Sold a copy of AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL

On Thursday, a reader of my novels asked me if I had a copy of my latest work with me. I said that I did. He wanted to purchase it, so I trotted out to my car, retrieved the copy of AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL and brought it to him. He gave me a check; I signed the novel for him and thanked him for his continued support.

I believe in supporting artists.

I own three original paintings by a fine artist I know personally. His name is Austin Power and he works out of NYC. His watercolors are delicate but speak volumes about the human condition. I love them as I love him.

And so, I thank those of you who support me! You have no idea how much you mean to me as a novelist and a person.

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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.”

Chapter 28 from novel AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL by Carley Eason Evans — rough draft

AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL

by Carley Eason Evans

2014 Copyright ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

28 – Simple Discipline
(Max Peterson)

David — in one of my last interviews with him — told me that when his mother, Hazel Mock punished him — it was a simple and direct punishment. She made him stand with his face close to a tree trunk in the front yard no matter the weather, no matter how many neighbors or automobiles went by, no matter if other children made fun of him or even threw things at him. Hazel Mock insisted he stand for at least an hour with his face as near to the bark of the tree trunk as possible. “She didn’t want a mark on me,” explained David. “If I pressed my face up against the tree, she’d yell at me to step back a bit. She’d scream, ‘Don’t you do that, Rich. Don’t you dare.’ My mother had a strict but simple policy.”
“So you’d just stand there?”
David nodded, “Yep in the rain, in the snow, in wind — you name it, my mother had me standing in it.” And he laughed.
__|__
Michael verified this. “Yes,” he agreed, “our mother did make Richard stand with his face toward this big tree we had in our front yard — actually I think you’ve seen that tree. You know the one —.”
With Sandy Whitehead, I later looked through photographs of the Mock residence and indeed, the oak tree was rather large but was off to the side of the front yard so I’d not noticed it when I visited. Earlier, I had asked Sandy to take a few photographs of the house surreptitiously, which she’d done, of course.
__|__
In the interview, David told me, “Once a kid threw a rock at me. He hit me here —.” David pointed to his left temple. “I stood bleeding as the kid laughed at first then got scared and ran away. My mother was on our porch, knitting I think. She saw the kid throw the rock. She knew it hit me. She just sat there with her knitting needles — I think she was knitting — and when I turned toward her, believing she’d want to see how hurt I was, she screamed at me, ‘Rich, don’t you dare.’ And I had to stand there for another thirty minutes with blood streaming down my face onto my shirt. I don’t remember if I cried. I bet I didn’t. But I do remember I was angry.”
“At your mother —.”
“At the kid mostly,” said David. “But yes, at my mother, too.”
__|__
When I spoke with Michael, he denied that Hazel Mock disciplined him in the same manner. “Oh no,” he said, “my mother never made me stand outside in the rain and snow. That was Rich’s punishment, not mine.”
I asked him, “So how did Mrs. Mock punish you?”
“She didn’t,” he explained. “My mother left disciplining me to our father.”
“And how did Mr. Mock punish you?”
Michael looked at me blankly as he’d done other times. He shook his head and commented that I was getting awfully personal, as he’d done at least one other time.
