The Perfect Murder
by Yves Jaques
Just like a failed scene. Just? It is a failed scene: blood and shit all over the bed, your head lolling against my shoulder. So many things I never realized; no wonder nobody would touch it. Barely got an agent to take it. How many rejections? But I always kept trying. So fresh then, couldn't even fill a desk drawer with thank-you-but-go-screw slips. And then she took it for a fee, what the fuck was her name? Some nobody independent, Ann something. Ann Ma...? Who cares. Wonder if she even pushed it. Probably not. Probably had some nasty habit of giving failed writers a glimmer. Did she even push it? Look at this scene, Jesus I wouldn't have.
Pull the gun from your fingers, soft and warm your fingers; still warm this gun. Turn it over and over in my hands; shit I didn't know it was a magnum. Over and over crimson and clover, I imagined a neat little hole in your forehead. You, Pete, you had to stick it in your mouth. That flair for drama, even in the end, especially at the end. Black type on a white page, crisp and orderly. Where's my clean corpse with its neat little hole, its dead man's eyes? Like my book, only it's me with that dopey after sex look. Like my book, my character, wish wish wish. I want to smile, laugh at death, laugh at you, Pete; fulfillment. I want to stare out the window at the night, at the bookshelf, the plants watching on, green and still. A little red hole in the head. A magnum. God, no wonder your head feels so light against my shoulder, half of it blurring the line between headboard and wall. Half of it blurting: look at me. Where's the neat and clean; the clean and jerk, the All-American pre-suicide shit and shower? The clean little hole, the face like that of sleep, like in my buried book. So much I never realized. I'm a shit. I am shit. I'm a shitty writer. Joyce, and Burroughs in his footsteps, how did they know? All that crap pouring out, on the bed, on me. Didn't know you were so full of shit. Next time mix slow acting poison with laxatives. Next time. Right. God, I read Ulysses. Joyce, Burroughs; where was my mind? This is the place of dead roads. Such a mess, Death. Stylized Death. There's no stylized Death - just blood and shit and brains. You and the Dead, uncomfortable in each other's presence; do we want to trade places? Wondering.
Stare at the window, look at the books, wipe the blood from your eyes, stare at the plants green and still. Still. Green and red and still. Blue of body and red of blood and mute green vegetable, cold and still. Still. One shot, then still. Night outside, inside. Light inside, lampshade, one bulb. "Not in the dark, not in the dark," you said.
"Why?" I asked, and then with a click, "Okay, one light."
One bulb begging, baking shining red through the wetted lampshade. What was that little oven they used to push on TV? Little Miss something or other. Worked off a light bulb. Amazing; you could bake little cakes in it. Play Mommy. Invite your friends over for muffins. Wow. Wonder if some little girl ever wished she could crawl in. Gretel wants to stay in the oven Mommy.
The phone. Pick up the phone. Remember the sequence. One bang. One bang, hysteria, calm. Pick up the phone, remember the sequence. Call. Out of breath. Right there, three digits - on opposite sides of the grid. So you don't fuck up, so you don't call them by accident when you're just trying to reach out and touch someone. Reach out to Grandma in Des Moines, "Hello, Hell glad to hear your voice, love you too, been so long." Call Grandma because you can't cross the grid. Reach out and touch someone. An emergency, call your best friend and cry into the phone. Grandma on the floor choking, blue in the face. Your stupid fingers can't make the reach across the grid, the Leap of Faith -I Believe, I Believe, I Believe, I Believe, I Believe. The little engine that could. Belief and Faith. We jab at the Nine, reach for the One, maybe we make it maybe we don't, maybe we call Mabel; Faith. We babble about Death into the phone, Mabel hangs up and calls the crisis hot line, "My friend is thinking about committing suicide." The ambulance stays parked. Paramedics suck lozenges and coffee. Thought feeling action Death frozen on the grid. My Mom: Two Two Six - Four Three Eight Three. No big leap. The Twos on top of one another, the Six a short jump. You're off. The grid says "Hello". You don't need any Faith for that one.
