Ticket to Ride
By Chip McEnroe
"She said that living with me
Was bringing her down yeah.
That she would never be free
When I was around."
- The Beatles
Martin Peppers had a very troubled childhood. At the age of six, his mother told him he was a demon and his daddy was the devil. At age seven she spanked him with a coat hanger because he wouldn’t eat any green vegetables. She told him he was selfish and inconsiderate for choosing to only eat carrots and corn when his mother spent her hard earned money on peas and broccoli. Martin didn’t even know what inconsiderate meant at the time. Regardless of the thrashing, Martin told his mother he was sorry and ate them anyway. From then on his mother allowed him to hold his nose when he ate peas and broccoli.
Though he had to endure some strange and disturbing things in his early years, Martin continued to love his mother. He did well in school and got along with other children. He wasn’t a bad boy. This made it even harder for him to understand his mother's frequent outbursts.
They lived in an upper middle class subdivision on the southeast side of town. A former police chief lived there too. (There’s some dark history in that man’s family, but that’s another story that will probably never be told.) The house was a nice three bedroom two bath with a screened-in pool in the backyard. They weren’t struggling, but they weren’t exactly financially secure either. Mommy Vicky still had to work to pay the bills. She always had to, because Martin didn’t have a father.
Vicky was raped 16 years ago.
Martin was the product of that horrible night.
Vicky often had no recollection of the horrible things she did to Martin. As he continued to get older and bad things continued to happen, she noticed that the boy had become withdrawn from her. He stopped being her baby and began to turn into something that she hated: another man. Vicky began to look at her son as an incarnate of the man who raped her, and she couldn’t bear to live with him anymore.
Martin began to like marijuana very much during his adolescence. He also enjoyed cocaine from time to time and became a habitual cigarette smoker by his 13th birthday. By the time he was 16, he had evolved into the stereotypical by-product of a dysfunctional household. He never understood why his mother hated him. To be honest, he didn’t care anymore. He stayed high so he wouldn’t have to deal with her. They lived in Cala Bay, and drugs were as easy to get there as snow is in Alaska. Sometimes, you didn’t even have to pay for them, if you knew the right people.
Martin knew the right people. So did his mother.
Jimson Weed is an interesting plant. The scientific name is Datura Stramonium. Its uses date back into the 1600’s and probably earlier than that. It’s most commonly known for its usage in Native American healing ceremonies. The plant has some positive effects on people suffering from fever or asthma, but when taken in high doses it can be harmful and sometimes lethal. Small doses can cause an intense state of delirium, including dreamlike hallucinations and delusions. There’s a mnemonic for the effects of this drug:
Blind as a bat,
mad as a hatter,
red as a beet,
hot as hell,
dry as a bone,
the bowel and bladder lose their tone,
and the heart runs alone.
Usually the amount needed to produce this effect is only a teaspoonful of the plant’s seeds.
Vicky Peppers dumped a half-cup of Jimson Weed seeds in her son's spaghetti.
It happened on a Monday, after school.
Martin went to Hilltop High, one of the more reputable schools in a city where a reputable school had only five shootings a year instead of eight. The series of buildings that made up the campus resembled something out of Auschwitz or Dachau. The place was nothing but red bricks and steep angles connected to each other with lofts and breezeways. Take out the lofts and breezeways and you had a concentration camp.
The bus dropped him off at the stop about a quarter mile from his house. Martin always loved the feeling of getting out of school. There was nothing better than stepping off that bus with his headphones blaring Avenged Sevenfold, knowing that his room was within walking distance. As soon as he got in that door he could kick off his shoes, fall back on his bed and relax. A day survived at Hilltop High School was just that; a day survived.
He was walking fast, keeping in step with The Reverend Tholomew Plague’s blast beats. Life was good today. The sun was warm on his face and the sky was cloudless. The afternoon was without any sign of rain or overcast. It would be a good afternoon. Martin made a mental note to thank God that his mom was gone.
