it and poking it and measuring it, as if they were thinking of buying it or having it mounted on a wall, so they probably needed a break as well. I told them the whole story, right from the beginning, how I had come home from school to find this punk sleeping on the sofa, and Mo tied out back to a tree. This one officer, a woman, must have taken a liking to me or something because early into my story she reached out for my hand and held it in hers for the entire time, and all the while she was saying things to me like, "You're doing good. Just keep telling us what happened. You're doing real good." The problem was she had this thick Boston accent so I couldn't take her all that seriously. I kept thinking she was some townie girl doing a bad job of trying out for the school play.

The part that no one believed was the part about me and the punk drinking coffee. How I was like, "Who the fuck are you?"

And the punk's like, "I'm a friend of your father's."

So, "Bullshit," I say, because it's my house too, after all, and I have a right to know the people in it, especially when no one else is home, as seemed to be the case.

"Serious," the punk says, and gets up off the couch and goes into the kitchen and pours himself a cup of coffee. So I do too, even though I don't like the stuff all that much, but I have to show him I'm not easily outdone.

So we sat there drinking coffee together, and nobody believes that.

"You had coffee with him?" the girl-cop asks.

"Yeah," I tell her.

"I see." And suddenly she's all freaked out like maybe I had killed a friend of my father's, which, in fact, would not have been so bad.

Meanwhile, these other cops are tearing up the place and talking on walkie-talkies, and a crowd is gathering out front by my mother's garden. I can see them through the picture window in the living room. There's the Hadleys from across the street, retired with nothing better to do, and a bunch of kids from the lower school.

"Close the fucking curtains," the girl-cop shouts, and suddenly I get this crush on her, fast and furious like there's no tomorrow, which for me at that moment there really might not have been. I'm a sucker for tough. I look down at our hands and start wondering if she might like me too, and whether or not she ever had killed anyone, and if she knows about the music. I guess I was drifting. To bring back my attention, the girl-cop gives my hand a squeeze, a little too hard, and says, "Alright. What happened after the coffee."

It's that extra squeeze, kind of tight and quick, that lets me know this is nothing special, she's just doing her job and it's all intentional, part of the big cop plan, this girl-to-girl chat, the token female cop sitting down with the female suspect and making like we're friends. I pull my hand away from hers so she'll know I'm as smart as her, smarter even, but keep on talking so she'll know got nothing to hide.

I tell her how sometime during this little coffee break of ours, the punk says, "So where is dad anyway?" And how, at that point, I put my cup down and head out back to where Mo is tied to a tree.

"Hey, where are you going?" The punk calls after me.

"To get my dog."

Out back Mo is all freaked out about being tied up, which is something none of us ever did, so it kind of unnerves me, too, just to see him like that, and gets me thinking what kind of asshole would tie up a dog and then it occurs to me, not that I wasn't thinking it pretty much before, that the punk might be serious trouble. So, I lead Mo back into the kitchen where the punk is looking all nervous and holding a kitchen knife.

"Problem?" I ask, because I am so not afraid, just ripped that he tied up my dog and led me on.

"Get that dog away from me," the punk says. "I'm allergic."

I've got Mo by the collar and he's showing his teeth which is good, real good. "Don't worry, there's plenty of kleenex," I tell him. "You can blow your nose until your brains fly out." And then I laugh in his face, not a real laugh, because there's nothing funny going on at all, but a fake laugh, obviously fake, as in, I know you know it's fake and that's part of how I'm fucking you over right now. I know, you know, and I so don't even care.

The punk has the knife pointed at Mo and is twitching and shaking and looking like he might break down and cry.

"Looks to me like you're not just allergic to dogs. Looks to me like you're afraid of them," I say to further shift the balance of power back in me and Mo's direction.

The punk's standing there with the knife pointed at Mo when it occurs to me, how did Mo get tied up out back if this loser's so afraid of dogs? And then I start shaking and twitching myself thinking somebody else is in the house.

"Jerk," I say to the punk just to piss him off and to distract him from how scared I'm getting. "Who tied up my dog?"

"Your mother did," the punk says and then I know he's full of it. My mother never would tie up Mo.

"Oh really?"

"Yeah, so I wouldn't get sick."