“I think it’s pertinent how your father disciplined you,” I said.
“Well,” said Michael, “it wasn’t much of a punishment. My father didn’t particularly enjoy disciplining — and that included disciplining Richard. Our father was — well, still is — a gentle man. He doesn’t raise his voice; he doesn’t care to hit. He did on occasion wield a belt but always with a measured calmness, never in anger and certainly never in rage.”
“So why did he hit your mother?” I asked.
Michael blushed. He had a large bite of buffalo burger in his mouth and he just spat it out onto the plate. “My father never hit my mother,” he stated.
“She said he did,” I offered, cautious.
“My mother told you that my father hit her?”
I nodded.
“That’s ridiculous,” said Michael. “Richard told you that.”
“No, David — I mean, Richard — reacted like you just did. Well, he laughed actually.”
“My mother must be getting senile,” said Michael flatly.
I ventured, “Do you think perhaps it was your mother who hit your father?”
Michael knocked his cola over — the dark liquid moved across the table and over its edge. I scooted my chair back, stood up to avoid getting wet. He said, “Oh, I’m sorry.”
“That’s okay,” I said. I took several napkins from the black holder in the center of the table and wiped up most of the cola. A waitress came with a dry cloth to clean the rest. I thanked her.
Michael sat perfectly still. He had stopped eating. He looked at me. “I don’t understand,” he said.
“What?”
“I don’t understand why my mother would say that about my father.”
“So you don’t believe it?”
“I don’t,” he said.
__|__
That weekend I drove back to the skilled nursing facility to visit with George Mock on the Alzheimer’s unit. I wanted to know if Hazel Mock had ever hit him.
George was running a low-grade fever, but the nursing staff allowed me to visit him in his room. When I came in, the old man was in his bed with its head cranked up to around forty-five degrees. He was pale but his eyes were open. He grinned at me, said, “Oh there you are.”
“Hi, Mr. Mock.”
“Call me George,” he said. “And you are?”
“I’m Max, George. Do you remember me?”
“No, I’m afraid not.” He smiled, said, “For a moment there, I thought you were Michael — that’s my firstborn son.”
“Yes, I just saw Michael the other day,” I told him.
“You did? Where? At the school?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “I saw him at a cafe in Hot Springs.”
“Hot Springs?” he asked, obviously bewildered. He said, “I didn’t know Michael had moved back to Arkansas.”
I shook my head, sat in a wooden chair which I’d pulled up to the side of the bed. “Mr. Mock,” I said, “did Hazel ever hit you?”
“Hazel?”
“Your wife.”
“Is she here?”
“No,” I said.
“Where is she?”
“I imagine she’s at your house,” I answered then asked my question again. “Mr. Mock, did your wife ever hit you?”
He smiled.
“What?” I asked, almost involuntarily.
“Nothing,” said the old man, then smiled again.
“Mr. Mock, did Hazel hit you?”
“Once,” he said.
“Once?”
“Yes, she hit me with her damn Impala one Sunday morning. She was backing it up too fast and clipped me — knocked me right down on my ass.” And the old man laughed. Tears welled up in his eyes. He said, “Oh how I miss her — my Hazel.”
“But,” I said, faltering, “she never hit you with her fist or an object?”
“Oh, good Lord, no.” He frowned. He sighed and repeated, “No, good Lord, no.” Then he grew still, added, “I hit her.”
“You did?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Often?”
“Every time I was angry at Richard, I took it out on my sweet Hazel.”
“That was often?”
He nodded, tears flowing freely now.
“Thank you, George.”
The old man looked at me, confused. He leaned forward so that his head came off the pillows, asked, “Who are you anyway?”

