by Dan Edwards
As a child I never dwelled on the subject of murder much. Oh, I might have wanted to get back at another kid for some dirty deed they did to me, but with all the bullying, needling, and general kid-abuse I suffered, murder wasn’t an option—that is, until the curse of adolescence came upon me in Junior High School.
In my initial brush with near-murder, I didn’t quite kill the other kid; however, his five-day hospital stay got me expelled from classes and made me an untouchable at school when I returned. The principal called my parents and soberly learned our family secret which I had figured out for myself many years before: the two people that gave me life didn’t appear to have much interest past the initial act. They were working on careers that precluded raising offspring. My dad traveled, and when he would finally work me in for a meeting, he frowned a lot. Wrinkles from his nose up. My mom frowned also, but hid the wrinkles with the low-density cement she smeared on her face. I remember wondering, were all families like mine?
Another unsuccessful, attempted near-murder occurred in high school and that episode got me sent home for good. I was tired of faking interest in school anyway. I, Barely Parr, didn’t need a formal education; I could absorb everything I needed by osmosis from just living my life and watching television. Mr. and Mrs. Parr had no idea that they had accidently produced the Messiah of Social Change.
A short time after my exit from public school, the Beatles convinced me that a revolution was necessary to replace Capitalism with a worldwide love of everybody. Peace, love, and bell bottoms! But that proved to be just as disappointing as believing that I was a normal kid. My genius mind eventually worked it all out: you can’t love everybody. Some people just don’t deserve your love. In fact, some people just don’t deserve to breathe.
So it was with that revelation reverberating in my brain, I decided to embark on a mission to rid the world of the lower-than-scum, extreme miscreants that were ruining life for the rest of us. This was surely my calling, because it excited me when nothing else would. After all, we exterminate harmful insects, euthanize rabid dogs, kill poisonous snakes—the list goes on of necessary eliminations that somebody has to take care of. In the end, with my mission accomplished, I would announce globally that everyone could now relax and enjoy life as it was meant to be.
I was born with musical talent, so even as a high school dropout, I could always get a job. In the sixties and seventies, beer joints and nightclubs in the South were like bus stops—one popped up every few blocks or so all over town. Back then, the bars all had some funky little house band that could get through enough danceable tunes to make a night. And the bar-hopping regulars didn’t care about the musical ability of the pickers anyway; they mostly sought alcohol’s ability to make them act cool while playing musical beds. What an excellent environment for rubbing shoulders with the targeted subjects of my important mission!
Not to justify my mission, which needed no verifiable justification to the mentally astute, but to explain a relevant point in the execution of my tasks, I was patently opposed to the act of murder. Not for any moral reasons mind you, because my parents never took me to Sunday School, but only since I felt that a substantial number of governments around the world were not taking care of the problem themselves. Removing the curs of humanity was plainly the job of the world’s politicians; they were more suited to it than the rank-and-file average citizen. The perfection of my plan to eliminate certain individuals from the population without resorting to the aberrant practice of killing was what set me apart from your average social genius. My remarkable BIG PLAN came upon me with my first serious love affair.
Girls at school were always a lot of fun for me. They could be talked into anything short of sex, especially the ones that had a dysfunctional home life like me. On my first music job, a woman named Madeleine heatedly confessed that she still lived at home with her parents, and at twenty-two, she did so want to be on her own with a man by her side. She only came in the bar where I worked each night to ease the misery of being under her parents’ dictatorial rule. After a few nights together, she told me that she loved me and so I repeated that sentiment back to her. Actually, this time it was true. I had fallen in love with her due to the eager passion of her misery. I offered to let her bunk with me at my place. “Thank you, Barely,” she said, “but only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.” When I asked why only two days a week, she accused me of sounding like her father.
Well, Madeleine wrapped herself around me for a couple of months until I was a fool goner for her. Then one early morning when we were out of whisky and cough syrup, she let it slip that her mother and father were actually her husband and some other woman he kept around the house. Instead of revealing my rage at being suckered, I played the sympathy role. She was desperately distraught and a little miffed that I didn’t earn enough money to keep her if she left her rotten hubby. She raved on and on about the unfairness of life and allowed that her marriage was just a sham. Worked herself into a real tizzy fit. Without stifling my innermost disdain for her social choices, I blurted out that possibly self-destruction was her only way out. “Right on!” she gushed, but only if I would go too. It took some ardent and intense convincing, but she ultimately talked me into simultaneous suicide.
