I’ve done a lot of things I’m ashamed of.

            Sleeping with my brother’s wife ranks right up there on the list.  Other terrible things I’ve done include voting for old man Bush against Clinton, voting for Clinton against Dole, leaving my three hamsters without food when we went to Disneyland — when we got back there was only one very fat cannibal hamster —  standing up Barb Kamp at prom,  laughing at a guy who broke both his legs skateboarding behind a tractor, throwing up on a baby, and eating a piece of prime rib while the Biafra famine was in full swing.

            Most bad things fade away over time.  Clinton did well even though I voted against him the first time out.  If Bob Dole had won in ‘96 we would have been spared Monica and George II, but it was a secret ballot so no one has blamed me.  The surviving hamster is dead, so there are no witnesses who remember the horror.  Barb Kamp got over the heartbreak and married a very successful executive —  I think he worked for Enron.  That skate boarder died during surgery a week after the tractor incident, but his family made a mint off the malpractice suit.  The baby had just thrown up on me, so it really wasn’t my fault.  As for the prime rib, I’m still ashamed, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  Besides, everyone’s forgotten where Biafra is.

            A little time always brings redemption — unless you sleep with your brother’s wife and she gets pregnant.

            The moonlight, the music, her perfume, the light sparkling in her eyes; the romance overcame me.  Yeah, sure.  I was drunk when it happened.  It was another stupid decision.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame the booze. 

            Whenever I drink, the outcome is uncertain.  I might just have a couple and head home.  I might get a little over-served and act silly.  I might wake up in Tucson at the Sleepy Hippie Hotel with a new scar.  I never know.  But the alcohol isn’t responsible, I am.

            In a crisis I’m O.K…  Day to day routine always throws me.

            After Torey was born, I sobered up for a year and a half.  I tried to patch things up with Mikey, but that didn’t go over too well.  As for Kim, well, she’s a hysteric.  You never know when she’s going to go off.  Besides, she was busy with her new boyfriends by then.  But I did try to spend a lot of quality time with the kid.  Like I said, I wanted to be a good “uncle.”  Not wanting to confuse the little guy, that’s where we left it.  Then one day I sprained my ankle, so I started drinking again.  Even with my “emotional distance” — that’s what Val calls it — he’s still my kid.  It’s a hard-wired evolutionary thing, I think.

            I just couldn’t wrap my head around the apparent reality of the videotape.  I told myself that it couldn’t be real.  I wanted to see it for myself.  Then, as that sank in, I realized I’d go nuts if I looked at a single frame.  I decided it was best to accept the fact that it was real.  I needed to approach this like any other traumatic life-changing problem.  I would pretend it had never happened.  That didn’t last.  My mind kept circling back to it and to my own sad past.

            I’m only going to mention this once, and briefly at that.  So listen carefully.  Never ask me about it again.  When I was twelve I was beaten, molested, and left for dead by a family “friend.”  Nobody knows except me, him, and now you.  He was killed a few years later in defense of our country.  His name, with many others, is on a memorial in our fair city.  I went and looked at it once.  I don’t go to that park anymore. 

            I only tell you about that because you need to know everything.  That’s the only way you’re going to believe me as things develop. I need to have some credibility or the story won’t make sense to you.

            I needed to go to Torey.  I knew he was going through hell.  He needed his “uncle.”  Unfortunately, I was in jail.  I wasn’t much help to anyone sitting here, wearing an orange jumpsuit, watching TV.  I needed some kind of drug — you can understand that.  So I just sat there comatose, my eyes fixed on the warm glowing screen, trying to suck a little escape out of it.

            Television was probably a bigger problem than alcohol for me, if you really broke down all the problems in my life.  I learned all problems are solved in a half hour — an hour tops.  I learned that families are cute,  that mom is pure and daddy’s wise, that dogs save you from abandoned mine shafts, that guns help,  that crime doesn’t pay, that foreigners are to be pitied unless they’re butlers, that money can buy happiness, that I needed that red convertible, that girls in bikinis like guys with beer,  and, since I pre-date cable, I learned that every day ended with the Star Spangled Banner.  It’s a dangerous level of understanding.  Because later in life, when I bumped into reality, I was screwed.  O.K., I’ll use the true word.  I was raped.

