Chapter 12: Dandy
My life plodded on. It seemed that I was always tired. I was troubled in mind at work, distracted at home, and I woke exhausted every morning from erotic dreams. I began to dread the nights and at the same time to fall into daylight reveries. Then one night just as I was falling asleep, the telephone rang.
"'Fraid so. Got another one for you."
"Oh, God. Oh, no. Dead?"
"No, not dead, but pretty messed up. Gun shot."
"Oh, thank God."
"At least it wasn't another car crash. How bad?"
"Bad. Boy, these kids sure don't know what they're doing."
"No, no. The neurosurgeon's here, but not for the head. I guess he thought he could shoot himself in the heart, but he missed both ventricles and the aorta."
"Not exactly. The bullet severed the cord at T5-6."
"Yep, looks that way. He's got nothing from the nipples down."
"Breathing on his own?"
"So far. But he's really raving. I think maybe you better come down here."
"Raving? About what?"
"Don't you know someone named John Christ?"
"John? Sure. What's he got to do with this?"
"This kid's mother says his name is Dan, but he keeps telling me he's John Francis Christ and he won't lock the door any more."
"Jesus. OK. I'll be right down."
It didn't take long to dress and drive to Central DuBose. I'd had lots of practice lately. When I reached the ER, Dan had already been taken upstairs.
Gail had warned the ICU nurses to expect me, so I had no trouble getting in. I found Dan strapped face up on a Stryker frame. His mother hovering at his bedside. He was still breathing on his own, and all his monitor read-outs looked stable.
"Mrs. Compton?" I said quietly.
"I'm Janet Dawson, from the suicide task force at Eagle Hills High. Gail, the head nurse in the emergency room, told you about me? And that I would be coming in to talk to Dan?"
"Oh, yes, of course. Please excuse me. I'm so upset. I can't think. How could this happen? I was at Diane's, I went over to Diane's to a Tupperware party. Then the phone rang. 'Betty,' she said, 'it's for you.' It's every mother's nightmare. Do you have children?"
"Yes, I have two."
"I pray you never, ever get a phone call like that. Oh, God. Please, God, let him be all right." Mrs. Compton mopped her eyes ineffectually with a wad of paper towels.
"Danny's always been such a good student. Quiet. Hard-working. Regular habits.
"I hate guns. I never wanted Big Dan to keep firearms in the house. But you know men. Whoever would have thought that Danny would be so careless. I keep hoping this was some kind of mistake. An accident. Or maybe it's just a dream, and I'll wake up, and everything will be fine. I just keep - " Mrs. Compton began to sob uncontrollably. "I know you'll think I'm awful, but what I really need right now - that is - I mean - would you like to be alone with Danny for a few minutes? I know it's wrong, but I just have to step outside. I know they don't want me to smoke in here, and I just - I want - I need - "
"Of course. Go right ahead. Yes, I would like to speak to Dan alone, if you don't mind."
"Thank you. I'll just go out into the parking lot and be right back."
"Please take your time. I'll stay here with him until you get back, if you like."
"Yes, thank you." She hurried out the door, a short, shabbily dressed woman with a lot on her mind, already scrabbling in her purse for cigarettes.
"Hello, Dan," I said.
"Me? I'm not Dan. I'm John."
"Uh huh. Hello, John. You know, I'm a little confused. When I saw you at school, people told me your name was Dan."
"That was a mistake. I thought I was Dan, but I'm not. I'm John, and he's me."
"He's you ...."
"John is me, and I am John. We two are one."
"How did you find this out?"
"He explained it all to me."
"Can you tell me about that?"
"He explained it all to me. Life. Meaning. I understand EVERYTHING now. I felt so sick and tired. I kept all my feelings locked up inside. I didn't think I could ever have what I wanted. I didn't know what I wanted or even what it was to want something. I had all this valuable stuff, and it didn't make me happy. I was chasing after the wind. I worked and worked and all there was ahead of me was more work. But now I see."
"Now you see?"
"That all I really wanted was to be done wanting. I was sick and tired. I was TIRED. But I couldn't rest. None of us can rest. The heart beats because of desire. We breath because of desire. Desire was my HELL! I just wanted to rest. I wanted not to want. I desire to lose desire. I used to be afraid."
"Of what would happen if I killed myself. I was afraid of hell. But there is no hell. Hell is right here! I was afraid of Satan! The devil! Ha! There is no devil! He's right inside me! But I don't want to be in hell! I want to be free! Oh, God, help me! I can't be free! I can't be free!"