But I don't want to call my Mom; she's dead too. Two years now. Who does live there? Is it the same number? If I dialed it would it ring in the same house, or somewhere else? The number belongs to that house. I could call it, it would be a stranger. I could pour it all out, "Look I killed him, he's dead. Tell me what to do. No, actually he killed himself, he's dead. Well really he killed himself, I watched. Tell me what to do." They couldn't even call the crisis hot line. They don't know who I am. Useless. Stylized Death. Cinema. TV. My book. The phone. Pick up the phone, like in the book. Remember the sequence. Look out the window, stare at the plants, read the titles popping off the bookshelf. You are a character in a book. Follow the plot.
Make the call. Say what? "Look at Pete, you have to come see him. Don't bother bringing the medics. Let them suck their lozenges and coffee; bring a hearse. An old style black one, like a puffed out station wagon with a hell of a lot of chrome - and I want a tall thin driver in an overcoat. Make sure he has slim wrists." Don't bring me a team of ruddy faced medics bursting in to our bedroom with crates of equipment. "Look here, his brains are all over the wall, saviors aren't necessary," I'll tell them, "Don't bother with the medics, let them suck their lozenges, tell them to have another cup of coffee on me, Joe DiMaggio says so, don't worry about oppressing Juan Valdez, I'm sending him a check personally, P.O. Box Colombia. I'm sealing the envelope as I cradle the phone. Honest."
Bring the hearse, the puffer fish, swallow him, take him out down into. Just bring the pale mortician and the grave Quincy. Calm, sobriety. No bursting thrusting pumping medics. I need someone who understands the nature of love; someone who knows that rust smells like blood, and that steel, chromed or oiled, is the herald of sterility. Just the quiet ones; the mortician in his black suit stands by the bookcase, staring blankly. Quincy leans over the bed fixing a fat eyeball on my supine quietude, fixes the other on you, Pete, and with a gloved hand props open your remaining eyelid. Quincy fixes a gaze on me, makes a vague gesture in the air, fingers curling, and says, "He's dead." I think no shit Quincy but just imitate his air and nod twice, up down up down, head on chin, very calm, very sober.
It's a signal. The mortician waves his hand in the air as well, silent complicity, as two Neanderthal goons emerge from the shadows and carry you out on a black lacquered board. Everything's in black and white; Death raps quietly on the half open door, enters clad in a splendidly threadbare suit, sets his calling card on the bookcase and follows the shuffling forms. End of scene.
No good. Stylized Death. Death is blood and shit and brains. God but blood smells like rust. My Radio Flyer, oxidizing in the rain. And I'm left with my thoughts. Alone with my thoughts. Alone. Five minutes ago Pete, you stuck your tongue down my throat and kissed me so hard that it hurt, my teeth jamming into my lips; your incisors bleeding my gums. "I love you," you moaned.
I said I loved you too.
Just like in my book. I'm her. She's me. She said she loved him. But youre not him. Pete you fucked up. The book says, "He shot himself neatly, a little red hole in his forehead, the bullet buried somewhere in his brain." The hole in your head is like a drooling new mouth, like a lubricated anus; of course she could call for an ambulance, his brains were still in his head. No, I missed it. A magnum, in the mouth, the muzzle against the roof of the mouth. Muzzle. Makes you think `Dog', big dog, some big shaggy thing, or a trim German Shepherd, poking its wet nose into your hand, rubbing its gums and teeth on your fingers. Frisking, jumping. The gun just jumped. No frisking. Bullet in the head? I missed it. It's probably somewhere in the backyard; from cylinder to barrel - through the gun, your mouth head skull scalp wall. `Trigger', wasn't that a dog in some TV show? Some little girl saying, "Here Trigger!" Sounds so innocent. Bang Bang. Shoot Shoot. What was that dog, some kind of weapon? The word `Go'? Or was it some other animal? Shit, I can't remember. Flipper was a dolphin, Lassie was a dog, Asta was a dog, the only little dog I've ever liked. There was Ed the horse. He talked? Not sure. Think so. You would have known, Pete. Bastard. Now youre dead. Now I'm revenged. Like in the book, same method, different reasons.
Now I wait to die. But you died first. I watched you die. I murdered you. You killed yourself. Now I can only watch myself die. At least you got an audience you vain son of a bitch. Remember Mikey, the next door neighbor kid? He said to me "If you eat pickles you'll die, eventually." But Pete; what a liar. You, the Lovable liar. Liar and lover. "Honest I didn't know Joe," you said. Bullshit. But no confessions. You held out to the end. God how I wanted to ring it from you, the truth. I knew, know the truth; why get you to say it? Belief and faith. I had faith in your deception. No kind of hard truth like Moses down from the Mountain, staring on at his flock. Just pure gut knowing.
