I am eight and the psychiatrist asks me if I ever mutilated a cat or a dog. I say yes. Squirrels and rabbits too. She is a doctor. Never lie to a doctor. Sitting in front of me she writes something down. Her long legs, high heels, tight skirt, this is my first erection. She asks why I did it, what was I thinking. Embarrassed by my boyish thoughts, I tell her I never wanted to. My parents made me do it.
My first slain cat came at age six. Father instructed me to cut the head off with a butcher knife. Then he read from some big book. My first dog came at seven. Hung it from a tree. I don’t count road kill anymore. My confession is interrupted by a knock. A man enters, probably Mr. Stahl, my psychiatrist’s husband. The Shrink family. The Head Doctor tandem of husband and wife. I’m sitting here trying to hide my tent pole style Wranglers and she tells him words like anti-social, masochistic and sociopath.
I never say we ate what we killed. To many this is survival 101, the basic. To us it was a lifestyle. In the old days man would hunt beast, thenkill beast and then eat beast. That is what my Father told me. This justified it for me.
At my first visit to the doctor after the incident, it seems like I am making an impression. Before now I never thought killing animals or poking them with a sharp stick or hanging them from trees was wrong. I just did what I was told. To me I was just being a good kid. See also: Obedient. Technically the police call this guilt by association. They say be careful whom you hang out with. I get what they are saying. The only problem is this was my family.
Someone wise once told me that what has happened has happened, it’s over don’t dwell on it. The past is the past. This is the best advice anyone can give a guy. Nurture the good and throw out the bad. Recycle a life. Rewire an existence. The great system of mental health is a complex machine. The past can get backed up and bog down the future. If you think about the past too much it effects the present and the present he said is what truly matters.
When Fruitcake Doctor Team Of Husband and Wife reenter the room they tell me to explain what had happened. Last night. They want to know everything. I didn’t want to at first, but Dr. Stahl, the wife flashed me those twinkling blues. She seemed interested. She wanted to know. Never let down a doctor, especially one that makes you feel like a man for the first time. Anyways, this is what I told them in so many words.
To begin what maybe the most painful part of my life let me just say that I don’t remember much about the farmhouse. “The farmhouse.” Ten years of therapy and still I can’t say it without shaking. All those hours of counseling and those two little words still make me uneasy. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Hercules. Samson. Jesus H. Christ. Well, they have nothing on me. What I do remember about that time and place of my childhood I’ve spent my whole life trying to bury. It’s tough to dig up. The two head doctors’ listen to me, they take notes. I say this is tough to put into words. They egg me on.
23666 West Road Place was a three bedroom two-story house built on twenty-five acres of prime outskirt northern Michigan terra thirteen miles from the closest town. This is what I tell Mr. and Mrs. Pill Pushers. They look at me and I say you already know it there is no reason to re-tell it. It was in all the newspapers. Even TV. They want my perspective what TV doesn’t know. I say Google: “The Whitmore Family Shooting.” I come from a long line of Whitmore’s.
The farmhouse had cows, pigs, chickens and goats. Not too many dogs and cats. Along the house in back was a garden with corn, peas and tomatoes. My Mother had a green thumb, really she did. She’d even talk to them. Naked. Sometimes she read from the big book to them.
It is all in the details. To forget the big picture, look closely at the little things. The yard was hardly ever cut. Sometimes it grew half as high as the house. Pathways were trampled, makeshift trails leading from the driveway to the house and from the house to the barn. If you wanted to go from the driveway to the barn you had two options. Either make a new path from the driveway to the barn or take the one towards the house and follow it to the barn. I don’t think my Father’s main priority in this life was landscaping. See: Homemade Moonshine. He also hated shopping, so much so we hardly went into town for anything. Not even toilet paper.
If someone drove down our little dirt road we knew they were lost. One time someone stopped in for directions, drove right up to the house. He was a short man, got out of his old Chevy in a brown fedora. When he stopped and shouted the name or address of something or another to my Father, all he got was a shotgun pointed at his skull. We never got many visitors to the farmhouse. Honestly, I can’t recall even one. My parents didn’t have much family, other than me. But we made due with what we had. We used newspaper instead of toilet paper and ate what the farm provided. “Every time you **** Miles,” my Father would say to me, “You’re saving a tree.”
I always wondered what my Father had against other people, even the nice ones. But him and society were like oil and water. This is the truth and I hate boring you with all the details. At the store were all those nosey people, at the bank, even more gossipy people. People and my Father were like fire and gasoline. He was a people-o-phobe, a recluse, a poor mans Howard Hughes, what he called a “purist.” He was a butcher by day, a drunk by night. Everything we needed, he would say, was right here, home sweet home.
