N O W A
V A I L A B L E :
by David LaBounty
Publisher: Offense Mechanisms, an imprint of Silverthought
Maybe you like yourself.
Maybe you don't.
Maybe you're asking yourself
that very question right now as my words jar your curiosity.
But don't answer. Not now.
Maybe you're one of the virtuous
types without an ill thought in your head. Maybe your thoughts
are free of lust and violence and full of nothing but happy
and pleasant things. Maybe you're one of the virtuous types
and you pay your bills on time no matter what. You pay your
bills because it kills you to be late, to be behind, to be
in debt too long.
It kills you to be irresponsible.
And I have to tell you, irresponsibility
Maybe you're one of those
indifferent types. Maybe you don't give a shit what anybody
thinks about you. Maybe you don't care if you piss the world
off or if you fall behind on bills and payments and maybe
you don't care if you're working or not. You know everything
will fall into place. You know that you'll be taken care of.
You know that you won't starve and you know that you won't
have to live on the street and you don't care about a lot
of things, things like the grass that grows knee-high in June
before you decide to cut it, and maybe you don't care if your
kids are doing well in school and making friends and learning
how to be responsible young citizens. You hate responsibility.
It kills you to be responsible.
And I have to tell you, responsibility
But I don't want you to think
about yourself right now. This is about me, and maybe after
you understand me then you will be better able to judge yourself.
I am reminded of a line from
a song I heard about a million times in college, usually with
a joint or a beer in my hand. It wasn't a song I particularly
liked because it was stoner music and even though I puffed
I was never really a stoner but smoking weed was a requirement
in my fraternity of suburban white boys stuck going to college
in Bumfuck, Michigan.
All you create. All
What have you created? A home
of some sort, even if you're thirty-five years old and that
home is a bedroom in your mother's house. Your bedroom, your
space, is still a home. Maybe you've created a career. You
may consider yourself successful, working for some firm or
corporation and moving up some sort of managerial or executive
Maybe you've made a career
of manual labor, ditch digging, car washing, office cleaning.
No matter what it is, you've created something, a track of
something definable. Maybe you've created a family, a spouse
and kids that wouldn't exist without you. Maybe you've created
a family and it may exist in spite of you. Maybe you've created
love. Maybe you've created hate. I don't know.
What have you destroyed? I
don't care how virtuous and pure you are, you've destroyed
something. Friendships that drift apart, thoughts and memories
you don't want to keep. Maybe you've destroyed your pride
or your identity in an attempt to keep all of the things you've
created, things like your family or your career. Maybe you've
destroyed the things you love and tried to rid yourself of
the things you hate. I don't know.
And that's all life is, really:
a cycle of birth and death, of sorrow and joy.
A cycle of creation.
A cycle of destruction.
I know a little bit about
But I know a lot more about
destruction and there is a point in my life that I destroyed
everything and let me tell you a little bit about my life,
my life after the destruction:
I thought I would keep things
normal for a while and probably forever.
I thought I would keep the
dishes clean and the bed made and the rug vacuumed.
The contractors fixed up the
house and it felt new again. I thought I would have some pride
in the newness, a fresh start. A clean slate.
Yes and no.
The dishes are piled in the
sink and they spill onto the counter and I rinse them as I
I see no point in washing
anything and I don't want to pump you full of psychobabble
but I don't see the need for cleanliness.
I am more than dirty on the
I never make the bed nor do
I wash the sheets and they are stained with my sweat and other
fluids that I don't need to mention.
And the carpet. Well, it's
probably supporting an ecosystem of its own by now.
I can't keep things normal
because I didn't realize how indifferent I would be.
Maybe not indifferent; I still
fight the war and there is a burning in my groin that just
doesn't go away but I feel emotionally dead on the inside
and I try to look in the mirror to find clues. I love looking
in the mirror. My eyes used to twinkle and shine. Now they
look the same but they're empty.
Picture putting in a blank
videotape and hitting play.
I thought a burden would have
been lifted after the destruction and I thought I would have
felt vindicated. I thought I would have felt just. But I misjudged
myself; I misjudged the amount of love I actually created
for others. I misjudged the amount of love I destroyed inside
But you know how it is. You
know that the stress of living can bury all kinds of things.