An eye for an Eye. A tooth for a Tooth.
That made perfect sense. And does. Coming across my stolen Gideon, buried in rejected manuscripts. Why was I down there? What was I looking for? Well I found it. God, those idiotic bumper stickers you used to see plastered to the fenders of Pintos and Gremlins, any car, "I found it!" Shout it out, "I'm clean! I'm saved!" Fucking losers. There's no Savior, there's just the Law. The Commandments. Do as youre told. The Bible stuffed between two of my trash novels, murder-mysteries full of gaping holes and no suspense. There was that Gideon though. Digging in somewhere around Leviticus, then hitting the New Testament the whole thing fell apart. Shit, those two books don't belong together. Turn the other cheek? Who was Christ? Virgin. Closet masturbator. The Original Hippie. Never figure him out. Christ? He'd be laying here trying to bring you back to life Pete. The New Testament, what a joy ripping it out and tossing it back with those rejected stories. That's where it belongs; on the scrap heap of bad fiction.
An eye for an Eye. A tooth for a Tooth.
Studying, studying, learning, studying. Growing hard, like my new found God. This is the Word, you get it you give it back; you fuck over God he fucks you over. Balance; vengeance. In the basement again searching for the index to the Gideon at the back of the New Testament, "On Faith," "On Love," "On Marriage," "On Vengeance," advancing, everything coinciding perfectly; that index laying on top of `The Perfect Murder'. I'd forgotten that one completely. One more rejected story. Thinking: no coincidence; this is synchronicity. Cosmic reckoning. Alignment. But I knew so little. Idiot. Oh but it looked so good on paper. Should've trusted my agent. Miss no name bitch. A piece of shit. Crap on the bed sheets; that was crap on paper. How little I knew. A stylish Death. Clean and perfect revenge. Death isn't stylish. Death is blood and shit and brains on the wall blurring with headboard. Blurting, "I'm dead, I'm dead, I'm dead..."
There the grid stares at me. Twelve little buttons. Ten numbers. No, nine numbers, Zero's not a number. Is it the British that say `Nought' for `Zero'? Dreadnought. Nil, Nix, Null, Nothing. No Thing. Numbers. The Alphabet. The Canadians say `Zed' not `Zee'. Nada like Dada. Dada, if an idea works it's obsolete. Pete, you are obsolete. Nil, Null, Nothing, No Thing. I've got No Thing. Just Death in a cheap suit, some day. Wait, let me get you properly outfitted. Death is an idea that works. Dada, Death is obsolete. Pete, youre obsolete. So I've got nothing. Before, I had you, and I had revenge. Where's my index? The Good Book doesn't say what to do with revenge, what to do after you're avenged. What do you have? His wife? His daughter? Fuck his sheep? The men are men and the sheep are scared. Woowee. What do you have? His balls? A last blow job? His brains on the wall? Nothing. No Thing. Just the smell of rusted iron. My Radio Flyer in the rain. What's a human worth in minerals? Something like seventeen cents? Adjusted for inflation maybe a Quarter. Maybe. And those two little symbols, a star or asterisk, and a pound symbol. What happens if you push them? I'm too old. Way too old. When I was a kid these didn't exist, just the dial and the ten, no nine numbers and Zero and abc, def, ghi, jkl, mno, prs, tuv, wxy. Why no `q'? Why no z? The Zero standing on its own. At least that's the same. Remember that reach for the Zero? Pulling it all the way around the dial, that reach; you sensed it was for something more than a number. Not a number, Zero. The Arabs invented Zero. The desert maybe. The original Zero, the Ur-Zero. Their Zero is a dot, a point. A point is non-existent, a singularity. It doesn't occupy space. Our Zero seems to want to hold something inside of itself. Our Zero is a woman. Our Zero looks like a fertility symbol. I want an Arab Zero, black and hard and compact. But these symbols. I'm old. Don't know what to do with them. What happens when you push them? And Pete's growing cold and the grid is watching, waiting. Not like my book, wrote in rotary days. How little I knew.
