JenPercy_authorphoto_creditMichaelKreiserYou switch from past tense to present tense halfway through Demon Camp. Why the shift?

I wanted to show a change in my psychology and relationship with my subject matter. Present tense gives the reader a sense of immediacy; it allows us to experience the world as it is being perceived at the moment. It is raw and unprocessed information. The moment I arrive to Portal, Georgia, where a great deal more people believe in demons than do not, my ability to process the world at any remove had begun to fail. It’s like the first time you step off a plane in a foreign country. For a while, the country is greater than you. You see everything. Feel everything. It’s too much. You’re a sponge, really. So, I felt consumed by Portal. This shift also represents, on a formal level, what a traumatic memory can do to someone. It can trap them. The immediacy of a traumatic memory is one of its distinguishing traits. 

* at the beginning of a list

* on the vanity license plate of a traveling campervan

* to your dog, followed by a beef-and-cheese-flavored snack from pocket, counting on word of mouth to spread from there

* to your demons

* to your high school guidance counselor

The Education of the Damned

The most successful serial killers are always the boys next door—gentle children of summer, flashing smiles like soft breezes through a park, sharpened knives wrapped in grass-stained Levis. I was akin to these monsters. I was camouflaged and deadly, a viper smiling in the dark.

To be a truly great demon you’ve got to be attractive—no one sensible gets taken in by a goon. I was born with summer-blond hair, a soft evening smile, and the sweetly dark taste of defiance slashed across my lips—a scrawny, scuffed up teddy bear with a voice that could string words like lights across a carnival midway. Believable, that’s what I was: a perfect distraction for the careless mark.

They never saw me coming.

Some of the evil fucks I later ran with were way too ugly to be of any real use. The cops read them like a beacon flashing on a street corner. But not me—the code of the demon, my code, was to fit in, to move from the inside out, to slide into their world, to lodge myself against their love, and then to attack from beneath the skin.

When people refer to demons, they invariably claim we come from the underworld. God, I hate that cliché. It makes us sound like we’re all hanging around in a bondage cavern, trying on leather gear and waiting for tricks. And while I do love the smell of leather and I thoroughly enjoy caves, I tortured people for fun, not profit. The concept of a demon coming from underground is pure shit.

If you want to know where demons truly come from, I’ll tell you: we’re from right here. We exist in a shadow that lies over your world—a kind of transparency of evil that some demented teacher laid out on an overhead projector. We move around you, through you, in you. We are your fathers, your sisters, your lovers. We are your next-door neighbors. We come and go as we please—although it’s a bit harder to leave when we’ve taken residency in a body. The old Hebrews used to call their angels “Those who stand still,” and the name they gave themselves was “Those that walk.” If a demon was ever called anything, it was usually prefaced with a very terrified “Oh my God!”

 

I I I

I think, before we go any further, I should take a moment to clear things up. This is a memoir, not a biography. If you want facts, I suggest you call the local authorities—they’re loaded with trivial information on my human form. If you’re looking for a discography, or yet another failed rocker’s tale, then grab your laptop and pop my name into your search bar—I’ve left a trail of electronic dust from here to Mars. I’m not going to give you those things or comfort you with what you think is the truth. This story isn’t for you—the voyeur feeding on the destruction of a man. This is a story for those that find themselves too far from home, a traveler’s tale of monsters and bad ends. It’s a story for those that think there’s something golden at the end of the road—when there isn’t.

 

I I I

I stepped onto your world in the Bay Area of San Francisco in 1961, but I didn’t stay there long. I was quickly shuttled down to Long Beach—a working-class town chock-full of blue-collared laborers, retired navy men, hustlers, homosexuals, and squares.

My human father was in the military so they’d moved often. He was a junior officer with, at the time, three other children—two boys and a girl. Biologically speaking, I was the sport: a spiritual mutation that crawled out of hell into humanity.

 

 

From the book An American Demon: A Memoir by Jack Grisham

Copyright © Jack Grisham, 2011. Published by ECW Press.

 

Your glasses seem to be devoid of glass, why?

