|Bad Aim (Another Short Story)|
|October 5, 1997|
Here's another short story I wrote. Faithful Whack readers will recognize portions of it from Weekly Whack 59. Hope you enjoy it.
"Will you stop pissing on me!!" I hate my neighbors. I shouldn't even be here. I'm not crazy. I may have did some crazy things, but I'm not crazy. These guys though, they're crazy. Take this guy. Please take this guy. He's my roommate. His name is Earl, but I just call him nuts. He thinks he's Jesus or something. All he does all day long is stand naked in the corner of the room with his arms straight out like he is hanging on a cross. And then, whenever you walk anywhere near him, he just starts pissing on you. It's like his way of baptizing people. It's just plain sick if you ask me. I don't know how he does it either. He must go all day without going to the bathroom, and saves it all until someone, usually me, walks by him. Why can't he just use a urinal like everybody else? I use a urinal. I'm telling you, I don't belong here with all these nuts. I don't know how much longer I can take it. I remember my lawyer telling me that if I used the insanity plea, I would be able to possibly escape going to jail. It made sense at the time. I mean I saw this HBO special about what happened in jail, and let me tell you, it wasn't for me. I wanted to avoid going there at all costs. So I took Mitch's, I mean my lawyer's advice, and told the court I was insane. Actually my lawyer was the one who told the court I was insane, I just told them the truth. I took the stand, demanded I was sane, and told them my whole story without a single embellishment. I think it probably worked better than if I got up there and said I was crazy. All I had to do was tell them I was sane, and everybody was convinced I was crazy. The prosecution didn't put up much fight, and the judge and jury definitely thought I was nuts. I really pulled a fast one on them. I guess that goes to show you that our justice system is really going down the tubes. But anyway, I was really grateful that Mitch kept me out of jail. I trusted him when he said being committed would be better. He was my tennis coach back in high school, he wouldn't give me bad advice. Plus he gave my parents a good rate because he knew me. I think it was also because he felt that he owed me something. I won some pretty tough matches for him at second doubles, made his job a whole lot easier. So I went along with his little scheme, and it worked. But I'm not insane though, I was just trying to stay out of jail. Thus here I am stuck at the Greystone Shelter for the Criminally Insane. I'm beginning to regret this. Jail couldn't have been this bad. I doubt everybody gets raped like they make you believe. It's just a scare tactic. And even if it is true, I bet after awhile you start to get used to it. It's definitely got to be better than being pissed on. Ok, now that we've gone this far, here comes the tough part. You're probably wondering what I did. That's the problem with people today, they're too damn curious. It's not enough to tell them that you got committed to a shelter for the criminally insane, they have to know what you did to get in there as well. But that's alright, if you want to know that bad, I'll tell you. I'm not ashamed of what I did, I had to do it. I almost was a hero, but like every hero, I had a flaw. My flaw happened to be aim. I only wish Earl here had the same flaw. But mine is a tragic story, and it is a story that the world must hear. I was born Jason Matthew Arenella in the year 1972. My parents were William and Judith Arenella, and they lived in the town of Succasunna, New Jersey. My dad worked for Hercules, a place where they made explosives, his whole life until they shut down. My mom had a job in the Department of Motor Vehicle office in the Ledgewood Mall. We weren't exactly rich, but, since I was their only child (most likely a mistake), we were able to get by living comfortably. I never really saw my parents much. My dad would always be downstairs working on something for work. He lived for his job. I think he was a genius or something. He could make explosives out of nothing more than Silly Putty and a plastic fork. But he was real anti-social. He never came out of the house or talked to anyone. It really killed him when Hercules closed down and he lost his job. It was like losing his identity. But my mom was the complete opposite, she was social butterfly. She would work all day, and then go out with her friends at night. Most of the time it was to Bingo. St. Theresa's on Monday, St. Jude's on Tuesday, Knights of Columbus on Wednesday, the firehouse on Thursday. The routine was always the same. She must have lost a fortune playing Bingo. And since she was gone, I was left alone in the house most of time as my dad tinkered in the basement. It got lonely at times, but I would just watch TV. I watched a lot of televison when I was young. When I went to high school, things really began to change for me. I attended Roxbury High, and I fit in there well. I could do no wrong. School came very easy to me. I was in the class with all the smart kids, and while they were studying and working hard, I put forth very little effort, and still got straight A's. I wasn't Mr. Popularity, but people knew who I was. The students respected me, and the teachers all loved me. They kept telling me how special I was, and how I was going to do such great things. After I heard it enough, I began to believe it. I didn't really participate in any activities though. Nothing ever interested me, only tennis. I played on the JV my first three years, and finally made varsity my senior year. The team was not bad. We never won states or anything, but