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Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler E.N. Larsen Book ISBN: 978-1-453-61778-6 Ebook ISBN: 978-0-557-68720-6

What the Hell is This?

E.N. Larsen How about this: Think of yourself as a pyromaniac and this ebook as fire.... No, no, skip that one too. Another bad analogy. Anyway. If you like what you’ve read, consider buying the books. Consider reviewing the books. That way I can write more books. I’ve even thrown in a story that I haven’t published before, “Paper Cutter.” It’s a disturbing story about today’s stressful workplace. It’s disturbing and heartwarming at the same time. You’re sitting there thinking, “Wow, this sure is heartwarming!” Then, wham! You’re thinking, “Wow, that is really disturbing. I’m a wreck now.” I was planning to include the story in Revenge through Landscaping, but I changed my mind at the last minute. Call me fickle. Maybe I’ll put it in my next book. What do you think? Write me and tell me. E.N. Larsen, 685cc2e9-640d-46df-8774-8ce50087712b


his is an ebook of some of the short stories

from my latest book, Revenge through Landscaping: Stories. You’re probably thinking, “Yuck. Please, no short stories. I hate short stories. Short stories suck. I can’t stand short stories.” I hope you’ll give my stories a chance. They are supposed to be funny and even fun to read. I made this ebook so you can see if you like the stories without paying anything. There’s no subscription to buy. No long-term contract. It’s free. I just ask one thing: that you spread this file and the other ebook formats around everywhere. Give it to all your friends. Give it to your relatives. Give it to people you like. Give it to people you hate. Think of this ebook as cooties that you’re trying to spread to as many people as possible. Give cooties to your friends. Infect your mom and dad. Give cooties to your wife, husband, boyfriend, and/or girlfriend. Contaminate the people at work. (I’ve just been told it isn’t very good to equate my books and stories with infection and disease. Sorry! Bad analogy. Strike that earlier stuff.)

The Desert


I-50. Well, not on I-50, but off I-50 in the desert. I was burying a body. I was dragging the body around a huge rock when I saw this other guy. He was dragging a body around too. (It was obvious from the duct tape and garbage bags.) “Hey,” I said. “Hey,” he said. “You know burying bodies out here is illegal,” I said. “Sure,” he said. We both laughed. “This is a good place,” I said. “This is my favorite place.” “This is where I bury all my bodies,” he said and laughed again. It felt as if he were trying to outdo me, trying to one-up me, trying to make me think he does this all the time. was east of the city on


Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler “Yeah, me too. You lose count after a while,” I said. “That’s for sure,” he said. The conversation lulled. It was hard to make chitchat with a deranged serial killer. But then I realized he was probably thinking the same thing. “My dad,” I said, and I looked down at the body I was dragging. I had put Dad’s body in a sleeping bag and tied it with quality nylon rope. I bought the best sleeping bag that REI carried. Nothing but the best for Dad. I took pride in my work. “Ah,” he said. He didn’t offer any info about his victim. “Who’s yours?” I said finally. “Oh, sorry, right,” he said. “Uh, my girlfriend.” It looked like a twelve-year-old had wrapped the body. The body was wrapped in garbage bags and sealed with way too much duct tape. It was a mess. Honestly, I was embarrassed. “That’s rough,” I said. “My dad was going to rat me out to the Feds.” I thought it was funny that I said, “Rat me out,” as if I were some sort of gangster. I laughed a little at the thought but turned away. I didn’t want this guy to see me laugh. I didn’t want him to think I was laughing about murdering my own father, that I was some sort of psychopath. “Your own dad. Wow, that’s grim,” he said. “My girlfriend was sleeping with… someone.” “I’m sorry,” I said, but I said it as if his girlfriend had died in an accident rather than he’d killed her. “How’d you do it?” “Strangulation,” he said. “You?” “Gun,” I said. “Really? Didn’t anyone hear?” “I don’t think so,” I said. “I could never be sure, so I didn’t use a gun.” “Yeah, it’s risky, but I really had no choice. Everything else was too complicated or too dangerous.” “Yeah.” “Hey, don’t I know you?” I said. “Maybe,” he said.

E.N. Larsen “I know I’ve seen you somewhere. Wait, I’ll get it.” I closed my eyes. “The Drathe School of Law?” he said. “Oh, God, yes!” I said. “Hi, I’m the dean of the school, Robert Winters. Dean Winters, the Drathe School of Law,” he said. He dropped his body. It hit the ground with a thud. He brushed off his hand and shook my hand. “Hey, I’m James Compton. I’m an associate at Taylor, McKnight, Dedman, and Taft,” I said. “I had you for Torts at Drathe.” “Back in my law professor days,” he said. “I don’t really remember you, though. Sorry. Well, I remember your face—a little,” he said. “Drathe is a big school.” “Yes,” he said. He looked at Dad. “You’ll go far.” He laughed. “What a sorry pair.” “Not at all,” he said. “We’re being proactive. That’s better than 99% of the people out there.” “Yeah,” I said. “Do you still practice?” “Yes, when I find an interesting case,” he said. I nodded. “We shouldn’t bury these bodies too close together.” “Good point,” he said. “ ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail.’ ” I smiled. “Yes, I’m just worried that if they find one body, they’ll search nearby and find the other.” “Maybe the bodies should be the same distance from here to that rock outcrop.” He pointed at some rocks in the distance. “OK,” I said. “I’ll go over there, up there.” He pointed. “Need any help?” “No, I’m fine. How about you?” “No, I do this all the time,” he said and laughed. “Well it was nice meeting you. We’ll have to have lunch sometime.” “Yeah, I’d like that,” he said. “Oh, we can’t do that. It could link us to one another. Or does that matter? Maybe I’m just being paranoid.” “It’s probably OK,” I said. “By the way, that’s pretty heartless, killing your girlfriend and all.” I winked. 2

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler “It’s not as bad as killing your own flesh and blood,” he said and laughed. I laughed too. We were ribbing each other as legal professionals always enjoy doing. It was that good-natured ribbing that I so enjoyed about the legal world. “You remind me of my dad,” I said. “Can I call you Dad?” He gave me a surprised look and then laughed. “Hey,” he said. “Watch it. That’s a tort.” He gave me a playful little shove. “That was horrible.” I was happy that he got the joke so quickly. It made me happy to be with a fellow attorney, to be so connected to another legal professional. I remember in law school he was constantly saying, “That’s a tort.” He’d say it instead of gesundheit. He’d say it whenever someone was late for class. I think he was trying to teach us that not everything was a tort by saying that everything was a tort. Some reverse psychology thing to get us thinking. Or maybe it was some legal joke that I didn’t get at the time (and still don’t get). Or maybe he was just an idiot. It brought back good memories of Drathe. “You know, this is the sort of thing the Bar frowns upon, this whole killing thing,” I said. “We could be disbarred.” “Actually, no,” he said. “I also work for the State Bar, and we don’t have a problem with murder.” “Seriously?” “Yes, murder is understandable. It makes sense to us. We are really accepting of murder.” “That makes me feel a lot better. I don’t feel so—I don’t know—misunderstood,” I said. “We do have a problem if you call a lawyer, say, a dipshit. That’s a big deal. There was this woman, a Drathe graduate, by the way, who was trying to get admitted to the Bar, and she called a lawyer a dipshit.” “Really?” “Yeah. We blocked her. You can’t go around calling other lawyers dipshits. It’s unseemly. It destroys the fabric of society.” He smiled. Then he sighed.