I didn’t think you’d notice, and the frames look good on me.

 

But aren’t you the one conducting this interview?  How wouldn’t you notice?

Yes, I am interviewing me, but as you know, I often live in a world of self-delusion. Let’s move on.

 

You claim to be a demon.  How’s that going for you?

It’s better than a few other things I could claim, and fear is a tall fence. The average man finds it prudent to steer clear of demons so calling myself ‘demon’ keeps the conservatives away and boring conversation at a minimum.

 

Do you have a tail and horns?

I said I was a demon, not a goat.

 

Your memoir, An American Demon, has been filed as nonfiction in the Library of Congress.  Does this mean they acknowledge the existence of demon kind?

Well, if you’d ever seen Miracle on 34th Street, that old Christmas film, Kris Kringle’s lawyer proves that Kris is Santa Claus by submitting a letter delivered to Mr. Kringle by the U.S. Postal Service. The letter was addressed ‘To Santa,’ and nothing else. I wrote a book claiming to be a demon, and the Library of Congress filed it as ‘nonfiction,’ true as honest Abe himself.  So therefore, if the U.S. Government says it’s true, it must be — right?

 

Does this mean that any children wishing evil on their parents should write to you?

Only if they include a little something for the effort.  Unlike Santa, I don’t work for free.

When I was a teenager, I believed I had a special gift. I imagined I could sense the forces of good and evil.

For me, unseen spirits were everywhere: behind the sofa, hiding in corners, perching in rafters, standing at the foot of my bed. Some were good, some were evil. I could feel them watching me. When they went past me, they made my skin ripple into defense mode, shooting my hairs into attention as if they were spiny quills that could function as armor. One of Fear’s cruelest jokes.

Anyhow, angels and demons filled my adolescence, thanks in large part to my radical Youth Group. Based on ancient biblical text, a full one-third of the angels were thrown to this planet from the spiritual dimension after a little disagreement between Lucifer and God. Not knowing the starting number of angels makes it a little tricky to estimate at what count this puts the planetary-based demonic forces, but I imagine they’ve got a fairly hefty camp down here. In the church of my youth, for example, we were well aware of demonic influence in our daily lives. Temptation could occur – and did – nearly every minute of the day.

Wish you had her car * think about sex * don’t be the first to say you’re sorry * you are better than her * wish you had her boyfriend * tell your boss you’re working * watch PG-13 * think about sex with your boss * buy a lotto ticket * (sex) * speed * tell the officer you weren’t * say damn * think about sex with the officer * tell her she doesn’t look fat.

I’m telling you, every damn minute.

If my feelings back then were any indication of reality, of course, that would mean that each person has a demon around them pretty much constantly. Perhaps they are extraordinarily zippy and go from person to person at a rapid rate, but if what we as a congregation felt was any gauge, it stands to reason that each person must have at least one demon next to them at all times. Taking into account that demons probably enjoy other activities from time to time (coffee breaks, bone fire dancing, volleyball, etc.), then it is also reasonable to assume that they rotate around a bit.

For the sake of factoring in a life for the demon, let’s just say that the demon spends on average 50% of his or her existence on matters of human temptation. At nearly 7 billion people on this planet, it is reasonable to assume 2 demons per person for full coverage, making the total demonic headcount somewhere around 14 billion. This does not, of course, factor in any Hell-bound demons—which may or may not be counted in the one-third evicted from Heaven’s gates after aforementioned power struggle—nor does it factor in the exclusion (or inclusion, for that matter) of any sort of union type benefits.

So, at 14 billion demons, the one thing I could count on was that there were 28 billion angels. Which brings to light an obvious problem: The Bible never said how many of those angels resided on planet earth.

Think about it, God threw 14 billion (or thereabouts) demons to the earth, but how many angels do you see in the Bible? There’s the chorus that sings when Jesus is born. There’s the one who wrestles with Jacob. A couple show up in the town of Sodom once and nearly get gang raped. One delivers some sort of news to Mary once. Aside from a few other mentions, that’s about it.