we always had solid seasons. My social life left something to be desired. My love life was nonexistent, and I only had a couple close friends. I spent most of my nights hanging out at a place called My Favorite Muffin in a strip mall nearby. A lot of people from my school hung out there. Most of the time the owners called the cops on us because very few of us actually bought a muffin, but then we would just go somewhere else to hang out. A lot of the people were into drugs and what not, but I never touched the stuff. We didn't really do much, just sort of hung around. But hey, it was something to do. It was better than being stuck home alone every night. I was salutatorian of my class when I graduated high school. That's something that I will always be proud of. Sure my high school was filled with nothing but white trash, drug-users, and punks, but it was still a great accomplishment. I gave a speech at graduation and everything. I don't remember what it was about, but I do remember quoting Churchill a couple times. My dad didn't get to hear it though. He was too busy working on some equation for a new explosive to bother going to my graduation. But my mom said it was good. I was already accepted into Rutgers, and they gave me a decent amount of scholarship money. I didn't know what I wanted to study there, but it was still early. All I knew was that my life was going good, headed in the right direction, and there was no use worrying about the details. I was convinced that nothing could stop me. College was a lot different than high school. Roxbury was a big school, but Rutgers was huge. It's hard to feel special in a place with that many people. And there definitely wasn't anybody there telling me I was special. I was just another face in a huge crowd. I didn't lose faith though. I was still convinced that I was special. But my grades were average at best. It wasn't like the work was hard or anything, I just got a little lazy. I guess the motivation is different in college than it was in high school. In high school you have to work hard to get into a good college and get scholarships and what not. Your goals are very concrete. In college things are different. Unless you plan on going to graduate school, which I didn't, your only motivation for working hard is to prepare for your future. That's scary. I had no clue what I wanted to do in the future. I knew I was smart, I knew I was special, but I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. Thus my goals became frighteningly abstract. I had nothing to strive for in college, so I just glided along. I never joined any clubs, or went to any parties, just stayed in my room for four years. I didn't fail out, you have to really try to fail out, I just did what it took to maintain the minimum GPA required to keep my scholarships. After four years, I graduated as a nonentity. No awards, no distinguishments, just a degree in Liberal Arts. I told you I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, so I got a degree designed for people just like me. When I left college I was qualified to do nothing. I was still smart, I was still special, I just wasn't qualified. Employers wanted to see more than just a Liberal Arts degree from Rutgers, and I couldn't show them anything. You need experience, but I still wasn't sure what I wanted to have experience doing. So I went back to my old job at Caldors where I used to work summers, working the sales floor. My boss was nice about it. He said he would give me as many hours as I needed until I got my life in focus. They always needed people to stock, straighten aisles, and set up displays, so it worked out well for everybody. I also was able to afford my own apartment in no time. It wasn't much, the attic of an old house nearby, but it was all I needed. Sure I had to share a bathroom with the ten other people living in the house, and if I was a little taller my head would be scraping along the ceiling of my room, but it was a lot better than living at home. Three years later, and I was still working at Caldors. They loved me there. I never missed a day, I was never late, I worked hard, I was the ideal worker. I was never offered a full-time position there, but I was pretty much working full-time hours. Eight hours a day, six days a week, Caldors became my life. The only family and friends I knew were the workers that I saw for those forty-eight hours a week. And things were great with my co- workers. They gave me respect and acceptance. I really belonged there. It was like I was back in high school and I was the star again. I loved it, I was special again. It wouldn't be long before I got a full-time position, and then started working my way up to management. Things were going great for me. For a moment it really seemed like I had my life going down the right track. It wasn't long before my train started to derail. It all started when my old high school English teacher came into Caldors. I was cleaning up the toy aisle that some rowdy kids messed all up. She walked by as I was crouched over, and gave me sort of a double take. I was shocked to see her shopping there, and she was even more shocked to see me working there. "Is that you Jason? Do you work here?" She asked surprisingly, like my name tag and uniform didn't already answer her questions. "Yeah, I do, nice to see you again Mrs. Griffin." I replied. "How long have you been working here?" "A little over three years." "What about college, didn't you go to Rutgers?" "Yeah, I graduated, the job market was tough though, so I just kind of winded up here." "Oh Jason, you always had so much potential in high school. Don't let it all go to waste." Let me tell you, that really put a damper on my day. I never