Response to A Writer’s Path

Well, of course, I can’t find the original post (I’m almost certain it was entitled “HOW NOT TO PROMOTE YOUR NOVEL” or something close to that) on A WRITER’S PATH — why not a search box? At any rate, the post was a rant against self-absorbed, self-centered writers who wish to promote their novel on social media. I recognized myself in this post — yes, I don’t particularly like to read blogs; yes, I know there are thousands upon thousands of novels published each year; yes, I know few people are interested in discovering an unknown writer; yes, I know I should read other writers’ novels; yes, I know I can be annoying when I post about my latest work, etcetera.

I stop here to ask — what novelist is not self-centered?

After all, a novelist — one who actually sits down and writes a 50,000 plus manuscript — is alone most of the time. A novelist — one who creates another world filled with imaginary persons doing imaginary things with each other — is completely absorbed in his or her creation. A novelist — one who writes multiple stories over many years — has little time for much else (especially if writing these novels brings no or only little money to their bank accounts) other than writing and the work that pays the bills.

As for reading other novelists — I don’t have time for that anymore. I used to read. In fact, as a young person, you would not have seen me without my nose stuck in the pages of a real book. I read all the time. In fact, if I didn’t write now most of my time, I’d still be reading.

Presently, I keep writing while I continue to share my work with others. I don’t write for myself (like I did as an adolescent in angst). Instead I write for others — for my very small fan base, which I am trying to establish on my own, without much help from anyone else — except them.

Thanks, little fan base! Thanks.

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My Twin — Excerpt from AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL by Carley Eason Evans

AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL

Carley Eason Evans

All Rights Reserved

2014 Copyright

4 – My Twin

(David’s Journal Entry)