"I was in chains. My hope was a chain. My desire was a chain. My self was a chain. I wanted to be free. But I couldn't. I had to break the chains. But I couldn't. I had to get some rest. And I'm not."
"And you thought you could get some rest if...."
"If I was dead. That's the only way."
"I see. Is that still what you want? To be dead?"
"I want not to want. That's all. I just want not to want." He began to cry, and closed his eyes.
I waited at the bedside a few more minutes, but Dan refused to speak. When Mrs. Compton returned, she touched his insensate hand gently. "Danny?" she said. "Danny, are you all right? Is he all right?"
His eyes snapped open. "I'm NOT DANNY. I am ME. I am not you and you are NOT PERFECT." His agitation set off the alarm on one of his monitors. A nurse stepped up to the bedside with a syringe in her hand. She injected something into one of his IV lines, and he quickly calmed.
"He needs to rest," she said. "Perhaps you could visit another time."
"Yes, thank you, I'll go now," I said. When I left, Mrs. Compton was still standing at the bedside, chewing on her fingers.
I arranged to see John in my office first thing Monday morning. I didn't honestly believe that he had deliberately driven his locker partner insane, but I was nevertheless very curious about what had happened, and wanted to find out John's version of events.
Case 054 Interview 054-02jfc
INTERVIEW WITH JOHN I
INT: John, good morning.
RES: What's up, doc?
INT: Indeed. I had occasion to speak to someone this weekend who had some strange ideas about you. I was wondering what you could tell me about that.
RES: Strange ideas? I don't have any strange ideas. I'm a perfectly normal person.
RES: Would you like to hear my ten rules for making love to a cat?
INT: Only if the first rule is: The cat says OK.
RES: Never mind. What about pulling the wings off butterflies? Or the legs off frogs? Or maybe playing wiffle ball with fireflies? Or your brother.
INT: [sits patiently]
RES: The question is, Was it a dinosaur or a toilet seat that hit Crazy Bill Pineapple on his ass? Except he doesn't have an ass.
INT: I beg your pardon?
RES: Crazy Bill Pineapple. You know. The Raisin Man. Who got hit on the head by some really large object moving at forty-three thousand kilometers per hour. But was it a dinosaur, a large cluster of such dinosaurs, or a toilet seat? Or maybe a paper cup?
INT: It sound to me like you've been back in the metaphorical studio.
RES: Yes, we like to call it Ben's Basement, our home inside Ben's home. We finished up Soccer Ear Fob, our latest tape. Would you like a copy?
INT: Yes, thank you, I would, very much.
RES: Here. Ear.
INT: Thank you. Ear.
RES: I'll send you the bill.
INT: The check is in the mail.
RES: I'm sure you'll be glad to know that we've already started our next album. We actually began planning it out before we even finished this one. It's gonna be the best ever. It'll be great.
INT: Now, which of these is about the dinosaurs and toilet seats?
RES: The one we're working on now. Soccer Ear Fob is just a bunch of stupid songs thrown together. Our next tape - our next album - is a story, orchestrated like an opera. A symphony. The hero is Crazy Bill Pineapple, the Most Annoying Man Alive. The hero is always Crazy Bill Pineapple, or you might know him as Bill Harris, the Man with No Ass.
INT: Ah, yes, of course, The Most Annoying Man Alive. What a good name. [long pause]
RES: So how's Dandy?
INT: Well, he seems to think his name is John.
RES: What a coincidence.
INT: Yes, isn't it?
INT: A coincidence.
RES: Yes, it's a coincidence that he thinks he's John and my name is John. Then again there are a lot of people named John, so it's actually not much of a coincidence.
INT: I think it's a little stranger than that. For one thing, he seems to think his name is John Francis Christ. For another, he was your locker partner.
RES: Then, it's not a coincidence at all. He's trying to be like me. He just envies me.
INT: You think he shot himself because of envy?
RES: I think he shot himself because he's a fool. Or he was retarded. Or both.
INT: John, for someone who lives with a mentally handicapped person, feelings of animosity toward that person are not unusual. I understand that you have a younger brother with Downs Syndrome?
INT: I'm wondering if you're using him as an outlet for your anger.
INT: I see. Why is it that you've become so fond of using the developmentally disabled as objects of derision?
RES: I thought we were here to talk about Dandy.
INT: All right. Let's do that.
