I knew it was time to let the book go to the printer when I started changing the title. I kept it long enough to move the release date from 9/28/10 to a Tuesday (undetermined) in October.
Here’s the front cover at left, plus another excerpt below. You’ll find the full printer’s proof of the cover design at the bottom.
Now, I can start tinkering with the website. Hey, we’re getting there.
June 22nd, early am
I wasn’t going to do this. Leave a suicide note.
People in my position, in extremis, as it were, often delude themselves with the notion that they have something special—or necessary—to impart, at the end. As if the last moments of life were some grand stage and the mere proximity of death might confer some great wisdom.
But what is there to say, really? Not much, in most cases. Why am I killing myself? For the same reason anyone does, I guess. The less said, the better.
Tonight, though, that changed. My simple suicide has become a murder-suicide. Before I kill myself, I’m going to confront Randy Trent with his crimes of long ago. Then I’m going to kill him. I may torment him a bit in the days leading up to that confrontation.
That’s why I’m writing this tonight, instead of being dead. That’s why you’re reading this.
This journal—for it’s no mere suicide note, it’s a whole suicide journal—is intended to document my actions leading up to my death. And to present the reasoning behind them.
Note the verb. Present. Not justify. Not excuse. Because, believe me, there’s no excuse for what I’m about to do.
This journal is addressed to the Lake Lenni Lenape police, who’ll want to know how I did what I did. And it’s addressed to the family and loved ones of Randy Trent, who’ll want to know why.
So. Why have I decided to harrass and kill Randy Trent? Why did my elegantly simple suicide become a more messy and complicated murder-suicide?
It’s a long story. So I’ll start with the facts of this night and work backwards. And sideways and forward.
Here’s what happened.
I was finishing a last glass of beer in the Sail Inn. Or a next-to-last glass of beer, I hadn’t decided yet. I was raising a silent toast to a life poorly lived, a life squandered, preparatory to going back to my late mother’s derelict, barren house and snuffing myself as unobtrusively as possible.
That’s when I heard it. A voice from my past.
“Hey, Brittany! I remember when you used to love me!”
It was a distinctive voice, a raspy growl with a rough, ruined edge to it, like a starter motor stuttering ineffectually on a cold winter morning. It was a clout to the ears. It was the carefree, careless bray of the bully. The call of someone accustomed to getting his own way in everything. The voice of someone used to living at the expense of others. Used to using people up. It sent a chill up my spine, as they say in paperback thrillers. I looked up and there he was.
It was Randy Trent. He was leaning on the bar, an empty beer pitcher in his hand. He was hectoring a barmaid, calling out across the length of the bar to her.
The sight of him, the sound of him, triggered a fight-or-flee response in me so long dormant, I’d forgotten it existed. It was like a genetic marker, lodged deep in my DNA, emerged from some long benign dormancy to give my heart a good, swift kick. I hadn’t seen Randy Trent, hadn’t cringed at the sight of him, in more than twenty years.
The past has been much on my mind these days, since my mother died—a week ago this morning—and I returned to tidy up her house, the house I grew up in, for the realtors. I’d like to say that I wouldn’t have recognized Randy Trent so instantly in a different setting, out of the context of this shitty bar in this shitty town we both grew up in. But I don’t think that would be true. Some people make a mark on you, for better or for worse, and you don’t forget.
“In your dreams, Trent. In your dreams.” Brittany the barmaid took the pitcher and went to fill it at the tap.
So I didn’t have long to second- and third-guess my initial impression. It was confirmed right away. I was looking at Randy Trent.
After Brittany exchanged his empty pitcher for a full one, Randy Trent turned from the bar and his hard gray eyes fell on me, stopped by what must have been an odd expression on my face.
“Yeah?” Randy Trent said. “You got a problem?”
Twenty-some years is a long time. People change. I don’t think I look anything like the pale, slight, narrow-shouldered, long-faced boy I once was. Two decades and more of mostly sedentary pursuits have caused me to grow redder, riper, and rounder, like a berry, while stress and bad habits have pulped and tenderized every square inch of my surface.