My twin brother, Michael and I used to dig holes in our parents’ back yard and bury our toy soldiers and plastic dinosaurs. We never talked about why we were doing this, but when we went back some years later to try to find our treasures, we couldn’t locate the little graves. Our soldiers and dinosaurs were gone — poof! Maybe that’s why I never buried my victims. Maybe I figured they’d disappear — poof! — just like my toys. Yet, I didn’t keep tokens. I didn’t take clothing or jewelry or pieces of hair or anything from anyone I killed. I didn’t want anything. That’s true — I didn’t need anything anyone of them might have had to give. I wasn’t interested in things. I’m still not. I did brand my victims, however. You know who is interested in things? Michael. Michael is interested in things — in treasures. I guess that’s why he’s a certified public accountant. He likes to take things into account. Somewhat surprising to me that he’s not the serial killer. But my twin doesn’t have the heart of a killer.
I recall a teenager I killed. You should know I didn’t rape him any more than I raped the little girl or any of my other victims, for that matter. Rather, I cut the teen from sternum to pubic bone and took everything out. Then I stitched him back up with fishing line and put him in the back of an abandoned car in a junk yard. I sat him up, leaning his head against the rolled-up back window on the passenger side of the big car. From a distance, it looked as if he was waiting for a girlfriend or a drug dealer. I remember I chuckled. But I didn’t take anything from him. I left all his guts — his internal organs and stuff — in the backseat of the car. I took nothing with me. I just walked away with only his blood on my hands and clothes. I want you to realize I shudder now to think of that young man sitting — dead — in that junk yard. I shudder. But when I killed him, I smiled. I was especially proud of my sewing, having never learned to sew. I know — what sort of a guy learns to sew?
My twin Michael didn’t learn to sew either. He went to a good community college and “made something of himself”, according to our father. Our father threw this in my face repeatedly. “While your brother is studying, what are you planning to do, Richard? I wish to fuck you’d tell me what you are going to do with your sorry life.” My life would have been a “sorry one” from the beginning if my father had had anything to say about it. And, of course, he did have much to say about my “sorry life.” Yes, that’s another joke — perhaps too lame for you. Little did my father know that I would graduate from college with honors.
At any rate, the hospital grounds are huge — the place is like a college campus but the asylum is just this — an asylum for the criminally insane. Michael visits me which is rather odd given our early relationship. We get along now. He seems to understand why I went one way while he managed to go another — a “better way” he says. He outright denies that our parents were abusive to me. The other day, he claimed our mother “loved us equally, Rich.” Then Michael smiled, corrected himself, “I mean, she loved us the same, David.”
I disagreed, shook my head. “No, Michael — she didn’t.”
He used to debate this adamantly but the other day he just teared up a little. I saw the glistening along the edges of his eyes and he sniffled slightly. He said, “I don’t know why you believe that of her. She was so kind to you.”
“No, she wasn’t.”
Michael looked through the bars at the large window of the visitor room, likely at the huge oaks lining the entranceway to the “campus”. He smiled, said, “Let’s change the subject.”
“Sure,” I said. But I had nothing to talk about so I waited. An awkward silence hung there between us. I looked at Michael as he stared out at the world. I waited. He looked back at me, smiled sheepishly — it seemed sheep-like to me — and asked if I’ve read any good books lately. “No,” I said. He waited for me to ask him if he’d read any good books lately but I didn’t oblige. I just stared at my identical twin.
Michael pushed his chair back and stood up. He paced over to the window, actually leaned his forehead against the bars. I imagined getting up, walking up behind him, pushing a knife between his shoulder blades. But — of course — I had no knife and even if I had I wouldn’t kill my only brother. I decided to be generous. “The superintendent showed a pretty good movie last weekend.”
Michael turned from the window, an outline of the iron bar across his face. “Oh,” he said, “What movie was that?”
“Silence of the Lambs,” I said.
Michael groaned, knew I was lying.
So often, looking at Michael is like looking at a mirror image of myself except something different is there — in his eyes particularly. Although they are as blue as mine, the reflections they produce are softer than the ones I see in mine — in a real mirror, that is. Michael doesn’t have that killer look, I suppose.
Dr. Smack met with my twin for several hours early in my stay — in my incarceration. I don’t know all they talked about but Michael did tell me that some of the discussion focused on our similarities — the most obvious one being the exact duplication of our physical traits. Why that mattered to Dr. Smack I’ve no idea. He’s an odd cookie. Michael also said this focus on our identicalness made him uncomfortable. “I wanted to run out of his office,” he admitted to me.
“He gave you the willies, hey?”
“Definitely.”
I remember we laughed and then Michael cried because his brother — me — was a convicted serial killer.
Michael has never asked me why I did it — he’s never asked why I killed little boys and girls, teenagers, middle-agers, elderly sots. He’s not asked me how I tricked my victims or why I chose those particular persons.
“So, did you enjoy Silence of the Lambs?” he asked after he groaned to let me know that he knew I was lying to him.
“Sure,” I said.
“You admired Hannibal Lector?”
“Oh sure,” I said.
“I liked Agent Starling,” said Michael.
“Of course,” I said. “You would, wouldn’t you?”
My twin smiled at me, sat back at the table. At the door to the small room was an armed guard. He was a substitute for my usual guards — Felix and Tom. I looked at the man. He was perhaps forty-seven, weighed maybe two hundred and sixty-five pounds, was around five foot-ten inches in his stocking feet. His hair was thinning and already fully grey. He pretended to ignore our conversation but he was listening. I wondered what he thinks of me — of Michael. If Michael and I were dressed in the same prison uniform (the superintendent denies that we inmates are garbed in prison uniforms but we are) I wondered if the guard would be able to tell us apart. I bet he’d confuse me for Michael and Michael for me. I bet. Then perhaps I might walk out of here, into the world again and find another victim. I know Felix is afraid that very thing might happen one day.
But, it’s not true that I would find another victim if I escaped. I wouldn’t kill again. I am almost one hundred percent certain I’m no longer obliged to take lives. Taking a life used to be — dare I say it? — fun. Fun? Exciting? Yes, exciting is a more accurate description of how I felt taking someone’s only life. Well up to a point, then it became a bore — only a means to an end. But this brings up a favorite truism of mine — there’s only this life, you know. There’s no afterlife. There’s no hell waiting for the bad people, and no heaven waiting for the good people. People are people. Life is life. Death is death. And death is just the end of living. Along that line of thinking, I want to add that perhaps life is just the absence of dying. Now there’s some circular reasoning, if ever there was such a thing.
So, Michael’s visit came to an end and he left me here in the mental hospital. I can’t switch places with him because of the prison uniform. He would never be willing to take my place for a day or two so I could get out among other people — normal people. Michael wouldn’t last one day — much less two — in here.
This morning when I woke up, I decided the time had come to set the record straight. I was tired of the lie and knew it was time for some truth.
D.S. October 9 and 10, 2008

Chapter 4 “A Version of Truth” from AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL by Carley Eason Evans

AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL

by Carley Eason Evans

2014 Copyright Carley Eason Evans

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
4 – A Version of Truth
(David’s Journal Entry)

The courtroom was crowded every day throughout my trial. People jammed the long pews in the back and in the mezzanine above. Families of victims cried — most of the time softly, occasionally loud and obnoxious-like. I hated those families on those days. Other days I ignored them. They were houseflies buzzing far in the background on the days they wept quietly. But on the days they moaned and even screamed openly, they were horse flies biting and then I hated them.
The first time I told the court the reason I killed the little girl, the audible gasps from the room stirred my stomach so that I howled like a tormented animal. That’s what one reporter wrote, “In the court this morning, Richard Mock, otherwise known as David Stone, howled for the judge and jury like a tormented animal…” and blah, blah, blah, blah. I’m sure I howled because the people in the room frightened me. The reporter wrote, “Mr. Mock appeared to howl in some desperate attempt to sway the court’s feelings of sympathy as if any could be sympathetic to this animal, tormented or not.” I told the courtroom I’d killed the four year old blonde girl because I was “bored out of my mind.” I may have been lying to myself at that time for I’m not entirely certain that is the truth. I may not have killed all my victims out of a profound sense of boredom and of the dullness of the march of time. At any rate, on the day I first confessed this motive, fear was my reaction to the gasps among the spectators and families. I was afraid. I’d not been afraid — except of my father — before that day.
Fear was — is — an intriguing sensation; in the court, it made me sweat all over my body. My palms became clammy and sticky with it. My tongue dried out, swelled up like a frog in my mouth. I had a hard time answering the questions being thrown at me by the prosecutor and even more difficulty answering my attorney’s questions, leading though they were. The lawyer practically spoke for me.
Nevertheless I answered every question with a steady tone of voice, and only once did the judge ask me to speak louder. My voice failed me when I spoke of my mother, growing so soft even the prosecutor leaned in to perhaps hear better. Here, even as I dealt with my own trepidation, I spotted his fear — the well dressed man was terrified of me, despite standing up in a setting of armed guards and a conglomeration of human beings. From my seated position, I smiled at him. I didn’t mean to do it, but I even showed him my perfect teeth. He stepped back, almost falling over his feet.
Then, I turned to look at the judge. My lawyer had told me to do that now and then — to look at the judge and open my eyes wide and to “try to appear innocent.”
I said to him, “Innocent? But, I’m not innocent. I did kill them.”
“Well yes, I know; but you have to appear not guilty to avoid the death penalty.”
Avoiding the death penalty didn’t concern me. So what if I got electrocuted or gassed? I did admit to myself and to my team of attorneys that I didn’t want to hang.
“I don’t want a rope around my neck; I don’t want to swing.”
I remembered loving to swing on the set in our local park. Every day after school in my elementary years, I went to the park to swing. But a rope around my neck didn’t conjure feelings of joy but only ones of dread.
At the park, the most noticeable absence was the absence of playmates. I didn’t have any — except my twin brother, Michael. Michael and I didn’t swing together — the swing set made Michael throw up. But we did play together. We were in most of the same classes in elementary school; by middle school, the principal began to split us up. I may be smarter than Michael but I’ve no tangible proof of this higher intelligence. I was in seemingly more difficult classrooms with more exacting, demanding, fuckingly-wicked teachers — teachers who expected tons of homework and more tests than Michael needed to do or take. I resented this. I resented him, but I also loved him. I love him to this very day. He looks just like me; since I love myself — surprising, isn’t it? — it follows I love him as much, perhaps more.
In the court, Michael sat with my parents behind the table where I sat and where my lawyers congregated like wolves. I thought of them as a wolf pack because I swear the hairs on the napes of their necks stood straight up whenever the judge ruled, “Sustained” on one of our opponents’ objections. The judge appeared to favor the prosecution, but my lawyers told me, “That’s natural. You confessed.”
Yes, I confessed to thirty different killings over a period of several decades. Having started my career at seventeen and not getting “caught” until I was in my late thirties, I had plenty of opportunities to murder people.
