by Luke Tennis
My brother Freddy was why the old man said he drank heavily. Freddy was who the old man feared because he (Freddy) was off his rocker with delusions of all kinds called schizophrenia, and when the old man hid his pills there was no going back for Freddy, and he leapt from the bridge and that was that. I knew the old man had hid the pills because he'd said he did. He told me one hot night out of drunken meanness and pitiful spite. He didn't want Freddy around anymore and knew what would happen, because Freddy would never get better.
When still a boy, Freddy was a beautiful thing. We all loved Saint Freddy. He always made sure the sissy kids were included, and he zipped my jacket because I was too little, but he turned eighteen and voices came into his head, and he would not get better, ever. He jumped.
It was to the corner of Telegraph and Durant that I wandered every day after, as if drawn there. And everyday I saw the same individual wearing the same khaki pants and button down shirt. His name was Milton Glick, and one day he asked me why did I come everyday to his corner, then he answered for me. That it was to see him.
Milton Glick wore his sideburns long, as in days of old. Pitch black hair like a helmet, face sharp like a wolf. A British accent he sometimes unfurled. He stirred me up with his talk of righting the balance of the universe. He insisted payment was required for Freddy and, as he licked his ice cream cone, he told me he'd righted his own universe when he'd stabbed the Persian security guard whose thick mustache overhung his lips. The mustache had worried him, he said, and he had a voice, too, like Freddy, a voice saying the security guard was his own miserable dead father back from the grave where he belonged, saying put him back, right the universe. He used a penknife. Then he walked away and walked all the way here, to Berkeley, to this corner, to wait for me to arrive. He said.
"And before the security guard," I asked, "where were you?"
"It doesn't matter," he said. "When I did the Persian all that went away. I began over. I may lose my new beginning, though. That's what I'm afraid of. Thus, the logic. Blood. Fresh drippings."
I didn't know what he meant, but I found out. His persuasive powers convinced me of what must come next. A crazy night a week later. Meeting him on his corner, getting on a bus. The two of us in the lobby, the old man buzzing us up to his eleventh floor condo where he'd taken up residence when Mom died. The TV blared, I think a “Dallas” rerun. We got the old man sauced on his favorite bourbon that we'd brought him. Then, dragging his drunken body out onto the balcony.
“Kill, kill, kill,” Milton Glick said.
Before the balcony, we'd tricked him into writing a note. Over and out, it said, pinned to his lapel. It was me who did the heavy lifting. Milton Glick said it must be me. I'm not saying I didn't know what I was doing, either, and I'm not saying I felt completely bad about it. In fact, I didn't feel too bad about it at all. Milton Glick had said it would feel like that.
"This will be a start of something," he told me after.
At the burial, what I felt was giddiness. The trees all around, an afternoon of high sun. No one knew it was me who'd done it. We'd made it look like the old man had jumped. I mourned with all the rest.
Of course, it occurred to me, as they were laying the long box into the black ground, that I would have years of remorse for doing such a thing, that not only was it a start of something, but also a finish. I was finished, and in a way that, too, was a relief. It was like I had died right along with the old man. Yet, there I stood, by the freshly dug grave, not dead.
Milton Glick accompanied me back on the bus to where I lived, at 23 Crest Road, in a tiny house of siding. No one at the funeral had known who he was; just a friend, I'd told them. Milton Glick waddled his girlish hips through my front door.
"Well, that's done now," he said. "From this day on you may become the pilot of your life. Fly, pilot. How high can you soar?"
But the giddiness had left me. I decided to eat a waffle and not think of what we'd done.
“I told you,” Milton Glick said. “Did I not tell you?”
"Sure,” I said, nibbling the waffle, hamster-like. “But what'll I do now?"
"I think community college," Milton Glick said.
It was true, I'd need an education. After the demise of Freddie I'd dropped all classes. I was too broken up for the rigors of study.
"Do you know anything about anything?" Milton Glick asked.
"I expect to burn in hell," I said.
The pendulum was swinging back, a heavy thud in my gut. Buyers remorse, Milton Glick called it. It laid me low all that week.
Then one day Milton Glick arrived at 23 Crest Road carrying a suitcase containing heads of lettuce that he intended to eat to become trim. He didn't become trim; he lodged himself inside 23 Crest Road and only went out once that first week to purchase light bulbs, since mine had all burned out.
"Who do we do next?" he said, back with the bulbs in a brown paper bag. "I saw some possibilities on my way back from the store."
"Next?" This was worrisome.
"We need more blood. The logic is this. We extinguish somebody else, it will allow you to forget about your old man. I mean, since you're already slated to burn in hell anyway."
"You're a sicko.”
"Maybe we lock a kid in an abandoned refrigerator."
"A sicko and a cheapskate. Where's my change for the bulbs? And what is it with these colored lights? Christmas early?"
"It's festive. We're celebrating your liberation."
"I'm a slave to guilt.”
"Well, we'll have to do something about that," he said. "We'll undo your guilt. We'll overcome it with the power of murder."
"Did you not murder the old man? Did it not satisfy you, slaying him to live your life?"
"Get your gloves on. We don't want to leave prints."
"This is not going to bring back Freddy," I said.
But Milton Glick waved his hand at that. "Tossing out your old man like so much trash was justice," he said, peppering his salad in my kitchen. "Justice done. The power to do it was out there waiting for us to grab it, and we grabbed it, and now we must grab it again."
"I will not," I said.
"Blood," Milton Glick said, green bits on his lips.
"Leave," I said. “Abandon ship.”
"What about my salad?"
"Take it to go."
"And your education? You're young, you'll need my guidance."
Then, it came to me. A question I'd never before asked. "Who are you? Where do you come from?"
“I come from nowhere. From where you found me."
“You don't have the guts,” I said. “I don't believe you did the Persian.”
“Kill, kill, kill,” he said, and I wrestled him to the floor. I pounded my young fists into him like I was pounding the universe into some sort of shape. He didn't cry and even quit resisting. Blood trickled out of a nostril. I'd smashed his nose with the peppermill.
I dragged his body, hips and all, outside and up into my father's car, which I'd taken possession of the week before. I set him flat on the back seat. Half way down the block, he began to moan. I told him it was too late for that. I told him from now on take your lettuce elsewhere.
Telegraph and Durant was a busy intersection, so I had to double park. No one stopped me or seemed to care when I pulled Milton Glick out. I dumped him off on the sidewalk, back on his corner. But later I returned, drawn back to Telegraph and Durant. The days following, too, though each time I came, someone else manned the corner. Another voice saying, “Kill, kill, kill.”