            There I was, trapped under a collapsed beam in the dusty old tunnel, and no matter how hard I whistled, Lassie didn’t show.  Hell, I’d have settled for the Taco Bell Chihuahua.  That’s when I started drinking.  I was thirteen.  I drank a lot.  But I didn’t give up on the tube.

            Like any first love, no matter how many times television disappointed me, I always ended up back on her doorstep clutching flowers, bringing candy.  I couldn’t give up on my lady.   I had a night to spend in jail.   So there I slouched, blinking up at “Entertainment Tonight.”  Tony Orlando was fat, but he wasn’t on cocaine anymore.  Gee, my life ain’t so bad.  Meg Ryan’s friend has breast cancer.  Why am I so worried about my petty problems?  Don’t get me started about Darryl Hannah.  I’m so self-centered.

            Somebody switched to some Japanese cartoon.  “The Power Puff Girls” darted around the screen like big fish in a small tank.  The colors did the talking here, straight to the cortex.  The media was massaging my soul.

            I was slipping away.  Now Vanna White was on; the essence of unattainable beauty with an oversized head.  Pat Sajak was so witty, I felt tongue-tied by comparison.  Maybe if I shopped at Sears I would feel better about myself.  I was going deeper.

            I really liked George Foreman, suddenly.  I’ll bet even skinheads use his grill.  How could they not.  I’d make a healthy choice and I’d feel better.  And then the spell snapped.  The news came on…

            Channel Six always started the broadcast with “The Big Story.”  Now in a town this size it was, more often than not, the grand opening of a new water park or a neighborhood dispute over sidewalk repair, but tonight there was a real big story.  The frosted hair and off-kilter face of Liz Smart entered my life again.

            “Tonight, police are searching for a missing boy…”

            She didn’t need to say another word.  I knew.

            “…Twelve year old Torey Jay Hutchence, of suburban North Park, has been missing since Sunday night.  His mother, thirty-three-year-old Kimberly Janus, reported him missing this afternoon….”

            Let me see, yeah, it’s Tuesday evening.  It’s dark out.  I had to organize my mind from scratch.

            “…after she had frantically checked with his friends, neighbors, and extended family.  According to my sources, the young boy had left home Sunday afternoon to spend the night with a friend.  Since Monday was a school holiday, the troubled youth was not missed until Monday night when he failed to return.  The most interesting aspect of this case?  The father of Torey Hutchence, the missing pre-teen, is convicted drug dealer, Michael Hutchence, currently charged in the death of prostitute, Theresa Header, whose mutilated body was discovered Sunday night, the same night the boy dropped out of sight.  My sources say police are very interested in what the murder suspect has to say about the fate of his son….”

            Liz looked so pleased with herself.  “Troubled youth”…”drug dealer”… ”prostitute”… ”mutilated body”… ”fate.”  The reporter had labeled everything so neatly.  It was easier to deal with things — to put them away — when they were labeled.  It really didn’t matter that the labels were incomplete, or even wrong.  Except to me.

            I stood.  Someone yelled, “Down in front!”  I just turned slowly towards the voice, and something in my eyes let him know he shouldn’t push it.  I went up to my cell and lay down.  I had to get out of here.  Mattie had promised charges would be dropped at my arraignment Wednesday morning.  Twelve hours — I needed to get out of here now.  Why hadn’t Valerie contacted me?  What was she doing?

            She told me she was going to “nose around” the investigation.  But now Torey was missing.  There was no time to “nose.”  It was time to tear everything up and roll everything over.  Time to get serious.  I started planning for my release — where I would go, who I would beat the shit out of.  I needed to calm down.  It was a real crisis.  That’s when I needed to be as cool as Bill Cosby on “I Spy.”  Young Bill, not the older “rotting in prison” Bill.

            I could handle this.  Val and I could make everything right again. Together we could do it.  She was clever and I was sober.  We could handle this. 

Unless I used the sheet on my bed to hang myself.


2 thoughts on “ON THE ALBINO FARM – CHAPTER 11

  1. Liz Smart on channel 6? I thought she was introduced as Liz Nice in chapter 2 when doing her initial report from the crime scene by the lilac bush?

    1. Good catch. Back when I wrote the book. Her name was Liz Smart all the way through. Then I came upon an anchor/reporter in Las Vegas named Liz Smart, and there was that kidnap victim… so… I changed her name to Liz Nice. I missed that one somehow. “Find and Change” missed it. You didn’t. I’ve found a few other errors and other readers have pointed out some glitches. Fun. Thanks, Dean

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