Stress can bury love.
Responsibility can kill it.
And I've learned, through
all of this sadness and domestic disorder, just how sad I
am. I would kill myself if I wasn't so selfish and afraid.
I created this for me, to
ease my stress, to kill my responsibilities.
But stress doesn't end.
If you were to look at the
outside of my house you would think it looks normal enough.
It looks like every other house in the neighborhood. It is
a two-story Colonial with an attached garage and the roof
and gutters are still intact and I can afford to pay someone
to cut and edge the grass and trim the bushes. It is a typical
house in a typical suburb choked with typical houses and typical
And that's part of the problem,
so many people trying to be the same.
And if you were to look at
me, at least from the back or on my good side, you would think
I look normal enough. White male, fortyish, average height,
averagely overweight and driving a newer automobile just like
every other fortyish male in every other typical suburb.
And it's not like I've imploded
completely. I still go to work every day where I sit at a
desk and deny claims in order to make my six figures a year
and that may sound like a lot of money to some people. It
may sound like a lot of money to most people.
But enough is never enough.
I used the days that followed
the destruction to my full advantage. I used them to miss
work and I felt guilty about being so glad to not have to
go to work.
"I won't be coming to
work today. My wife and kids just got killed," and that's
all I said to my boss, who already knew what happened but
pressed me for details and piled on sympathy.
I gave him the details and
I took his sympathy as if I really needed his sympathy and
I cried into the phone like a grieving husband and father
should and I was so glad that I didn't have to go to work.
It was like the death of my
wife and children was worth it, worth the reward of sleeping
in for three weeks. The death was worth the reward of drinking
beer all day and every day and eating pizza and I did all
the things I wanted to do, after my three-week-long hospital
stay. I watched rented pornos until four in the morning and
woke up at two in the afternoon and went back for more beer
and more movies as if I was trying to catch up on my gluttony
and lust and sloth.
But don't judge me, not yet.
Each person deals with grief in his or her own way and my
way was to not grieve at all. I guarantee there are men out
there, recently widowed, who went out and bought a new set
of golf clubs or a sports car while their dead wife's body
was still warm.
There was the funeral and
I missed the funeral.
But I saw part of it on the
local TV news while lying immobile in my hospital bed and
there were a couple of cousins watching it with me and I cried
and looked forlorn and pious. But that was for the cousins.
I was far from pious away
from other people's eyes, back home behind closed curtains
and blinds, at home with a clutter of beer cans and pizza
boxes across the kitchen and living room. I was fine watching
young girls squirm and moan on my television screen while
the still slightly charred remains of my kids' rooms remained
undisturbed, their bookcases full of barely singed books and
toys, the still intact stuffed animals on their beds waiting
for them to someday come home.
And the stuffed animals are
I felt something like grief
later and I feel it now. Grief without sorrow. Grief without
melancholy. Grief that just is. I feel it as I try to live
like everybody else, as I try to feel like just-another-face
behind the wheel during that morning commute.
But no one has my face. No
one has the thoughts that go with my face.
And memories. You wouldn't
want my memories. I could kill myself over my memories.
But I'm too selfish and waaay
too lazy to kill myself. So instead I come home from work
every night, make myself a rum and Coke or a Jack and Coke
and I watch the network news and I microwave a dinner and
throw the empty carton on the kitchen counter or table and
there it stays until the arrival of too many ants dictates
that it's time to take out the trash.
I watch more news and then
maybe a ball game that I really don't care about and then
I get ready for bed. I brush my teeth and put on a stained
t-shirt and stained boxer shorts and I stare at my face in
the mirror for a long while. Try that sometime. You'll be
surprised how often your face changes as shadows fall and
as your eyes move in and out of focus. My face will change
a hundred times during my nightly half-hour stare-down.
I think it's because I'm a
hundred different people and if I am that means you are too.
I guess it just depends how
different those hundred people are.
I'm going to tell you a little
bit about the beginning even though the beginning has nothing
to do with what happened later.