E.N. Larsen He kicked the corpse. “This is her,” he said. “It’s not my girlfriend. It’s the woman who called the lawyer a dipshit.” He looked troubled. I could tell he wanted to share something. “So, here’s the problem,” he said. “If she couldn’t be admitted to the Bar, the law school’s U.S. News and World Report ranking would be damaged by a lower percentage of graduates admitted to the Bar.” “Yeah, but it’s just one person,” I said. “Our real percentage is much lower. I’m out here all the time,” he said. He laughed. “There’s a loophole: If a graduate who isn’t admitted to the Bar dies or goes missing for more than six months, he’s not counted in the percentage anymore.” “Oh,” I said. “I didn’t pass the bar exam the first time.” I knew how important the U.S. News and World Report ranking was to everyone, but I had no idea the Dean was out killing students who weren’t admitted to the Bar. He wasn’t joking when he was talking about being proactive. I felt some admiration for the hard work he was doing to preserve the school’s ranking in U.S. News and World Report. That was something that benefitted me as a graduate. “I know. Good thing you passed next time,” he said. “You were on my list. I remember now.” “I got lucky,” I said. “I figured out how to cheat.” “Cheating is important,” he said. “Anything to preserve our ranking. If we could just teach our students how to cheat, we wouldn’t have to kill so many of them. I really don’t like killing students,” he said. “Yeah, I bet,” I said. “You know, James, we have an opening for an associate dean at the school. Interested?” he said. I was about to speak when he cut me off. “I’m afraid there would be some killing involved,” he said. “And some heavy lifting. Some travel around the state. But I think you’d be perfect for the position. It’s a difficult position to fill.” “I’ll have to think about it,” I said. “It’d be the Associate Dean of Collegiate Excellence. You’d be in charge of preserving and— 3

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler dare I say it—raising our U.S. News and World Report ranking.” “I’ll think about it.” We shook hands again. He patted me on the back. I dragged my dad’s corpse into a small gully while Robert buried the law school graduate higher up. Occasionally, he’d wave to me, and I’d wave back. Robert is a nice guy, I’d think. But then I’d think about how he’d killed a new law school graduate—and probably many more—and was callously burying her body in the desert. But then I’d remember that I’d killed my dad and was callously burying his body in the desert. So then I’d think we were even, and everything was fine. His duct-tape and garbage-bag effort made him seem so déclassé, however—hardly the work I’d expect from a law school dean. I had noticed some defects in his suit: a frayed edge on the collar, some loose threads and excessive wear on the trousers. A horrible thought passed through my mind: had he purchased his suit at Sears? Maybe back in the 80s? I shuddered. I began to doubt whether I wanted to be associated with him. I’d heard about lawyers like this, the fallen. I’d had fears, nightmares, really, that I’d befriend some fellow attorney and suddenly realize that he was common and uncouth, that maybe he’d gone to a school that hadn’t placed on the U.S. News and World Report ranking or wasn’t ABA approved, that maybe he didn’t work at a top firm. Then I’d wonder how I didn’t see these warning signs earlier and terminate that friendship. That fear made me hypervigilant. As an attorney, you always have to be alert to that, that lower-class types would weasel into your life because you’re an attorney. When you’re an attorney, you’re so much better than the common folk and deserving of the best in life. And people know that and want to glom onto you. I thought about when I’d had Robert as an instructor at the Drathe School of Law. He had been one of my favorite teachers. But now look at him with his duct tape and garbage bags, frayed collar, loose threads, and Sears suit. I felt revulsion.

E.N. Larsen I wanted nothing more to do with him. There was no way I was going to take that associate dean position. The only way I was able to calm myself was to think about his utility: he was preserving the School of Law’s U.S. News and World Report’s Ranking. I was able to calm down enough to bury my father.



ack to work.

My vacation is over, and, crap, I’m back at work. I stop in the kitchen at work to get some coffee. That’s the only thing that keeps me awake at this boring-as-hell job. My job uses something like one brain cell. It is so beneath me. At my job, I’m like a car with only one cylinder firing. Or something like that, whatever. “Welcome back. How was the coast? That’s where you went, the coast?” Rick says. He’s this guy I work with. He’s OK, not too annoying. He’s reading the paper and drinking coffee. “Nice. It was nice,” I say. Rick looks at me kind of strangely, like he’s confused. He’s probably jealous of my new moustache. “What are you doing?” “Just getting some coffee,” I say. “What’s that?” Rick points at my lip, at my moustache. “Did you just grow that?” “Yeah, I grew it at the beach,” I say. I knew it. He’s jealous of my cool new moustache. “You look like Hitler,” Rick says. What? What is this guy talking about? “Who’s Hitler?” I say. “You don’t know who Hitler was?” “Oh, sure. I know,” I say. If someone asks you about something at work and you don’t know, always act like you know. It’s one of my tips for getting ahead on the job. Admitting you don’t know something is a sign of weakness. “You seriously don’t know who Hitler was?” “Yeah, I’ve heard of him,” I say. 4

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler “Then why would you grow a Hitler moustache?” “What’s the big deal? Who cares?” I say. “Dictator? Concentration camps? Killing millions of people? All of that?” Whatever dude. Don’t give me a bunch of grief because you’re jealous of my moustache. Rick probably shaves like once a month. It’d take him ten years to grow one. So now I’m thinking this guy is an asshole. He’s not cool at all. “I like Hitler,” I say. “He’s pretty cool.” I don’t know squat about Hitler, but maybe if I act like I like him, Rick’ll stop bothering me. “Wow. A lot of people would be offended by that. And you could play Hitler in a movie. With that hair, that style of hair, and that moustache.” About then Brandon walks into the kitchen. “Nice Hitler moustache,” Brandon says and does some weird arm wave. “He doesn’t know who Hitler was,” Rick says. “You’re shitting me. You don’t know who Hitler was?” Brandon says. “Sure, I’ve heard of him,” I say. “He’s my idol. I love Hitler.” “What the hell is wrong with you? You don’t know who Hitler was? I don’t know what is scarier, that you don’t know who Hitler was or that you’re acting like you like him,” Rick says. “People like you scare the crap out of me,” Brandon says. “You should go look up Hitler on the Web.” “Good idea,” Rick says. Rick puts his hands on my shoulders “You, my friend, are a first-class idiot. I predict you will win a Darwin Award one day.” I twist to get his hands off me. “Fuck you,” I say. “I love Hitler. Hitler rules!” I walk out of the kitchen into the cubicle farm. I cup my hands over my mouth and start shouting. “Hitler is the best! Hitler is my hero! Hitler says fuck you.” I was so pissed at them for calling me an idiot and for being such assholes. My boss appears almost instantly. I’ve never seen him move that fast. “I want you to go home and shave that off. Right now.”