He had come to believe in his own sense of God as he grew up. His mother was always talking about sins, hell and torment. One time, when he was 12, she caught him masturbating in the bathroom. She told him he was going to go to hell, beat him with a hair brush for a good ten minutes and sent him to bed wearing a pair of boxing gloves. Martin didn’t believe in the God that his mother spoke of because he believed that anything she believed in was nothing to be believed in by anyone who was sane.
As he neared his house, he noticed that his mom’s car wasn’t there. That made the deal even sweeter. A beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, and his mom was gone to boot. What more could he want? A fat hamburger would work. He was starving. He hadn’t eaten lunch at school. He never did. The cafeteria food at school had always disgusted him. When he entered 7th grade, his mom stopped packing his lunches, so he went hungry.
Seeing his mom gone reminded him of She’s Leaving Home, one of her favorite Beatles songs. Vicky was almost always listening to The Beatles. Martin didn’t really mind. Some of his best memories of his mother were when they sat in the den, reading and listening to The Beatles. His mother loved books and music, and so did Martin. Though these instances were few and far between, Martin cherished them.
He reached into his pocket for the house key as he made his way up the steps and onto the porch. As he retrieved it and inserted into the slot, he began to wonder when his mom would be back. If she was going to be long he’d be able to smoke. Nothing would top off a beautiful day like today better than getting high and passing out in his room or playing some Gears of War with the sound all the way up. Owning the shit out of man-eating demons is fun with the volume at a normal level, but if you can crank it up and do it stoned you’ve got it made.
He opened the door and started making his way into the foyer.
“Mom?” he called out, setting his book bag down next to a crystal vase full of blooming Cala Lilies. “I’m home. Are you there?”
There was no answer.
The living room of the Pepper’s residence was a mingle of oriental and traditional decorating styles. Martin’s mom was quite the decorator and she had an eclectic style that wowed his friends every time they came over. To Martin it was nothing. It’s not that he didn’t appreciate the hard work his mother put into decorating; it was more along the lines of not being able to enjoy any of it because it was always getting thrown at him.
Martin made his way into the kitchen and picked up the cordless phone. Next to it was a note:
Went to the store. Be back soon. There’s some spaghetti in the fridge.
Martin’s shoulders sagged with disappointment. He knew there was no way he’d be able to smoke an entire blunt in the time his mother would be gone. He’d just have to settle for a couple hits from his soda bottle bong.
“Better than nothing,” he said to himself and started dialing his best friend’s number.
As he did so, he began to realize the hunger that he felt earlier had returned to him. While the phone was ringing on the other line, he opened the refrigerator door and looked for the spaghetti. There was a large pot with meat sauce in it next to a Tupperware container full of noodles. He was about to grab both of those when he saw the pink cereal bowl containing an already prepared batch. He grabbed that instead, thinking that it was pretty nice of his mom to make it up for him like that.
“What up, white boy?” said Nassir.
Martin and Nassir had been best friends since kindergarten. Nassir’s mom was in the Black Panthers during the Vietnam era, so Nassir was naturally just as rebellious and assertive as his mother. They were really close, and sometimes Martin felt jealous that they had such a good relationship with each other.
“Chilen' nigga,” said Martin, taking the saran-wrap off the spaghetti and putting it in the microwave. “How’s your moms?”
“She’s good. What you gettin’ into today?”
“Nothin,” said Martin, shutting the microwave door and pressing the 1 minute timer. “Probably gonna get high and play some Gears of War.”
“True, true,” said Nassir. Martin could hear a dog barking in the background. “Sit the fuck down!”
“Rocky bein’ a douche bag huh?”
Rocky was Nassir’s pit-bull. Martin had always been scared to death of the dog, even though Nassir said he was harmless.
“Yeah, man. You want him?”
“Hell no. That dog freaks me out."