You, Pete, the grid wouldn't of stopped you. You'd have said, "What the Hell do you mean it's tough to dial three little numbers?" Action, you were the man of action. My ubermensch. You'd be the first to the phone when it rang, first to the door, first to shoot yourself. The Door. The Doors. `This is the end, my only friend, the end'. Death's Door. It always looked like Jim was just fuckin around when he wrote that kind of shit. Guess not. Did you know that you'd be the first and last, Pete? Did you want me to watch you do it? Did you need an audience? Didn't you want my dead eyes staring vacantly? Vacant while you studied the gun and considered the laws of mechanics; how to place the muzzle against the roof of your mouth and how to curl your thumb between the finger guard and trigger? The man of action studying the action. Did you know how bad sad mad it would look, blood shit brains?
You'd grab the phone and dial with a laugh on your face, "So easy see? Three numbers, Nine One One." Just like you'd said, "A-I-D-S; that's what I have and you probably do too."
And I did. "And I gave it to you," you said. And you were right, and I couldn't say, "I know." All these words just flowing rising rushing out of your mouth da da da. The man of action. My ubermensch. No trouble. No grid to cross. Distance was just that to you. Something to cross. Crossed and done. I don't like crosses and I don't like doing. Do do do. Da da da. That's why it's easy for me now not to do what you did. Because I never planned to anyway. And It's easier for me not to `do'. I just wanted to kill you. Just playing my character, not doing, acting. And now youre dead. I did it. Revenge. But I did it too well. The stink of rust in the air.
The gun feels so good, kinetic energy asleep in the barrel. I want to talk to you about how good it feels, but you're dead. Now I have to wait to get sick and die. Without you. My argument was good. Is good. I'm almost convinced, we should die while we're still healthy. Take a trip; we did, palm trees swaying in the wind your nipples red, graveled in the surf. "Lay there, let me feel you another time," you kept saying. It was like that movie, "On the Beach," everyone waiting for the bomb to drop. Aint that the truth - like a bomb dropping. It had to be so manly. No pills for you. "Suicides have the highest success rate with guns, " you said, "I heard it on NPR." Yeah, but you sure didnt go out in style. You look like shit. Your big beautiful brains are all over the wall, your three day old haircut, ruined. "We should look hot in our coffins," you smiled, after making the appointment with Michael. What will he say when I tell him? Suicide. "Oh Joe that's terrible," he'll moan and Ill be so brave and say "Yes I know, he totally ruined the great cut you gave him." No flinching.
Why not an overdose Pete? "For old women," you'd joked, "For the bedridden, for those with prostate cancer." Wish I could rid my bed of you. Did you read too much Hemingway? But no, you never read. You'd have said, "Who, Mariel?" Mariel Hemingway with her silicone implant tits. We used to laugh thinking of the possibilities; don't those sometimes begin to inflate in the middle of plane trips? Twenty thousand feet high and her mountainous chest collapses. Tits, we used to laugh at those. "Ever remember sucking on one?" "No, way too long ago. I couldn't even wipe my own ass. I know what I like to suck." Reaching for my crotch. Until finally we could barely fuck, it just reminds me of death now. Nil, Null, Nothing. Now I can barely get it up with the clean and jerk. Oh pardon my hard on, you sure had one about the time you crapped the bed. If I was a ghoul I'd have mounted you. Remember the story about the mortician that asked his newlywed to soak in a tub of cold water before they fucked? And now you'll be getting cold and you smell and the little man's got a Hollywood loaf anyway. Half a hard on, now that's death. Dead. Death. Where's the robed guy with the sickle? Lying in the backyard stunned by a stray bullet from a carefully aimed magnum.