E.N. Larsen “I don’t want to,” I say. “Either you go home right now and shave that off, or you’re fired,” he says. I’m thinking that is discrimination. He can’t make me do that. “I like it,” I say. “I don’t want to shave it off.” “I’ll ask you one more time,” my boss says. “Shave it off or lose your job.” “Dude, just do it,” Brandon says. “And look up Hitler while you’re at it.” “OK,” I say and head toward the parking lot. It is time off work, after all. “That idgit doesn’t know who Hitler was,” I hear Brandon say to my boss. When I get home, I tell my girlfriend Jessica about everything. “Even I know who Hitler was,” she says. “I was wondering why you were growing a Hitler moustache at the beach.” “Why didn’t you say anything?” “I thought you knew what you were doing?” I look up Hitler on the Web and find out that he was pretty nasty. I mean, this guy basically killed a lot of people. I’m actually staring to feel sick from what I read. He was like really evil, just totally nasty. And I look exactly like him. I have the moustache, the same haircut, everything. How could I not know this stuff? People need to keep me informed. So here is how it should have gone: Me: “Hey, what do you think of my moustache?” Girlfriend: “You can’t go out like that. You look like Hitler.” Me: “Who’s Hitler?” Girlfriend: “He was a bad guy. People will go crazy if they see you with that moustache. You need to shave it off.” But here is how it went: Me: “Hey, what do you think of my moustache?” Girlfriend: “Looks good, I like it.” Me: “Thanks.” The sad thing is that now that I know who Hitler was, I’m hearing that name everywhere. Suddenly it seems like everyone is talking about Hitler and how bad he was. 5

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler I bounce back pretty quick, though. I know a lot of people probably make the same mistake, so I’m not too hard on myself. I shave off the moustache and get a new haircut, and I’m 110%. Now people tease me at work, say I’m a numbnuts. Sometimes they say, “What do you think, Hitler?” Or, “Let’s get Hitler’s input on this.” But it’s OK, I’m fine. No damage done. The girlfriend’s kind of useless, though. Might need to get a new one.

Thanksgiving Surprise


t was ten years ago, in

2010 at Thanksgiving. We were sitting there enjoying our turkey and mashed potatoes when Grandpa (who just turned seventy) let loose with the vilest monologue ever heard. It was as if an entire lifetime of filth just came pouring out from his mouth, as if someone had directed the sewer pipe into our dining room. And we all just sat there while raw sewage poured over us. It was as if he’d been plugged into some collective filth pool and was draining it into our dining room. Sewage poured over my new dress, the one Mom bought me for Thanksgiving, the one she bought to make Grandpa happy. “He’s been so sad since Grandma died,” she said. “Maybe seeing you looking nice will make him happy.” Grandpa started out talking about all of the sex he’d had with, it seemed, nearly everyone in the family. And the family was so polite and accommodating that everyone just sat there while filth flowed all over them. We all tried to act as if nothing was happening. Grandpa offered all sorts of embarrassing facts about family members living and dead. He mentioned stuff that didn’t seem possible. His reported acts seemed to violate every law of nature and of man (and woman).

E.N. Larsen Grandpa released a ton of F-bombs, S-bombs, even a few bombs I’d never heard of. Everything was F-bomb this, F-bomb that. He mentioned all sorts of vile things he’d done to each family member and those things he still wanted to do. He related his entire sexual history and any and every sexual fantasy he’d ever had. Most of them, if acted out, would result in long prison terms, chemical castration, or a return of the lobotomy. Grandpa mentioned an incredible array of sexual activities that he had performed with neighborhood dogs, cows, and a whole farm of animals. Every pet in the family had been violated, it seemed. Shawn, our cat, had suffered unmentionable indignities at Grandpa’s hand (and other body parts). Grandpa talked about various machines he’d used for sexual gratification and how he’d used them on family members. He told of crimes he’d committed and gotten away with. He implicated each and every family member in a wide range of felonies. I felt a chill that I was so close to this vile and disgusting man and that he was my grandpa. I trembled. I averted my eyes. No one seemed phased by any of this except me. My hands were shaking, and I tried not to cry. People in my family weren’t allowed to cry. It wasn’t that I was upset by what he was saying. It was the first time I ever felt alive because I lived with a family of the emotionally repressed. I was overcome with emotion because there was at least one who wasn’t dead emotionally. Grandpa would point at a relative and dump out every embarrassing thing he knew about that relative. It was a lot to take in. No one spoke or contradicted him or even looked at him. Everyone continued to look down and eat in silence. I was part of a family of strange, unemotional beings. No one ever connected with anyone else on an emotional level. And this was the result: when you turn seventy, you just cut loose with the vilest one-person show the family had ever seen. 6

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler He pointed at me and described in lurid detail my first clumsy sexual encounter with my boyfriend. How did he find that out? I tried to avoid eye contact with my mother or father or brother... or anyone else. He talked about horrible—just horrible— things he’s done to my mother. These things were so awful, they couldn’t be true. He even talked about what sexual humiliations he’d visited upon my father after my father began dating my mother. I heard words and deeds that I never thought possible. A tear streaked down my father’s cheek. My father never cried. It was the first time I saw any emotional reaction from my father. “Hey, hello everyone. Sorry I’m late,” Uncle Donovan said from the kitchen. He showed up right in the middle of Grandpa’s diatribe. Grandpa continued speaking. “Hey, whoa, what’s going on here, Grandpa?” Donovan said after he came into the dining room. Uncle Donovan was different from the rest. He would speak up if something was wrong. I wanted him to shut up. “He flipped out,” my brother said. “Shut your goddamn trap,” Grandpa said. He pointed at my brother. “Hey, Grandpa, hey now, stop,” Donovan said. “Just stop, OK?” Donovan noticed my brother’s video camera. He gestured his head in the direction of the camera. “What are you doing?” “Nothing,” my brother said. He put the phone/ camera in his pocket. “Give me that,” Donovan said. “No,” my brother said. He ran upstairs. I could hear a door slam. And lock. I knew he was safely uploading the video to the Internet. I hoped I’d be able to enjoy it later. My brother was somewhat useful, occasionally. I was sure that everyone thought if Grandpa dropped dead right then and there, if his head flopped forward into his potatoes and gravy, and he drowned in his gravy, all would have been right in the world. Instead, he just stopped talking and quietly resumed eating his dinner as if nothing had

