Chapter 3 of my latest novel, Terminal. Soon to be pitched to editors by my agent. Check earlier posts for the previous chapters. Warning: intense graphic content throughout the novel.
Lester the Molester was a folk hero of sorts.
That seems strange to say.
Lester never molested anyone, at least to my knowledge, but the name was a moniker given to him by residents of the town. Despite the fact that it was shameful, the title came as sort of a badge of honor to Lester, who, became part of the unique lore of the town of Rosedale.
Lester was a middle aged man, unkept, quiet, and unassuming. He kept to himself, was socially awkward, and had a longstanding history of mental illness. This is a history I could probably look up and provide to you, but like most of the residents of Rosedale, I know him based on hearsay and assumptions.
Lester is more legend than man now, after all.
I should get to the point.
Lester liked to pee in odd places.
Well, I guess not so odd. Plenty of animals and even people have peed on cars and storefronts, but for whatever reason, Lester had to do this in front of other people. The incidences were isolated at first, spread out by months of times, but like a serial offender they soon began happening more frequently. First, he was spotted pissing on the grocery store, grinning and giggling as he released the pressure. Next, he popped out of an alleyway and drew a line in the sidewalk no pedestrians dare cross. He doused the door of Nick Losinno’s sedan as he stood screaming at him from his porch, and went a step further by trying to pee on Jon Duff’s shoes as he stood waiting at a traffic crossing.
No one really knew who Lester was back then. The paper shared the stories like they were a part of some urban legend, and everyone around town was on the lookout for the “phantom pisser” roaming the streets of Rosedale, waiting for his next opportunity to strike.
Seriously, a local printing shop made t-shirts geared towards tourists. “I survived the spray in Rosedale, PA.”
The shop went out of business, for what that’s worth.
The thing was, Lester was never violent or aggressive with these acts, and every time he attempted to conceal his penis from view. Whatever voyeuristic pleasure he gained from the act, Lester never came off as dangerous, just deranged in a sad enough way to be viewed as entertaining.
And this is how the mystique was born.
Suddenly, people had a scapegoat. A reason to talk shit on the town without having to mention their own personal failings or lack of an attempt to leave it. Lester was the hero Rosedale deserved more so than it needed, one that allowed residents to laugh at and hate themselves without being aware of it.
We all need outlets.
Lester never really got the help he needed, as far as I know. He was fined a couple of times, spent a week in the slammer, but was always thrown back onto the streets. He had nowhere to go and no one was really keen on helping him. It wasn’t until the “downtown brown” incident of two years ago that Lester was looked at as a real problem. This was when he shat a load so huge upon the floor of the twenty-four hour laundry mat, the owner was convinced it came from a diarrhea-stricken stray dog.
Security footage revealed the truth. Lester, grinning like a rosy-cheeked child on Christmas day, had waltzed into the laundromat in a calculated strike, and, in all of his glory, laid his goliath dookie right center in the floor, never once breaking stare with the security camera.
Unlike you and me, this man will be remembered.
I forget what happened to Lester after that incident, but he was “sent away,” whatever that means. Some optimists in town believe he is finally getting the help he’s always needed, while others, who also fashion themselves as optimists, perpetuate the story that Lester is still out there, mysterious and elusive, pissing freely like a sasquatch with a bladder problem.
Some questions are best left unanswered.
I think about Lester as I walk out of the hospital into a cold spring day, the sky milky gray and overcast. Lester is the unofficial mascot of Rosedale, a town so rural and downtrodden he’s still the biggest talk of the area, only the omnipresent rumor of a new Taco Bell occasionally taking the mantle.
Rosedale is the central hub of Wayne County, an area so isolated that some folks have to span fifty or so miles for basic goods and services, including medical care at Rosedale Memorial Hospital, the only real option they have.
See: up shit creek.
See also: without a paddle.
To put Rosedale’s situation into perspective, my ass wiping job, currently starting at 10.15 per hour, is one of the highest paying jobs available in the town.
See: The American Dream.
Did you know the suicide rate in small towns is twice the rate of that of urban centers?
Does that surprise you?
I walk down the sidewalk, uneven and filled with cracks so deep they can masquerade as potholes. I pass the park,where children as young as five play unattended, their parents uninvolved, uncaring. These children are dirty and foul-mouthed, and I hear a series of swear words as I walk by.