I guess what I remember about the tragedy is in the details. It’s the little things I remember. It’s like that saying, what you don’t know won’t hurt you. Well, that was my whole childhood. See I’ve traded in the rough memories for the scant details. The peeling white paint by the porch and the way the sky looked on that nightmarish day it all went down. My solace, when things got really weird, when they made me watch, was when the sun hit my head just right and my shadow on the tall wheat grass would grow and morph. That was what I watched, not what they wanted me too, not at first. I watched the shadow of my head become an alien head, then a deformed monster head, and then a long insect head. By then whatever they were doing was usually over. The ways of blocking and dealing with traumatic events is a process. The cure is in the minutia of things, the details you want to remember, the happy place. Dr. Stahl, my doctor, not her husband says that in therapy they call this “The Safe Zone” and “The Retreat.” Nothing bad can happen to you there. She says that if I ever have nightmares or feel scared I should go into “The Safe Zone” into the “The Retreat.”
At first, I was just as innocent and pure as the driven snow. I loved my family, even if they were always doing strange, yet fun things. One year for Christmas, we all sat around in the dark, one candle burning and talked about whom we’d kill. My parents and I called it The Name Game. They did all the talking, intense like, sometimes even talking strange. Dr. Stahl says what they were doing was speaking in tongues. I don’t understand, but continue anyways. With The Name Game we’d all laugh and dance. They had fun my parents with The Name Game and it was good to see. Then we would eat a big pot roast.
My first memories of the farmhouse if I think real hard involve my Father naked, my Mother getting her clothes ripped off by my Father and my Father holding a leather belt, while wearing a freshly cut cow skin over his back and head. It’s like what Charles Bukowski once said; “We are born like this into this…” But I don’t think even Charles Bukowski could have seen this one coming. I wouldn’t discover Charles Bukowski until I moved to Los Angeles. Anyways more than the dead cow draped over my Father like a cheap suit, it was all the blood from the freshly killed cow carcass, dripping all over the gray carpet, down my Father’s hairy bare legs and of course what I often hear in my sleep, still to this day, the wretched blood curdling screams from my Mother that really got to me. These screams still haunt my dreams. Sometimes, even after I’d moved far away to Hollywood, under a bridge or behind a closed store, I’d sleep on the concrete sidewalk, by the dumpster and wake up, my Mother’s screams still in my head. To me, it is the soundtrack of hell. This was why I stole the Walkman, to deafen the screams.
Dr. Stahl tells me to the outside world my parents were Satan worshippers, but for me, an eight-year-old kid who worshipped Superman they were just good ole Mom and Dad. I ask Dr. Stahl what are Satan worshippers and she gets all quiet. She says certain people have certain beliefs. That is all. My parents just like the Devil over God. She tells me to continue. It isn’t a big deal. But I can see in her eyes and from the sound of her voice that this upsets her.
I say goofy old Mom and Dad always did strange, weird, crazy things. I didn’t know of God or The Devil. I just knew my parents. Mom and Dad’s favorite thing to do was kill a bunch of animals with a special knife, always around midnight and then they would wrestle and play in the blood and bones of their fresh kill. Dr. Stahl interrupts and says what they were doing was sex, fornication.
The big table out in the backyard was a thick picnic table with weird symbols burned into it. I know those symbols now to be Pentagrams and strange looking men with wolf heads. I draw them on a paper and Dr. Stahl tells me this. I always wondered about those men, why they had animal heads like that. Dr. Stahl didn’t really know either. I tell her my Father was artistic, a real creative type, really he was. I smile and feel proud. That is what Father called it at first “art.” Later on he said words like “ritual” and “altar.”
The big table was always where they would do it, the exercising - the playing - the wrestling – and all the screaming. I remember how one night the moonlight once illuminated their naked bodies and in the hazy night air they looked like two warriors covered in blood, gnawing at flesh, kissing and wrestling around. I saw them like two noble warriors or Vikings, covered in animal hides, celebrating a fresh kill, victorious. They were just playing. It was just a game and I was made spectator.
The school I went to had a grand total of one hundred kids. It was divided into four classrooms. This was way up in Michigan, where the roads turn dirt. I enjoyed school there, then math mostly. With math there is always an answer. Zero speculation. Later I found god in words, but that was much later. In school, second grade, coloring Superman comic books with big Crayola crayons was my favorite thing to do in this life. Sipping milk from a carton and watching a video on Cheetahs was my second. We must have watched Cheetah World a million times.
I say to Dr. Stahl, imagine an eight-year-old boy hearing his Mother scream. I tell her I was scared, always scared. This went on night after night. Like an alarm clock it always woke me up, so one day I went to investigate. I slowly crept downstairs and saw my Father whipping her bare back with a belt. My Father was dressed in a blood soaked cow carcass, hitting my Mother with great force. That night, not long ago it occurred to me. I knew what must be done. This was how I got to live with Grandma.
My Fathers thick naked beefsteak backside covered in bloody cowhide, smacking my Mother around like a rag doll, and I was scared. Then I got angry. This type of thing at the farmhouse was like a national past time, a game of dominoes or checkers for most people. My teacher Miss Plum always tried to teach us between right and wrong. What would she say about this? What is right here? What is wrong? Later I would find out that my Mother actually enjoyed this type of thing. In fact, she preferred it.