E.N. Larsen happened. “Delicious stuffing, Carol,” he said. My mother smiled a little and nodded at him. “Hello, Donovan, nice of you to join us.” “Sure, Dad, what was that all about?” Grandpa shrugged. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.” I started crying. I was overcome by the emotion of the moment. It was an incredibly moving emotional experience. Grandpa’s losing control gave me hope. I never felt closer to anyone in the family than I felt toward Grandpa at that moment. That’s why I cried. I enjoyed Grandpa’s passion. I wanted to hug him. “Someone needs to give her a whack,” Grandpa said. He stared at me. Most everyone smiled and nodded. I thought he was going to resume his diatribe, but he just sat there and sampled the yams. “Dad, stop,” Donovan said. I got up and went to the bathroom. “What’d you think of Grandpa?” I asked my brother later. We were in the basement playing pool. “Glad I got it all on my phone,” he said. My brother had not only audio but also video. He had pointed his phone directly at Grandpa hidden from the others between the bowl of green beans and the bowl of corn. The video was excellent. The audio was excellent. The holidays made him generous, and he offered me a copy. I knew the video would be my most prized memory of Thanksgiving. I felt connected to Grandpa. I wanted the family to be like him all the time. I wanted them to scream at each other and say awful things. I wanted some passion. I was tired of living amongst the androids. We spent the next few months playing and replaying Grandpa’s performance, trying to wring out all of the meaning we could from his eighteen-minute recital. We had to search the Internet for clarification of a lot of the things he discussed. So much seemed outside what was possible. It was as if a being from an advanced civilization had channeled through Grandpa on Thanksgiving and offered us its wisdom. True, what came out was filthy and 7

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler pretty disgusting, but we treasured it. We had one unspoken rule: Neither of us ever mentioned what Grandpa had revealed about the other. There was always an awkward moment whenever we got to those parts of the recording. I eventually ended up making a transcript. That took until the next summer. I carried it around as a sacred text. If I ever felt down or confused or misunderstood, I’d pull out the transcript and read for a little while, and I’d feel better. Grandpa died almost five years later, at seventy four. We were never again treated to anything like that Thanksgiving. Each year I eagerly awaited another Thanksgiving and the advanced, crude, passionate, filth-ridden civilization as it visited through Grandpa. Gradually, I realized that never again would Grandpa take the stage. I think Grandpa’s outburst gave him five extra years. It so rejuvenated him. The family had been wounded by his outburst, but there wasn’t any lasting damage, unfortunately. No one ever discussed it, and if I ever tried to talk about it to anyone other than my brother, I was told to drop it.

Our Crimetron 9000


Crimetron 9000 arrived. We bought it with a grant from Homeland Security. It came in fifty boxes, and we had a special room at the police station where we set it up. I was so glad we finally had something that allowed us to come down hard on scumbag murderers, arsonists, and sexual criminals. (We had purchased the murder, arson, and sexual assault add-on modules, so that’s what we focused on with our Crimetron 9000.) Here was how it worked: You’d hook up your dirtbag suspect to the Crimetron 9000 and show him pictures of the victim mixed in with other pictures. The Crimetron 9000 would pick up his micrometer waves and analyze them through was so pumped yesterday when our

E.N. Larsen advanced digital signal processing (you needed a PhD to understand that stuff). Then we’d hook up the victim (if possible) and record his/her micrometer waves from deep in the brain. The Crimetron 9000 would spend about six hours or so comparing these waves between the victim and perp. It would come back with an answer about whether the dirtbag suspect committed the crime. It could also detect whether the scum had committed any other crimes against any other victims and give approximate times of the crimes. Ryan, the rep from XSD, the supplier of the Crimetron 9000, came by to see how everything was going. He brought along Travis, the tech who would actually do the setup and calibration. Travis was certified to do initial setup, calibration, and user training. Travis and Ryan seemed nice enough. I helped Travis unpack all of the computers that made up the Crimetron 9000. There were forty computers total. We had to get extra power lines and air conditioning put in to take the load. “These look like regular computers,” I said. “No, these PCs are specially built by XSD for the Crimetron 9000’s massively parallel grid array cluster.” “What’s a massively parallel grid array cluster?” I said. “It’s a whole new way of computing.” “How much do each of these computers go for?” I said. “They’re about $20,000 each.” I whistled. “I paid $400 for my home computer,” I said. “An ordinary PC wouldn’t be able to handle the stresses of running the Crimetron 9000 software, CrimeCatcher version If you tried to run CrimeCatcher on your PC, it would explode. It’d just burn up. Ours have state-of-theart liquid cooling systems, high-speed front-side buses, and four CPUs with four cores each.” “Wow, that’s pretty harsh,” I said. “Yes, indeedy,” he said.


Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler “Shouldn’t the software be called CriminalCatcher, by the way?” I said. “I mean, no one tries to catch crime. They try to catch criminals.” He laughed. “No, I don’t think so. We have like the top minds in the world working on this thing. I’m sure they can figure out what to call it.” He laughed again. “CrimeCatcher…” he put a lot of emphasis on the Crime, “…is thirty five million lines of JavaScript,” he said. He pulled a network cable out of its plastic bag. “It’s so complicated no one person knows it all. We had to write our own operating system to handle it. We had a lot of European experts work on it. Most of these guys come from Europe.” These people were serious. “That’s insane,” I said. “We take crime pretty seriously at XSD,” Travis said. “XSD has big plans in this space. We’re going to be the Microsoft of crime software.” He attached the network cable to a computer and then to the switch. Travis pulled an ancient dot matrix printer out of a box and placed it on the special Crimetron 9000 modular furniture we had to buy from XSD. “Why are you using a dot matrix printer?” I asked. I hadn’t seen one of those since the 80s. “It’s so the reports can’t be doctored,” Travis said. I found out later that the reason for the dot matrix printer was so that we had to buy consumables (ribbons and paper) through XSD. And they were overpriced. You could run a small country on what we spent on ribbons and special anti-forgery Crimetron 9000 paper. Oh well. If that was what they had to do to finance their operation, I had no problem with it. After all, these guys were geniuses and should be amply rewarded. It’s not like Homeland Security was complaining. The police commissioner held a press conference announcing our Crimetron 9000. He gathered local reporters down in the basement of police headquarters. The room had been an evidence locker, but now it was Crimetron’s lair. The walls, floor, and ceiling of the room were painted insti