A Shorter Excerpt from AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL by Carley Eason Evans

AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL

Carley Eason Evans

2014 Copyright All Rights Reserved

17 – Hazel Mock

My interview with Mrs. Mock was one of the strangest I’ve done in my career — a career that spans twenty or so years now. She didn’t want to meet with me at first; didn’t want me in her home. Once I convinced her to let me inside, she showed me what I came to see. My interview developed over time — after she showed me the way into her basement, pointing, “The collection’s down there, but it’s boxed up. I always hated those things. Wish I could have talked George into keeping them in the attic instead of the basement. You know, Mr. Peterson, I had to move my washer and dryer into the kitchen ‘cause I couldn’t stand to be down there with those dead things.”
“I can certainly understand that, Mrs. Mock.”
“Oh, call me Hazel, Mr. Peterson.”
“Well then Hazel, you must call me Max.”
“Oh no,” she said, blushing, “I can’t do that.”
“Why not?”
“‘Cause you’re a professional,” she explained. “You deserve your title of respect.”
I remember I raised my eyebrows. I actually felt them lift. Then the now elderly woman pointed again to the dark wooden staircase leading into the basement. She pulled a string to turn on the overhead bare-bulbed light, and said, “Right down there. You can’t miss ‘em.”
When I came back up, she must have noticed my dismay. Hazel Mock offered me a cup of black tea and I took her gesture of kindness to mean she might allow me an interview. I nodded, said, “Please ma’am.”
“Well, I guess you’d better sit down then,” she said, pointing to the lumpy couch near the front window. “I got some cookies, if you’d like.”
“Yes ma’am,” I said. As she stepped from the living room into the kitchen, I added, “That’s quite a collection down there.”
She turned, looked at me, “I don’t want to talk about those dead things.”
“Okay,” I said. “Perhaps we can talk a little about your twins.”
“Maybe,” she said and disappeared behind the wall separating the two areas of the house. I stood up, followed her into the kitchen. She turned, looked at me, said, “I thought I put you on the couch.”
I blushed. “Yes, ma’am, you did. I —.”
“Call me Hazel,” she said.
“Yes, Hazel you did. I thought we could talk while you make the tea.”
She put a silver kettle on the stovetop and turned on the gas — the pilot failed to catch. She took a wooden match, struck it and lit the eye — blue flames shot around the black circle as if to wink at us. “There,” she said, then looked at me. “Damn house is falling apart.”
I glanced around her kitchen. The windows were dirty; a few dishes were piled in the sink. Clean clothes were stacked neatly atop the washer with dirty ones heaped on the floor in front of the dryer. A broom lay across the floor at a back door as if it had fallen and she hadn’t bothered to pick it up. I ventured, “You’re not like Richard.”
“What?” she asked, then said, “Oh, you mean I’m not a neat-freak like my second-born?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“No, I’m not. I’m more like Michael — or should I say, Michael’s more like me. Rich and I are like strangers. I never connected to my son. I wanted to, believe me. But Rich was not — how do I say it? He was not accessible.”
“Accessible?”
The kettle slowly began to whistle. She ignored it.
“Rich was always sure I was going to be mean to him; he anticipated it. Even if my intentions were kind, Rich would see them as mean. If I asked him to take out the trash, I was accusing him of not taking out the trash. If I asked him to feed the dog, then Rich took that to mean I thought he was trying to starve the dog. If I told Rich he ought to do his homework before watching a t.v. program he liked, he would take that to mean he shouldn’t enjoy that t.v. program. Oh god, I could go on and on.”
The kettle was now fully whistling and she turned off the gas. She took a ragged dishcloth and picked up the hot kettle from the eye. Hazel Mock poured the boiling water over the tea bag in a clean white mug.
“Aren’t you having a cup?” I asked.
“Oh no,” she said. “I don’t drink tea.”
“Why not?” I don’t know why I asked her this, but I remember I did.
Hazel Mock looked at me, said, “It makes me mean.” Then she smiled and goosebumps leaped across my forearms. She asked, “Do you take sugar? Cream?”
“Yes ma’am,” I said, “cream.”
“You a Brit?”
“No ma’am,” I responded. “I just like cream in black tea.”
She put half ’n half in my tea, just enough, and handed me the hot mug. Then she gestured for me to sit at the small kitchen table which was pushed up close to a window. On one side was a narrow bench while on the other side were two small chairs. I sat on the bench as she sat in the first chair across from me. I sipped the hot tea. Then I asked, “So Richard tells me Mr. Mock beat him.”
“Yes, Rich always tells everyone that.”
“Is it true?”
“Is it true?” And Hazel laughed, tears forming in her eyes. “George beat me. That’s true, but oddly enough he never laid a hand on either of our children, Mr. Peterson.”
“Your husband beat you?” I asked.
“Whenever George was angry at someone else or something else, he got angry at me.” She sighed, added, “And if the anger he felt was because of Rich, then the beating was particularly severe, shall we say.”
“So, he did hate his son?”
Hazel stared at me. “Mr. Peterson, we both hated our son.”