Another Short Story About Death

When people stay over they complain I scream out in my sleep. Night terrors. They ask, who is Jake? I shudder to think what I am doing in those forgotten nightmares. Am I trapped or caught or bringing down the knife? Have I cornered him? Is he begging for his life? Have the tables been turned, the police called? Am I already handcuffed, am I sitting in the electric chair?

A Fragment

There’s darkness all around me.  Both sides.  Consider it.  Consuming me.  Your death.  When I wake in the morning and retire at night.  My obsession to kill, to kill you obscures the view, softens the edges like a drink, like a cold beer, like a veil.  Then I’m walking in the world.  I am on the street.  I am not where my body is.  Away from my house,  trapped in the sunlight.  Jacarander in full bloom.  Smashed avocado on the side-walk.  Why bother going out?  I could be planning his death.  Planning the end of his life.  Scripting the final words he will hear before he’s snuffed out.  I have to feed the dog.  Buy probiotic.  Pass the homeless black man reclining on the concrete bench.

Franklin, Selma, Cherokee.

The only fascinating thing that came out of his mouth was my cock.  I have a photograph of that.   I wish I had been more tenacious tending my own lusty garden, less sensitive, less caring.

When people stay over they complain I scream out in my sleep.  Night terrors.  They ask, who is Jake?  I shudder to think what I am doing in those forgotten nightmares.  Am I trapped or caught or bringing down the knife?  Have I cornered him?  Is he begging for his life?  Have the tables been turned, the police called?  Am I already handcuffed, am I sitting in the electric chair?

There are no consequence, nothing scares me when the lights are on, when dawn has broken.  As I make my way, steeply up the dusty trail.  Fighting one resentment after another.  Slip sliding past these single people with their dog children.  Calling out.  One dog, two dogs, three dogs.  This morning I counted 145 dogs.  I’m calling your name as I sleep.  Jake!  Come back to me.

There is something inevitable. Keep your voice down.  I am planning.  I’ll leave it up to my dreams to work out the detail.   The multiple contractions of apprehension.  Accept my fate, God’s will (not mine) be done.

I worked in the county jail for the Mexican nuns.  Organizing lectures for the pre-trial detainees.  I met murderers there.  They were so contrite. I listened politely to their stories.  “I’ve taken a life.”  He wept.  He buried her in a storm drain, using a broom handle to push her limbs out of sight.

Culver, Washington, Sepulveda.

The heavy rains, El Niño flushed her desiccated body into the LA River,  bobbing along the concrete culvert until she met the choppy Pacific Ocean.  Murderers all, never thinking I would one day join them.  Wearing orange scrubs and yellow underwear.  I wonder if I will be as contrite when strangers ask me for my story?  Contrition has never been my friend.

After many months of consideration everything is in place.  Everything I need to know:  Where he lives, the route he takes to work, how I can find him.

Hyperion, 101, West Temple.

I have seen recent pictures of him on his Mother’s Facebook.  The way he wears his hipster beard, trimmed in such a way I never knew.  I wonder if his lover advises him to wear it like that? He is wearing a jacket I picked out for him.  Do you know how much that amuses me?  Every time he pulls on that jacket he has no option but to think of me.

I have not yet bought the weapon.

The cast is chosen, the die… is cast.  The private detective, my unwitting accomplice.  The weapon?  Must buy.  Top of the list.  Number 1.  It was easy to find the Private Detective.  Google.  Boasting he once worked for the LAPD.  Despicable cops.  Everything about my failed relationship with Jake was conceived and born on the internet.  It was shaped on web cams,  emails, Facebook, Manhunt, Grindr.

Determined by him.

When and whenever he wanted.  I gave into him.  Until I didn’t.

How and why should a charming, affluent, fifty year old think like this?  Why this murderous obsession?  I used to wake every morning full of hope, like a young boy!  Enchanted by all the world has to offer.  Now I see nothing.  At the mercy of nothing.  Darkness both sides of me.  I used to wake up every morning and thank God for the new day.  Now there is no God, just a black hole where God used to be, consuming everything in the universe.  Sucking anything of value into the vortex.  The furies are all I’m left with.  On the edge of the black hole.