The good thing about Rosedale is, as a town devoid of culture, expectations, or standards, it’s okay for parents to neglect their children. It’s always okay for people to be exactly what they are.
Okay, I’m being a bit of a downer. I shouldn’t be so judgemental. I should focus on myself. But I am out to accomplish something. I’m not talking about murdering patients; I’m working towards something on a much larger scale. Something that will not only wake this town up and give the people a newfound appreciation for life and opportunity, but also cement my legacy and ensure that I will be remembered forever.
We all want a taste of immortality.
Even if it’s a knock-off brand.
I walk onto my street and head towards my home. It is the eleventh home I have lived in during my life, though all have been in the Rosedale area. It’s dilapidated, so small it appears to be cowering on it’s own weed-strewn lawn. The windows are dusty and cracked, and the gutters overflow with water, leaves, and a buildup of muck.
I think about Rebecca and her idea of representing on the outside what is within.
The door is unlocked but I have to crank the knob a few times to get it to open. I walk by three of our eight cats and step over a few piles of clothes and an overflowing garbage bag and into the kitchen. There Mom sits, obscured by the towers of unpaid bills and old magazines, mail and junk piled upon our dining table without rhyme or reason. Every day the size and location of the junk towers change as we readjust and move them to make room for our dinner plates.
Mom is drinking wine. She’s also crying, puffing on a cigarette between each sob. This isn’t an unusual scene for this early in the day and I greet her with my standard level of avoidant enthusiasm.
“Hey Mom,” I say.
“Trevor,” Mom cries. “I’m sorry, Trevor. I failed you, I’m so sorry.” She appears nearly hysterical and I see a bottle of pills near her slippered feet.
“Sorry for what?”
“I…I…” she heaves. “I should have been…been there for you. I should…I should have loved you more. Oh God, my baby boy!” Mom wobbles in her chair and for a moment it appears she’s going to topple.
Mom has her moments.
Most of them involve rehashing the past.
“Don’t worry about it, Mom,” I say. Sure, there were the times when she left me and my brother unattended. And yes, she passed out plenty of times because of drugs. And certainly, it sucked eating Cheerios as my only sustenance for four straight days, but the past is the past, isn’t it?
I mean, we all make a series of mistakes.
Most of us every day.
“Come back to me Trevor,” Mom rasps.
“I’m right here, Mom, calm down.”
“Mom I’m right here.” This seems to get through to her. Mom’s eyes pop open and she smiles through the tears, revealing her coffee and cigarette stained teeth.
“Why were you gone so long?” Mom asks, her words slurred. Her hands move and fumble with the cigarette maker, hastily packing in wad after wad of tobacco as she slides the wrapper into position.
Did you know that an estimated 25 million people in the United States suffer from some form of substance abuse?
“I was working a double,” I reply.
“I worked today too, you know,” Mom says, swearing under her breath as the cigarette wrapper crumbles in the maker. Tobacco spills out the sides and joins countless other strands decorating our table.
“Yes, I know.”
“This…this thing…it’s…a piece…” Mom losses the word. “A piece of shit,” she mutters, slamming the cigarette maker onto the table.
That children of addicts are significantly more likely to develop addiction themselves due to genetic and environmental factors?
“How was work” I ask.
“It was tough,” Mom says. She wobbles in her chair and as she moves her arms to steady herself she knocks the bag of tobacco to the floor. It spills out and Chester, one of our cats, rushes over to gnaw on it.
“Damn it,” Mom says. “Oh well.” Her eyes return to me. “Work sucked. It was…hard…a rush. There was this..fat…fucking…slob who wanted a refund.” Mom’s hands scramble to pour more wine into her glass. She does this with a trained precision, nary a tremble to her hand as she tops off her glass.
That these children also have an increased risk of being physically and sexually abused?
And developing depression?
Mom slurps down the wine and it’s gone before she’s even a few sentences into her story. A thick splash decorates the right corner of her shirt, but she doesn’t seem to notice. Her words and story are incoherent, but Mom’s hands are as focused as ever as they pour another glass of wine. She rambles on, saying something about “wanting to slap the grease off of that inbred hog’s face” and wanting to “tell the manager to shove it straight up his narrow ass.” She then shares with me a particularly salacious rumor about her manager which she told me last week, and I take note of her vicious tone more so than the content of her words.