A year and half after the teenager — the one I sat up so carefully in the junk yard automobile — I selected a housewife who was shopping late in the evening. I cut her throat behind a grocery store, then simply walked away after removing a large blue gown and the bloodied pair of nylon gloves — both used in hospital care as personal protective gear. I explained during the first police interrogation in a little town in South Dakota, “Hospital gowns and gloves are easy to acquire. I bought them at a pharmacy in another town.” The investigating officer asked if I had a receipt. I laughed and said that I did not keep receipts of equipment used during my killings. “Don’t you think that’d be a little dumb?” I asked him.
He raised his eyebrows and nodded. “I suppose so,” he said.
“Yeah,” I added, “I’m not known for being dumb, sir.”
The man shook his head, smiled at me, said, “Well I don’t know. I think it’s rather dumb to confess.”
I felt my face go hot. I wondered why I confessed to a crime I didn’t commit. What was it about this process that was so fucking exciting? I know access to the crime scene was one aspect I found addictive. With the little girl, the crime scene was — well, amazing. She was found inside the trunk of a small car parked very close to her home. Her arms were tied behind her back and her eyes were blindfolded. She’d obviously been smothered. I got a few details wrong the first time through the interrogation but I fixed those mistakes in the second interview. It’s not difficult to frame yourself, I’ve discovered. The police are unwitting accomplices to the self-frame. If you get a detail wrong, they’ll actually tell you. They don’t seem to notice — or if they do notice — they don’t seem to mind that the next time through your story, you’ve changed some details that were incorrect the first time through. They don’t do much more than look up at you when you change a detail unless the detail conflicts with the facts. Then the officer will stare at you for a longer stretch of time, maybe put the end of his pen in his mouth, hold it between his teeth, and squint. He might even tell you what you got wrong or he might take you out to the crime scene and show you what you got wrong. The first time this happened to me was when I said I’d tied the little girl’s hands in front of her. The officer looked up, said softly, “Don’t you mean behind her back?” I blinked, said quick as a jackrabbit, “Yes, sir, behind her back.” Only then did he note what I said on the piece of paper before him. I remember the satisfaction that I felt when I saw that he believed me. He wanted to believe me. And I wanted to believe me, too. And — of course — that’s what acting is — believing. I’m a talented actor. Unfortunately, my acting career bought me a one-way ticket to crazy-land.
Because I confessed and because I learned to look at the judge with wide open eyes that — I suppose — appeared to belong to an innocent man, I didn’t get the death penalty. The disappointment of the families was palpable. The spectator gallery erupted into angry shouts. One father threw something at the back of my head and was immediately taken to the floor by several armed guards. He was hand-cuffed and dragged yelling from the court room. He yelled obscenities at me — nasty things I’d never heard before. I couldn’t help myself — I began to bawl like a little kid. My lawyer placed his soft hand on my shoulder and smiled at me as if to say how glad he was for me — a convicted killer of thirty people.
My lawyer said, “Just ignore them. They’re angry; they’re sad and angry.”
I looked at the families close by and I saw how they were indeed sad and angry.
The judge sentenced me to life imprisonment but not in a regular maximum security facility but in a special mental hospital in downstate North Dakota. I’d heard of the place but didn’t have any idea how isolated it would turn out to be. When I first arrived, it was quiet as a graveyard. No living people anywhere close.
These days the hospital grounds are not as far from populated areas as they were twenty years ago. Still there are mostly farmsteads and small communities nearby. An interstate runs north to south approximately ten miles to the west of the complex. Sometimes, I hear semi-trucks as they downshift to take the steep grade along the edge of the mountain range. The grounds are close to a national park forest. If I could get to the forest, I’d be home free. Hell, I’d probably get lost and die of exposure in the national park. No one would find my corpse. I’d just disappear like a few of my victims. Or — better yet — I might catch the attention of one of the big rig drivers cruising down the mountain ridge. I might hitch a ride with one of these drivers and get off the mountain. I might even kill — no, that’s not true — the driver, take his truck and disappear into the greater world. Once there, who knows what I’d do.
D.S. March 21, 2010