I have given up wondering why I am so angry at him.   This is all you need to know:

Alone in my bed at night but not isolated. The house is full of people.  The dog is well fed.  The maid cleans.  The gardeners trim and prune and sweep.  There are fragrant hyacinths, white and purple, growing in pots on the dining room table.  Freshly grown fruit picked and washed ready to eat.

I don’t expect to get away with this.  In anticipation I have been disconnecting from my darling dog.  He knows it, he paws at me insistently.  He knows something grave is in the offing.  He, in turn, is learning to trust the kindness of others.  He doesn’t want to be left on his own.  I may have murdered months ago had it not been for the extraordinary something between me and a dog.  I am ready to let go of him too.  He hides from me when I cry, he hides from me when I am angry.  Leaves puddles of urine on the white rug. He cowers when I shout at dullards on the streets or digital voices on the telephone.  He is scared by the smell of whiskey on my breath.  He is ready for a different master.  

I am ashamed to tell you, when he first arrived from the shelter I was quite cruel to him.  He was scared and disoriented when I brought him home.  Barking, barking.  He would pee on everything and after a week of cleaning the house, scrubbing the god damned carpet, mopping the tile, the smell of dog pee on everything I owned.  Every time he peed I shouted at him.

He defecated in my closet.   I shouted so hard he ran away and hid in the garden.

I wished he would never come back.  I begged God the coyote would eat him.  The rattle snake would kill him.  For a week he managed to not get eaten by the coyotes.  How?  Packs of coyote stalk my property.  Screaming for their dinner.  He walked back into the house as if nothing had happened.  He never urinates on the carpet again.

He’s not the only one who escapes the anger when it comes.  People in the room move away from me as if they know me.  I used to shout at people in the street.  I’ve been angry.  Very angry.  Furious.  It’s a problem.  Perhaps I am well-known for flying off the handle?  There’s no question mark.  I am well-known for losing my temper.  At work, in situations where powerlessness grips me, I feel myself sinking.  I shouted so loudly, my blood pressure so high, I collapsed.  Shifting the liquid in my inner ear.  The doctor thought I was having a stroke.

I lost my temper with Jake.  I lost my temper when we thought he had been robbed.  I lost my temper at the airport in Paris, Charles De Gaulle.   He recoiled.  Everyone does.  I am a big man who looks docile for the most part.  Docile, until they prod me with their stick.  Docile until the blood drains out of my face, my lips turn blue and I look like an animal.  I know where you are.  I can hear you talking about me during the day.  My ears burning.  He’s doing it right now.  I can hear him laughing at me.  Describing my horrible temper.  Sharing stories about me with his friends.  Laughing at every choice I ever made.  I imagine him with my old acquaintances (friends no more) who may have contacted him.  Laughing at how old I am.  Wondering what he ever saw in me.  My erectile dysfunction.  The white in my beard.  My stiff knees.  

He is only twenty-nine years old.  I don’t expect him to celebrate his thirtieth birthday.

Chris, the Private Detective.  The first time we met, we met in public.  We drank coffee at a large table at my private club over looking Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.

Doheny, Hillcrest, Thrasher.

A plump, sanguine, middle-aged man who is not even middle-aged. Certainly fifteen years younger than me yet seems so much older.  There is something invisible about him.  He is uniquely American.  He is invisible.  He is everyman, dressed as everyman therefore invisible.  I would be hard pressed to pick him out of a crowd even though I have met him twice.  He had no particular expression, no charisma, no beauty and no opinion.

Only when pressed did he tell me about his other clients:  a woman from Pasadena whose husband she suspected was having an affair.  He followed the unemployed spouse into Santa Monica who sat in the library day after day drinking english tea from a flask he filled at The Coffee Bean and reading free newspapers until it was time to go home.

I wondered if I had ever been followed, watched or my movements documented?   Really, who would care enough to do that?  I couldn’t think of anyone other than Joe.  The thought made me smile.  Not even he would bother.  Even as we were in the midst of our messy ‘divorce’.

