Just Be Nice To Him…

The kid next door went nuts & murdered his father last week. In fact, one week ago this evening. There’s a certain disquietude following such a thing…the Aftermath wagon’s been parked in the driveway everyday. Yesterday afternoon, in almost the exact spot where I first shook Dan Davis’ hand, there sat a red biohazard bin.

I’d only met Dan once, about a month ago when I was first moving into my new place. He possessed a sun-burnished patina and a smiling, mid-life lassitude that made him instantly likable. You could also tell he was intelligent. You just know, sometimes. And friendly; by the end of our brief encounter, he’d already suggested we get some drinks one night. Dan’d mostly come by that day to make sure his son’s car wasn’t in the way of my moving truck. I recall he was cradling a yap-happy chihuahua in one arm — only one of an increasing number of four-legged surrogates his wife had adopted as more of their children headed off to school. He mentioned having a couple of sons still yet living with them, “pre-University, sleeping ’til 2 PM,” he smiled, “you know the drill.”

“Yeah, I met Lance,” I said. Dan’s eyes widened.

“You met Lance? He talked to you?”

I’d met him three or four nights before I’d met Dan. He’d apparently been investigating my frequent comings-and-goings all throughout that week. (I opted for the word investigating even before reading in the deposition where Lance insisted he was a special agent trained by the CIA.)

I was by late that night dropping off some cargo when I heard a voice pop out from somewhere behind me in the dark: “You movin’ in?” His gruff tone sounded cartoonishly affected to my ears, as though he was trying to disguise his voice or sound meaner than he was for some reason. I turned to discover a rangey, slightly pumpkin-headed figure standing on the stacked stone bank dividing our drives. I said hi and then motioned him to the end of the driveway where we might make proper introductions. There in the dark street we shook hands, or rather, I imposed my hand on his. His movements were jerky and bursty and he spoke in a weirdly truncated syntax. Throughout our brief exchange, Lance kept his left hand placed over his mouth. At the time I thought he was simply trying to obscure the ludicrous mustache I managed to glimpse despite his best efforts (I’ve returned to this curious mannerism several times since the incident). Despite his cautious reticence, he explained how he lived in the house behind his parent’s and I responded about what a nice setup that must be, and that I also had a little outbuilding behind my shack that I planned on fixing up. He seemed uneasy, so I kept things short, telling him we’d be seeing each other around. Turns out, we never bumped into one another again.

I’ve replayed this encounter over a few times in my head, as probably anyone in my boots would; an unusual enough kid, sure — tetchy even — but then, I’m no paragon of mild manners myself, so who am I to judge? Certainly, there was nothing about my encounter with Lance to suggest he might be capable of cold-blooded patricide.

That’s the thing that I keep coming back to every night: the horror of being destroyed by your own creation. It disturbs to imagine how one may conceive of, create and nourish their own executioner. Think about that — a ticking time bomb made from the flesh of your flesh. As a childless artist, the closest equivalent for me might be dying from a violent paper cut or something.

“You met Lance…” Dan repeated to himself in half reverie. Then he gently cautioned me, should I run into him again — just be nice to him, adding: “He’s autistic.” Perhaps the explanation for everything lies in that single postscript. I don’t know enough about Autism to speak to that. All I know is that the man from next door was stabbed to death by his son — the same son he implored me to be nice to — and it’s ushered forth a suite of new, unusual, and heavy feelings in me that just won’t go away.

(names were changed, etc., etc.)