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