That very night we sat in her car, her in the driver’s seat. With the barrels of her husband’s matched, antique pistols in our mouths and the Beatles’ “Revolution” screaming from the dash speaker, we counted it down. At zero, she squeezed the trigger and I didn’t. I wiped down the gun I had touched, replaced it in its velvet-lined case, and left it on the seat in her Corvair. I removed any other prints from where I had sat in her car, exited, climbed into my old pickup and split for my apartment. The seeds of a highly workable plan had sprouted.
Some might feel that Madeleine’s husband deserved the same as she got; however, he had placed the “other woman” right there in the house with his wife so he wouldn’t have to lie about anything. That took a certain amount of honesty I decided, so I let him slide. Besides, there were plenty of other snakes in the pit to choose from.
Occasionally on a busy Saturday night, I would gaze down from the stage at the dancers gyrating around the dance floor. Quite often, those self-conscious bumpers and grinders resembled the animals on the nature shows on television: bobbing and weaving around like two exotic birds circling each other—the males looking for an opening, and the females coyly trying to show one. A fairly normal scene I guess, until one of those dancing female birds would smile up at me, and pardner, there was nothing coy about those smiles. Since many of the club-hopping women either came in with a date or their husband, as a matter of respect, I wouldn’t smile back. Yet, every so often, especially in the winter when it was cold and thoughts of a warm snuggle filled my head, I would smile back uncontrollably. And if memory serves me, I would also smile back in the summer when the eighty-degree southern nights heated up everyone’s biological inclinations as well. Now, that memory brings me to Sheila.
Sheila was a big girl with big needs. She needed big food to sustain her big energy. She needed big bucks to make her big Cadillac payments. She needed big men to satisfy her big need for compatible friendship. Why she picked on little old me, I couldn’t figure out; I was an even six foot and diet-pill skinny. After giving me the short version of her long story, I fell in love with her too. What a fun gal! She loved to get high and it didn’t matter on what. She loved to go out dancing every night, which was right up my driveway because I worked six nights out of seven in a fancy Texas dance hall. My music pay had gotten much better by then also. So, we swung together for about two or three months until she too dropped a bomb: she told me she had several bad organs that needed transplants. Did I know anyone? When I stuttered out a shocked “N-no,” she said that money would also help. Did I know anyone? “Well, no,” I grunted and then heard the previously dormant long version of her story. Her parents wouldn’t give her any more money because they were raising her three kids and she hadn’t been to see them for six months. Some mother she was.
Three kids! Was she married? She wouldn’t say one way or the other. Her résumé also listed several arrests for possession and possession with intent. My passion for her cooled rather quickly. It wasn’t really love anyway. When the rapid, libido cooling reached thirty-two degrees F, I told her that I had no money to help her and my friends weren’t into the donation thing. She faked a good depression attack so I told her to get high, she would feel better and forget all about her troubles. She went for that. She was already chronically drunk so I fashioned a plan to facilitate her space cadet aspirations. That night after the gig I deposited one hundred bennies into a Rexall candy box and dropped it through the mail slot in her front door. No card. I never missed the cheap uppers (by then I was downing twelve at a time) and I never missed her. I hope I did her children a favor. Society will thank me someday.
The next night two of her friends came in the bar soliciting money for her funeral. I handed over twenty dollars and assured them that, “Cremation was the latest rage.”
Now I wouldn’t want to leave the impression that I only had it in for women. My next socially engineered plan gave an old school chum exactly what he deserved. At my north Dallas high school, the worst thing a boy could do in the early sixties was to get caught smoking in the boy’s room. Big Chester Haire took the worst and made it worser. Chester impregnated three honor roll girls who quietly disappeared from classes. When it became apparent that Chester was the head stud hoss in charge of conception, he laughed it off and challenged anyone who opposed his amatory hobby to prove that he fathered any children. Paternity testing was as distant as moon walking back then.