So, what was I supposed to believe? Sure, there could be two angels for every demon here on earth, but there is certainly no guarantee of this. Do half reside down here to match the demonic forces while the other half live heaven-side where they can attend regular choir practice and be on hand for spontaneous profound trumpet blowing? Do some of them simply have summer homes here, but their main residence is up on high?

To make things even more problematic as a teenager, I knew that if I wanted the help of an angel, I had to ask for it. And I don’t mean a general “protect me today” type prayer, oh no. It had to be specific. Please go with me today to the corner of 15th and Pearl and protect me from anybody who may wish harm on me or my wallet and who also happens to be wearing leather chaps and a ballet tutu.

Consequently, I had angels and demons on my mind a lot. I was in tune with them. I felt them. Being from a church born in the Holiness Movement and a close cousin to the Assembly of God, I was pretty sure I knew that angels were all protestant Holy Rollers. When my parents took me to the Notre Dame Cathedral in France, my skin got all jittery when I was surrounded by Catholic demons. Later, at the Hill of Cumorah in upstate New York, an educational pilgrimage to see what the Mormons were up to, I felt the dark cloud of oppression weighing upon me. On the trip to Manitou Springs, CO, passing by a porto-fountain outside a New Age bookshop with Yanni playing over the loudspeakers, my very soul nearly shuddered to ash.

I began to educate myself. I read books like Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness in which angels and demons battled over control of the Illuminati’s lair, an unlikely small town in the middle of the US of A. I watched television shows like Michael Landon’s Highway to Heaven and Touched By an Angel. I learned that angels don’t always have wings, sometimes wore lipstick and even occasionally fall in love.

But even so, with all of my knowledge and premonitions, I wanted a sign that what I was feeling was, in fact, real. I spent hours on my knees by my bed at night begging God for just a peek.

Please God, I’m going to open my eyes now. And when I do, please let me see an angel. It doesn’t have to be a long look because I think I might wet myself, but I really need to know that you’ve got me covered here. Ready…go.

And nothing ever happened.

OK, God. If you won’t show me an angel, then give me some other sign. I don’t know, maybe a quick look at my dead grandmother or something. No wait, that sounds freaky. How about just a flicker. A flicker of an angel in my room and I’ll leave you alone on this topic for the rest of my life. Deal? Ok, ready….

When that didn’t work, I attempted to find signs in inanimate objects. You know the kind I mean: the Mother Mary on tortillas, Cheetos that look like Jesus on the cross (Cheesus!), paintings that weep blood…things of that nature.

And still, nothing ever happened.

Until now.

All of my questioning and a lifetime of doubts has been put to rest by this one glimpse into the spiritual realm.

Without further ado, I present to you:

Jesus on my pumpkin.

I have received my sign.

(And just to clarify, his face is in the upper left corner – in profile. It is NOT the weird tramp looking guy in center under the hat.)

So why now? Why when my faith has dipped to an all-time low and I’m nothing but a starving writer has Jesus decided to appear to me on a gourd? I don’t know. But I suspect that the question has something to do with the answer.

For more information, please watch this informative video of me and my pumpkin.

 

…and when you’re done with that, please go to eBay and bless a starving writer.

eBay – Jesus Pumpkin

 

(Want more to the story? The Denver Post just gave me quite the endorsement.)


We decided I should buy a girdle in Brighton Beach. It became part of the plan. Drew’s Yorkshire accent had taken a hit after years in New York. He slid through the specifics with fast, slanted a’s and round Brooklyn o’s. How I would fly it in, how I would meet up with The Guy, how I would get the money, “Don’t tawk to no one, raht luff?” He said for the thousandth time while we walked along the Coney Island pier.

“No, I won’t. I can do this. Don’t worry,” I responded. He continued detailing how we’d call the fugazi travel agent, the I’m just a man with a computer, the guy who would get us a fourteen-day-advance fare for a same-day ticket. I’d heard about this agent, sure, but had never laid eyes on him. Drew saw him once, said he looked like Igor in Young Frankenstein. Abby Normal. We would drop off the cash, folded over and rubberbanded, with the agent’s doorman on the Upper West Side .