I am going to tell you about
creation. I created a lot of things early on.
The destruction came later
and don't worry, there will be a lot of destruction later.
An uncomfortable amount of
Let's go back twenty-five
years or so. Let's go back to 1983 and I was right out of
college and I was thinner and I had more hair.
A lot thinner. A lot more
I was right out of college
armed with a business degree from one of the state colleges
in the northern Lower Peninsula, about four hours away from
my hometown suburb of Detroit and you probably already know
there is precious little that is homey about a suburb.
If you've been to Ann Arbor,
Michigan then you've been to Evanston, Illinois and if you've
been to West Allis, Wisconsin then you've been to Glen Burnie,
Maryland and so it goes.
Or, to make it clearer, if
you've been to a Starbucks in Kirkland, Washington then you've
been to a Starbucks in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Different
but not different.
I couldn't afford to go out
of state for school even though I wanted to. No one offered
me scholarships or anything so I had to go where my college
fund could send me, and that was to a small town full of poor
and overweight people who hated college students even though
they forged their meager existence out of them. Think landlords
and bartenders. Think campus security guards and fast-food
And I did well enough in college,
socially and academically. I joined a fraternity and my brothers
and I have since drifted apart even though most of them live
around here somewhere but we're nothing more than drops of
water in a giant sea of monotony. I went to most of my classes
and studied and drank a lot of beer. I got laid a few times
and I graduated without distinction and got my degree and
then it was a job for the same insurance company I work for
They hired me in at $19,000
I felt rich.
My old man said, "Attaboy.
It's a start. A damn good start. Play your cards right and
you'll be just like me." And I was all right with that
but I wanted a hotter wife than my mother.
Not that I judge my mother
on some sexual scale, but you know what I mean.
I bought a car. A white Ford
Mustang. I bought new clothes. Oxford shirts with stripes
and thin fluorescent ties. I bought polo shirts for after
work and on weekends and I turned the collars up. I bought
different kinds of hair gel and bottles upon bottles of cologne
and aftershave. I bought cassettes and a stereo and a VCR
and I rented a one-bedroom apartment along the same strip
that my office is on. The office building was then new, in
the shadow of a suburban mall, and it is made mostly out of
glass and pyramid shaped with a sunny atrium that greets you
as soon as you enter the revolving door.
I would learn to hate the
sight of that atrium and I hate it still as I walk through
it every day, past the plastic plants toward the elevator
that carries me fourteen stories up to my office at the top
of the pyramid.
I've seen a lot of people
come and go through that atrium but I still remain. I prosper
and thrive like a weed in an ignored garden.
I haven't destroyed my career.
I was hired as a customer
service rep and that's where I met Deidre, my future wife.
She was hired right out of college, too, a different state
college in a different small city and she also had a business
They hired her in at $16,000
She felt rich but she was
a little more practical back in those days and she moved in
with her mom (the next suburb over from where I grew up) rather
than get an apartment on her own and there she stayed until
suave and thin and feathered hair me swept her off of her
Or something like that but
minus the romance.
We sat side by side in the
phone bank and we would chit-chat during the idle moments
that were allowed a representative for Midwestern Accident
and Life and the chit-chat that went on for a few weeks led
to flirting for a few more weeks and that led to going to
lunch together every day for a few weeks and then after about
four months we finally went out on a real date. I picked her
up in my Mustang that was soaked in air freshener and I was
soaked in cologne and hair gel to keep my thick and long hair
close at the sides.
I wore a gold chain around
my neck and I'm too embarrassed to tell you what I put in
my cassette player when I picked her up but the singer was
a man in drag.
I took her to a nicer restaurant
near our office where all the Midwestern bigwigs went for
lunch. A steak and lobster kind of place. The kind of place
that used to exist in abundance before the chain restaurants
took over the landscape.
You and I, we've both eaten
at Chili's or Applebee's or maybe Ruby Tuesday or Friday's.
Maybe you're like me and you've
eaten at all four. A lot.
Anyway, I took her to dinner
and then a movie and back to my place and we screwed.
Just like that.