Chapter 18 “The Killer Heart” from AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL by Carley Eason Evans

AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL

Carley Eason Evans

2014 Copyright, All Rights Reserved

18 – The Killer Heart
(Max Peterson)

When David Stone spoke to me of Jesus in such a sacrilegious manner, I put my hand in the pocket of my jacket and began to fondle — that’s not the right word — the crucifix I keep there. I wear it sometimes, but more often I keep it in my pocket where I can touch it without disturbing those who do not believe. The horror I felt at what David said is hard to describe. I felt like vomiting but I’m a professional journalist and tend to keep my feelings under control. I’m not sure if David saw me crying. I couldn’t look at him after Felix hand-cuffed him. I used to wonder why Felix had to be in the room with us, but twice now, I’ve been grateful to have a guard there at the door.
I sat at the table with the crucifix in my hands, fiddling with it I suppose. I didn’t move for a long time. I asked God to forgive me — for at that moment I felt nothing but hatred for David Stone. I whispered, “What a sick bastard.”
“You get no argument on that,” said a voice from the door.
I jumped.
“Sorry,” said Felix, “I didn’t mean to spook you, sir.”
I chuckled and wiped my face, embarrassed. I looked at the guard who’d known David Stone for so many years. I asked, “How can anyone like that be allowed to live?”
“You mean, sir, why didn’t he get the death penalty?”
“No,” I said, “why was he allowed to be born?”
Felix shook his head, said, “I’ve never thought about it frankly. He’s an odd person —.”
“Odd?”
Felix nodded, continued, “I mean, he didn’t kill any of those people, you know.”
“He didn’t?” I asked, incredulous.
“No,” said Felix, “at least I don’t think he did. I mean, there’s no evidence, only his confessions. He changes his stories all the time. I’ve heard so many versions of the little girl, for example. I don’t think he remembers which one actually matches the facts. He doesn’t have the best memory now — not like he used to.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said.
“Talk to Mr. Mock again,” suggested the guard.
“Michael?”
“Yes, the twin.”

__|__

When we met at my urging, Michael Mock was surprised at my recounting of David’s tale about the knives. He said, “Well of course I knew he collected them, but no — he never told me about wanting to be like Jesus. God, that’s creepy, isn’t it?”
“Yes, I think it is.” Then, I asked David’s twin, “Why didn’t you tell your parents about the knife collection?”
Michael sipped the drink I’d purchased for him, leaned his elbows against the wooden bar rail and looked at me. He said, “Because Richard threatened me; that’s why.”
“He threatened you?”
“Yes, he showed me his one knife — a particularly frightening weapon — and told me he’d slit my throat in my sleep if I so much as hinted he’d bought a knife.” Here, Michael paused, then added, “I believed him, Mr. Peterson.”
“Max,” I said.
“Okay Max, I believed my brother. He looked perfectly capable of handling that knife, even at twelve and his threat was not idle either. If I’d spoken to our parents about his plans, he’d have killed me, Max. Of that I have no doubt.”
“But, do you think he killed that little girl — Alison Lister? Or that teenager, Steven Miles? Or that other girl, Sandra Lord? Or Stevie Jones, the little three year old? Did he kill those children?”
“I’ve already told you what I think, Max.”
“You think he lied?”
Michael nodded.
“Yet, you think he would have killed you if you betrayed him?”
Michael nodded again.
“Then he must have the heart of a killer,” I said.
Michael nodded, said, “Yes, that he does.”
“So much for being like Jesus,” I whispered.
“My brother, Max, is not anything like the Jesus described in the bible,” said Michael.
“David said that, too. That he wasn’t interested in being like the Christ except that he wanted the power to leave his parents — escape them — and to show up authority, I suppose.”
“My brother,” said Michael, “wants power over our emotions. He wants to pull a string and make us afraid of him.”
I nodded as I’d seen David do just that to Sandy and to me. He didn’t seem capable of making Felix afraid. I wondered at that. I turned toward Michael on my bar stool and asked, “Are you afraid of David now?”
“No,” said Michael.
“Why not?”
“Without his weapons, my brother is harmless,” said Michael. Then he smiled and added, “And besides, his knives are at my house.”
“Your house?”
“That’s right,” said Michael.
“How?” I asked. “Wouldn’t the police have kept them as evidence?”
“Up to a point, yes — they did. But after seven years, they released the collection back to the family — which is me, essentially. Our mother certainly didn’t want them, and our father — well, by then he was dribbling on his shirt, so to speak.” And Michael smiled again.
The second time Michael Mock smiled, I cringed. There was something in his smile that was disconcerting — not exactly like that something in his brother’s eyes, but similar.
“Don’t worry,” he continued, “the collection is perfectly safe.” Then he leaned in, raised his glass toward mine on the bar, and asked, “Would you like to see it?”
I looked at Michael, said, “Yes, I suppose so.”
“Good,” he said simply. “I’ll show you.”