The second time I met Chris the Detective we met at my home.  He had, by this time, reseached me.  He was less restrained, he knew who I was and who he was dealing with.  He told me about a boy he was looking for, a lost boy.  He thinks the boy is already dead.  Suicide.  “Let’s talk about money.”  Chris pulled a contract out of a black plastic folder and I handed him a cheque for $1, 500.  Discover where he goes, I said.  With whom.  Simple.

Yes, I am a homosexual.  I wondered if you guessed already?  Had I made it obvious? Was it evident in the way that I write?  The way I see things.  Does it differ from the way you see things?  A homosexual, a landlord and recently  (I don’t know how to write this) a television personality from a reality television show.  That’s how I make my money, odd jobs.  Like the downs syndrome boy who lives in my home town.  Running errands.  I am a high achieving cripple.

Odd jobs suit me fine.

Yet, I earn more money than I ever have.  Using all of my potential.   Even though the worst of me seems to get the better deal every single day and always has.

I can confide in you?

Each night I regret the passing of another day.  I lay in my bed and before I fall asleep, knowing that soon my freedom will be curtailed.  My sheets no longer woven from heavy linen.  My houses in the mountains will fall into disrepair.  Friends and family will come and take what they want and the lawyers will take the rest.  My dog will never see me again.  Will he too die in prison?  Euthanized by strangers?  Is it worth it?  To lose everything because he made a fool of me?  Lied to me?  Can I risk everything?  Should I?

I have never been so sure of anything in my whole life.  In lieu of suicide, murder works just fine.  I talk to him, imaginary conversations.  I catch hold of his sleeve and I ask him, “Can I tell you how you broke my heart?”  He looks back at me.  His brown eyes and soft mouth.  I say, “Because you trusted me, you encouraged me, you loved me.  Then you saw something you hated and turned your back on me and I was alone and I couldn’t bear being all on my own… again.” Then I feel sorry for him.  I want to help him get out of this pickle.  Run away!  While you still have the opportunity. I don’t want to kill anything.  But the wish to kill is never killed, even when I am happy, even when the twins are bouncing around the house.

Sometimes I want to call you and give you fair warning.  I want to tell you to run and hide so I can’t get you.  But I don’t.  I don’t because the die is cast.  I have already caused him inexorable pain and chaos.  I know his entire family (Mother, Father and sister) stand beside him whereas I have no one here.  His tiny jewish mother, her short coarse hair, married to her tall slim husband whose ambition is to travel by push bike from Southern California to burning man and take acid. His mum and dad who only found out he was gay when I forced him to tell the truth.  They were shocked their son could have made so many bad choices, led a double life.  Told so many lies.  He compartmentalized the life he led with his fiance and the life he had with me.

He is not uncommon.  So many gay men learn how to lie, to skirt the existence others think they lead.  Last week a gay acquaintance of mine found dead in his bathroom from a Oxycontin overdose.  He was fine!  His father told everyone that he had only just put down the phone twenty-four hours ago and his son, his only son, his darling son was fine.

I used to tell him that.  I warned him.  Toxic shame kept him lying to everyone who loved him and would end up killing him if he didn’t tell the truth.


My name is Charles Maguire.  I am fifty years old.  I live with my small dog  in a large, mid-century modern house designed in part by Rudolf Schindler on three acres of verdant, semi tropical gardens overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  The gardens are planted with Agave, cactus and other drought loving succulents.  Below the house there is a small grove of olive trees.  Last summer I grew cherimoya, oranges, grapes, lemons, plums, peaches and many vegetables.  The excess fruit and vegatables I left at the top of the drive for my neighbours, they took the produce and ignored the honesty box.

Malibu is a tranquil place many miles away from Hollywood.  I can see the stars at night and listen to birds all day long.  Hawks wheeling in the sky.  There is a carp pond and a plunge pool.  My neighbours are European.  Americans tend to fear the idea of living on the mountain.  When they arrive at the house they say, “Are you scared of….mudslides, fires, earthquakes etc?”  And I reply, “No… not much scares me up here.  Then they tour the garden and tell me this is a ‘magical’ place.  It is when you stop being scared.

Latico Canyon, Las Flores, Topanga.