RES: Although Dandy may have acted like a moron in many ways, I think it's obvious that he was not developmentally disabled (i.e. retarded). At least not in the traditional sense. But of course, I wasn't speaking in the traditional sense. Contrary to Ben's beliefs I was talking to you. A separate person. Hence I was attempting, perhaps it's futile, but I was attempting to engage you in a dialog. There's no sense in talking to yourself when you already know what you're going to say...
RES: I saw Dan as perfectly capable of integrating the many trademark characteristics necessary to appear retarded.
INT: Say more about that.
RES: Dan's a very gullible person. Therefore he's a fool. Much like a retard. Or a dog. Or Rob.
INT: Could you give me some examples of things Dan has believed?
INT: Please do.
RES: Dan believed that Jesus Christ was his lord and savior and that when he died he would be taken into the Paradise of Heaven because he, unlike us, was a true believer.
INT: Do you think that had anything to do with Dan trying to shoot himself?
RES: Anyone who has that kind of inflexible religious belief is prone to being gullible and people who are really gullible, I mean if they're really gullible, you could tell them that the best thing for them to do would be to shoot themselves, and they would just do it. But I wouldn't tell Dan to shoot himself.
INT: Of course not. What would you tell him?
RES: I would tell him he was a fool. I'd tell him that until he believed me.
INT: Mmhmm. Would you tell him his name was John Francis Christ?
RES: Sure. If I thought it was going to help make my point that he was a fool clearer, yes I would. Yes I did. Did it work?
INT: Yes, I think so.
RES: Ha! What a fool.
INT: Mmhmm. Well, he's a fool who'll never use his legs again.
RES: Whatever. He deserved it.
INT: He deserved it?
RES: He was so vain! He wanted to be immortal. He deserved to die. Rob would say Dandy was just walking his line. But to top it all off, he was a cannibal. So yes, he deserved to die...
INT: Vain? Immortal? CANNIBAL?
RES: You'd be surprised what people will do to live forever. Dan said he was selfless. In a way I guess he was right. But, deep down inside he wanted to be equal with his hypothetical creator. He wanted to be above his own god. He reached out to touch the hand of god. He ate it. All Christians are cannibals. What do you think holy communion is about? You're one of them yourself. I can tell. You and I are as one. You try to hide from it, but you know. And I know. Our love.... Never mind. I can tell you're a slave to the desire for the divine fleshburger. You've got that barely detectable unwashed trickle of blood on your lips. No industrial solvent is gonna take that off. The body of christ, broken for you. The blood of your god, that you might know what its like to be a vampire. [spreads his arms apart and tilts his head to one side] Take, drink, eat, feed feed feed feed. One must eat the other. Who runs free before you. Just put them right into your mouth. To think you can be better than god by eating it. That's vanity. Now he's dead. Food did not save his life.
INT: [long pause] I'm not sure I follow you. Dan isn't dead.
RES: Dan is dead. He's been dead all his life. Now he doesn't even pretend to be alive. Now he pretends he's me. How vain! He can't go to heaven now, can he? The fool.
INT: So if Dan had killed himself, then it wouldn't have been suicide? Since he was already dead?
RES: It doesn't really matter. Does it? Either way, he's still in a hospital bed probably feeling miserable.
INT: Yes ....
RES: When was the last time you took a bite out of your savior?
INT: We're here to talk about Dand - Dan.
RES: It's not easy to talk about something that doesn't exist. Something that doesn't matter, or consists of no matter. Like mind, for example. We could talk about our minds. But OK. What about Dandy?
INT: He had some other - unusual - ideas, too.
RES: He failed to realize that toiling at pointless projects until his death was a sound idea.
INT: Pointless projects?
RES: I made it very clear to him that, rather than killing himself, it would be funnier if he pretended that what he was doing was important and worked at it as hard as he could before he died a hideous death in old age.
INT: Mmm. A very optimistic philosophy of life.
RES: Dan tried to take the easy way. He'll never get to heaven now. What a fool.
INT: It sounds like you didn't care for him.
RES: He was so annoying. He deserved to die. He's so petty. Everything he cares about is unimportant and trivial. He's transfixed with trivia.
INT: I'm not sure that everyone would agree that trying to shoot yourself is trivial. I'm fairly certain, for example, that his parents don't think so. I don't think I do either. That's why I'm here.