So I and several of my fellow folly-mongers decided to teach Big Chester a lesson and snap him out of his evil endeavors. Of the five boys who planned the attack, Chester wounded three with his pistol and slashed me and another fool with his switchblade. I didn’t see him again while I was still in school. Then years later on one slow Thursday night at the Circus Bar on Denton Drive, in he walked. I knew him right off because he had a bulge about the size of a revolver under the pocket of his sport coat and a long, skinny bulge in his pants pocket exactly the shape of a formidable switchblade knife. Like a movie, the memory of the night he shot my friends and stabbed me played out on the wide Cinemascope screen in my mind. Back live in the bar, I watched while he played touchy-feely on every female within arm’s reach. It was him alright. Out of respect for his victims I immediately began to connive another plan.
The only other person I knew who packed heat was Marsha the bartender. She and her pistol were always loaded and ready for action. Marsha looked like a blonde fireplug with squinty blue eyes. She was strong as an ox, a male ox. I wanted no part of Chester’s action so I slipped off the stage at break time and circled around to the bar.
“Hi, Marsha, gimme a Stinger,” I said and drew a bead on her steely blues. “See that big fella with his hand on the waitress’s…?”
“Yep,” she replied quickly.
“Someone told me that he’s had his eyes on your fluff.”
“On Lois?” she roared.
“That’s what they told me,” I stated with all the honesty I could muster.
“I’ll kill the SOB,” she said and reached under the bar.
“You better hurry, Marsha, he keeps looking Lois up and down.”
Marsha plowed down to the end of the bar like a Sherman tank in the North African desert. As she approached Chester’s position, he sealed the deal just like I knew he would.
“Hey barkeep,” he barked, “pour me up a rum and coke and be quick about it.”
“I got your rum and coke right here,” Marsha snapped and raised her pistol.
Chester went for his, but it was too late. She waited just long enough for him to get his hand around the pearl handle, then, she squeezed. The loud pop from Marsha’s weapon brought on an impotent gasp or two, but mostly a light buzzing sound filled the room. Just another shooting… ho hum.
“Somebody call the law on this fella,” Marsha ordered. “He drew on me and I had to shoot him.”
And that was all there was to it. After the ambulance and the cops left, we returned to the stage and played a danceable cover version of Jody Reynolds’ hit record, “Endless Sleep.”
For the next few years I had some pretty good hits and several disappointing misses in my campaign to expel the world’s bottom-feeders from society. Sometimes I used the simultaneous suicide plan; sometimes the overdose plan; and sometimes the extreme jealously plan. All were devilishly fun to execute. Proudly, I had come up with, THE BIG PLAN. The plan to end all other plans. The colossal plan that would install me as the head potentate of the social engineering crowd. I had never been the head of anything before.
Somewhere in the mid-seventies, my band got a break. We were honored with a contract to tour several important cities across the South: Shreveport, Biloxi, Jackson, Key West, and a few smaller venues between Texas and Georgia. My campaign, my mission, could then be expanded to other hotbeds of sin that were defiling the warmer portions of our great country. Today, Jackson, Mississippi—tomorrow, Chicago! New York!
Our drummer quit in Biloxi. Said he felt uncomfortable in my presence. I believe he had some emotional problems that he was dealing with that impeded his ability to reason correctly. We hired a cool cat right off the stage in the lounge at our hotel and he and I hit it off right away. Here was a guy that saw the world as I did: a truly wonderful place to live once you deleted the riffraff. Never before had I divulged my great mission to anyone, yet, this dude had a mind almost as big as mine. We bunked together; we took our meals together; we shared groupies together. Me and Mattly Crow were tight. One early morning in Dothan, Alabama, Mattly and I were having a bowl of watery chili after the gig and I laid it all out. And just as I suspected, he was duly impressed with the plans I had used to accomplish my magnanimous goals. He also agreed with me, my BIG PLAN would shoot us to the top of the list in the revived New Deal, the Great Society, and the coming Era of Change!
It had occurred to me before that I possibly might need to franchise my efforts out to cover a more broad area of the world’s population. Yes, it would be risky business in light of all the bored policemen out there looking for someone to nab. Not concerned for myself, of course, since I was fervently opposed to murder, but the members of our team who might over-zealously be tempted to bypass the established plans and just shoot the low-lifes on sight. Franchisee training would have to be strict. Anyone caught murdering would be flogged publicly in the square. A lot of hard work to be sure, but worth it in the end. Any crusade for enlightenment has to have its authority figures to force the people to comply with what is best for them.