Youre getting cold, Pete. That means you've been dead a while. What time is it anyway? But you never wanted a clock in the bedroom. And you always woke me up when I needed to be woken. I'm going to have to get an alarm clock. I wonder if you can still buy an original digital? The ones that make a little falling flapping noise every minute. So reassuring. No tick, just quiet quiet quiet quiet, flap, one minute. Big phosphorescent numbers, thick Helvetica type. Bulbous orange casing. You're getting cold. You'll get blue, I'll still be here in bed. Green, red, blue, black, cold. Have to make the call. Like in my story, can't wait too long, itd be suspicious. Maybe they'll think I've done it. "Queer Murder." the headline will read. Well, I guess its either that or "Queer Suicide." My prints are on the gun though. I've been fondling it. So thrilling, a magnum. Like Giorno says, "Three tons behind the barrel, my hand wants to be holdin' it." But of course, like in my story there are no witnesses, You're so large, I'm so small, no signs of struggle, the aim and trajectory of the shot so perfect; all the marks of a suicide really. Which it was, really. Maybe I should try and claim I did it. Hardly matters.
Really Pete, it's the kind of story you'd enjoy, something we'd watch late at night on TV. The stuff of bad fiction. The stuff that can never actually happen. I wish you were here to enjoy it. But you're dead, lover. Man convinces lover that they should double suicide because life is going to get so bad. Man wants lover dead out of some desire for revenge and then watches as he or she kills themselves, the perfect murder. You'd really have loved it. We'd have lain in bed and laughed at the implausibility of the story, dismissed it as trite and corny. But, you're dead and you can't enjoy the joke. It's on you fool. It was so damn easy. You find my manuscript? I started one of our living room fires with it; smiling as the paper curled in the heat thinking da da da da da once an idea works it's obsolete no one ever published my idea da da da it's not obsolete.
But now the story has to move on. Fuck it you're almost cold. They're going to ask me why I waited so long. If you were here, instead of me you'd talk to them in your smooth All-American way. Why aren't you here? Bastard. You've left me alone to wither and die. Maybe I was right. Maybe we should die while we're healthy. So how is it? Wherever you are? Sunny and light with green fields and little ranch houses, lions snuggling with lambs while you picnic with our dead friends; remember the pictures in the Mormon tracts? Pictures of God's kingdom? Should I follow you? You can't come back to me. Do you remember inviting those sweet Mormon ladies in, to come and have a chat with us? They sat on our leather couch so innocently. The couch that you liked to joke, "always had to take bottom." Remember how as they outlined the coming Armageddon you fondled my crotch? They pretended not to notice, scurrying out the front door just ahead of a flurry of tracts, and I about to come in my pants. Your hands.
I see a tinge of blue in your hands. Now like in the story, I'll stare out the window, look at the books, stare at the green silent plants, call emergency. The phone's in my lap, the stink of you is overpowering, I'm doing it, if just to get your smelly self out of here, Nine and a One and a One. "Yes hello...my address? Three Twenty Five North Chestnut...The problem? My lover's blown his head off with a high powered gun...Yes, about a half an hour ago...You're sending an ambulance? No, I don't think that's necessary. He's dead, his brains are all over the wall. It stinks like rust and shit in here. Just send a hearse, send...what? The ambulance is on its way? Look it's not...what do you mean you're an emergency operator and don't have time to chat? Don't get uppity with me bitch, I said he's dead." Dial tone, she's hung up. Fucking brilliant, the lozenge men and their coffee brothers will be here in minutes. This is really going to look good. Blood and shit and me with your head sans brains leaning against my shoulder. Hallmark card material. I just called to say I love you.
Pete, you would have been able to handle her. Nine One One, just like you'd have dialed quickly, free of my idiotic hesitations. Like in my book...like in my book. God I can't believe it. Can it be? It is. It's obvious. You are her. Not me. Sure. You're strong, not me. I'm a complete and total idiot. I wrote myself into the suicide's role. Of course. Fuck. Figures. Should have seen it. So much I didn't understand. You're me. I'm you. I'm supposed to be dead. How could I have written the story and been unaware of who I was in it? Write what you know. An author always writes himself into the story. It's natural. Didn't I even look at myself? Goddamn. One look at me would be enough to tell any stranger what character I was: The stupid suicide. I can't play this role. I didn't write it for me. So I've been failing all along; reminiscing about fuck all, worrying about the grid. Of course. No wonder my books were failures. I didn't even know from what viewpoint I was writing them. Oh Joe the Vengeful One. Oh Joe the Plotting Crafty One. Joe the Idiot. Pete, you hear me? You're supposed to be alive in perfect mock grief as the paramedics bend over the bloody sheets, my brains all over the wall.
