I'll See Myself Out
D. E. Fredd
I lied on the phone. To give the Moorland, Vermont Emergency Services credit, their police, fire and Armed Response Team was at my house in seven minutes. My long black hair is my nicest feature or so I’m told. My best look would have been a baseball cap, bill facing forward with a pony tail emanating (I like using big words) from the opening in the back. But I wanted a punk, bad ass look so I wore a Red Sox cap backwards and cocked jauntily to the side.
Sitting on the front stoop, I was flanked by two large kitchen knives stabbed into the ground by each leg (Wusthoffs and my mother’s pride and joy which she never ceases to point out to every female visitor). I idly tossed a hunting knife catching it deftly by the handle each time. Sang-froid (a French expression I like) was the picture I was trying to paint.
Since the cops had no idea who I was and, even though, at thirteen I am quite small even for a girl, they treated me like the armed and dangerous mass murderer they thought I was. Two contradictory instructions: “drop the knife and lie face down” by one cop, and “on your knees, hands behind head” by what might have been a state police officer. I decided on the “knees” approach because I wanted to take in the whole scene if I wanted to write about it for an extra credit essay in Mrs. Heffernan’s class.
By the time I was frisked and cuffed (I was too small for regular handcuffs so they used plastic straps), they recognized I was a girl, and an eighth grader from the Talbot Middle School Terrapins (I voted for Tapirs as the mascot, but no one knew what species they were). The entire neighborhood had their cell phones out taking pictures hoping to profit by selling the footage to WCAX in Burlington, Vermont. Once I was inside the police cruiser, people even came running up to snap pics through the window. I made sure to give them my best tongue out, wide-eyed crazy look.
It took the officials about fifteen minutes to search the house. They did not find my parents’ bloodied bodies stabbed many times over as they slept in their bed or my two older brothers similarly slain in their gore splattered rooms. Our dog, Judd, was napping as usual following her habit of moving every hour or so as the sun tracked across the living room rug. In other words, life was normal rather than the bloody mayhem they expected to find using my phone message as a benchmark. Kind of like the bloody carnage in Macbeth after Macbeth kills Duncan and the two watchmen (the only English test I got a “B+” on this year).
Then, of course, my mother showed up. She is a dental hygienist at Doctor Glenn’s office. She’s the type of technician who babbles on as she scraps your teeth and pokes the gums while her two hands have your tongue pinned to your cheek. She is weeping but not allowed to talk to me, no, that right is reserved for Chief Morrison.
“So, young lady, what have you got to say for yourself?”
“You know you’re in big trouble.”
I shrug again and study the array of blinking lights and computer equipment in the front seat.
“My youngest daughter went through a stage where she’d only wear black and wanted to save Tibet.”
I wanted to shrug, but he really hadn’t asked a question so I said nothing. I made a mental note to look up Tibet and plumb the depths of why they needed saving.
“Your mother’s very upset.”
“She’ll get over it, especially if I floss regularly while I’m in prison.”
I’m sure he figured, ah ha, I’ve made contact with the perp, gotten her to open up; enough of the small talk.
“We’ll head back to the station where you can sit for a bit while we sort things out with your parents present. We’ll talk about today and where we’re going to go from here.”
No need to tire myself in the shrugging department I thought, just sit back and enjoy the ride. I’m not a good student. My brothers are stupid so I´m the family’s last academic hope. My mother keeps saying, “Maddie, you have such a keen mind; why do you waste it?”
I don’t think I waste it. I just don’t use it on school stuff. Eleanor of Aquitaine is my all time favorite subject. I know all about her. Like a stone dropped into a pool, the ripples go outward into the centuries before and after her. I wrote a report last year on beheading. Physiologically it’s one of the quickest ways to go. Back in Eleanor’s time it was done all the time. Okay, sometimes the head went on a stake or was tossed in front of the rebel family to make a point, but, from a medical point of view, it’s as quick as they come unless you’re Anne Boleyn, but I don’t want to get into her botched execution (a hack job if ever there was one). My point being that I’d be on the honor roll every marking period if I could just be left alone and wander through the array of subjects out there that interest me.
