Creative Writing – Where the Optimists Go

Witness to a Killing

W. James Jonas III

August 2006

From the top of the stadium, I could see everything they were doing in their backyard.  If one was not observing closely, it merely looked like an older couple preparing for a late afternoon gathering where the drinks would have ice, the food would be grilled, and the conversation would only turn nasty where politics or those not attending became the main topic.

From my perch, the scenario was much different.  Amazingly, I can hear them.  The noise of the street between us and my elevation seem irrelevant as their painful dialogue numbs me.  Even if I were not close enough to hear, I could have determined that they were talking, and it was not hard to discern the conversation based on hand signals and their murderous actions.  “Keep them under for another five minutes.  They look like they are still moving around.  Poor little baby.  Just go ahead and die.”  “You want a Coke?”  “I’m going back in to the house to get some more newspaper and garbage bags.”

It could be a tub for children to splash and play.  It could be a receptacle for a portable garden.  It could be a place for the ice and beer, but today it is a killing pool filled with water.

The old man struggles to pull the cage out of the tub of water after another five minutes.  The life that was in the small cage is no more and there only remains a collection of soaked hair and flesh.  The contents of the cage is dumped on to the newspaper as she returns with additional paper and the garbage bags.

Now I notice two other cages near the side of the house.  The imprisoned are very much alive but seem to sense their fate.

“The Lord will forgive us.”  She seems to have to comfort him before his next drowning.  “We have no clue as to who the parents are. We know we cannot afford to care for them, and we know that they will only grow up to be thieves and fornicators.  It is better that we are sending them to heaven now while their souls are still pure but for their birth.”  “Are we sure this is what God would have us do?”  “It seems to go against respect for life.”  “Look, we have to be practical.  These orphans show up in our backyard.  We tried to raise them, and when they grew up, they ran off to a life of stealing and destruction.  When we tried to eat them, it made us sick.  When we tried to bury them in the yard, the neighbors became suspicious, and the dogs tried to dig one up.  This is the only way.  Thank goodness the garbage gets picked up on Monday mornings.”

The monologue continued as the former life was wrapped in the paper, placed in the bag, and the bag tied before depositing it in a trash can.  The next cage was then submerged.

This all happened as I was catching my breath.  The stadium had been by refuge for as long as I could remember.  Running stadium stairs was introduced to me first as a form or aerobic punishment when a High School coach heard rumors I had been smoking, then as a form of rehab when an injury almost ended my pre-College football days.  For the last few decades, it is the place I go to work out.  My children prefer places with polished chrome and polished bodies.  My wife likes to work out in close proximity to her bridge table and country club cronies.  My choice of the high school stadium is more than nostalgia; it assures solitude.  Until now, that solitude gave me peace of mind.  Now in my moment of exhaustion, sweat, and relief, I have witnessed brutality.

The murderers do not look up, and further watching is impossible for me.  I know it is impossible for me to get to the back yard before the other two cages are submerged.

What causes someone to think they are allowed to end the life of another?  These elderly monsters have no understanding of what they are doing or do they?  Perhaps they realize the steps they are taking are brutal, but those steps are part of a world where solutions are lacking.

As I walk out of the stadium and back to my car, it is not possible for me to keep from driving by the home of the killers.  The shock of seeing a SUV drive up and five screaming children disembark and run to the front door to the open arms of the killers can only be described as creepy.  It is clear to me that these innocent children and their somewhat addled parents are going to spend the balance of the afternoon in a backyard where, but minutes before, killings took place.

I start imagining all the sick little vignettes that happen in this backyard on that particular afternoon.  That same garbage can becomes the place to put the used cups and empty cans.  The killing pool becomes a place where the children float little paper boats.  Perhaps they even dunk one of the younger ones in this tub as an “accident”  the kind five year olds know so well.

Is this the type of thing a “normal” person reports to the police?  Perhaps.  I have not viewed myself as normal for some time.  The idea that the police will believe me is doubtful.  Somehow, I know they will consider such a report of doubtful veracity and not worthy of investigation.  I can almost imagine those screaming kids becoming some type of character witness to protect the killers.  Who will believe that such loving grandparents would be capable of such actions.  My experience with the local authorities convinces me, a report filing will be a waste of the remainder of my Sunday afternoon.

Work the next day seems pointless.  I have a respect for life – all life.  That is part of my work and passion, yet yesterday, my actions did not follow my beliefs.  I got to work at 6:00am, but all I can think about is yesterday.  At 6:30am, my brain will explode if I do not take action.

The drive to the murder home takes only 5 minutes.  The garbage cans are out front.  It take only a lucky guess to find which of the two has been the unfitting temporary grave.  I am prepared to ignore or confront either of the wizened killers, but the only sound is of the approach garbage truck and yells of “hey who are you?” from a neighborhood busy body.  My escape with the three bags is quick, but my heart is pumping fast and I feel a bit out of breath.

Deciding what to do next was more inspiration than planning.  I knew that it was necessary for me to take steps that would avenge these deaths and bring me to peace with my cowardice of the day before.  As with most members of PETA, we all have friend in the business of creating large signs with inflammatory wording that can be anonymously placed in the yards of a murderer.  In times like these, it is good to know  someone in the taxidermy business as well.

The next Sunday morning.  The police did come to the house of the murders.  Unfortunately, their investigation was misdirected.  The four foot by six foot sign with block letters reading “MURDER HAPPENED HERE!” was soon removed as were the preserved bodies of the three little beings that had been placed under the sign, but not before our photographer had taken a photo of the display and the murders names, address and photo was on our website.

My work out  that afternoon was not particularly tough, but I did end with a set of stadium stairs.  For the duration of the running up and down, I could not bear to look upon that terrible backyard.  At the end of the session, I was breathless, and without thinking, the backyard was in view.  My jaw tightened as the setting looked very similar to the one I way last week.  There was the grill, the ice, and the tub. In a panic, I looked for cages – no cages.  The tub was filled with water, but there was only a toy boat floating on the killing pool of last week.

The man was sitting.  He looked happier than last week.  He had a bowl of bits of bread, carrots, and unshelled peanuts in his lap.  He was feeding … not killing … the squirrels.  “Here bunny.  Have a little snack.  You all are such funny creatures.”  Another convert, I will send him a membership application on Monday.


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