"You crazy," said Nassir. "This dog is an angel."
"Angel of death maybe," said Martin, leaning against the kitchen counter and staring at the ceiling as he waited for the microwave bell. "Speaking of that, you know what my mom did last night?"
“What it was this time?” asked Nassir. “It can’t be worse than the thing with the tangerines.”
One time Martin told Nassir the story of how he ate the last two tangerines in the refrigerator. Vicky was so upset that she went to the grocery store the next day and bought seven pounds of tangerines. She took everything else out of the refrigerator and threw it all away. She told Martin that, since he liked tangerines enough to eat the last two and not save any for his mother, he could have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Martin spent a lot of time eating at Nassir’s house that week.
“Nah, it ain't as bad as that,” said Martin, opening the microwave door and testing the heat of the spaghetti with his finger.
It wasn’t hot enough so he shut the door and set it for another thirty seconds.
“But it’s just as crazy. I was playing Gears of War, minding my own business and she walks in and asks me where her diamond earrings are. I tell her I don’t know, so she says I’m a liar and tells me to get the fuck out of the house. I had to sleep on the porch last night.”
“Nigga!” yelled Nassir, “That's some bullshit."
“Yeah,” said Martin, opening the microwave and testing the spaghetti again. It was hot enough now.
"You might be able to stay over here for a couple days, if you want."
“But I’d have to come back," Martin took the spaghetti out of the microwave and set it down on the kitchen counter. "It's probably better if I just tough it out.”
“Damn," said Nassir. "Why does she do that shit?”
“I don’t know,” said Martin, grabbing a fork out of the kitchen drawer. “Maybe she’s born with it.”
Martin stuck the fork in the bowl of spaghetti and started twirling noodles around it.
“Maybe it’s Maybeline.”
"Huh." said Nassir, which was his way of laughing at something that was witty.
Martin brought the fork up to his mouth and stuffed it in. He bit down on something hard in his spaghetti. It tasted kind of sunflower-seedish. He took it out and looked at it in the palm of his hand. It was small, round and blackish-brown. He looked in the spaghetti and found more of the little things inside.
“Yuck,” said Martin.
“My mom must’ve put some kind of spice or some shit in this spaghetti she made me. There’s like, little, round, seed thingies in it.”
“That bitch tryin' to poison yo ass.”
“Don't call my mom a bitch, nigger,” said Martin, taking another bite.
He was too hungry to pass up the spaghetti, crunchy little seeds or not.
“Aight now. Watch it with that E-R.” said Nassir. “The G-A is okay, but the E-R gets you scarred.”
"Who're you?" asked Martin, swallowing a lump of spaghetti. "Jessie muthafucken Jackson?"
"You damn right," said Nassir. "Yo, we should blaze. Lemme come over and smoke a bowl witchu."
“Negative,” said Martin, swallowing and taking another bite, “She could be back any minute.”
“Damn. I wanted to hop on that game.”
“Yeah,” said Martin, swallowing another bite of spaghetti while he looked at the clock.
It was 3:47. He hoped his mom would be gone for at least another 20 minutes. That would give him enough time to smoke a couple bowls.
“Maybe this weekend or something. But hey, I’m gonna go smoke. I’ll catcha later.”
“Aight nig,” said Nassir, “Peace.”
Martin pressed the talk button on the phone and set it down beside his bowl of spaghetti. He shoved the fork back in and twirled another bite of noodles around it, then dipped that in the excess sauce with some of the blackish-brown seeds and took a bite. As he chewed it up, some of the seeds bursted between his teeth. The sunflower-seedy taste was actually kind of good. He finished the entire bowl and sat it down in the kitchen sink. When he was done he grabbed a can of Coke out of the fridge and headed upstairs.