E.N. Larsen tutional blue-gray. It was dismal, but Crimetron didn’t care. “The Crimetron 9000 shows no mercy to scumbags who destroy people’s lives through violent crime,” the Police Commissioner said. The reporters applauded. About six months later we received a new version of the software. It was now called “CriminalCatcher” It had to be installed and certified by Kevin, who replaced Travis. “Travis has been booted upstairs,” Kevin said. “He’s going places at XSD.” “That’s good,” I said. “I liked Travis.” The Crimetron 9000 worked out well. It helped us convict the Desert Murderers (two lawyers who buried their victims in the desert), the Vincent Care Facility Rapist, and, of course, the Westwood Park Arsonist. In each case, the jury needed less than an hour to convict each slime bucket. No one could defeat the Crimetron 9000. I discovered that we could pretty much use it for any crime. Just hook up the slimeball perp, show him a picture of the victim or the crime scene, and the Crimetron 9000 would tell you if he did it. (You could also skip attaching the victim to the Crimetron 9000.) We had to do some editing of its reports though. It always said murdered, set ablaze, or sexually assaulted in its reports (depending on which add-on module we had loaded). If we were going after an auto theft suspect, the report would say, “John Smith murdered the victim, [a] 2002 Honda Accord.” So we’d fix that. A jury wouldn’t be able to handle it if we didn’t. They’d just laugh at us and think they’re smarter than us. The dot matrix printer and anti-forgery paper (with the Crimetron 9000 logo on the top of each page) did make the reports harder to doctor. I would have to scan the report and use Photoshop to drag copies of the letters from other parts of the report to change set ablaze to knifed, for instance. No one could tell. Eventually, we just retyped the whole thing in Word and printed it out on the special anti-forgery paper. We were justified 9

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler in changing the reports because we were making the streets safer by getting all of the scumbags into prison where they belonged. Anyway, we never doctored a report to say that someone was guilty when Crimetron said he was innocent. It was only to clean up the language, to make the jury understand. I felt the need to say that so it was clear that our motives were always good. I always justified it by saying we were doing it for the greater good. Sure, technically, it was forgery, but we were locking away dirtbag criminals. When you were going after criminals, anything was justified. The reports always included all of this statistics crap, p-values and R-squared and stuff. No one was interested in that, so that went straight into the garbage. Judges and juries didn’t care about it. It was too hard to understand. I eventually figured out how to modify CriminalCatcher to not output it. The whole point of all this output seemed to be to waste the special XSD paper and ink. We couldn’t afford any more add-on modules besides the three we originally purchased. (I found out later that they were all the same anyway except some of the messages were changed.) If I remembered right, each one was around $25,000. Homeland Security wouldn’t give us a grant to buy any more add-on modules either. A few years later we contacted XSD to buy some new add-on modules (we finally got more money), but they said we needed to upgrade to a new model. The add-on modules were no longer offered or supported. They said the computers and software we had couldn’t be upgraded anymore because it was end-of-life. We had unsupported software and hardware even though it had only been about three years since we purchased it. A new rep came by from time to time, much less often than before. Ryan was gone, and now it was Kathy. “I can’t believe you’re still using this old thing. It’s a relic. It’s like going back to the 60s,” Kathy said of our Crimetron 9000. “You should get a Criminalizer 1000. It has a better upgrade path.”

E.N. Larsen We didn’t have a spare $5 million for the Criminalizer 1000. That was about twice what we’d paid three years earlier for the Crimetron 9000. “You can use the Criminalizer 1000 to create air-tight evidence for any of a dozen crimes. New crimes come online each quarter with new software updates,” Kathy said. “It hooks to the Internet and downloads everything. You can control it over the Internet from remote locations.” We faced a problem, though. Some of the suspects that we knew were guilty were found not guilty by the Crimetron 9000. We had to let several dirtbags walk because of this. For quite a while the Crimetron 9000 would not find any of our suspects guilty. We even considered decommissioning it. Then I hit pay dirt. I discovered that about an hour into processing, if I unplugged the network cable from the master computer and then quickly plugged it back in, the current suspect would always be found guilty. It worked every time. You could hook up a toddler as perp, show him pictures of a potted plant, pull the net cable at the right time, and, bingo, the Crimetron 9000 would say that toddler sexually assaulted that geranium. Obviously, this was way useful. I could now make sure that the right people went to prison. The good guys were finally winning. I was sure the Criminalizer 1000 wouldn’t do that. Or I’d have to spend a lot of time dicking with it to get back to where I was with the Crimetron 9000. We hooked up Detective Robinson once for fun and showed him pictures of DB Cooper. I pulled the network cable at the right time, but I forgot to go into the configuration and change sexually assaulted to is, so the report said, “Detective Dave Robinson sexually assaulted DB Cooper.” Someone posted the report as a joke in the break room, but I took it down. I couldn’t have the wrong people seeing that. By then, I’d taken several programming classes, and I started to tinker with Crimetron’s internal messages. I wanted to make it so we could enter the crime when we started, so we wouldn’t 10

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler have to doctor the reports. It was pretty easy to do. There was a configuration file that I changed before each run. I would shut down the software, CriminalCatcher, change murdered to embezzled (for instance), and restart CriminalCatcher. There were other things you could do to make the messages come out right, but that’s all probably pretty boring to talk about here. I spent a lot of time making our Crimetron 9000 do what I wanted it to do. I could even make my own add-on modules. I pwned our Crimetron 9000. In other words, the detectives were accumulating a really good record for convictions (100%). But then a few defense attorneys heard some rumors about the Crimetron: Some kids figured out how to enter a special mode. You could hold down the Return key in the Suspect Name field until CriminalCatcher beeped twice. Then if you hit the K key fast enough, CriminalCatcher would revert to a special mode where you could do anything. For instance, it would ask if the person connected should be found guilty: “Guilty: (Y)es or (N)o?” (Do you need to ask, Crimetron?) That winter XSD lost the last of its appeals and had to reveal their source code to a panel of experts from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The panel found that the Crimetron 9000 and all of XSD’s products were based on pseudoscience and, even then, the source code was full of bugs, backdoors, and other cruft. We could no longer get convictions based on Crimetron’s reports. Judges barred Crimetron’s reports. Eventually, we shut down the Crimetron 9000 and sued XSD. By then 90% of Crimetron’s $20,000 computers no longer booted, but the software ran fine on the remaining ones. It still took the same amount of time to run as when we first got it. I opened up the computers. They were computers you could get at Walmart for around $250 each. Even when we got the Crimetron 9000, the computers wouldn’t have gone for more than $500 each. None of the specs that Travis gave me were true.

E.N. Larsen All of the Crimetron 9000’s convictions were eventually overturned on appeal. The bad guys won again.

