Published on February 10th, 2013 | by Edwin12
Short Story: Gacy Jr.
October 24th 1976 was supposed to be a happy day. Summer had come and with it, three months away from hallways and lecture bells and girls who smiled with their jaws and dared you with their eyes. I was glad to be out of there. School had resumed a month before but we were taking our time. Michael liked to play hooky and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back. I had known from my first day in middle school that I wasn’t one of those kids who needed a Diploma to live. But not Michael. He was always a smart one, my best friend. He made me start writing journals.
“You can’t go through your life forgetting all the important stuff” He used to say.
I never took him seriously till the day I found his journal stuffed under his bed the night I had to sleep over to finish our lab assignment, filled with his young life chronicled in cursive words and lopsided drawings that made me proud and jealous all at the same time. We were under the truck, tinkering away in the stifling false heat of fall. It was warm that morning and the slap-slap of sprinklers across the green lawns of our street was as much a part of fall as the crickets and the jaunty Beatles songs that blared off the radio, trying to recapture the beauty of the summer months before. Michael didn’t know much about engines, he wasn’t the tinkering kind but he was eager to learn and I needed someone to handle the spanners while I worked so I let him crawl under with me. We laughed at the presenter fumbling to pronounce ‘McCartney’ with his drawly accent. Michael had an obsession with the Lennon one. He had read an unofficial biography a few months before and never failed to quote from the book whenever the opportunity presented itself. I didn’t mind. It was just the way he was. The morning dragged on as we worked; exertion and humidity soaking our shirts. By noon, it was obvious the car wasn’t something I could fix with a little guesswork. So we got out from under the car and went inside to clean up.
“We should go to the new restaurant on Clark Street.” Michael said as he pulled on a fresh shirt and some slacks from my hurriedly stuffed cupboard. His brown shaggy hair fell over his eyes as he said it and he absently pushed a hand through it and pulled it back towards his nape, his bangs staying off his brow in a slightly slick halo. I tried to imitate him with my straight limp hair and everything fell back in a black parted curtain around my pimply cheeks. I sighed and nodded in consent. I might have been the handy one but Michael’s manliness was effortless.
Clark Street was quiet. Everyone we knew from school preferred the older restaurants with Jukeboxes and apart from Pattie’s; the rest of the street was littered with bookstores and office buildings. We walked in and ordered a full brunch of chicken and fries and extra large burgers. The waitress smiled as she took our orders and we watched her rump jiggle with each step as she disappeared into the kitchen. That was another reason we came here. Anywhere else someone would have caught us staring, but Pattie’s had few patrons this late in the afternoon, we could indulge our little perversions in peace.
“The waves that her butt rides are extra choppy today, eh?” Michael joked.
I really didn’t get the joke but I faked a hearty laugh anyway, it was what wingmen did. We distracted ourselves by playing games with the menu while we waited. That was the third reason we came here. Michael had a thing for freshly made food. He’d found out from some documentary that the food the KFC’s near our houses served was preheated instead of freshly made and sometimes spent weeks in the display case before some poor sucker was finally coaxed into buying it. The food came in square trays cradled in the waitress’s arms and she deftly passed them onto the table, spreading them across without bothering to separate the plates. We were regular customers and she knew we ate haphazardly, picking randomly at each other’s food. That was when I first saw him pass by in a truck that had the words PDM stenciled onto the side. He glanced at us through the transparent window as he passed and I felt something run through me. A foreboding of sorts.
It took us an hour to go through the six plates of food that had been scattered across our table. We stripped the meat off the chicken drumsticks and slowly devoured the burgers and chips, taking care to dissect our burgers and take out the distasteful layers of celery. Sated and a little overfed, I paid the waitress and dropped a tip for the cook and we left the restaurant. Our houses were a mere ten blocks away but after all we had eaten, I really couldn’t see myself being able to walk the distance.
“What are we gonna do?”
Michael laughed. “We’re gonna hitchhike our way home Toto.”
I laughed with him, this time genuinely. He had made so much noise about the Wizard of Oz the year before that I had found an abridged version in the children’s section of the school library and read enough to summarize the important bits in my head.
