an essay about a serial killer
What a close call, a brush with a monster on the march. Curious re Jem being drawn to reservations. Ironic of some sort. Sad the signs of sadism weren't recognized. I remember having a friend named Gary, who lived in the Topanga Canyon area of California. I wanted him to invite me over, but he never did. Then I heard Charles Manson and crew took his life. That was a little close for comfort. Gary just didn't seem the type that would get near that lot - and maybe he hadn't. They may have launched on him? Who said the boogy man doesn't exist? May our paths never be crossed as such.
I remember an abbreviated version of this account from your memoirs. It was harrowing there, and doubly so here.
Whew......blessings to this gifted warrior.......
I waited to respond. I stopped reading Sherman tears ago because I had nightmares from one of his stories (Donkey Basketball in Blasphemy). Not his fault. Amores Perros has the same effect on me. I must say this was great. I am a defense attorney so am well acquainted with the infrequent sociopath. However, I ALSO went to high school with a serial killer (John Joubert) who I remember as being mild mannered and one one of us who sat at the Losers Table at lunch playing cards and being dorks. I was out of the country when he was arrested and executed and only found out about it when I was briefly on Facebook. Freaked me out and I would have visited him to ask WTF if he were still alive. It still freaks me out.
Powerful writing, I think I will reread the Alexie canon!
Sherman, I've read your essay more than once. I'm so terribly sorry anyone, especially a kid, has to go through that. I hope Jem came out OK, and his death was "just" an accident, or "normal" and not self inflicted. Thank you for sharing. Hugs to you, your wife, and your boys.
I am sorry that happened to you.
Thank you for sharing this story!! You are such a good story teller. A ten-year-old recently told me a story about a gunman who came into the school his mom was working at and shot a bunch of kindergartners. I am not completely sure he is telling the truth, but it was really disturbing. All of us have encountered violence in some fashion. Violence, especially violence against our fellow humans, is hard to comprehend. A lot of us have encountered monsters, especially in our youth. Monsters need love too; it is the absence of love that makes them a monster. I read a story today about a man who was convicted of murder and sentenced to prison. While in prison, he was converted to Christianity, which changed him from a monster into a Saint! There is hope.
I grew up with a kid who lived across the street from us who did the occasional bad thing to us other, smaller boys —some sexual stuff, but as you say: it never seemed sexual to us; it never seemed like anything to us— and was very into torturing animals. It all seemed routine; he had crazy eyes and was crazy.
As we aged, the ways in which I'm weird caused the occasional issue, but nothing dramatic; but the ways in which he was weird —or bad, I should say— got worse and worse. Eventually, while we were in our 20s, he was arrested for kidnapping an ex-girlfriend at gunpoint and threatening to kill her and himself. He was given treatment and probation, because he had no criminal record to speak of and a family that swore to help him get straight or whatever.
A couple of years later, he kidnapped a different ex, held her for days in his apartment, raped her repeatedly, and threatened again to kill her and himself. She escaped by pretending to have feelings for him, by pretending to love the man raping her. This time, the courts didn't blink: 10 years in Angola, which is no joke for anyone. He did the time.
I bumped into him a few years back, just outside my mother's house. His family still lives across the street. He's hugely muscular, and he was very happy to see me; I think to him I always represented the "normal life" he didn't get. When my father died, he hand-delivered a card and some cookies. The language in the card wasn't right; it was all "off" in a way that let me know he's still not right, will never be right, even if he wants to be right, and I believe he did and does. He had a sweetness in him that made his sickness even more appalling. He still, even in his 40s, seems like a boy. He's just a boy who might kidnap you at gunpoint and rape you and maybe kill you if he gets into his feelings in a particular way, and I spent a lot of my childhood with him.
It’s not that I think he would be found innocent but I firmly believe that all people are innocent until proven guilt in court and also that well-off white men very rarely serve more than a slap on the wrist sentence.
A girl I walked home with in high school for a couple of years was murdered by a serial killer after she and I both moved away from that school. I found out about it years after, reading an article about the killer's trial. Which reading was in itself somewhat disgusting because like you I would prefer the monsters go nameless and forgotten and their victims be the ones remembered.