Martin’s room was very neat for a kid his age. The bed was made and the curtains were drawn. The top of his bureau was bare, save for a trophy he won in little league when he was 12, a series of paperback books stacked side by side, and a bottle of Axe spray. His 20 inch Zenith TV sat on top of a small TV stand with his Xbox 360 tucked away in a cabinet underneath. On top of the TV set was a sticker that read, God is in the TV. The closet doors were shut, but inside all the clothes were organized, neat and tidy.
Martin opened the top drawer of his bureau and pulled out a clear, plastic baggy from underneath his socks. Inside were about 24 grams of marijuana. After retrieving the baggy he opened the second drawer from the top and pulled out a plastic Sprite bottle from underneath a pair of sweatpants he hadn’t worn since he was 9 or 10. He took both of these things with him and sat down on his bed.
First, he opened the baggie and broke off a big enough piece of bud to smoke, then he tucked it into a little pouch of tin-foil he had put into the side of the soda bottle. With that done, he grabbed a lighter out of his pocket, put the bottle to his mouth, and toked up. As soon as he exhaled, he heard his mom’s car pulling into the driveway.
“Fuck,” He coughed.
Martin grabbed the plastic baggy and shoved it in his pocket. He took the soda bottle and snuffed out the burning weed with his thumb.
“Ouch,” he hissed. “Shit.”
He got up and shoved the bottle back in the second drawer. He grabbed the axe can off his bureau and sprayed a generous ammount of it into the air. He could hear his mom opening the front door.
“Marty?” called his mom’s voice from the foyer. “Are you home?”
“Yeah mom!” he cried from upstairs. “I’m here.”
He hated when his mom called him Marty. None of his friends did and whenever he met someone new and they called him that he cringed.
“I made you some spaghetti!” called his mother’s voice.
“I know! Thanks! It was good!”
Martin was starting to feel a little buzzed. That made him want to smoke more. Luckily, there was an upstairs bathroom. He could get away with smoking in there if his mom thought he was taking a shower.
“Hey!” yelled Martin. “I’m about to get in the shower okay?”
There was a pause. Martin had become very familiar with these types of pauses. They usually came right before an outburst.
“Well I was hoping you could help me with these bags…” his mother’s voice trailed off.
“I’m already undressed,” he lied. “Just leave em’! I’ll get em’ when I come out!”
Martin knew she wasn’t going to agree to that. It was all over now. She was going to lose it.
“Okay! No problem!” she called back.
“Wow,” said Martin to himself. “She’s in a good mood today.”
He went back to his bureau and grabbed the soda bottle bong, then grabbed a fresh white t-shirt and a pair of boxers and socks. After that he headed into the bathroom and shut the door behind him, locking it.
He was the only person that ever used the upstairs bathroom, save for the few occasions that Nassir ever stayed over. He kept it just as his bedroom. The counter was neat; no toothbrushes laying helter skelter or half empty toothpaste bottles leaking sticky, white and blue gunk on the counter. The mirror was streak free and the toilet seat was down. Vicky always kept tabs on things like that, and Martin had learned through the years that if he kept things neat, his mother would be less prone to freak out on him.
He sat down on the toilet and packed another bowl. After he smoked it, the small bathroom was hot boxed. He decided he better take a shower after all. Perhaps the steam would replace the smoke and maybe, if he used enough shampoo, the smell of marijuana would go away. He didn’t really care though. He was pretty high. He figured his mom wouldn’t be coming up here. Instead of actually getting into the shower, Martin decided just to run the hot water and wet his hair.
He took off his shirt and changed his socks and boxers, then turned the nozzle all the way to the right. Before it got too hot, he stuck his head under the water and patted it semi-dry with a towel. He sat back down on the toilet seat and packed another bowl, smoked it, and then just sat there and let the shower run. He stared at the wall for about five minutes straight without blinking. It looked kind of funny to him. The wallpaper consisted of Mallard ducks lined up in vertical rows. The pattern was very redundant. You would think wallpaper like that would seem strange in a bathroom, or anywhere for that matter, but it was subtle. It was almost like you didn’t see the ducks unless you stared at them for a long time. While Martin was staring at the ducks, he got the strangest urge to pull the curtain and look inside the shower. It was almost as though he thought something was in there that shouldn’t be. He snapped his head back and forth to redirect his attention from the wallpaper and reached for the shower curtain with shaky fingers. As he started to pull it back, he thought he could see the outline of what looked like someone or something’s shadow. He yanked open the shower curtain.