God I'm an idiot. Time for a rewrite. Shit, the sirens are wailing; they must be coming up Nineteenth. Time for a rewrite. Here come the lozenge men and their coffee brothers, their nursing sisters. I'm no Pete, I can't face them. Time for a rewrite. Pete let me write you back to life, I'll take your wrecked body, you can curl on the bed in perfect mock grief. They'll take you away somewhere white and quiet where you can rest. You can grieve with friends and relatives, go get your hair cut again, cry with our hairdresser. Shit I can't do this. I can't face them. I can't curl in grief; it would be something more like `rigid with terror`, perfect real terror. Shit, the Sirens are calling down the street. I don't want to hear them. Don't want them to take me away rigid in my perfect real terror. They won't even need a stretcher. Carry me like a board. The Sirens. Lash myself to the mast like Ulysses. Steer my ship past them. God it sounds as if they're pulling up outside. Fuck. No time for a rewrite. I can't change this anyway, can't pull it back. I can push it forward. Yes I can push it forward; change the ending. No, not change it. Play my story like I told it to you Pete; I can do that. I've been playing that story for months. I can play that character. It's more like me. It's a better story. I don't have to rewrite. No time for another other ending. No time to write it. What would it be anyway?
They're pounding on the door. God they must have purposeful looks on their faces. All ready to do Good. To be Splendid Samaritans. Save anything that can be saved, animal vegetable mineral. What a policy. But minerals they bury or burn. No fear of waking maimed in a white room, arms strapped to your sides, maybe no arms to be strapped. The train ran them over, something. I'm going to mineralize. Burroughs mineral calm. It's going to be like I told you Pete. We'll be seeing each other on the other side, maybe. Maybe just the cold cold ground. That would be better. I wouldn't have to face you, maybe a you knowing. Would you hold it against me Pete? For Eternity? No, you wouldn't. Your tempers were like a handful of sparklers, wham, blinding rage and then gone, glowing red a moment and then you in my arms. Ill feel you soon Pete. In my arms. God I love you Pete. Well lie together, on the beach. Just like in the story I told you. No cold cold ground. Warmth and light.
They're hacking at the door with axes. That strong old door you made me buy for you. Oak. I can almost see the madness in their ruddy faces as they chop at wood and suck at lozenges. The Chief is standing back with his coffee, or probably in bed like me. Not for long like me. Animal vegetable mineral. I'll do it just like you Pete. Shit it worked for you. What do I care about the mess. Somebody else is going to have to clean it up. It's really a heavy gun, tastes metallic. Steel, chromed or oiled, is the herald of sterility. The taste of metal the last perception of sensation; like warm Pepsi in an aluminum can.
Where did you place it? You said, "Aim through the top of your head." Think about making a hole to let the sun shine in. You said, "It's easy, millions have tried and liked it. They must have, because when it didn't work they tried it again." I love your simple philosophy. You said, "It will be beautiful."
I said, "It is ancient. It is honorable. Even the Ancient Greeks thought so. Youre right Pete - it will be beautiful" Trying hard to accent the syllables of beautiful, to convey honesty, emotion. Neither of us daring to say the word, the big `D`. Me wanting a how-to manual, like it's difficult to blow your head off with a .357 magnum.
You said, "Just hold the trigger with your thumb, like this." You said, "It's easy, as easy as shooting at someone else. It's just a tool. Millions have tried it. Tried it and done it. It's easy."
I said, "Yeah Pete."
Looks like you were right. You're one of the millions. It was easy. It will be easy. You were right; my thumb fits perfectly on the trigger.
You said, "Then close your eyes, and listen to the World one last time." I will Pete. I am. I hear the paramedics in the house. I hear the blood rushing in my ears. I hear how quiet it is when you ignore the Sirens. I hear my Mother calling me. I hear Moisha meow. Oh, who will take care of her? I hear the fading swirling roar of your pistol shot. I smell rust. I taste chrome. It's almost done. I have Faith. I have Faith, Faith. I'm pressing slowly on the trigger, Pete.
Can you tell me, where in the arc is the match point? I hear a sad little quatrain with a fucked-up rhyme. Who was it by? You'll know when I ask you. All I remember is this little bit:
Put the rifle to my eye,
Never stopped to wonder why.
Then I saw black,
And my face splashed in the sky...
Yves Jaques can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org