“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” Mom rasps, chugging the last bit of wine. She takes a long draw of her cigarette before coughing, smoke billowing into my face. “I don’t know how I put up with all of this bullshit,” she mutters.
I feel like I’m fading. Mom collects the tobacco from the floor, shooing Chester off, and I become distant. I’m not sure if it’s the exhaustion from the work day or another oncoming round of disassociation, but I don’t feel like I’m there.
My head hurts.
Everything is going black.
I hear the screech of the brakes, and then, a shrill beeping sound.
“Trevor? Trevor?” Mom snaps. She coughs again, this one wet and throaty. “Are you there?”
I snap back to it. I can feel my body again. I feel blood in my veins and for a moment the sensation is foreign.
“I’m here,” I say. “Just exhausted. I think work is getting to me. I have to get to bed; I have another shift soon.”
Mom looks skeptical. “Oh…fine…fine then. No time for your mother, even after I’ve had such a hard day.” She drinks from her wine glass but it’s empty. “It’s always work, work, work, with you, Trevor.”
“Well, we have rent to pay, you know.”
“Oh screw you,” Mom belts. “I damn well know we have rent to pay.”
“Has Jeff pitched in for it?”
Mom lets out a snort. “Oh don’t start this again. You always take an opportunity to harp on him. He has it so hard you know.”
Jeff is my younger brother. He has not held a job since high school and is currently twenty years old. He spends his days listening to music, playing video games, and getting high, usually on marijuana but he will occasionally switch it up with by taking some acid, OxyContin (often borrowed from mom), or shrooms.
We all have our hobbies.
“It’s not fair that…”
“It’s not fair that you pick on him you asshole!” Mom barks, waving her wine glass at me. “He got kicked out of high school, right off the baseball team too. You know how much that hurt him. How much he was traumatized.”
“Nevermind, forget I said anything,” I say. “I’m just tired. I have to go lay down.”
“Pfft, you and the rest of us,” Mom says. “ Fine, fine then, get to bed. I see where your priorities are.”
“I have a shift at seven. I’ll see you before I go,” I respond.
Mom waves me off, focusing on the cigarettes once again. “Yeah, yeah, I made chicken for dinner. Make sure you eat some before you go. You’re losing so much weight it looks like you’re falling through your own asshole.”
“Thanks Mom, I will,” I say as I walk out of the kitchen, Mom’s haggard coughs chasing behind me.
There’s a certain difficulty that comes with my mother and brother but I can’t stay mad at them for long. I suppose this comes from a place of understanding. A twisted sense of solidarity, perhaps. They have their vices, but don’t we all?
We’re all addicts in some way.
Or at least we want to be.
You have to wonder if the Devil is real or just the absence of completion in our own hearts.
I walk towards my bedroom. I hear my brother blasting music from his bedroom, the door rattling on its hinges as a heavy bass riff thunders outward. My brother is screaming, short of breath as he dishes out some type of freestyle rap. He records them and posts them on Facebook. I hear a snippet of the latest effort as I get to my door.
“Uh! Yeah! Your rhymes are from the bottom of the barrel! My rhymes are from the core. Bone Marrow. I come in like motherfucking Jack Sparrow. And yeah motherfucker I will wear a sombrero cause I don’t even care-o!” There’s a pause as my brother stops the music to listen to what he’s recorded. It’s short lived as I hear him smack his hands together and say, “oh shit! This is ill!”
I close my door behind me but the music still radiates through my walls. I’m long past the point of arguing with Jeff over the volume of his music. I sit at my desk, looking over the paperwork, eyes lazily listing over the schematics, the steps, the plan of action. In my weariness I feel accomplishment, a warm caress of purpose.
I’ll finally have a chance to make a difference.
I roll up the schematic and place each paper in the appropriate pile. I walk to my bed and lay down, closing my heavy eyelids. All my worries fade as I focus on my plan. They, like Jeff’s music, become background noise, and as I drift towards a welcomed slumber, I hear only one thing, a faded sound, distant yet booming.