A couple of cars passed, hatchbacks and convertibles being gassed by much older men till they purred, none bothering with a curly haired teenager with his thumb stuck out for a lift and his pimply, scrawny best friend. Then he came around again, the guy in the PDM truck, driving much slower than he had the first time he passed Pattie’s and slowing to a halt the minute he noticed Michael’s outstretched hand. His face was sweaty and blotchy at the temples and he seemed to fill the driver seat with his sheer girth. I tried not to show my revulsion. Michael seemed to have no such problems. He walked up to the truck and stuck his head into the open passenger window.
“We don’t live that far away from here, but we’re really stuffed from lunch. Can we get a ride home?”
“Sure.” The fat man replied. “But I need to drop off some stuff from the back of my truck. My house is about three streets down. Would you mind if I did that first?”
Michael turned to me and raised his eyebrows, his way of non-verbally asking if I was okay with going to this stranger’s home. I gave a little nod. I didn’t mind. After all we were in Chicago; the scary things happened in the city itself, not the surburbs. Michael held the door open for me and I sidled in, holding my belly so I didn’t jiggle my food baby too hard and accidentally fart. Michael slid in after me and shut the door behind him. We drove in silence and I tried to get a proper look at benefactor through the rearview mirror. There was something about him that was very familiar. Something about the fullness of his cheeks and the way he smiled. His smile was toothy and the sharp ends of his smile dug into his paunchy cheeks, like the points of a crescent moon. Michael said something I didn’t hear because I was too distracted by my fascination with his face and he laughed. The laugh was unmistakable. It rumbled from within his distended belly and his monogrammed dress shirt and spilled out from his lips like peals of thunder.
“You’re the clown guy!” I exclaimed. “The one who dresses up as Pogo the clown?”
The laugh came again, more hearty this time, then followed with words, in a deep rumble of a baritone. “Yeah, I’m one and the same. The indomitable Pogo, with the pointy smile.”
His accent was familiar but slightly muddied. It was obvious he’d lived out of state for a while.
“Are you related to Mrs. Gacy?” I asked.
“Yeah, she’s my ma.” He replied.
Michael butted in. “Whoa! Ma Gacy goes to our parish. And you came for a couple of church fundraiser events when your ma was still head Sunday school teacher. That’s probably where dorky Kenneth probably saw you. He didn’t care that he was 13 then, he still went for every damn party.”
“Ha-ha! Swearing like a potty mouth already. I like you, boy.” The Pogo man said. Michael’s smile grew wider.
We got to his house in quick time. It was much farther than we thought. Almost far as our house from Pattie’s. It made me a little worried but Michael didn’t seem to mind so I didn’t say anything. It was a beautiful bungalow, with a raised porch and stairs that led up to an ornamental widow’s peak. He led us up the stairs and into the house through the front door, locking it behind us. I froze. He stopped mid turn and smiled.
“Its to keep out the flies. The doors don’t shut. So I have to lock them with the keys to keep them shut. Do you want something to drink?”
“ A soda would be nice, even though I’m too stuffed to finish it.” Michael said.
He took the key out of the door and made a show of putting it on the dish that sat on a table adjacent before going to fetch the soda. I went to join Michael on the chair where he had already kicked off his shoes and was digging his bare toes into the lush grey carpet that covered the wooden floor. I leaned in so I wouldn’t be overheard in case our host hadn’t really gone to fetch the soda.
“I don’t feel comfortable here. He locked the door and he seems creepy. Pogo the clown freaked me out back then, and this Gacy man doesn’t seem much better than his clown.”
Michael shrugged. “His name is John Wayne not Pogo. John Wayne Gacy Jr. His dad worked under my gramps when they were younger. John’s dad was a bit of a drunk and an asshole. Used to beat the shit out of him, but somehow he turned out alright. My gramps says John is a good guy and liberal with his porn. Can you just calm down and not act so freaked out?”
I nodded and tried to hide my dread.
True to Michael’s words, John Wayne came back with a soda in his hand and two stashes of magazines tucked under his arms. He handed the soda to Michael who opened it with his teeth and dropped the soft sells on the dinner table.
“Some light reading to satisfy any specific needs.” He said.