The walls of the farmhouse were painted black, every room and that night a strange whitish blue lamp emitted a strange whitish blue light. This made the den glow and light up. I remember looking around and on the couch I saw my Mothers knitting needles. Long, metal, slender, sharp. I plucked one out of a ball of yarn and walked over to My Father who had his back to me. He was slapping my Mother, exercising again and I felt weird. The clinical term is “saw red.” That’s when I stabbed him in the back with the knitting needle. It stuck plum into his back like a tent stake.
I tell Dr. Stahl I can’t go on. I don’t remember anymore. She says I deal with this trauma by blocking it out. She says it isn’t healthy and to continue. She says I am making a major breakthrough. I don’t remember much after that only that when I didn’t show up at school for a week straight the police paid a visit to the farmhouse. I don’t know how long I was there, chained in the basement like that. Dr. Stahl says a Father, who loves his son never hurts him like that. She asks me if I understand. I do, but say nothing. My throat feels like a lump of coal, but I try to continue. Dr. Stahl and her long legs and perfume. My hard on is starting to ache and I continue only to impress her.
It was for a reason, the punishment, the being chained up. That was what he said, a son never questions his Father. That’s when he branded the pentagram into my chest. He said my Mother and him, their actions came from love and worship. He said one day I would see it the family way.
With chains tight against my wrists and ropes cutting the flesh around my ankles, I really don’t remember too much of what he said after that. He read to me from the big book and spoke all weird again. I remember feeling hungry, more hungry then I’d ever been. Then he stormed off to make a homemade branding iron in the barn. It is still there, the branding. Dr. Stahl and her red lipstick say it will always be there. I tell her it’s why I hate these hot summer days, why I never go swimming with my Foster Care friends. That is all I say during my first doctors appointment, but I feel like I said too much.
Dr. Stahl scribbling still, her legs in nylons, long. This is the first time I ever think about a naked girl. This is the first time I notice breasts. She tells me the police reports said I’d been abused for eight days and that my parents did not go quietly. I knew about this, I had seen it. When the police car meandered up the driveway of the farmhouse my Father greeted them a blazing shotgun, and my Mother with a semi-automatic pistol. After that, well, seems every TV News Show and every TV news truck from here to New York was in the front yard of the farmhouse. The farmhouse. What the police found inside made even bigger headlines. They thought it was horrible, but to me it was just home.
When the public got word of all the written journals containing the names of people my parents wanted dead, when it was made public all the dead animals buried next to the house in a mass grave, when it was brought to light all the strange Satanic Ritual stuff found throughout the house and when the media got wind that an old neighborly couple of ours in their late sixties, Mr. and Mrs. Dunhill, who had strangely moved one summer were both found cut up in the basement freezer of the farmhouse, well, that is when I began to hit the talk show circuit. People seemed interested.
The bad thing with Grandmas is they also die. After months living down in Detroit, child services picked me up. Grandma had a heart attack and I was shoved into Foster Care. Foster Care was like camping. It was like summe rcamp. There was usually always someone to talk to and the more I talked the more I felt different. Nobody else’s parents had done what mine did.
It took Dr. Stahl a year or so to piece it together. At first, after it happened there was all those counseling sessions and group therapy. After the group therapy and tests, by the time I turned nine came what I consider The Vitamin Period. Dr. Stahl would ask me a bunch of questions, confer with Mr. Dr. Stahl and come back. They said they weren’t sure what was wrong with me. Then there was the field study: Abilify, Thorazine, Haldol, Zyprexa, Depakote, Trilafon, Geodon, Ripserdal, Lamictal, Celexa, Lexapro, Zoloft, Xanax, Ativan and Prozac. I felt like the definition for Trial and Error. See also: Experimentation. Process. Scientific Analysis.
After years of talking and blood tests, the official diagnosis was “undetermined psychosis," which to be honest was kind of anti-climatic. This was way back in 2005, some fifteen years ago. I don’t even consider that me anymore.
TV Cable News Talk Shows give you five hundred, sometimes one thousand dollars to appear on their network. This is why I tried to do as many shows as I could. Sometimes I did two a day. CNN, FOX news, Headline News, I’d sit behind a huge desk with hot bright lights on me and a bunch of people looking, staring at me and they’d ask me questions. All I had to do was answer them if I had an answer. Sometimes I couldn’t connect the dots, but the more talk shows I did, the more I began to realize that my childhood was unlike any others. I began to feel different, weird and freakish.
Before I left that first day of therapy, before all the pills Dr. Stahl began talking and saying that there is no such things as zombies, werewolves, vampires or devils. She said Satan was probably a mythical figure. When she said that I looked dead at her all deadpan like and said, lady if there is no Devil, then there is no me. She said I should keep a journal and write all my thoughts down. She said I should write about what had happened as a means to coming to terms with it. So I did.
I spilled my guts in a school notebook and when it was filled, I filled another. Soon there were ten notebooks of my scribbling, my stories, and my life. When my psychiatrist read through she said I had real talent, an expressiion through words. She had me write a short story about what I wanted to be when I grew up. The five-pager won first prize in the Metro Detroit Writing Contest For Kids. They gave me a big blue ribbon. That was when I first knew I wanted to become a writer. See also: Storyteller. Artist. Novelist.