“No problem.” I said.

The Coney Island sun is mustard flavored. It’s hot sweep fades the signs advertising sword swallowers and Nathan’s hot dogs, and softens to a cold pastel those painted clowns with gaping holes for faces. Disembodiment photo ops. Splintered reds and blues ran right off the old wooden coasters and onto the boardwalk. Past the black haired Italian boys taking deep pulls off stolen cigarettes, past the Russian women, their calloused feet balanced precariously on tall Lucite shoes, and past the three elderly Jewish ladies in their wide-brimmed hats, unwrapping knish on towels in the sand. Coney Island is a diaspora-layered cake and I felt like I fit right in.

“Vatsa little ting like yous aneeda dees for?” asked the store clerk, as she folded the slick, skin-colored girdle and slid it into a plastic bag. I probably smiled and pretended not to understand. I absolutely didn’t say it was so Drew could tape thousands of ecstasy tablets around my waist, so I could subdue the plastic-wrapped pills underneath a loose shirt and trench coat. It was before the towers fell so you could still just walk right through security with coat, shoes, everything. All we really had to worry about was the dogs, but even then, not really. The odorless pills with their price per square inch made it a pretty easy act of espionage.

 

***

 

A week later, Drew walked me up to the metal detector, kissed me goodbye, saw that I made it past the badges and I descended, a few hours later into the agri-circles and low buildings of Springfield Missouri, my bladder bursting and my adrenaline on volume ten.

It wasn’t as easy as we planned it out on the boardwalk. It wasn’t just in and out, I had to wait. A lot of waiting. For This Guy and That Guy to come up with the cash because I couldn’t give it on the arm and someone was always out of pocket. I acted annoyed when I talked to Drew on the phone, told him I couldn’t wait to get back, but secretly, I loved the urgency. I possessed, or was possessed by, an unprecedented power. It was in me. Rather, it was in my backpack. But I felt it, all brilliant and scary and intoxicating.

I had something people really wanted. I sat still, I occupied a seat, I took up space in the world and they came to me.

In physics, power is the rate at which energy is converted. In politics, power is the ability to exert control. My perceived ability to exert control grew at the rate those tablets converted from tiny white circles, stamped with little stars, into stacks of cash. But power is problematic. Perceived power even more. This was a kind of gratification that eats through rather than inhabits. Like drinking acid. If I felt spare before…the dive into the world of buying and selling drugs pared me down even further, sucked the marrow.

I associated with a s/gr/n/eediness that manifested as a Hunger of insatiable proportions. I stayed up for days doing lines off the cover of a Roxy Music cd, and when I’d finished that, crushing the ecstasy tablets and cutting them up, while I waited for the money, the arm, the pocket; while I waited and wilted. Drew called daily screaming, “Where is my money?” and “Are you high? Don’t fucking lie to me, I know you’re high!”

I made sure I was horizontal when he called to make my voice sound sleepy.

“No, I swear I just woke up. I am not high.”

As if I could actually turn down that level of chemically induced adrenaline before answering the phone and then force my voice to sound tired. But you couldn’t have convinced me of invincibility’s fallibility for a million cocaine-covered dollar bills. I was on fire. I was an arrogant Secretariat with a heart the size of two, so full of pumping blood, I still thought I could outrun the demons pounding their hooves into the dust just twenty lengths behind me.

 

***

 

I was looking for a Klonopin or some Xanax bars when I found Jason lying on the floor of my rented room. Jason had originally introduced me to The Guy and was also my coke dealer. He was short and prematurely balding and he always wore these old green cargo pants full of drugs, full of money. I was on my way around the bed when I tripped over the soft mass of Jason’s leg.

His eyes were pressed wide open, squeezed open instead of shut. Like they were frozen in fear, popping out in cartoonish surprise. A string of clear drool trailed his mouth to the carpet. My knees disappeared and my liver rose up into my throat and lodged itself with a bilious fortitude. “OhmyGodOhmyGod,” I heaved. “OhmyGod.”

