Third place winner of November 2015's "What a Character" contest.
| Third Place winner in November 2015's|
Prompt: Write a story from a villain's point of view, making a believable case for why he (or she) thinks s/he's actually the hero or good guy/gal of the narrative.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
What a steaming hot pile of worm-infested horseshit. What the hell did Emma Lazarus, an American Jewess whose father was a wealthy sugar refiner, know about poverty? What did she know about homelessness and suffering? Fuck-all, that's what. I, on the other hand, am well versed in all three.
We, not the French, inscribed Lazarus's The New Colossus on a bronze plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. It's as if the sonnet forever cast a spell on us, cursing us with the weak, the infirm, the homeless, the grotesque and infected hordes who perpetually suckle society's tit till there's no sustenance left for anyone.
The problem with poor people is they keep coming back. They copulate, procreate, and before you know it your country's overrun with blood-sucking vermin. And people wonder why we're in the financial shitter. Our expenditures can not be sustained. The handouts must stop if the country's to survive.
Enter yours truly.
I observe. I eavesdrop. I follow. I confirm. I insinuate myself. No one thinks twice about befriending a harmless-looking female, especially a clean-cut forty-something in expensive shoes. It all comes down to the shoes, you see. You can get away with cheap clothes, brand-name knockoffs that pass, are acceptable, but cheap shoes are a dead giveaway. People think if you pay enough attention to the tiny detail of nice footwear you must have your shit together. You must be an upstanding citizen. You must be trustworthy. You must be safe. Con artists and killers don't wear $300 shoes. Well, most of them don't, anyway.
Never underestimate the power of baked goods. Remember that family who died a few years ago after eating poisoned brownies? The single mother and her five kids? That was me. I know what you're thinking: What kind of a sick twist would do that to children? I would. I did. It was me. I did you a favor. You're welcome.
Okay, fine. You need a reason? Here goes. A few weeks before their deaths I happened to be standing behind that single mother and her children while waiting in line at the grocer's. I was pretending to text on my cellphone, effectively blending into my surroundings. I became invisible, and this is the telephone conversation I overheard: "No, Amanda. I'm telling you you don't have to work if you don't want to. I pressed the issue with the kids's pediatrician when they started having learning problems in school. He diagnosed them with ADD, and now they get disability checks. Between the five of them I get $3,335 a month. That's over forty thousand a year! My brother works full time to support his wife and two kids and he makes less than twenty thousand, so who's the schmuck? My kids're also on Medicaid, so they get free medical. Hey, if it wasn't me it'd be someone else."
Until then I hadn't known one can collect social security disability for attention deficit disorder. $667 a month. Per child. $3,335 monthly. $40,020 per year, and that's just one family. How many others do you think are taking advantage of the system? A thousand? Ten thousand? One million? How can we, the taxpayers, sustain such a thing? How can this country possibly survive?
I watched as the woman placed her purchases on the conveyor belt: t-bone steaks, cases of soda, various types of seafood, fresh lunchmeat and specialty cheeses from the deli, a rib roast that must have weighed ten pounds, a rack of lamb. I wondered if I'd ever tried lamb. I didn't think I had. I glanced at the basket draped over my arm, at the petite sirloins and boil-in-bag rice that would have to last me until the following payday, and I was enraged. How can this be right? I thought. I work forty hours a week, and I can't afford half the stuff she so nonchalantly just paid cash for. Once my rent's paid and the staples accounted for, there's barely enough left for gas. I scrimped and saved for almost a year to buy my Manolo Blahniks, and another year to buy the Pedro Garcias! I bet she gets housing and utilities assistance, too. The contents of her cart probably cost more than my Jimmy Choos!
Over the next few days I followed her, made sure we met. I befriended the woman. She invited me to lunch at her house, and I contributed a batch of my special brownies. The pathologist determined cause of death to be poisoning, likely due to a murder-suicide on the mother's part. "Being an unemployed single mother of five takes a toll," he'd said. Adios, amiga. You're welcome, America.
There have been others. Many others. The guy who cashed his mother's social security checks even though she'd been dead for over a year. He drove home from work every night at 11:30 p.m. It was dark. The roads were deserted. I dropped a boulder onto his windshield from atop the Callahan Creek Bridge, and he did the rest. They found him two days later, upside-down in the ravine. Then there was the doctor who committed medicare fraud, the mother of three who popped out another kid every few years to keep the AFDC checks rolling in. That was way back in the day--1995, I think--before they did away with the program. I won't tell you how I did them, though. A girl needs to have a few secrets.