Nothing was there.
With a sigh, he sat back down on the toilet with his eyes closed. When he opened them he looked at the ducks again.
“Hey!” one of the mallards on the wall said. “Down here!”
Martin looked down near the baseboards where the sound was coming from. It was one of the ducks. Half of its body disappeared behind the baseboard, so all that was visible was its head. It winked at him.
“What the fuck?” Martin jumped back on the toilet seat, grasping the toilet paper roll hinged to the side of the counter for either support or comfort.
He could’ve sworn the damn thing just talked to him, but when he looked at it again, it was just as normal as ever. It didn’t wink, it didn’t speak, and it didn’t breathe.
“I’ve gotta be high as hell.”
There was a knock on the bathroom door and he jumped again.
“Martin?” his mom’s voice called from the other side of the door. “Are you almost done? The frozen stuff is gonna melt.”
“Uh…” he struggled to say something. “Yeah. I’ll be out in a minute.”
He grabbed the sprite bottle bong and shoved the baggy full of marijuana into his jeans pocket. After that, he grabbed the white t-shirt and slid it on. When all that was done, he turned the water in the shower off and closed the curtains. He checked himself in the mirror to see if his eyes were red. They weren’t, but his pupils seemed to be getting pretty big. He figured he’d better hurry down there and take in the groceries, then tell his mom he was going to take a nap or something so she wouldn’t be around him and get suspicious. He turned the door handle, swung it open and stepped out.
About 30 minutes later, Martin sat on his bed smoking a cigarette. He never smoked in the house, but he needed one right now and his mom was still downstairs so he couldn’t sneak out. Everything was really blurry. The world seemed like a daytime soap opera flashback, all fuzzy around the edges. It was almost like being inside a pastel painting. Earlier, he had checked his eyes again in the bathroom mirror. His pupils were so wide that they dominated his irises. There was very little green, just black. His reflection had reminded him of Japanese Anime cartoons, the way the bathroom light reflected off the endless, black surface of his pupils.
“Are you okay, honey?” asked Vicky.
She was standing in the doorway of his room.
“Yeah,” said Martin, exhaling a thick beam of blue smoke.
He couldn’t make out all of his mother’s features. She was just a blur standing in the hall.
“Are you smoking in here?” she asked.
“No, mom,” said Martin, taking another drag. “I don’t smoke cigarettes.”
“It’s okay honey. I don’t care. Smoke up!”
Vicky left the doorway of Martin’s room, leaving him sitting on the bed with a perplexed look on his face.
“What the fuck just happened?” he asked himself.
“Your mom just told you to keep smoking a cigarette,” said his Golden Retriever, Han. “Which is kinda freaky, seeing as to how you’re not smoking anything at all.”
Martin looked at his right hand. The cigarette wasn’t there anymore. Han jumped up onto the bed next to him and laid his head in Martin’s lap.
“You gotta get out of this dump, Marty,” said the dog.
Martin could feel Han’s jowls moving as the words escaped from the dog’s mouth.
“Don’t call me Marty,” replied Martin, staring off into space. “I don’t like that name.”
“What’s in a name?” Han lifted his head up and licked at Martin’s chin, but Martin pushed him away. “You named me after a fucking Star Wars character. Marty ain’t so bad compared to that shit.”
“Shut up,” said Martin, pushing the dog off of his lap. “You’re stupid. Go away. You’re a stupid dog and you don’t know anything.”
“Whatever you say, pal,” said Han, jumping off the bed and trotting out of the room.