I knelt down.

I checked his breathing with my cheek.

I set my hand on his chest and felt the slow rhythm of a heart.

I stood up.

I kicked him a little in the ribcage.

Jasonwakethefuckup. I pushed his leg with my foot. Jasonwakethefuckup.

What I didn’t do was call 911. Aside from the rib kicking, I did absolutely nothing to help him. Even though I thought he was dying on the floor.

Instead, I grabbed my sunglasses with the red lenses, and because it was an emergency, and I was sure he would understand, I searched his pockets and stole what he was holding before I ran downstairs and vomited in the kitchen sink.

I didn’t want Jason to die.

But worse, I didn’t want to ruin this feeling, I didn’t want to admit defeat, I didn’t want to get caught, I didn’t want to disappoint Drew, myself, I didn’t want to stop.

When I stepped outside to sit on the concrete step that led to the parking lot of that low-rent, low-key-location apartment building, and I dipped my little finger into the baggie I’d lifted from Jason’s pocket, the air swelled. It became a swirling torrent of thick black dust and I was deafened by dissolution, by the malevolent thunder of forty-eight hooves.



I am probably the most relationship-dysfunctional person on the planet. My tendencies to stay too long with the bad ones and screw up the good ones prematurely is borderline legendary. My crowning achievement was the eight years I spent with Brittany, who, as crazy people go, was their queen.

My friends have spent countless hours rehashing my old war stories with Brittany, telling tales of juice machines thrown through plate glass windows at Dunkin Donuts, or recounting the time I was pushed off a balcony. Nevertheless, Mark Twain said it best, “Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.” I made it out, but sometimes I feel like a Holocaust survivor. That may be an extreme comparison, but if you’ve never found yourself on the run from another human being that is intent on killing you, then you really don’t know just how insane things can get.

I never used to tell these stories. In all honesty they were a bit embarrassing although anyone anywhere close to our relationship knew that it was anything but tame. Sometimes though, especially years later, it’s nice to clear out the closet. It’s therapy. Pulling out all the skeletons would be akin to unearthing the Killing Fields of Cambodia but there are a few stand-out moments that deserve to be dragged out into the sunlight. Every time I overhear some poor schmuck in a bar complaining about how crazy his current girlfriend is, I reflexively call him on it.

“All in!” I say. “What do you have?”

“She threw a glass at me last night.”

“Pussy,” I’d say, and then I would display one of my own scars. We might as well have been Quint and Hooper on the Orca.

One particular night, Brittany came home drunk at 3:00 in the morning. I had fallen asleep on the couch and was awakened by the sound of a key attempting to find a keyhole. After a few minutes she outsmarted the lock and came stumbling into the living room. Crazy is hard to deal with by itself; crazy and drunk is impossible. It was like her emotions were being driven by an Asian.

“Get out!” she growled.

We’d been together for years at this point and I knew that this wasn’t an argument I wanted to have. I slipped on my shoes and attempted to avoid the fight. “Fine,” I said.

“Where are you going?”

“What?!? You just said -”

“I fucking hate you!”

Anyone that has ever truly been with a crazy person will tell you that there is a definitive checklist of items that have to grab in the off chance that you are forced to leave suddenly. It’s a little survival kit that we keep handy. Many times, especially if I knew things were on the verge of getting out of hand, I would simply leave these items in my blue jeans: wallet, lighter, cigarettes, keys. I would then set my jeans on the floor in the ready position like a fireman. I wasn’t prepared that night, however.

“I said GET OUT!” she screamed as she pushed me.

I immediately started scrambling through the list and trying to locate what I needed. “Wallet, lighter, cigarettes, where are my cigarettes? They must be – Oh shit. She has a knife.”

To this day I cannot explain where the knife came from. She never went near the kitchen and I never took my eyes off of her. It appeared the way a dove appears in a magician’s hands. It just materialized. For all I know it popped out of the back of her hand like a bipolar X-Man. “Hi, my name is Wolverine and I’m an alcoholic.” SNIKT!