thought I was wasting my potential. Sure I was the only college graduate working the floor, hell most of the employees were either senior citizens or high schoolers, but I never thought I was wasting my potential. I liked it there. What did she want me to do? I tried to get a better job but I couldn't. This was the next best thing. And it wouldn't be long until I was a manager, and making some real money. She didn't know what she was talking about, but it really got to me for some reason. If the encounter with my old teacher wasn't bad enough, two days later an old high school classmate of mine came in the store. I was sweeping the kitchenware aisle when he saw me. Apparently he was visiting home, and Caldors was one of his spots on his tour de nostalgia.' "Jason, is that you?" He asked. "Yes it is, good to see you Patrick." I replied. "What, do you work here?" "Yeah." "Really? For how long?" "A little over three years, ever since I graduated college." "That's surprising, I always thought you would be some big shot corporate executive by now." "Well that wasn't the path I wanted to take. Sure it would have been faster than this one, but before long I will work my way up to management, and make a decent living for myself." "You mean you plan on working here the rest of your life?" "Yeah, I like it here." "That's great and all, but don't you want to do something a little more meaningful?" "Meaningful? What do you mean?" "You know, meaningful. Make a difference in the world. Affect people's lives, and affect your life." "Really, like doing what?" "Well take me for example. When I came out of law school I got these offers from big corporate firms where I would make tons of money, but instead I opened my own practice in inner city Newark. I take mostly pro bono cases, working for poor people and stuff, getting them the welfare they need, protecting them from the government, you know." "Wow, that's great." "Yeah, I love helping people. I'm making a difference, and I know when I die, that my life would have counted for something. You have to make your life count for something. Don't waste all your potential that you have." That was pretty much the straw the broke my camel's back. I couldn't stop thinking about what he said. Was my life really meaningless? If I die working at Caldors, will my life really not count? I began to doubt myself, and my life. And just as I was doing that, my boss called me aside. He offered me a full-time position, the one thing I was waiting so long for. That was the last day I worked at Caldors. Not only didn't I take the position, I flat out quit. I had to. I had to fine meaning in my life. So I took the money I had, paid a month's rent, and bought enough food to last me thirty days. That was all I would hopefully need, thirty days. I was going to lock myself in my attic/apartment, and not go outside until I found meaning in my life. It had to work, my life was banking on it. I didn't have the slightest clue where to start. So I turned on the TV. -Click- "Well Geraldo, my friends think I have some problem because I find Wilford Brimley sexually attractive." -Click- "...And the defendant's finger-prints were found all over the tube of cherry-flavored Chap Stick." -Click- "Not only will your three hundred dollar donation help fund fine programs like the one you were watching before we interrupted it, and help you watch public television without feeling guilty, but you'll also get a nifty tote bag." -Click- "Hi, I'm calling from Arkansas and I watch the Home Shopping Network everyday, and I would just like to say that I bought the five-speed miracle juicer, and it changed my life."
-Click -Click -Click -Click -Click -Click -CLICK
Cancel your subscription to TV Guide, you won't find meaning anywhere on televison. It's all a bunch of garbage. But I couldn't help thinking that TV is a mirror of society, a mirror of life. If there wasn't any meaning on television, maybe there wasn't any meaning to be found anywhere. Maybe Nick was just full of shit. Sure he was helping poor people, but there he was at Caldors dressed all nicely, wearing hundred dollar shoes and a gold watch. Where's the meaning in that? I was confused. I didn't know where to turn. So I called Dominoes to order pizza. I wasn't really hungry, I just needed someone to talk to. When the delivery person came, I invited him in. His name was Sam Stanlick, and appeared to be not much younger than myself. "Where can I find meaning in life?" I asked. "How the hell am I supposed to know?" He snapped back. "I don't know, I just thought you would know. You're in your mid-twenties, you deliver pizzas, don't you regret not doing something a little more meaningful with your life?" "Like what?" "I don't know, like maybe being a doctor, or teacher, or even a priest." "Man, they are just as meaningless as I am. They're just a bunch of phonies." "What do you mean?" "I mean there are still people that are sick, there are still children that aren't educated, and there are still people who haven't found salvation. At least I give my employees exactly what they expect. And all that I ask for back is a little tip." My brief conversation with Sam left me more puzzled than ever before. I was beginning to lose hope. Maybe there really wasn't any meaning to be found. Feeling helpless, I turned back on the TV. It had to be fate, because the first thing I turned on was a special on VH1 about Mark David Chapman. I heard of Chapman before, I knew he was the guy who killed John Lennon, but I never heard his whole story before. He was just like me. He was confused, he wanted to find meaning in his life. And apparently he found meaning by killing John Lennon. I didn't exactly understand how the two