And then we got together once
a week for a few months. Dinner and a movie and then we screwed
unless there was a holiday or a menstrual situation or if
she forgot to take her birth control pills and the pills-she
kept them a secret from her mother.
Her mother didn't like me.
This I could tell and Deidre confirmed this early on.
"There's something about
you that rubs her the wrong way," Deidre told me as I
opened the door of my Mustang for her on a summer night. I
had made a reservation at a nice restaurant that really didn't
That kind of stung me a little
bit, not the not needing reservations but whatever it was
about me that rubbed her mother the wrong way.
"I'm a good guy
I'm good to you," I told her in a whiny kind of voice
to match my assaulted ego.
"I know that. I wouldn't
date you if you weren't, but she says there's something about
you." She buckled herself in and spoke without looking
at me and come to think of it, we always spoke without looking
at each other.
"What is there about
"I don't know. She just
says there's something wrong with you, something bad, but
I don't know what she's talking about."
"Well, that's bullshit,"
I said and I fiercely gripped the leather steering wheel cover
that I had installed earlier that week and my knuckles grew
pale while my face turned red. I was angry and it wasn't because
Deidre's mom didn't like me.
It was because even then I
knew deep down there was something wrong, that I could do
things that other people would find horrific even if I didn't
quite know what those things were, or would be.
"Hey, don't get angry,"
Deidre said and she put her hand on my zipper and I felt my
cock grow and she felt it too so she gave it a little squeeze.
"My mom just wants me to be careful, that's all."
I backed out of the driveway
and waved to Deidre's mother as she stood in the living room
window glaring at me.
She didn't wave back.
And she never did wave, not
ever, nor did she ever visit me at the end, after the destruction,
even though everybody else who knew me did.
Everybody but my father and
Back to the beginning of the
end of Deidre's life.
Deidre and I dated and went
to lunch and fucked and went to dinner and fucked for about
a year and after a year I was pretty much broke. I had missed
a payment on my Mustang and was late on my rent a few times
and that caused embarrassing phone calls while I was at work
and I had to explain myself and get defensive in between my
regular phone calls dealing with customers in an offensive
sort of way.
"Sorry, Mr. Jones, but
it's your fault you lost the use of your arm. Your policy
clearly states no walking on your roof.
"It doesn't matter if
you were cleaning your gutters or not. You're supposed to
hire a professional to do that for you."
And so it went until the bank called or my landlord called
and then my voice got really soft and I'd beg for forgiveness
and extensions and I would get them.
But my dates with Deidre got
cheaper and cheaper.
Instead of going out to eat
it was McDonald's in my apartment and she offered to help
pay for stuff and having Deidre offer to pay for stuff was
something akin to castration. A real man doesn't need his
woman to pay for stuff. A real man provides. A real man fucks
his woman's brains out and leaves her begging for more.
A real man doesn't have his
woman buy his quarter-pounders for him.
I had to give up cable TV
and I felt like such a fool adjusting my rabbit ear antennas.
I started to struggle. I started
to sweat a little between paydays. Money that had seemed endless
when I first started working soon seemed like it could never
possibly be enough and what cheap bastards my bosses were
for paying me, a professional, the same salary as school teachers
And they were cheap bastards,
my bosses at Midwestern Accident and Life. They still are
cheap bastards and they try to hang on to every penny and
that has been my job for most of my career, telling people
they're not getting any of our pennies, telling people they're
screwed for life after a tornado tears the roof off of their
house. I tell them they're screwed even when the roof lands
on their minivan and totals it.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Drinkwater,
but you declined the tornadoes in the spring coverage. You
would have been fine if this was a tornado in October
And yes, I sometimes have
a hard time falling asleep at night.
Even monsters have pangs of
Even monsters have souls.
But sleep, it always comes
eventually, sleep that is deep and still.
I struggled mightily with
bills for six months and Deidre stuck with me. We were in
love then and in lust; we couldn't get enough of each other.
And then we decided it was
time to take things to the next step and it was the Eighties.
We moved in together.
by David LaBounty is now available from Offense Mechanisms,
an imprint of Silverthought Press.