Martin could hear I am the Walrus playing from his mom’s room downstairs. Everything was so blurry. He couldn't see very well because the world had taken on the characteristics of a pastel painting. Nothing made sense but at the same time everything was normal. He could’ve sworn he was just having a conversation with his dog, but nothing about that seemed strange.
Blind as a bat, mad as a hatter…
When he looked into the mirror earlier to check his pupils, his entire face looked like a tomato. He took off his white t-shirt. It was hot in his room and he was sweating all over. He could’ve sworn it was 80 degrees in there.
…red as a beet, hot as hell…
The skin on his arms was itchy and he was starting to get a rash from scratching them.
…dry as a bone…
He had to take a piss. Really bad.
…bowel and bladder lose their tone…
He could’ve sworn he was having palpitations, or tachycardia, or a fucking stroke.
…and the heart runs alone.
He couldn’t, for the life of him, understand why this was happening. It wasn’t from smoking pot because he did that all the time and nothing like this had ever happened before. He remembered something strange happening earlier while he was eating spaghetti but he couldn’t remember exactly what that strange thing was. Was it something to do with Nassir? No. That didn’t make any sense. Did somebody lace his weed? No. It couldn’t be that either because he’d been smoking that same shit all weekend. He got it from Nassir’s friend, Randy. There was another kid in the car with Randy. Martin didn’t trust that kid. He was wearing a black suit and sporting a Rolex, but it wasn’t those things that made Martin uneasy.
It was the kid's eyes.
His bright blue, hateful eyes.
Martin had never met a person whose eyes looked so evil. But that had nothing to do with the weed he bought from Randy because he saw Randy break it off, weigh it out, and bag it up. So if it wasn’t any of those things, then what the hell was it?
Martin couldn’t stop thinking, "Help! I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody!"
He looked at the analog alarm clock on the nightstand next to his bed.
It was 6:30 AM.
He had to be at school by seven. Martin jumped off the bed and ran to his bureau. He flung open the top drawer and grabbed a pair of boxers, a pair of rolled up socks and a white t-shirt. He ran to the closet and flung the doors open, grabbing a pair of jeans on a hanger, then he ran to the bathroom and shut the door. Martin started stripping off layers of clothing as fast as he could. There was no time to waste. Today was the first day of F-Cat week and he couldn’t afford to miss that. If he did he’d have to make it up during spring break.
“Fuck that shit,” said Martin, peeling off his socks and stepping into the bathtub.
He yanked on the nozzle to start the water running. It was ice cold. He jumped back out of the tub and turned it halfway between H and C, then stepped back in after a few minutes of waiting. The water was fine now, so he reached for the soap. That’s when he saw the grinning spider on the shower wall. It was about the size of a cat and it was grinning at him. It had bristly, black hairs all over its body and… it was grinning at him… with a mouthfull of teeth. It was a Cheshire Spider.
“Fucking bugs,” said Martin, pulling back the shower curtain and stepping onto the cold linoleum.
He went to the bathroom sink and opened up a cabinet beneath it. He grabbed a bottle of Raid from inside and went back to the shower, but when he got there he couldn’t remember why he had the bug spray. There were no bugs in the shower so what was he going to do with it? Further more, why was he in the shower anyway? Hadn’t he already taken one today? No, he didn’t take one. He had pretended to earlier, but what did that have to do with anything? What the hell was going on? Everything was so blurry and gray around the edges. Why did he feel like this?
He couldn’t answer any of those questions.
Ten minutes later, Martin was curled up in a fetal position, rocking back and forth on his bedroom carpet.
“2 Corinthians 11:14,” he recited to himself. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”
It was something his minister had said in a sermon Martin had heard over a year ago, but there he was, reciting it like a crazed lunatic, which is pretty much what he was at the time. In the far corner of his room he saw an amazing radiance hanging in mid-air. In the center of it floated a bal-peen hammer with a wooden handle and a shiny, steel head.
