By Carl Boon
I live over on Collier in a duplex with a Mexican girl who’s studying to be a nurse’s aid. She wants to work in a mental hospital after watching some documentary about schizophrenics on Channel 6. I tell her some of those people would just as soon stick a fork through her throat than shake her hand, but she doesn’t care what I think, so we don’t talk it about it much. Her brother uses my car to run weed up here from her other brother who lives down near the border, which I don’t much care for, but at least he keeps the tank filled and gives us an extra 25 bucks every week for the trouble. That helps with rent and groceries and Lupita’s textbooks, which are surprisingly expensive. Sometimes I look at the books while Lupita’s out doing whatever it is she does. There’s some crazy shit in there—voices and hallucinations, padded rooms and such. Once a week Lupita gives me the standard lecture on “Mental Illness in America”: we must think of it like a physical disease, she says, like cancer or pneumonia. Call me batshit, but I don’t see any similarity at all between pneumonia and being nutsoid. Maybe I need to read more books, but I don’t have a terrible amount of time. Between caring for my bitchy, ailing mother and my shift at the wallpaper factory, I kill people.
Girls, mostly. Mostly college girls who study up at UCSC and wear skirts that don’t reach below their knees. I don’t take any real joy in killing them—and if I did I could maybe make it stop. I can’t describe it except to say it’s something I need to get out of my system for a while. Sort of like rubbing one out in the bathroom on a work break, killing helps me focus. It calms me for a bit so that I can do other things better, more efficiently, like cutting paper or making dinner for Lupita. She’s not the sexiest girl in Santa Cruz, and nothing like those coeds from the Bay Area who come down to party and smoke weed and study sociology, but I like the way she looks when she forks a bite of meaty enchilada to her mouth. Sometimes just a smidgeon of tomato sauce escapes her lips and I like that. Then I wanna cum like a racehorse and just be still for a while. So we “do apes” (that’s her expression for sex) and she hops into the bathtub while I sit in the living room and listen to my Grateful Dead albums. We have a pretty good life together, and might even have a better life if not for my nasty habit, but what do the college kids say? It’s all good, man. Shit, at least we’re not living in some village in Vietnam. That would not be all good. Nixon’s a million times worse than I am. That son-of-bitch is a psychopath.
Lupita’s brother—whose name confuses me because I mix it up with the other brother at the border (Guillermo?)—always has the car back on Sunday night, and that’s when I go out because that’s the night Lupita interns at Memorial. She’s gotta follow nurses around and take classes on workplace safety and patients’ rights. The car being gassed, sometimes I cruise all the way to Frisco looking for hitchhikers and, because you want to know the gruesome things (I don’t think you care about Lupita as much as I do), the pick-ups are easy. It’s always some girl who’s gotta get home to visit her grandmother or another whose brother just got home from Vietnam. Get her in the car (or two sometimes), I bat her on the head and just keep driving. That’s the fun part—the drive between the batting and the destination. They’re like mannequins then. And then in some secluded spot the rituals begin. My favorite part’s the peeling of the panties and, of course, the smell. Pussy-damp and fear intoxicate me, but the business happens fast, and then I have a body and that’s all. The worst part’s the disposing of, and I do get sloppy at times (I’m not cold-blooded) and often have to still my nerves with coffee and pie at one of those truck stop diners. Man, those truck stop diners are like medicine for killers. Inside one of them, everybody looks scarier than me.
Lupita, of course, has no idea of my other life. She’s either busy with her brothers or working through the intricacies of psychoses, so I try to keep things simple when I’m around. I keep the bathroom spotless, I do the grocery shopping and the laundry, and just last Sunday planted nine begonias in three rows in the little plot next to our stoop. I like looking at beautiful things—pink and scarlet and white—and in the evenings sit on the stoop and think about our future. Maybe she’ll change her mind about the mental hospital thing—I don’t want her around those crazy bastards. Maybe her brothers’ll find a better life for themselves so that I can get my car back. As for me, I’m thinking about going back to school. I’m too tall for Vietnam, and don’t care for the state-sanctioned murder of other men who aren’t much different from me, after all. I always wanted to study chemistry. I was good at it in high school, and it might remind me of the boy I used to be.
( Bio: Carl Boon is the author of the full-length collection Places & Names: Poems (The Nasiona Press, 2019). His writing has appeared in many journals and magazines, including Prairie Schooner, Posit, and The Maine Review. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American Literature from Ohio University in 2007, and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at Dokuz Eylül University.)