I'm like Dexter Morgan. You know, that character from the Showtime series who works for the Miami-Dade Police Department as a blood spatter analyst during the day and kills bad guys by night? Like that. Child molesters, rapists, guys who got away with killing innocent people--that's who Dexter killed. And I don't consider myself a serial killer, either. I shine the light of truth on the bastardization of kindness this country calls "Social Justice". I only kill the ones who need killing. That's what happens when you shit on this country's generosity. Good riddance.
I've had a few close calls, but nothing too close, if you know what I mean. Nothing where I almost got caught. One time a victim's neighbor thought she recognized me at a movie theater, another time a cop came knocking on my door wanting to know if I knew anything about the "murder down the hall". Had I seen anything, had I noticed anyone suspicious in or around the building, had I heard anything out of the ordinary, that sort of thing. I acted mortified, shocked, fearful that I might be next with such a violent killer on the loose, and I bit into my tongue hard enough to make my eyes water. He bought it. They always do. The poor, defenseless female. Damsel in distress. "I'm sorry for upsetting you, Ma'am," he'd said, and "If you think of anything, please give us a call." That was it, and the threat was over. No one suspects a woman.
I wonder why that is? Why they never suspect a woman? There have been a few female killers of note: Nannie Doss did eight. They think Elizabeth Báthory killed over six hundred and fifty innocent girls. Amelia Dyer was convicted of one and suspected of many more. Jane Toppan confessed to thirty-one. Miyuki Ishikawa murdered one hundred and three children. Dorothea Puente killed the old and mentally challenged for their social security checks. The prostitute Aileen Wuornos killed seven men she claimed had raped her. Professional wrestler Juana Baraza killed eleven old ladies. Leonarda Cianciulli killed three women and used their bodies to make teacakes and soap. Christ Almighty, right? Those bitches were crazy! They killed innocent people. None of my victims, if you insist on calling them that, were innocent. What I'm doing is a public service. I should get a medal. The key to the city. A street named after me, at the very least.
Many people who kill other people have nicknames. Usually it's the papers or the cops who come up with the name: The Zodiac Killer, Son of Sam, The Green River Killer, BTK, The Night Stalker, The Milwaukee Cannibal, The Beast of Birkenshaw, The Tool Box Killers, The Hillside Stranglers. Of course they were all insane. No one could do what they did and not have something wrong with them. Still, I think I would like to have a nickname. No one's given me one yet, but I've been thinking about making up my own. The Cleaner, or maybe Sister Justice. That last one has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Like maybe I should be wearing a cape or something.
I've been thinking a lot about Emma Lazarus's sonnet. You know, "The New Colossus" that I mentioned earlier? It's very nineteenth century. Very naive. Well, maybe "naive" isn't the right word. Times were different then. People took pride in a hard day's work, earning a living for themselves and their families. Sitting at home waiting for the government to send you a check every month would have been viewed as shameful. It just wasn't done, nor was it expected. Maybe the poem isn't naive, but honorable in an old-fashioned Norman Rockwell, rainbows and butterflies kind of way. The Christian thing to do. I bet when Lazarus wrote it she never imagined handouts would become a way of life for so many. The idea was incomprehensible. Of course it was written pre-depression, pre-FDR, pre-New Deal. Did you know the Statue of Liberty was designed by Gustave Eiffel, as in The Eiffel Tower? He must have been a fascinating man. I bet he never expected something for nothing. Anyway, I've been thinking about the poem and the fact that it was affixed to the pedestal in 1903, eighteen years after the statue arrived in New York Harbor. Why is that? I wonder what Roosevelt would think of today's social programs ... the redistribution of wealth.
Lazarus's poem is optimistic. Grandiose, even. Have you ever heard of the Pollyanna Principle? That's what it is. Lazarus's sonnet made her, and apparently everyone else who read it, feel good about doing something nice for those less fortunate. What they didn't take into consideration is that there are people out there who take advantage of such kindnesses, and this minority ruins it for everyone else. One asshole gets on a plane with a bomb in his boot, now we all have to take off our shoes. Doesn't seem right, does it?
Call me a killer. Call me a murderer. Call me crazy, I don't care. At least I'm doing something. What're you doing, other than bitching about it? You're like the people who complain about the president but don't bother to get off their asses and vote. You have no right to say anything. At least I'm doing something.
Word Count--1,840 (according to Microsoft Word)
Other stories that placed in this month's contest:
First Place - "Invalid Item" by rl_gallear
Second Place - "Justice" [18+] by Antonia Ryder