Best Friends Forever


his guy is the dumbest son of a bitch you’re

ever going to meet,” Ted said. “I hope so,” I said. “He’s also the most entertaining guy you’ll ever meet. He’ll keep you laughing.” “In what way?” I said. “Funny things happen to him,” Ted said. We pulled into a new apartment complex, parked, and walked up to a townhouse (spelled on all signage as “Townehome”) that was just adorable. Ted marched along as though he’d been here many times, and I tried to keep up. He banged on an apartment door. A man with messed up hair and wearing a T-shirt and shorts answered the door. The T-shirt read, “Carbon Based Unit.” “Hey,” Ted said. “You OK? What’s wrong?” “Life sucks,” the man said. “Hi,” he said to me. “Hey,” I said. “This is Sam. Sam, Leonard,” Ted said. I nodded. Leonard nodded. We shook hands. We went into Leonard’s apartment. It looked like there had been a fire in the living room. The chair and carpet in the corner were black and covered with powder. A fire extinguisher sat next to the chair. The curtains were missing, and the walls and ceiling were black. It smelled like burnt carpet. A running fan sat in the doorway to the patio. It was freezing in the apartment with that fan and open door, but Leonard was wearing shorts. “What the hell happened here?” Ted said. “That’s what I was telling you about,” Leonard said. Leonard shook his head. “OK. I was standing over there smoking, and I guess I touched off the curtains with my cigarette.” 11

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler “What’d you do, buy the cheapest curtains, and they went up?” Ted said. “No, no. They were here already. So they’re burning, and I panic and throw my drink on them. But it’s vodka—my drink is vodka—so everything goes up. The curtains just burst into flames. And I’m trying to put them out, and they fall on the chair—most of the curtains—and I knock over the vodka and that’s on fire. I freak out and vodka goes everywhere. And it’s flaming like a torch. Flames are shooting everywhere.” I looked at Ted. It looked like he was trying not to laugh. “Leonard, you’re the unluckiest fuck I know,” he said. “Yeah, tell me about it. Then I just couldn’t take it anymore—after the accident at work—so I just sat down and said, ‘Fuck it.’ I just didn’t care anymore,” Leonard said. “Craig was over, and he just dragged me outside. Then he found the fire extinguisher and put it all out.” “Craig’s a good guy,” Ted said. He looked at me. “Yeah, Craig’s good,” I said. “What happened at work?” Ted said. “Oh, God. That was terrible. I was on the second floor coming down the stairs, and I tripped and fell down the stairs. I rolled down from the second floor into the lobby. I ended up in the lobby. People asked me if I was OK.” He rubbed his head. “My head still hurts.” Now I tried not to laugh. I could picture this guy tumbling down the stairs at work and people stepping over him to get to the coffee maker. “Wow, Leonard,” Ted said. “Just wow.” “Yeah,” I said. “I know. Hey, you guys want something to drink, or eat, or whatever?” Leonard said. “Sure, yeah, that’d be great. What do you got?” Ted said. “I’ve got beer and sodas, Coke, Sprite, maybe some chips. No more vodka, though,” Leonard said. “Just find a place to sit.” The only chair was burned, so that was out. Ted and I sat on the carpet as far away from the burned area as possible.

E.N. Larsen We both asked for beers and chips. Leonard went into the kitchen, and we heard a crash. “Oh shit,” Leonard yelled. We ran into the kitchen. It looked like a lower kitchen cabinet had come away from the wall, and it was lying on top of Leonard. We both lifted it off of him. “What the hell happened?” Ted said. “Are you OK?” I said. “The whole cabinet came off the wall. This apartment is a death trap,” Leonard said. He got up, slipped on something, and slammed his shoulder against the refrigerator. Both Ted and I tried to grab him, but we weren’t quick enough. “Buddy, careful,” Ted said. Leonard sat down on the floor. “It’s this damn slippery floor. I’m always slipping. I’m just going to sit here for a while.” He exhaled deeply and rubbed his shoulder. “God, I hurt.” “Hey, we should probably go, let you recover,” Ted said. “You should just kick back and relax.” “No, no, don’t go,” Leonard said. “We don’t want to eat here, in this dump. Let’s go out to dinner.” “I don’t know,” Ted said. “Come on, let’s go to the meat place. I’ll drive. You have to see my new car.” Ted looked at me and smiled. I nodded. Leonard put on some jeans that were sitting on the floor and put on some shoes. He opened his closet and pulled the whole closet rod down when he got his coat. I closed my eyes. “See what crap I have to deal with here?” Leonard said. “I’m going to move.” If Ted didn’t say anything—if Ted wasn’t going to stop our impending deaths—I wasn’t going to say anything. I knew if I were first to show fear, he’d slam me as a wimp. Leonard snapped off his key in the deadbolt as we left. “Dammit!” “Just forget about it,” Ted said. “Just get away from this shithole, have something to eat with your friends, and you’ll be OK.” “Yeah, OK, right,” Leonard said. 12

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler I noticed that Leonard’s shoelaces were untied and flipping around as he walked. I was trying to calculate how long before they snagged on something and Leonard went down. Definitely before he got to the car. He walked through some bushes, but the laces didn’t snag. His coat snagged and tore but not the shoelaces. “Ah, I just bought this coat,” he said. “Leonard, your shoelaces are untied,” Ted said. Leonard stopped to tie his shoes. When we got to Leonard’s car, I looked at Ted one final time. I wanted to see if he’d back out. Instead, he smirked a little. I sat in the back and Ted sat in the passenger seat. I wondered what sort of accident Leonard would get into and how I’d die or be maimed. I thought about who would be injured the most in the upcoming accident. What body part would I lose function in? Ted could easily stop this all right now. I wondered if I’d lose an eye or maybe part of my leg—maybe my foot. Maybe I’d get my first concussion. I wasn’t going to back down. There was no way that I would not go through with it, with this impending accident. It’s not like I looked forward to the accident, but there was no way in hell I was going to back down. Ted would have to do that. “I thought you said this was a new car,” Ted said. “It is,” Leonard said. “It’s brand new.” We lurched forward instead of reverse, and the car tapped the support for the carport. The carport shook a little. “I’m not totally familiar with this car because it’s so new.” Ted and I looked out the window at the carport. It seemed fine for now. I realized Ted picked the front seat because it had an airbag. But there was an empty spot. “What happened to Ted’s airbag?” I said. “Oh, it just went off one day at random,” Leonard said. “I was just sitting here, and it went off. Poof.” He made a gesture with his arms. “What did you do with it?” Ted said. “What?” Leonard said. “The airbag,”

E.N. Larsen “Oh, sorry. I got a knife from the kitchen and cut it away.” You could see some remnants from that. “And I cut my thumb almost down to the bone.” I almost said, “That goes without saying.” As he pulled away, the huge whip antenna on the back of the car hooked onto the carport and was torn off. It bounced around and sparked behind the car for a mile or so until another car stopped on top of it at a light. When we pulled forward, the antenna stayed behind with the other car. It smelled like fast food in the car, as if someone had set up a deep fryer right in the back seat. The upholstery in the back was torn in several places. “What do you think of my amateur radio gear?” Leonard said. There were five electronic gadgets attached to the dash. “It came with the car.” “Nice,” Ted said. “Ever use it?” “No, I don’t know what I’m doing. They didn’t do a very good job with the wires.” Leonard held up a handful of wires from under the dash. “You can fix that with duct tape,” Ted said. Leonard drove OK at first. He didn’t hit anyone or anything like that. Seemed a little timid, but that was fine. All I could think about was the impending accident and whether I should brace myself or try to stay loose. I heard that if you are loose, you have a better chance in the accident. Somehow you break fewer bones. “What the fuck?” Leonard said. “Ow, shit!” I could see Leonard flailing around, so I leaned forward to see what he was doing. It looked like his arm was tangled in the mess of wires coming from the dashboard. He unfastened his seatbelt and twisted around so he could extract his arm from the mess of wire. He struggled against the wires frantically. All this while driving. “What are you doing?” Ted said. “Ow, shit, ow,” Leonard said. “Hot, ow. Hot hot.” Smoke came off the wires. It felt like we hit a curb. 13