At the station they put me in a green painted room. I think that’s supposed to be a calming color. Not that I needed calming. It’s really a big help when you don’t care what happens. They sent in a lady cop to ask if I wanted anything. I said I was thirsty and, since she asked, I ordered my signature drink, Regular Coke and diet Pepsi in a 60/40 ratio with two small ice cubes. She brought me a can of Coke because the station’s vending machine only stocked Coke products. I thanked her sarcastically and eschewed (another favorite word. I’ve been eschewing stuff for almost six months now) any beverage at all.
My next visitor was a shrink. He introduced himself as Dr. Jim although his name tag read Dr. James Turgin, PhD, Department of Family Services. He knew my name.
“So, Maddie Gelzinis, what have you got to say for yourself?”
I shrugged. My real name is Madison, but I will be changing it to Eleanor when I’m sixteen.
“It seems you’ve caused quite a ruckus by telling the police dispatcher you massacred your entire family as well as all the pets.”
“The dog really isn’t dead. She just likes to sleep in the sun all day.”
“But everyone is alive. In fact your brothers are still in school. Your mother is outside and your dad is on his way.”
My dad works for a company that writes supermarket ads. He’s responsible for those shopping circulars, the kind that fall out of the local paper or get jammed into the mail box which then litter the roadside and eventually clog the snow blowers. He’s written such memorable lines as “freshly dug clams” and “live and kickin’ lobsters.” Essentially he’s a nice guy, but more into my brothers as they are all sports nuts. I suck at sports unless med-evil torture is classified as an athletic endeavor.
“I lied to the lady on the phone. I didn’t kill anything today.”
“But you wanted to?”
“No, I just wanted to pretend I did.”
“And you knew what the reaction would be; you knew it was wrong?”
“Pretty much, yes, and I might add that my moral construct regarding the distinction between right and wrong is fully intact. In case you think I’ll be pleading insanity.”
He paused, wrote something down on his yellow pad then looked up at my over his reading glasses. “May I ask why you did it?’
At last the final Jeopardy question. The category is Madison “Eleanor” Gelzinis. The prompt is why I did what I did April 29th. But the answer, the real truth is being held hostage in my head. At times it gets loose from the chair it’s tied to and drags its bone weary, duct taped carcass to just behind my eyes, looking out at the world, jumping up and down, signaling, doing everything it can to attract attention. It’s like a Steven Crane story we read, “The Open Boat” where the narrator can’t get ashore due to the current, but all the people on the beach think he’s having fun so they respond to his flailing arms, which indicate his distress, with friendly waves of their own. So what makes me tick is locked inside me, I’m only thirteen for Christ’s sake, how the hell am I supposed to know why I am so inchoate like I am (there is a word “choate” but I’ve never seen it used).
“Did you want attention? I know being the last child in a family, especially the only girl, can be very stressful.”
“I don’t like attention. I hate being noticed. I always sit in the back of the classroom. I wore a hoodie until Mr. Bowman went on the loudspeaker and banned them in the classroom.”
“But what you did today had just the opposite effect. You got tons of attention.”
“It’s certainly a dichotomy of epic proportion.” I was going to use an Emerson quote about foolish consistency, but it would be lost on this guy. Besides, I’ve never read anything by Emerson. He has a million things in Bartlett’s which is a good book if you want to put someone in their place. I did a book report on Louisa May Alcott, and she and Emerson lived around the same town. They may have even done the nasty together. I like the words “shag” and “snog” which, if you watch BBC programs, is their way of describing sex stuff. Every time I see a picture of Emerson, I keep thinking of him as a dirty old man snogging all those women writers back then. I heard that Thoreau shagged Emerson’s wife which is why I like Henry David and have a book of his on my “to read” list.
“Do you have thoughts about harming others or yourself?”