fit, but I knew it involved the book Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Like a man on a mission I sprung out of my apartment, and headed straight to Barnes and Noble. My hair and beard were overgrown, and I smelled awful. Everybody was staring at me, but I didn't care, I was going to find meaning. I bought the Cliff Notes to Catcher in the Rye and quickly rushed it back to my apartment. The first thing I read was the character analysis of Holden Caulfield. I understood it immediately. All the adults that Holden knew were phony to him. To him the whole adult world was phony. Thus he wished he could save children from falling into this phony adult world. Mark David Chapman believed the same thing. He saw John Lennon who said he was bigger than Jesus and sang about his vision for a Utopia, yet here he was living in the lap of luxury in New York City where there were countless people without homes who could barely get a decent meal from day to day. He was a phony, so Chapman had to kill him. He wasn't crazy, he was a hero. He was a savior. He definitely found meaning in his life. That's what I needed. All I needed to do was find someone who was phony and kill them. Man I was smoking, everything was finally back on the right track for me. It didn't take me long to pick out my target. He was Steve Tober, a host of a cable access show about high school sports called "Sports Connection." I was always a big fan of his. I would see him at football games when I was in high school and try and say hi' to him, but he would just ignore me. He always wore a nice suit like he was more important than everybody else, and watched the game from the sidelines instead of in the bleachers like the rest of us. Man he was a phony. I hated him at that moment. I had to kill him. I had to save the children from the phony adult world, by destroying it one Steve Tober at a time. That was my quest, that was my purpose. There was still some things I had to do beforehand, according to the Cliff Notes. First I had to ride on some carrousel in New York City. Just like Holden Caulfield and Mark David Chapman did. Well I had no plans on going to the city, so I did the next best thing. There was a carnival at Horseshoe Lake near where I live. I could just ride the carrousel there. And that's exactly what I did. Man what a spectacle that must have been. I was still unshaven, no haircut, no shower, and there I was riding a carrousel with a bunch of little kids. I'm surprised they let me on. They were probably afraid of what I would do if they didn't. But it was great. There on the carrousel, with the kids, that was real. There was nothing phony about that. After riding the carrousel, there was still one more thing I had to do. I had to hire a prostitute, but not have sex with her, just talk with her. It was going to be tricky, but if Holden and Chapman could do it, so could I. It's tough to find a prostitute in Succasunna, so I found the next best thing. I went back to my old hangout, My Favorite Muffin. It was still a big gathering place, and I could get a girl there to come home with me just by buying her a pack of cigarettes. And that's exactly what I did. Her name was Amy, she was fourteen. She came back to my apartment and was willing to do anything with me, but I just had to talk to her. "So, what do you think the meaning of life is?" I asked. "I don't know, sex?" She responded. "Sex? What the hell do you know about sex? You're just a little girl." "I know more than you think. Want to find out?" "That's just sick. I can't have sex with you, you're much too young." "Then why did you bring me back here?" "I had to talk to you." "About what?" "I don't know. All I know is that I have to save you, and all children from the phony adult world by killing Steve Tober." "Are you crazy or something?" Our conversation didn't last much longer, and I brought her back to My Favorite Muffin to rejoin with all her friends. I was now ready to complete my mission. I knew just where to find Tober. Friday night was the big football game between my old high school Roxbury, and Randolph. It was a huge rivalry, and Tober was sure to be there. All I needed now was a weapon. The only thing I had was a carbon dioxide powered BB gun. It wasn't much, but it had to work. I would have to get real close and shoot him a couple times in the neck. Hopefully it would be enough to kill him. Friday night quickly arrived, and I was ready. Tober was at the game patrolling the sidelines as usual. When the teams came back after halftime, I would make my move. The uniformed players jogged side by side out of the locker room towards the fields. I crouched down, with my hand holding on to the BB gun under my shirt, and moved stealthily along with them. I got onto the field without being noticed, and ending up face to face with Tober. I whipped out my gun, aimed it at Tober's neck, and pulled the trigger. Everything went in slow motion as I watched the BB fly past Tober, hit one of the Roxbury player's helmet, and ricochet back into my face, underneath my right eye. I quickly fell down, as the blood began to trickle down my face. Before I knew it, the entire Roxbury football team was on top of me getting in their fair share of punches. To make a long story short, I eventually regained consciousness, went to trial, told them everything that I just told you, and ended up being committed here. But I'm not crazy though. In fact, I think I learned something from the whole experience. There is meaning to life, you just have to know where to look for it. I thought I found it, but I had bad aim. Basically that is the problem for nearly everybody today: They just have bad aim. "Dammit Earl, will you stop pissing on me!!!"