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler I looked out the window. The car engine was racing, and the tires were spinning. The engine opened up. It sounded like Leonard was holding the pedal to the floor. “Let off the gas,” Ted said. “I’ve got my foot on the brake,” Leonard said. “I’m pressing the brake as hard as I can.” “Put it in neutral,” Ted said. Leonard tried to shift the transmission into neutral. He looked panicked because he jammed the gearshift like a maniac in a bunch of different directions and broke it off. “Fuck,” he said. Now both his arms were tangled in the burning wires. “What are you doing?” Ted said. The car was caught in the corner of two walls. Then I realized the walls were a sculpture. The sculpture was two cement walls abutting one another. He had driven up across the sidewalk and into the park, and now the car was blocked by our town’s outdoor sculpture, Pagan Rising #4. Ted reached over and turned off the ignition and removed the key, but the car kept running. Smoke was pouring off the spinning tires. It looked like some crazed maniac hated Pagan Rising #4 so much he was trying to destroy it with his car. The bumper was grinding away the artistic lettering and bas-relief pagan’s face. “I’m out of here,” Ted said. By then, I was already on my way out of the car. Before I got out I noticed that Leonard was still trying to untangle himself from the mess of wires coming out of the dash. It looked like he was more tangled than earlier. “Leonard, get out of the car,” Ted said from outside the car. He banged on the driver’s side window. About a minute later, the car smashed the sculpture—just destroyed it—and headed across McWalter Park and slammed into Sherman Oak, the oldest oak in the state. That oak was huge. Ted and I ran across the park to get to Leonard. He still hadn’t gotten out of the car. The car plowed through several of Sherman Oak’s educational displays and put a huge gouge in Sherman

E.N. Larsen Oak. The car was now grinding away at Sherman Oak. The tires were digging ruts into the grass. Ted opened the door even though the car was grinding against the oak, and Leonard continued to work on the wires. Ted ripped the wires out of the dash after several tugs and threw them back into the car. “I was almost free. You didn’t need to do that,” Leonard said. Leonard fell down when he got out of the car. It looked like his shoelaces were tangled on the brake pedal. Ted and I helped him up. Leonard had melted wires stuck to his jacket. We all sat down in the grass a safe distance from the grinding car. The ground was wet and cold. Leonard sat in dog shit. After a few minutes, the car knocked and pinged a few times and died. That was when it started burning. Smoke poured out. We got up and moved even farther away. The car was quickly engulfed in flames and so was Sherman Oak. The educational displays went up as if they had been made of tissue paper. I called 911 on my cell phone. The fire department arrived and put the car and oak out. We talked with Leonard for a long time. I was excited to have survived the accident. I survived a Leonard car trip with no injuries. I found out later how rare that was. “Too bad the car burned up. You could’ve called for help on the radio gear,” Ted said. “Well, except I tore out its wires.” Sherman Oak was toast and so was Leonard’s new car. Sherman Oak was no longer the oldest live oak in the state. “Hey, we’ve got to go,” Ted said. He looked at me. “Yeah, we need to go,” I said. “Sure,” Leonard said. “How are you going to get back?” “We’ll just walk,” Ted said. “What’re you going to do?” “I don’t know. I have to get a tow.”


Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler “Maybe we can go to dinner some other time?” “What’d you think of that?” Ted said as we walked back to his car. “Pretty crazy,” I said. “That guy’s a menace. I almost laughed when he said he fell down the stairs at work.” “You are a heartless bastard.” When we got back to Ted’s car, we noticed the collapsed carport, a fire truck, and some ambulances at Leonard’s apartments. Ted shook his head. “I wonder who Leonard killed here.” A few weeks later, we stopped by Leonard’s townhouse. Ted banged on the door. There was no answer. “Come on, Buddy, open the door.” A woman next door who had been doing something with some plants came over. “He’s not here. He’s in the hospital,” she said. “No way,” Ted said. “What happened?” “He was doing something with his fireplace, but he fell into the fire. He was burned pretty badly.” I wanted to laugh again, but I resisted and turned away. I felt bad. “You’re laughing, aren’t you?” Ted said. “No, not at all,” I said. “It’s nothing to laugh at. He was badly hurt. Serious burns,” the woman said. “That’s awful. We’re best friends—me and Leonard,” Ted said. “You should go see him,” she said. “He’s at Metropolitan.” “You’re not best friends,” I said on the drive over to the hospital. “Sure we are,” Ted said. “I’ve known Leonard for years.” “You just laugh at him behind his back,” I said. “No, only you do,” Ted said. “I’m going to the hospital after all.” “You just want to see how fucked up he is,” I said. “You said he made you laugh.” “That’s just a figure of speech. I didn’t mean he made me actually laugh. You’ve been laughing for

E.N. Larsen real at all of the tragedies he’s been through. He’s had a really hard life. I would never laugh at that.” “You said he’s entertaining,” I said. “He can tell some really good stories,” Ted said. “He always makes me smile.” “You’re so full of shit,” I said. “You have got to be the coldest prick I know,” Ted said. “I hope if I’m ever in the hospital my supposed friends will come see me. With you, I’m not so sure.” “Fuck you,” I said. I had him let me off at the mall, and I called Lum to pick me up. “Just more of Ted’s mind games,” I said to Lum. That was the last time I’d seen Ted, and now I haven’t seen Ted for more than ten years. I don’t know what happened to Leonard, and I don’t want to know. I still feel lucky that I survived that car trip. I think the fight with Ted was a good thing because I was never again tempted to risk my life with Leonard.

Paper Cutter


ave was preparing another presentation.