The magazines on the left were the normal cookie cutter porn magazine variety that got smuggled into school during cafeteria hour and passed around by the wide eyed virgins that populated the halls of my middle school, and the right was nothing like I had ever seen before. There were semi naked men and women wearing all sorts of exotic clothing doing things to each other that made me want to shield my eyes. Michael was riveted by the magazines on the right. He dragged them close and flipped through them, speeding through the glossy pages as his forgotten soda grew beads of sweat in the corner. I stole glances, too ashamed to actually look at the pages. John Wayne sat on Michael’s other side and made encouraging noises as Michael voiced his growing awe with each flipped page. There was a glint in his eye, a satisfaction that Michael was enjoying the magazines as much as he did. As they worked their way down, the heterosexual magazines gave way to even darker ones populated only by men. At this point, I couldn’t bring myself to look anymore. It was as though the men were trying to outdo all that had come before in their grotesquerie. Michael suddenly stopped on a page. His eyes were wide with glee and he tapped repeatedly on the image of the subjects. It was a photographed pair, one completely immobilized by the handcuffs that fettered his hands, the key on his partner’s outthrust tongue.
“Now this is sexy!!!” Michael pronounced.
John Wayne nodded in agreement. “I really like this one too, that’s why I got a pair of handcuffs, and so if the opportunity ever presented itself, I could try it out.”
Michael grabbed at John Wayne’s hand. “You have handcuffs! Here?!!!”
John Wayne nodded again.
Michael’s grip around John Wayne’s meaty arm tightened. “Please can you bring it? Just want to try it on and see what it feels like.”
Wayne scrunched his face in contemplation. “I would bring it but my hands are much too big for the handcuffs to fit and I don’t really think it’s smart for me to handcuff you.”
Michael dismissed his concerns with a wave. “Don’t worry about that, Kenneth will be my guinea pig.”
I whimpered my reluctance to participate but Michael wasn’t listening to me.
“You sure?” John Wayne asked me, for the second time that day, deliberately addressing me.
“He is.” Michael replied, and gave me a dirty look. I hesitated and then nodded.
“Okay then.” John Wayne shrugged and wandered in.
“What are you doing, MK?” I asked, using his pet name, which was what his mother usually did when she was upset with him.
“Just a little fun, Ken. You’ll play along right? Please??!”
In that moment, the scuff of John Wayne’s orthopedic tennis shoes alerted us to his arrival. The cuffs were smaller than the average, wide enough to fit a child or a small teenager. It would have never fit around Michael’s wrists. Even the chain links that joined the cuffs was shorter than normal. Michael didn’t seem to notice any of that. He simply dragged me off the couch and turned me around, gathering my hands over to my back and mock-violently slapping the cuffs on. It was strange and slightly arousing. I turned over to see the grin on Michael’s face and felt the blood drain from mine when I saw the smiley John Wayne, the Pogo man with his cloth covered hands over my friend’s mouth. Michael was wriggling violently and trying to kick out the older man’s legs from out from under him but he stood steadfast and shook Michael harder, slowly stuffing the clothing into Michael’s mouth. I started to yell for help and ran for the door but with my hands behind my back, my motor co-ordination was abysmal and I stumbled into a stool by the sofa and fell.
The pain hit me like a brick to the face, which it literally was, because my hands were tied to my back and I was unable to break my fall. I groaned at the immediate source of pain as I dragged over my dentition with my tongue to check if any hurt. One of the canines was shaky and bleeding, almost knocked out of my mouth. I rolled on to my back and tried to struggle to my feet, horrified to see the euphoria on the Pogo clown’s face as his hands strangled the life out of my friend, whipping him in every direction as he lay limp, insipid from whatever John Wayne had laced his drink with. It took the time I need to get into a sitting position for John Wayne Gacy jr. and his charming smile to choke the life out of my friend. I screamed, the first time in a long while as his lifeless pale body fell to the ground with a carpet cushioned thump, his neck already darkening from all the broken vessels underneath his skin. It was all the motivation I needed. I wiggled my way onto my feet and ran to the foyer, turning behind me to fiddle with the keys in the dish tray beside the front door. John Wayne watched me with something akin to amusement as he crossed over Michael’s lifeless body and leisurely made his way towards me.