“The only way I’d top myself would be by beheading. It’s the best way actually, but impossible or at least very hard to accomplish alone. Now that I think of it, I don’t especially like the sight of blood. So, to answer your question—thoughts, yes, but as a practical matter, no. It might be like you ogling an attractive woman, my mother for example, and thinking about shagging her, but you don’t because you’d lose a family, job and subsequently the opportunity to ask girls like me such thought provoking questions.”
He folded his tent after that. When I want to put people in their place, I am quite good at it. I think it’s a natural talent.
I remained at the station until well after dark. The cops questioned me with mom present and I was contrite, apologized to her, then begged to go home, swearing I’d never call in a false report again. I was left alone for a bit and then mom and dad came in and said I could go. If it was that easy, I’d have asked hours ago so I could be home in time for Jeopardy. As it was I escaped jail and I never once had to cry.
The worst part about coming home was my brothers. When we walked into the living room they had concocted a tableau whereby they were sprawled on the floor in various death poses. The result was that they were grounded, my mother cried for the umpteenth time, and I went to my room after another apology and a perfunctory motherly hug. You’d think someone had really died the way she was carrying on.
I like my room. If I had to go to jail, it’s the thing I’d miss most. I have two desks. One is for school work (rarely used); the other is for my stuff (organized clutter). I like to make lists—books to read, subjects to pursue, movies to watch. I put “Tibet” on a three by five card then got out my notebooks, the events of the day fresh in my mind. But I was suddenly very tired and, to be truthful, quite sad. I thought about getting my favorite drink to perk me up, but that would mean a trip to the kitchen where my fate might well be the rehashed subject of parental conversation. School tomorrow would be a big item on the agenda. How would the teachers and other Yahoos treat me? It had been mentioned in the past that I transfer to Mt Presentation Academy, an all girls’ school. Not a big fan of the idea as girls can be twice as bad as guys when it comes to meanness. I’d much prefer a punch in the face than a stab in the back if you catch my drift.
I went over to my bed, hopped in and pulled the quilt up to my neck. I was safe and secure from the day’s events. I didn’t even realize that I was crying until I felt the pillow’s wetness. Probably overwrought (you never hear of anybody being just plain old “wrought”.) I got up to find my favorite book. It’s Alison Weir’s Eleanor of Aquitaine: a Life. I don’t have any stuffed animals; they’re stupid so I always use “Eleanor” for emotional support. She went through many tough times. Nothing compared to my issue of the day. I leafed through the illustrations. Ellie was no looker that’s for sure; kind of like me I guess. If I were back in that century I might be married by now or at least betrothed to some prince type kid from Flanders even younger than me. When I think like this, it cheers me up from slobbering on the pillow like some effeminate girl.
I turned out the lamp and decided to descend into the arms of Morpheus (I read that in a poem by somebody famous). As one might figure, I couldn’t sleep. What about tomorrow? I could probably get out of school for a day or two but sooner or later, I’d have to face the music (I try not to use trite expressions, but when you’re tired you just use whatever comes to mind). If I went to the private Catholic school one might think that no one would know about my past—fat chance of that happening. Maybe I could disguise myself and invent a new past, like witness protection people. But then it hit me. The perfect disguise—a burka. I can see out but no one can see in. Yell every term of opprobrium you want, you won’t be able to see how much it hurts me. I jumped out of bed and flipped on the laptop. You won’t believe it, but Amazon actually sells them, and they are not that expensive, under sixty bucks, in many different colors and it’s free shipping with Amazon Prime (mom loves that feature: “free shipping” for anything is better than chocolate to her).
Problem solved. I would carry a burka in my backpack, change after I got to school, and be impervious to the verbal slings and arrows to say nothing of dirty looks, and then change back into my slovenly, Mad Maddie Seattle grunge outfit for the ride home. And who would mess with me! I’m exercising my religious choice. It would be like the time Eleanor—well, check out Weir’s book from the library, and you will get the connection. No matter how much trouble I get into, I always invent a way out. It’s a special talent.
I went back to bed and forgot about slowly slipping into the arms of Morpheus. Instead I did a terrific swan dive into one of the best sleeps I’ve had in years.