He was always preparing presentations. He always had something to present. He was probably going to show the execs who should be RIFed. This was an old-school presentation. Poster boards, glue, press-on letters. He was trimming his poster boards with the paper cutter. We were in the mailroom on the third floor of Building 62. “Take that damn guard off,” I said. “Why?” he said. “You can never get a good cut with that thing on,” I said. “Your presentation will look like shit. And you’ve got to push the blade down faster and put more force into it. That’s the only way you’ll get a clean cut.” 15

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler Dave unsnapped the wire guard designed to prevent fingers from accidentally being sliced off: step one. Dave pushed the blade down. This time he was much faster and used a lot more force. “Yeah, that’s it,” I said. Now to distract him on the down stroke: step two. I coughed as if I were dying, as if I had been smoking for forty years. It startled him, and his fingers… almost. “Shit. Almost cut off my fingers.” He laughed and lifted the blade to make another cut. Moron. “That’d be pretty funny if I cut off my fingers and got blood all over this,” he said. “I’d be screaming and blood would be spraying all over the mailroom.” He laughed. “Yeah, that’d be hilarious,” I said. “I’d pay to see that.” He laughed again and looked at me. “You’re going to kill us all someday, aren’t you, Buddy? Just come in here and gun us all down. That’ll be your claim to fame.” He looked nervous, as if he’d said something he shouldn’t have. “You know me too damn well,” I said. I patted him on the back. He looked me in the eye. He was trying to read me. Then he resumed his cutting. Down stroke. This time I yelled. “Dave!” Contact! The blade cut off a little piece of his index finger. “Ouch! Fuck!” The cut was small. Try again. “Shit that stings.” He waved his hand back and forth. “Ah, shit, that hurts.” “Sorry. It looked like your cut was crooked,” I said. “Sorry, Dave. I’ll get you a bandage.” I shook my head. “Hey, that’d be great.” “Sure,” I said. “You’re a crazy fucker. Don’t cry.” I went over to the first aid kit on the wall and took out a bandage. He sucked his wound. I handed him the bandage. “Thanks,” he said. He opened the wrapper and applied the bandage to his cut. What a clueless dumbshit.

E.N. Larsen I had to get this soon. He didn’t have much more to cut. I started to feel a lot of pressure to make this thing work. It was that corporate deadline pressure. Make this work or you’re out of here. If you don’t get this impossible thing done, you’re going to be eating out of dumpsters when we’re finished with you. When it got down to the wire, you really had to perform. Up. Down stroke. “Dave!” I yelled and gave him a shove. Contact! The sound of dismemberment! (That’s seriously what went through my mind: dismemberment. Not something like ouch or whoops.) Dave screamed. Blood sprayed all over his presentation. I’d like to stop right here. I know this looks bad, that I’m a horrible person, that you want to turn away in disgust. I’m sorry. At the time, this seemed like the right thing to do. I mean, the guy was the architect of the layoffs, the nasty, ugly layoffs that started in 2009 and lasted until the summer of 2010. Those were the layoffs that had been so poorly handled and had ruined lives. That’s what I was thinking. But when I saw what I had done, I was scared. I thought I was going to lose it. I snapped out of stupid and called 911. I took off my shirt and wrapped it around Dave’s hand to stop the bleeding. Then I went to the freezer in the kitchenette and put his fingers in a cup of ice. It was like watching someone else—a mature, reasonable version of me. It was a me that so far had never existed. It was how normal people probably were. I’d fantasized about being like that when I was in my 20s. It seemed cool to go after this guy, fuck him up a little because he was such an asshole. But seeing what had happened right in front of me woke me up. It was right there. Bam, right in my face. And I reacted how, I guess, a normal person would have reacted. “You’re going to be OK,” I said. I tried to comfort him until the ambulance arrived and took him away. “Here, sit down,” I said. We both sat 16

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler down and waited. His breathing was shallow, and he seemed kind of shocky. I’m not making this up: I was trying to comfort him and keep him from going into shock. I wanted to ride with him in the ambulance, but they wouldn’t let me. I really got a charge out of making sure that he got the care that he needed. I had a discussion with the EMTs about the best way to take care of Dave. I marched right into the hospital and went to see him. I felt comfortable and satisfied being in the hospital. There was something about being there that really calmed me down. I almost forgot to visit Dave. When I finally found his room, someone clapped me on the back and said, “So, here’s the hero.” I think it was Dennis. “I’m no hero,” I said. But I was a hero the more I thought about it. I wanted to take that no back. “Hmm, modest,” Dennis said. “Just like all heroes.” The fingers were successfully reattached thanks to my quick thinking. Everyone was congratulating me, saying I was a great guy and all that. Dave even congratulated me. I guess he didn’t realize that I was the one who was responsible for him cutting off his fingers. Or maybe he was too scared of me by now. The town’s fire chief gave me a special award for my quick thinking. We had cake, and I said a few words. The paper did a story on me and how heroic I was. My picture was on the front of the Living section. This was around when I started having nightmares. I’d wake up freezing cold because I was drenched in sweat. It was the same nightmare, the whole scene played out with different people. First, it was the guy who invented Velcro. I was holding his hand under the blade while he told me he’d invented Velcro. I woke up with my arm tangled in my pajamas, which had this Velcro flap on the front. Thus, Velcro guy nightmare. The next time I had the dream, it was me cutting off Mother Teresa’s fingers. She was just

E.N. Larsen standing there smiling and telling me I was a great guy, and I’d be holding her fingers under the blade. Then there was Jesus and the next night Gandhi, etc. I must have cut off the fingers of most of the big names on the making-the-world-a-better-place circuit (including Velcro guy, of course). It was around about then that I realized I was screwed up. I should be locked up, I’d think. I was so sure that Dave was a really nasty guy, that he was laying off people, doing all that. But he wasn’t. I found out later that Dave never had anything to do with the layoffs. Of course. He was just some average guy at work. So I went after the guy in the next cubicle, just some random guy. I was the crazy person here. It was like I was one of those people shooting other people at random. I felt extra bad because I enjoyed all of the attention. I realized that I was the bad guy. But instead of shunning me, people at work thought I was a hero. I’d gone from the guy most likely to gun everyone down to the most heroic guy in the company’s history. Dave told me that he was sorry he’d said that, that I was the most likely to gun everyone down. “There’s nothing to apologize for,” I said. “You are a great guy,” he said. But I started seeing myself in a better light. I started doing the right thing more often. So probably the first time in my life I’d ever done anything right was when I was correcting something that I’d done that was really wrong. I finally had to quit. The stress of being a bad person yet everyone thinking I was a hero was too much. I was sitting at home a few months later watching a show on TV about Münchhausen syndrome by proxy. That made me think about this whole thing. I was thinking that was me, that’s what I had. That’s why I did what I did. I wasn’t trying to excuse it, just understand it. I told my friend Matt about this whole experience and the Münchhausen thing, and he said he was going to do a film, a documentary, about it. And he did. It was called A New Workplace Danger: 17

Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler

E.N. Larsen

Münchhausen Syndrome by Proxy. He interviewed me about the paper cutter business. Dave saw the film and sued me. My lawyer got Dave’s case thrown out because the statute of limitations on malicious dismemberment was only two years or something like that. At the time of the lawsuit, it was five years since the dismemberment. I suppose there should be some sort of moral to this story. How about: “Vigilante justice in the office is bad”? Or maybe: “Don’t try to cut off people’s fingers with the paper cutter”? Or: “Watch out for coworkers with Münchhausen syndrome by proxy”? I’m not sure.


Revenge through Landscaping: A Sampler