Last month young twins moved into the guest house but mostly they hang out with me.  My Mormon twins, tall, perfectly sculpted bodies, so polite and thoughtful.  As much as I love them, they shall not distract me from my great task.  Perhaps all I want is attention?  Craving attention.  Negative or otherwise?  The trial,  I arrive looking svelte and dapper.  I will stand in the witness-box and sob when forced to tell my abusive back story.

I think about him again.  I think about how he may or may not be with someone he loves who is not me.  I think of him having sex with someone he loves who is not me.  Then I think murderous thoughts that many of us have when ditched.   I console myself in the shadow of that word:  I think about the wounds on his body that I am going to inflict and how they will open in his flesh like cactus flowers.

I don’t think anyone will be surprised when they hear that I am arrested.  Most people I know understand that I am the sort of man who would or could be capable of murder.  Just like my father.   He was the same way.

The route he takes to work everyday.  Hyperion, 101, Culver.

The twins are in their room making love.  I can hear them.  One of them says softly, “Don’t!” They giggle.   They look at my AA sober coins and say, “These are really cool trinkets.”  They are going to the gym and getting ready to audition. They don’t know my thoughts.  They can’t possibly know what is going on upstairs in the head department.  They are simple Mormon boys who make love in the morning and talk about girls all day long. I can hear them kissing.  I can hear them cooing like doves.  I can hear one of them gasp.

Since he left me I have put on weight.  My jowls are sagging.  The skin around my eyes drooping over my eye lids.  My belly looks permanently full and my skin is dull and grey.  I used to be attractive but that doesn’t matter any more.  Who cares what I look like?

I don’t.

I have not had an erection for months.   Hey, gay boy.  Can you imagine that?  Fucking gay boys!  Not to have an erection?  Not to wake up with morning wood because all you can think about twenty-four seven is how you are going to speed a bullet through his brains?

Murderous thoughts destroy ones libido.  Although, most murderers say they get an erection after a murder, that ones penis becomes doubly engorged.

I don’t look at pornography, I don’t show myself on any match-making web site.  I don’t drink alcohol or take drugs.  I drink coffee and smoke strong cigarettes.  I barely ever brush my teeth unless I have to share a car with someone… and then, only when that person matters.  I stand naked in front of the mirror so the image of who I am burns into my brain.  I am ugly and useless and un-lovable.  I am old.

Some days I kneel at the edge of my bed and pray that I can be delivered from this obsession but God long ago fled the scene of this crime.  I have nothing to lose.  My life is worthless.

I can hear the twins in another part of the house film scenes for a film that has no beginning, middle or end.  The dog is with them, he’s barking and running around joyfully.  I know, if I join them they will sit quietly.  Their joy deferring to my misery.

Did you know that I used to have two dogs?  The other one was killed in the road.  I miss her so much.  Somehow her death, her cruel and senseless death introduced me to the idea of death.  Life’s fragility.  I am crying now.  Thinking about her.

Anyway, that’s that.  The detective has been appointed.  Cal from Manhattan Beach has the gun. It is presently sitting in a box wrapped in a dishcloth.  He texted me a picture of the gun.  Applying some Polaroid app to the image which made it look very old-fashioned.  Very old.  Everything is in place.  What could possibly stop me.  Other than his pleading face?  His begging cries?  His convincing argument that he might live?

Why don’t I just kill my old self and spare his young life?

I say goodbye to the dog and the twins.  I walk for one last time around the estate.  The paths that cut into the hill-side.  The view over the ocean.  I say goodbye to it all.  “The next time you see me will be on the television.”  The twins look a little confused but are too polite to pry.  The Little Dog thought he was coming too and looked quite panicked when I did not invite him into the car.  I didn’t look back.  I could hear him barking.  I didn’t look back.

405, Vista Del Mar, Highland Ave


Cal, shows me the gun.  He is very excited.   A plan to kill.   I am discovering that murder excites some people, like the soldiers in Afghanistan who without consideration shot and killed innocent men and women without regard.  It was their thrill and now I feel it too.

A thrill comes over me, more intense than anything I have ever felt before.  Do men feel the same before they kill themselves?   Have I thought about suicide?  I think about it everyday.  Every single day.  If I am brave enough go kill myself I might as well take someone with me.  The man who broke my heart.  The man who caused everything to stop except time.  Stuck in this morass.