I finally found the key and shimmied to the front door lock, turned till my hands were by the knob and tried to push it into the lock. I’d just gotten it in when pain inflame my skull. John Wayne grabbed my hair and pulled me away from the door. The pain was excruciating and I reluctantly left the key in and followed behind John Wayne, letting the tears that had begun to flow fall. Michael was gone and I couldn’t see any scenario in which I got out of the Gacy house alive. John Wayne dragged me to the sofa, not even stopping when I stumbled on Michael’s body and threw me against it.
“I like you.” He said. “I like the quiet ones. They are the ones that have things to hide. I want to fuck you silly. But I can’t decide whether I should do it now or after.”
“Please don’t kill me.” I begged. ” I’m so sorry I came, we should have never used you for a chauffeur.”
John Wayne laughed. “It’s a little too late for that now.”
“Please?!!!” I was bawling by then, snot pouring out of my nostrils.
“Okay,” was all he said before he pounced on me, bullying my legs open and trapping my handcuffed my hands behind me with his bulk as his long, meaty fingers wove around my neck and he started to squeeze. It was more terrible than anything than I had ever imagined. I felt myself start to get light headed and I gave a strangled scream. He responded promptly by pulling something out of his pocket and stuffing it into my mouth with one hand while his other continued to claw at my stomach. The taste of the cloth was nauseating, I coughed and sputtered, tried to force myself to retch so the bile would force it out, but all I did was stretch my neck, giving his hands more skin to choke. I felt spots blink into my vision and my mouth go dry around the cloth and I stopped trying to scream and started to scratch at John Wayne’s hands. If I was scoring his skin, he showed no reaction. He continued to tighten his hands and I felt panic overwhelm and drown my sanity. I felt my body betray me and go limp and finally my sight went black.
There are a lot of us here. Lying in rows and in some places piled on top of each other. We are all naked, except for the original few who still have little pieces of rotted cloth clinging to their dried out bodies. The boys who were lured here before us, bearing the blackened necks and defiled bodies. Michael and I are in a less crowded place, unlike everyone else scattered around the house, we are the only occupants of the floorboards under John Wayne’s bedroom. My arms are weak, as are my legs. I’m too weak to even turn my neck. My lungs are so weak even the most shallow breath barely passes through my lips. I can see Michael thanks to the little beams of light seeping through the tiny faults where the floorboards meet. His body is contorted in an impossible angle, Hip turned away from his body, legs angled awkwardly. His neck is bruised, as well as his thighs. I can hear John making the floorboards creak as he fidgets, walking through and fro as he talks to his mother. It’s so ironic that for the first time a joke that if Michael told, I would laugh because I understood. A weak tear escapes me as I look at him contorted and cold, mouthed stuffed with old briefs, out of jokes. John lies to his mother; he misses her, and promises her he has been good. I want to scream but the pain is too much to do anything but lie here and wait for this shallow breath that keeps me alive to fade. No one will find me here, at least not soon enough for it to matter.
I always wanted to record the day of my death. I had hoped it would come much later, in a bed well lived with grandchildren, an over eager one scribbling away as I narrated my last words. But here we are, and I am telling it, in the hopes that by some miracle, someone is listening. Please make sure they don’t forget me, It was short but I lived. I was more than just a name on a serial killer’s list.
- Kenneth Parker , October 24 1976
He was a clown. He had a red painted smile that ended in sharp points like a benevolent rare moon. He walked to the sports bar and sat with a pint, pretending to watch the television overhead. The layers of pristine paint on his face, cemented in a perpetual smile was all the bartender saw as he watched them talk about the missing boys on the television, boys who had disappeared like a switch flicked off, their leased cars and summer jobs abandoned wefts in the tapestries of their short lives. He didn’t stay long, there weren’t many people he felt comfortable being around; least of all men of his age.
Many thanks to Edwin Okolo for writing this. You are probably already familiar with Ed’s work on Seams and The Alchemists Corner. This story is unedited and we’ll like your honest feedback. Too often, the victims of a great evil are forgotten while the perpetrators of the evil gain near-mythical status. This story is for every victim of the senseless violence that seems to have become commonplace in today’s world. Remember them. You can also send in your own short stories to email@example.com. Please try to keep your submissions between 800-1500 words. Cheers.