"Liar," I say and give Mo's collar a yank so he'll show his teeth again. The punk freaks, drops the knife and runs the hell out of the house.

"He did what?" The girl-cop asks me.

"He split," I tell her. But she's still so confused that I have to point to the room where the body is now covered with a blue nylon police sheet and say, "That's not him."

"Then who is it?" she asks.

"That's my father," I tell her. She lets go of my hand and from the look in her eyes I can tell she's no longer giving me the benefit of the doubt.

"Your father?" she says, but it comes out "fathuh," and that pisses me off. Boston accents always have pissed me off. Probably because they remind me of being dragged here from Philadelphia back when I was thirteen and we had to move because my father had just been made manager or supervisor in some company, which of course fired him as soon as we got here.

"Now we can go home," was what I had to say to that.

But he had other plans in mind, like the whole idea of the move hadn't been the new job after all, but just to get us up here to the town he had grown up in, where he had all sorts of screw-up friends who never had left, and made him feel real important like he had gone off and seen the world or something, even though all he had done was move to Philadelphia, get married, and spend the last fifteen years working at the electric company.

So, "Nope. We're staying," was what he had to say to me.

Anyway, "Yes ma'am," I tell the girl-cop, "That's my father."

I always knew that one day I would kill my father, but I didn't know about the music, or that it would be so easy and make so much sense. The thing is I didn't kill him because he moved us here, or because he talked without saying his "R's," or because he beat the shit out of each of us every Saturday night. I didn't kill him because he let his screw-up friends use my guitar or because he called me queer, though, killing him certainly took care of a lot of my feelings about all of that. And I didn't even kill him because he killed Mo, took him out to the yard when the punk came back with the friend who apparently had tied him up in the first place, and shot him in cold blood just to show me, or to show them, or to show himself, or something like that. I honestly did not kill my father because of any of that. I killed him because he laughed, because after he shot my dog, maybe even during the music he was hearing in his head - because I am certain there is music when you kill an animal, especially a pet that somebody loves - well, during what I know now to be that moment, what my father did was to throw his gun down on the ground and laugh, not thinking for a second that I might pick it up and do what it is I did. If he had thought twice, if he had smirked and said, "Don't get any wise ideas, you fucking lesbo," as he put the gun back into his pants and went inside to cut lines of coke, or to take money from my mother's secret envelope behind the framed photo of them and me in the bedroom, and then had given it all away to the scared punk and his friend, I definitely would not be telling this story.

But the girl-cop is writing down all this stuff about child-abuse, drug money, domestic violence, as well as a whole lot of other shit that I just would rather not go into because as far as I'm concerned it has nothing to do with anything. You'd think she'd know, being a girl-cop and all, that some things are simple. Some things are just about never assuming a girl doesn't have it in her.

In conclusion, when all was said and done, my mom and I just stayed in the house and I even got to finish the school year, though I did lose a lot of friends, not to mention my girlfriend, although I suppose I already did. It wasn't that no one liked me anymore, Dr. Love explained, it was just that their parents were, "concerned." Like, "Bang!" I might do it again. But I'm not too anxious to hear that music any time soon. It's not anything you're supposed to know, like reading a friend's diary, or dipping into your parents' underwear drawer, or like what happens in your head seconds before you get hurt. It belongs to that family of things that exist in space, but in places you'd best not visit unless you absolutely have to go there. Sure, there are some people who get caught up in trying to hear the music again and again, but once was good enough for me.

In the cop car, on the way to the police station, I decide to ask the girl cop about it, "You ever kill anyone?" I say to her.

"Yeah," she says.

"You didn't hear music did you?"

The girl-cop looks from me to the window like she's waiting for permission from her superiors to answer my question. I thought I might really have screwed up then, like maybe she'd take me to a mental hospital or off to prison even though she said she wouldn't let that happen, given my "history" and all. I was just about to lie and tell her I was joking, that I must have seen one too many movies or something, when suddenly, and real softly, almost like she was whispering, she says, "Yeah."

And then, without even looking over at me, her face still pressed up against the window, she takes my hand. I smile so she won't think of me as a cold-blooded killer, and give her hand a squeeze.






© 2003 Harlyn Aizley