My friend was having a troubled growing up for many reasons and to this day I can't think about her face without tearing up at the injustice or luck or I don't know the word - the opposite of grace - by which she suffered the fate she did, at that young age. And I did not. For no particularly good reason. When we were friends, we were basically the same person, in most ways that matter to the world. I was the lucky one; she was not.
This existence we are living through is a brutal one even though it is also beautiful We cannot forget that not only does none of us get out alive, many suffer unfairly and die young.
I am unable to understand or stomach arguments about abolishing policing, not in this actual world that I have lived in. The legal system does much wrong but it also does good and we need it to protect the vulnerable.
I have no words. My imagination can create all kinds of scenarios, but without really knowing what happened, they’re just that, my imagination. What a terrifying and clearly life altering experience for all of you. Thank the Gods you had the bravery and instincts to escape, you likely not only saved your lives, but a much worse outcome for Jem. My heart hurts for you and for Jem. Monsters are among us. They’re everywhere. Some of us live with them.
It is so kind of you to respond to my comment, Mr Alexie. I was totally unaware of the Gilgo Beach murders until you pointed my attention in that direction. I would venture that it’s not that remarkable efforts were finally made after documentaries about the murders were released. The squeaky wheel has always gotten the grease
I could gleam some of the news report (that wasn’t necessarily reader friendly - like you are) and it is horrifying that monster was allow to prowl for so long with no barriers to protect women (without qualifiers period.)
Giving that our legal enforcement and justice systems are so very broken (My personal opinions, not necessarily facts) I am not confident that the killer will ever receive the necessary incarceration (essentially since he is most probably white. My opinion also.)
I doubt that all the victims have been found (or even reported missing.) I found it very hard to believe a murderer would just stop over a decade ago without being in prison or the grave. I sincerely mourn for all those lost women. They deserved better.
This might be my new favorite.
More a comment on your preface than the main story: I've been working at a tribal clinic for the past year and seeing the trauma and violence every day. It's not a big tribe, and no large rez, just 4 small colonies, three adjacent to cities. In the past year we've had 2 deaths by shooting, one baby burned to death in an (intentional fire, at least one probable suicide, and at one point our behavior health folks were helping 8 kids under the age of 12 with suicidal ideation. People in their 30s-50s who are dying by pieces due to a combo of substances and chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart failure, chronic kidney disease. I am witness to intergenerational trauma daily.
Sometimes I feel so sad and helpless, but all I can do is treat those who I work with with dignity, respect and loving care.
Maybe that's my act of Tikkun Olam, trying to do a little bit to repair the world.
Oh Sherman. You mean the people who notice that Cuba is 99 percent literate compared to our literacy rate? Or people who notice that their black friends attend more funerals than they do? Or the high rates of obesity? Or that our healthcare is soooo much more expensive than other countries? Or how underfunded our schools are? The USA has the worlds highest incarceration rate. Maybe ask Father Greg Boyle what he thinks-but for you and your genius and your age yes, I guess it is the best.
But the second chapter of TATDOAPTI is true for way too many children in America for me to think we are the best. Compared to Pakistan, yes, but why do we scrape the bottom like that to lift ourselves up?
Thanks for reading
That's an unsettling tale, Sherman.
I can see how it would haunt you. People like Jem- who are in your life for powerful events and you never see them again, yet they remain active in the mind. What became of him, in between the few fragments you found out?
I too have met monsters and agree with whole life incarceration. We don't have the death penalty in Aotearoa, thankfully.
The rate of suicide for Māori is twice that of other ethnicities in my country. Both disconnected people and those who are immersed in language and culture. Many of our youth. The long shadow of colonisation.
I'm not sure if the Voice has made the news in the USA? It's a pending vote on giving the indigenous peoples, who have lived in the Australia for 65,000 years, a Voice to Parliament. They were classed as fauna by the colonists. Non human.Hunted, poisoned, children stolen.
I hope they get the YES vote through.
We have Māori seats in Parliament in Aotearoa, you can be on one of them or the general roll if you are Māori.
Many of our politicians are Māori. It's only fair. We have a treaty that's been breached awfully in the past - but this is the first year our own history as a nation is being taught in schools!
Celebrate the gains, right?