But Randy? He looks very much the same to me. It may be that his physical attributes are elemental like prime numbers or fractions reduced to their lowest terms. He was always this way: long-jawed, heavy-browed, with big hands and feet. Pale with deep-set eyes. There’s something stiff about his face that resists warmth or expressiveness. His ears have no lobes; the lower planes of his ears line up directly with the lines of his jaw, giving him a simian quality. His nose has two distinct facets—out, then down—vaguely Native American in aspect. He’s big, over six feet tall. Even as a teen, he seemed a man among boys. His features seemed already set, with nowhere else to go. Today, his belly might be a little bigger, his eyelids a little fleshier, his hair grayer and shorter. That’s about it.
Cold. That’s the first word that always comes to mind when I think of Randy Trent.
“No,” I said, and then, “Not me. I’ve got a smile for everybody I meet.” And I smiled.
I don’t know what I expected from Randy. Surprise, anger, contempt. Something. At the very least, I expected him to recognize me.
But he didn’t. Instead, he watched my big, goofy grin grow wider, a cross, put-upon expression settling on his own face. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing,” I had to say. And it was true. He didn’t remember me at all.
Randy grunted and carried his pitcher of beer back to the table he was sharing with two women and another guy. Back to his unexamined, untroubled, unshadowed life. The easy life of the bully.
And that set me to thinking.
About things, and why they are the way they are.
About the unfortunate irony of encountering Randy Trent, of all people, on the last night of my life. About how utterly unsurprising—how fitting, even—it was, that I should be killing myself against the backdrop of another prosperous, carefree day in Randy Trent’s life. Killing myself—discreetly, unobtrusively—even as Randy Trent, the architect of my childhood despair and mortification, lifted another beer with his plainly admiring friends.
I watched Randy Trent for a while. Randy looked happy. So did his friends. The girl Randy Trent was with looked happy to be with him. She was very pretty. She was of some Asian descent, her cheekbones high, her blunt haircut sleek and shimmery and black, her eyes large and lively above a tiny lipsticked mouth, her laugh a sudden, surprised-sounding bark. She might have been thirty or so, maybe less. She seemed too solicitous of his regard, too self-consciously aware of his presence, to have known him for long. She looked like a girl on the make.
And why not be desirous of making Randy Trent? If this Randy Trent was much like the Randy Trent I knew twenty-some years ago, he had a lot going for him. An easy, offhand way of breaking things, of breaking people. A rough and charming sadism. A simple happiness derived from humbling the weak, the shy, the fearful. There’s something in a man who knows that life is unfair and shabby and demeaning and brutal, and delights in it, that women find reassuring, attractive. I know, I’ve seen it myself. All my life.
I watched Randy for quite a while. I watched myself in the mirror behind the bar, huddled, alone, over my last beer.
And that was it. That’s when I stopped playing by the rules. How do they say it now? I “went over to the dark side.” I became a “rogue operative.” See? Even the language is sexy.
That’s when I decided to harrass and kill Randy Trent.
I mean, why not? What had reason and civility, fair play and good manners, empathy and restraint ever done for me? Nothing, that’s what.
Why should I die alone? Why should I die like a sheep, while this brutal thug lifts a glass of cheer with his adoring friends? Why shouldn’t I take this bully with me? This bully whose reign of terror cast a shadow over my youthful life that—let’s be honest—exists to this day?
Why not? I’ll never have a better chance.
Oh, don’t worry, loved ones of Randy Trent. I don’t expect you to understand. That’s not the purpose of this communication.
Blame me, of course, for what’s about to happen to him. Blame Fate, too. With a capital F. For surely Fate must have had something dire in mind for your beloved Randy, when she swept him into my path at such a perilous juncture, mere moments before I would have sheepishly pulled the plug on myself.
Tough luck, indeed.
I’ve given myself an eight-day stay of execution. I’ve given myself a reprieve until June 30th, my birthday. I’ve made a new plan.
And I want to clarify something here. I’m no old hand at harassment. I’ve never stalked anyone before. I’ve never tormented anyone. Unlike Randy Trent, I’ve never made someone’s life miserable just for the sheer sport of it. I’ve certainly never killed anyone before. These are all first-time additions to my job jar.
Read on, officers of the law, loved ones of Randy Trent.
Read on in these journal pages and you’ll find my reasons for everything I’m about to do.
Maybe you won’t like my reasons. I’m prepared to accept that. But I can promise you this. My reasons for killing Randy Trent will be at least as good, at least as valid, as his reasons for tormenting me, all those years ago.
And now, to get things started, I’ll give you a reason. My first reason.
It’s a reason the Randy Trent I once knew would surely have understood and appreciated. Here it is.
Because I can. That’s why.
Because I can.