She was standing at the door with a steak knife in one hand and my fate in the other.

There are moments in our lives where we know that we have passed the point of no return; that we are committed to the insanity. There is no more negotiation. The switch has been flipped and the hostages aren’t going to make it out alive. Crazy people generally decide for us just exactly when that moment is going to be. There are signs: the glazed eyes, the vein popping out in the side of her neck, the backwards Latin. And when a man is confronted with such a situation, sometimes he decides that he is bigger than it is; that he can just “man up”. This was one of those situations.

Rather than run away or shoot straight for the door, I made the decision to disarm her. If this was a horror movie then I was the black guy running into the woods. I was the blonde scrambling up the stairs. I was going to die, and anyone watching would have seen it coming from a mile away. “Why would he do that?” they would ask. The only answer I could give them would be that at that particular second, I was a man.

A stupid man, but a man nonetheless.

It should be simple, really. All I had to do was get my right hand up, block the swinging arm with the knife, get to the deadbolt, unlock it, open the door with the other hand, continue to restrain her arm, pivot, shift my weight, and slip through into the night. It shouldn’t take more than a second or two if I’d done the calculations correctly. I was pretty confident that she wouldn’t follow through anyway. She wasn’t actually going to stab me.

Well write this down in a notebook somewhere. Crazy doesn’t bluff.

I lunged, and it was exactly how they say it is when you’re about to die. Everything slows down and scenes from your past flash before your eyes. A birthday cake, a bicycle, someone is pushing me on a swing set. Grandpa?

And then SLASH!

I felt the impact on my arm but no immediate pain. I remember thinking to myself that I should probably do something. I started to run, because somewhere I remember reading that that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’ve been stabbed and the person that stabbed you is trying to stab you again, but it was like running in a dream; the dream where you’re being chased and you have to get down a flight of stairs and your legs are all rubbery and God is laughing at you like Jason and the Argonauts.

My checklist had long since gone out the window. The only thought in my head was to get to my car at all costs. I would be safe there. I rounded the bottom of the staircase and stumble-stepped towards the parking lot, almost losing my footing several times in the loose gravel. The halogen glow of a street light illuminated my plight to anyone that wanted to watch, but no one did. I was alone. I turned the corner and slammed into my car. Thank God. I reached in my pockets looking for my keys – the keys I never managed to grab before I escaped. That’s why you have the checklist, Slade.

In the distance I heard our apartment door slam. She was coming to finish the job. I was wounded and she knew it. Water buffalo are supposed to die this way, not me. This isn’t the Serengeti and I’m not an antelope waiting for some predator to come and finish me. I’ll escape on foot if I have to. The dilemma I had was that I had expended every ounce of stamina I possessed getting this far. I was smoking almost three packs of Marlboros a day at the time and was pretty sure sprinting was out of the question. The best I was going to muster was going to be a “brisk walk”.

It was 3:30 am. There was no one to call, and even if there had been I didn’t have a cell phone. I kept moving, looking ahead at the longest, darkest, emptiest road I had ever seen in my life. I heard a truck engine rev in the distance and I knew that she was coming. A few seconds later I saw her headlights make the turn at the intersection. I knew they were hers because they smoldered with an evil red glow and one of them was dim and cracked from where she slammed into my car a few weeks earlier.

And then the realization started to sink in that this was how I was going to die. My life was being directed by John Woo.

She was screaming down the street by this point. My only hopes lay a block or two up the road. I remembered that there was a Catholic church and I convinced myself that if I could just make it there I would be safe. There obviously wouldn’t be anyone there to let me in, but if I could manage to get on the property then maybe the demons couldn’t follow me. It would be like Spiritual Base.

My legs were aching as I burst through the boundaries of the church’s courtyard. I stopped underneath a statue of Jesus. I lit up a cigarette and huddled there panting and bleeding from the arm. There was a small moment of relief when I heard her truck tires screeching in the parking lot and circling, but not stopping.