RES: First of all, the vast majority of people are transfixed and tranquilized with their own trivial lives and secondly, I never told him to shoot himself. He picked that course of action of his own free will in order to avoid all the trivia I was pointing out to him. I showed him that his life encompassed nothing more than little tidbits of unimportant acts. Being unable to reconcile that, he took the easy way out and tried to kill himself. Then he couldn't even do that right. He failed.
INT: Well.... I hear you saying that you think that life is meaningless. That makes me wonder if you are considering shooting yourself, too.
RES: What I'm saying is: Trivia is meaningless. And evil, for that matter.
INT: Mmm. Is life trivial? Or not?
RES: Life is truth. Dan's search for truth damned him. That's all.
INT: What is truth?
RES: Truth is unchanging law. We all have truths. Are mine the same as yours?
INT: I'm not sure. Do you think that life is trivial?
RES: Life is what you make of it.
INT: What are you making of yours?
RES: A foodball.
INT: [nervous laughter] Actually, some of what you're saying sounds - familiar.
RES: Yeah, I used some of Rob's retarded philosophy to convince Dan that he was wrong about everything. But I didn't think he was stupid enough to really believe it. If I thought he was that stupid, I would have told him a funnier way to do it.
INT: John. Is it possible that you - might have - influenced Dan in any way? Seriously?
RES: I was his locker partner. I'm sure I influenced him, just as he influenced me.
INT: How did he do that?
RES: Mostly by making me hate him.
INT: You hated him?
RES: Like I said, I hated his mediocre life and his trivial demands. He was a cow-like insensate meat puppet.
INT: Ahh. Trivial demands.
RES: Like locking the door.
INT: Locking the door ....
RES: He's always saying, "Don't forget to lock the locker, John. I'm serious, I've got a lot of valuable stuff in here!"
INT: He wanted you to lock your locker?
RES: Yeah. What an ass. There wasn't anything but trash in there.
INT: Most students here do lock their lockers, though.
RES: Like I said, most people are transfixed with the trivial. Assholes. I can count the main concerns of 99% of the world population on two fingers. It's pathetic. Why bother? I'd rather be dead than like that, and I'd rather see other people dead than see them self-replicating all over the world, eating up resources that should be put to use in a more interesting manner. What I'm getting at here is that if nobody locked their locker, nobody would want to steal anything. Why not just leave the door open, so everyone can see what pathetic shit is in there?
INT: Is that what you do?
RES: I tried. But Dan kept locking it.
INT: This was a source of disagreement between you?
RES: For him. I didn't bother arguing about it. Who cares?
INT: I guess Dan did.
RES: Apparently not any more.
INT: Apparently not. I wonder if you could tell me anything about the expression, "Desire to lose desire."
RES: The basis of Rob's stupid philosophy. You know that.
INT: Can you think where Dan might have heard about this philosophy?
RES: I just told you. From me.
INT: Because he was so gullible, he believed you?
RES: He believed Rob. I was just the messenger.
INT: Ah. You were a faithful messenger, then, to deliver the good news so convincingly.
RES: A disciple, if you will.
INT: I wonder if you can understand my point of view here. It occurs to me that if other students accepted this philosophy as enthusiastically as Dan did, it might lead to rather serious consequences.
RES: Think of it as cutting away the dead flesh of society. Think of society as a living, breathing organism. Some things are good for it. Some things are bad for it. Adam was bad for it.
INT: Why was Adam bad for the body of society?
RES: Ideas have power. Dumb, ordinary ideas are like drugs. Or a blow to the head. They drag the body down, and bring it closer to death. Like Bwi. He got dragged down. Haha.
INT: I'm not sure I follow you.
RES: Think of Adam as a cancer in the body of society, using up vital resources to replicate his own uselessness at our expense. Sort of like a personal injury lawyer or an insurance sales person.
INT: I'm not sure whom you mean when you say "our expense," and I have trouble thinking of living, breathing young people as dead flesh.
RES: You didn't have any trouble thinking of Adam as the dead flesh of society.
INT: [long pause]
RES: Would you feel any pity or remorse upon destroying a malignant tumor within a living person?
INT: A tumor....
RES: This is just an analogy.
INT: Nevertheless, an interesting choice.
RES: [embarrassed] Thank you.
INT: I wonder if you'd like to talk a little about your feelings about tumors.
RES: Only if it's an analogy. If it's an analogy to why certain people don't deserve the resources they need to live.
INT: Don't deserve to live?
RES: No one deserves to live.
INT: No one?
RES: Who cares. I have to go. [walks out, leaving the door open behind him]