Mattly, who suggested round-aboutly that he had been to law school, drew up our franchise agreements and loyalty contracts. During our next month on the road, I signed up twenty-two incredibly smart people who agreed to use my BIG PLAN to remove only the most repulsive of the mad dogs of society. We didn’t charge a franchise fee because we might someday decide to apply for charity status on our taxes. Since our MO might inexplicably be misconstrued by some to be a little shady, we ordered everyone to spy on each other and report any non-compliance immediately. This worked well in spite of the Gestapo reference remarks of a small few of our followers. Tattletale or Gestapo, it didn’t matter, we knew that common people can’t be trusted to police their own behavior.
This common human behavior unexpectedly reared its ugly pointed head in none other than my semi-trusted partner, Mattly Crow. His brilliance must have been more than his mind could handle and he began to deviate from the published rules of the BIG PLAN. Delusions of dictatorial entitlement found their way into his rhetoric, leaving me to wonder how a man of his social intelligence could drift so far afield. Daily he got worse, until one afternoon on a dusty street corner somewhere in Georgia, he finally snapped. He commanded that we round up everybody that didn’t conform to our version of propriety and gas the lot. Think of the travel expenses we could save, he declared loudly. When I reminded him that the BIG PLAN did not include outright murder, he bristled. It seemed to him that I was letting something as insignificant as morality get in the way of social progress.
“But outright murder,” I explained, “makes us no better than the vermin we seek to remove from our Great Society.”
“Au contraire,” Mattly boldly interposed, “we have risen above the bourgeois concept of morality. The vermin problem must be addressed by those of us on a higher level. It is our duty… our destiny, to accept this responsibility thrust upon us by the degradation of society. Only we know what is best for the world!”
By the time he reached the end of his rant, he was panting and sweating. “Sit down for a moment,” I told him calmly, “and get yourself together.”
“Never shall I sit!” he bellowed for the entire world to hear. “Not until my BIG PLAN is taken to its final conclusion! My name will go down in history! Crow! Crow! The people will shout my name from the rooftops! Crow! Mattly Crow!”
His BIG PLAN? Wait a minute, it was my BIG PLAN. He staggered and grabbed my shoulders to steady himself. Then, as if delivering a line in a low-budget war movie, he dramatically whispered, “Barely, are you with me? Will you stand beside me? Tell me Barely, are you willing to kill to elevate the whole of society up to our level?”
I pondered for a moment. “No Mattly, I don’t believe I’ll do that,” I sincerely stated.
“But you must!” he shrieked. “You’re a committed member of the elite! You’re locked in! You can’t back out!”
His back stiffened, his chin shot out, his voice rose an octave as he taunted tritely, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem! Common! Average! Unknowing! Unfeeling! Just another cockroach on the kitchen counter of life!”
His roaring had drawn a crowd. The previously empty, small-town street corner where we stood became surrounded by nosy, peeping, prying, inquisitive busybodies needing a diversion from their one-horse existence.
“You… are a traitor!” Mattly screamed. “A lowdown traitor to the elite group that I so painstakingly founded!”
In my face and back down to a whisper, he repeated, “A lowdown traitor… you’ll have to step aside or be eliminated, you know that don’t you.”
“By who?” I grunted indignantly. “You?”
His wild eyes widened and his face flushed to crimson. “Yes, by me,” he replied sardonically.
When Mattly thrust his hands toward my neck, I hit him. I punched him so hard that he was out before he hit the ground. Some silly female screamed and everyone froze for a moment. Then two good Samaritans knelt over Mattly’s prone figure.
“Why… this man is dead,” one of the fellas said.
The other whipped out his cell and punched 911. Two more farmers seized my arms. “Murderer!” one of the women yelled. “Yes, murderer!” cried another.
“Stand easy,” the man twisting my right arm behind me said. “You’re in big trouble now, you long-haired, low-life punk. This town don’t tolerate killers. The more vermin like you we can take off the street, the better off society will be.”
Now, here I am in a dank city jail somewhere in Georgia. There’s no use trying to explain to the authorities that Mattly had threatened me… or that he reached for me first. It seems the folks here are very diligent about removing the vermin from their streets. A worthwhile labor, I concur; however…
As I sit here on this filthy cot in my cramped cell, I earnestly pray that someone will find this narrative. Jailhouse conversion? Not really. I knew He was there all along. If someone can benefit from my experience, good for them. My main mistake was to trust my BIG PLAN to a fellow human. Because no matter how intelligent they are, they still can’t be trusted.