“Take it!” cried a gentle voice from the radiance, “It is a sword from God! Use it to do His will! Take it and slay the dragon, Martin! Take it!”
“2 Corinthians 11:14,” Martin continued to chant as he clamped his eyes shut against the blinding light. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel…”
The voice was so loud. It sounded like a thousand trumpets exploding in his ears. He opened his eyes and now the hammer, with all of its glowing luminescence was within grabbing distance. Martin figured all he had to do to get it to stop was take the hammer… so he did, and when he did, the light went away. However, the voice remained.
“Take it,” the soft voice commanded, the sound drifting off as though it were leaving his room and going downstairs. “Take it and slay the dragon, Martin.”
"What fucking dragon, you cunt!?"
Martin took the hammer and smashed himself in the knee with it.
Martin's knee hurt like hell and there was a bal-peen hammer in his hand. He couldn’t remember why he had it. Maybe his mom wanted him to do something outside. If not, that was okay too. He needed some fresh air. It was hot as hell in his room.
He got to his feet and limped out into the hall, then made his way downstairs and into the kitchen with the hammer still in his hand. What he saw sitting at the kitchen table made him drop it. The hammer landed on his big toe, but the pain seemed miniscule next to the humanoid-looking Gila Monster just five feet in front of him.
It was reading the newspaper. Martin saw its scaly fingers move with reptilian agility as it flipped the page. Its eyes were the color of dirty piss and its forked tongue shot out through its chapped, desert-beaten lips. Martin slowly reached down and started grabbing for the hammer, never taking his eyes of the thing sitting in front of him.
“Whafarmoodoodinghartin?” asked the lizard thing, cocking its head to one side like a curious dog.
Martin quickly grabbed the hammer off the ground and lunged at it. He brought the balled end down on the lizard’s head. It made a screechy-squelchy sound and hissed at him. He grabbed it by the throat with his left hand and struck it again and again with the bal-peen hammer in his right. Bright red blood shot out from the thing’s scaly, green head. He brought the hammer down on one of its cheek bones and its right eye ruptured in a spray of yellow and dark maroon. It screamed, and when it did Martin swore the sound was almost human. The contents of the lizard’s eye looked like infected puss from a nasty bug bite. The stuff dripped down the thing’s face. Martin had the monster on the ground now, and he brought the hammer down again and again with full force until all that was left of its head was red and swamp-green mush.
Martin dropped the hammer and ran to the front door. He was crying.
I'm cryin'. I'm cryyyyyyyyiiiinn!
He swung it open and ran outside. He darted around to the side yard and opened the fence shutting it behind him. Martin let himself slide down, getting a few splinters through his t-shirt and into the skin on his back as he did. He closed his eyes and held his head in his hands. He wanted to rest. He needed to calm down. Something terrible had just happened. For some strange reason he couldn’t stop thinking about The Beatles. He could hear A Day in the Life playing from his mom’s room and that pissed him off. Here he was freaking out, loosing his mind, and his mother was in her room, jammin’ to the sounds of the 60’s. He couldn’t take much more. He wanted to be alone to collect his thoughts.
“Don’t get your hopes up there, Marty,” said a voice from in front of him. “You’re not going to have any alone-time for awhile now, at least not when the cops show up.”
“Cops?” said Martin, lifting his head.
“Yeah, I just called em’,” said the kid in the black suit. “Should be here in oh, I don’t know. Say ten minutes or so.”
“What are you doing here?” asked Martin. “Why’d you call the police?”
“Those questions are impertinent,” said the kid in the black suit, speaking with a calm, soft voice.
He reached into his blazer pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He popped one out of the pack, lit it and started smoking.
“What you need to worry about is getting your story straight," he said with a warm smile. "You’ve got a ticket to ride.”
“The one you’re gonna tell the cops.”