I’ve never been the most religious person in the world but I was acutely aware that I was standing there beneath Jesus. Maybe I should talk to him. I wasn’t faring so well on my own, so what did I have to lose? This was unfamiliar territory however. I knew I was only talking to him because I needed something and that seemed a little unfair. I was uncomfortable, like I was approaching a girl in a bar for the first time.

“Look, I know you don’t know me, but… Geez, I’m no good at this. Can I buy you a drink? Never mind, you’re Jesus. You make your own.

Anyway, I don’t know if you noticed, but there’s a really crazy person out there in the parking lot and I’m pretty sure she wants to hurt me really bad. And please don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to point the finger or anything, but… you made her, you fix her. I’m really starting to understand why you hung out with twelve other guys. You have to do something. Can you kill her?

No? Why not?

Because the Antichrist doesn’t die until halfway through the Tribulation. That’s clever. Jesus is a comedian.

Well, can’t you throw a lightning bolt or something? I mean, you don’t even have to hit her; just come close. She’s drunk, she’ll walk into it. It wouldn’t even be your fault technically.

Whatever, I don’t care. Just give me a way out.”

And I swear Jesus winked at me.

Two weeks later I returned from a week at a comedy club in Boise, Idaho. She and I went to lunch, where she calmly informed me that she wanted to end things so that she could go out with a guy she had recently reconnected with from high school. I did want out, but I didn’t want out like that.

“I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth here, but really God? You created the entire world in six days, and this is the best you can come with?”

Still, it got the job done. It’s funny how life works sometimes. Eight years of my life over and done with because she decided to cheat. And after all the things I had tolerated, too. The more I thought about it though, the more I started to laugh. A few of my friends that knew the story were the first to want to round up a Wild West style posse and hunt the guy down.

“Let’s kick his ass!”

“No,” I would always reply.

“Oh, you mean no as in ‘wink wink’? Like you want us to take him out but you don’t want to know anything about it just in case the cops come asking?”

“No, I mean don’t do anything.”

“Well what are you going to do him then?”

“Nothing at all. I’m serious. I mean, I appreciate the gesture, don’t get me wrong, but there’s nothing you can do to him that compares with what he’s in for. I almost want to finance the relationship. I want to buy them a bottle of wine and a hotel room at the casino, and a notebook and a pen. ‘Keep a journal motherfucker. You’re writing my career.’ I have no desire to beat him up. I want him to have complete control of all his senses when he goes out with her, so he misses nothing.”

In hindsight I really am shocked that I stayed as long as I did. I certainly don’t regret any of it and I recognize how vital that time spent was in developing who I am today. Almost the same way prison time turns some people into brand new people, I know that I needed to let my own story run its course. There’s no moral to this, except maybe that some churches do keep the demons out for a little while, but whether you can run from them or face them down, in the end some demons just have to exorcise themselves.

She and I haven’t talked in years and in the rare moments we have it has honestly been more than pleasant. Still, I know the potential explosion that lies just below the surface. Someone somewhere is dealing with it, probably even as I write this. I remember getting a call on my cell a few months ago from a number I didn’t recognize, and when I answered the phone a strange male voice was on the other end.

“Is this Slade?” he asked.

“It is.”

He immediately followed up, “Did you used to date Brittany?”

I paused for a moment, and then asked my own question. “I knew this was coming. Who’d she kill?”

“Nothing like that, “he said. “I’m calling because I’m the guy that’s dating her now.”

There was a long pause while I digested that fact, and I fought back the urge to laugh out loud. Through my inner chuckles I managed to force out the question, “So how’s that working out for you?”

It was his turn to awkwardly pause. Finally he said, “Look, your name has come up a couple of times in conversation between me and her, and every time it does she refers to you as the one that got away, and I -.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! What did you just say?” I interrupted. “That’s not cool at all, man. You mean to tell me that after all our drama and history she still thinks of me like that?”

“No, no, no,” he said. “You actually got away. How’d you do it? I need help.”

And then his voice faded from my ear as I dropped the phone in uncontrollable peals of laughter.