“About killing your mom. It’s a shame too. She really loved you kid, even though she didn’t show it. I don’t see why you guys just couldn’t come together,” the kid puffed on his cigarette.
Martin looked at him, not comprehending.
“Fuck it. Let it be. I haven’t even introduced myself yet and look at me; diving headfirst into things that are way too hard for you to understand right now.”
The kid left the cigarette in his mouth and extended his hand.
“My name’s Skipper.”
Martin shook it.
“I know who you are,” said Skipper, returning to his cigarette smoking posture. “I know your mom even better. I came to her in a dream, you see.”
“You’re crazy,” said Martin, squinting in the afternoon sunlight.
“You’re the one that just killed your own mother,” said Skipper, exhaling a plume of blue-gray smoke. “But then again, I guess that would’ve never happened if it weren’t for me."
Skipper kneeled down and leaned into Martin’s face.
"I like to ruin things. I like to make things fall apart," said Skipper, millimeters from Martin's face. "I like to rip things apart.”
Martin backed up as far as he could against the fence.
“I gave your mom some special seeds,” said Skipper, standing upright again.
Martin remembered now. The spaghetti. There were tiny seeds in it.
"See," resumed Skipper. "I’m getting a lot better at my craft, even though I’ve been doing this stuff for years. I mean…”
Skipper looked Martin straight in the eye. He could've sworn the kid's right pupil turned red.
“Years,” he said with another contrastingly warm smile. “Lots and lots of years.”
“Go away,” said Martin in a voice that sounded like someone half his age’s. “I don’t like you. I don’t like the way you talk. Go away.”
“Shut up faggot,” Skipper kicked him in the balls.
Martin resumed the fetal position, this time clutching his aching genitalia.
“Tell me Martin,” Skipper took a casual drag from his cigarette. “Do you know what happens to little boys when they get charged as adults and go to adult prisons? You get a bar-glass sized cock shoved up your ass.”
“Get away from me!” whined Martin, still clutching his balls.
“If you insist. I have to say this conversation was quite boring anyway," said Skipper, turning his back and walking away. “Maybe I’ll go run a school bus full of retarded kids off a bridge. Anything is better than this."
Martin could’ve sworn that just then, he saw Skipper grow a pair of wings. They weren’t pretty wings either. They were brown and leathery, and there were holes in them. The bones on the edges looked like they were carved from stone.
“Ciao,” said Skipper, with his back turned, waving a friendly goodbye.
Martin closed his eyes, but he swore he heard those wings flapping.
“What’s your name, son?”
Martin opened his eyes. He was sitting at a conference table in a room with white walls. There were fluorescent lights in the ceiling and he had no idea how he got there.
“Where…” he stammered, blinking rapidly to adjust to the blinding light, “Where am I?”
“You’re downtown,” said a man with a mustache and a mostly bald head sitting across from him. “I just told you that thirty seconds ago. We responded to a 911 call and picked you up at your house. I need you to answer some questions for me, okay?”
“Okay,” answered Martin.
“What’s your name?” asked the bald man with the mustache.
There was a tape recorder on the table in front of him. A red light was blinking on it.
“Martin,” he said and rubbed his eyes. “Martin Peppers. I live at 2801 SE 29th Lane.”
“Okay,” said the bald man, taking a sip from a steaming cup on the table. “Do you know why you’re here?”
“I think so.”
“Can you tell me?
“I…” Martin dropped his head. “I think I killed my mom.”
“How Martin?” asked the bald man, setting down his cup. “How did you do it?”
Martin looked up. He was smiling.
“Bang! Bang!” sang Martin, softly and with a grin.
“Mart-in’s silver hammer came down... upon her head.”
The bald man with the mustache looked at Martin. His eye twitched.
”Clang! Clang!” said Martin, his grin as wide as the Cheshire Spider’s.
“Mart-in’s silver hammer made sure... that she was dead.”
January 11th, 2007