May God Stop Laughing Now
by James F. Dinsmore
Christmas Day was peaceful in the small Midwestern town of Little Bend. There was no hint of snow and a slight breeze drifted out of the southwest. The weather was unseasonably warmer than usual. Most of the people were enjoying the fifty degree temperature for they knew it would not last much longer.
The day was not normal for most residents. They would sleep late on that Monday and then spend the day with loved ones. Most of them would hate to get up for work the next day.
In one apartment, a young man would never face another day exactly like this one.
A police car and an ambulance were parked in front of a three-story brick building on Cherry Street. No sirens wailed as their lights flashed psychodelic colors while the sun started to set.
Strange, thought a middle-aged police officer as he closed the door of the bathroom. I never thought I would ever see a case like this in Kansas especially on Christmas Day.
"When did you find your friend?" asked the blonde-haired law officer as he withdrew a pad and a pen from his navy-blue shirt pocket.
The slender young man that he asked had light curly brown hair. His hazel eyes were bloodshot and swollen but there were no tears.
"Just like I told you earlier, Officer Reed," he said as he sat in a black bean bag. "I was coming over to see if he wanted to go to Wichita with me tomorrow. When he didn't answer the door, I knew something was wrong. Usually, he is always here when not at work. I tried the door and found it unlocked."
"So naturally you went in."
"Yeah. I found him and then called 911."
"What time was this?" the officer asked as he scratched the pad with the pen.
"A little before four."
"Did you know he was a big fan of heavy metal and the occult?" Officer Reed asked as he leaned back on a poster of Alice Cooper.
"Yeah," the young man replied as if dumbfounded by the question. "Just take a look around you."
The officer looked around the room with his baby blue eyes. There were pin-ups of Elvira, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne and other strange personalities. A five-pointed star was sprayed in red above the young man's head.
The pentagram was the same color as the shag carpet.
"He was into almost everything. Heck, we both were," the young man said. "We loved to read, write, and create stories. We were also big into role-playing games..."
"Role-playing games. Perhaps you have seen such items marked 'AD&D' in his bedroom while you were looking for drugs. Didn't find any, did you?"
"No," Reed said, feeling a little ashamed at doing his duty and always suspecting foul play. "Was he heavy into this AD&D?"
"Yeah, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons got both of us to really create some weird characters. We both loved playing the game whenever I could come over. He even made his own RPG system. He called it Storms and Shadows."
There was a pause as the young man took a moment to think.
"We never took it to the limit of seriousness like some of those college students. We found it as a way to let off steam."
The same door that Officer Reed stepped out of earlier slowly opened. A man with a light blue shirt and white slacks came out first. He pulled a stretcher out after him. Another man dressed the same as the first pushed the stretcher.
On the stretcher was a body covered with a damp white sheet.
Officer Reed stepped forward to the side of the stretcher when it stopped in the middle of the room. He pulled back the sheet so that the young man could look at the face of his friend.
The face had a fixed grin and looked a little bluish. His long brown hair was wet.
"Damn," the young man whispered while his face. "What made you do it now after all these years?"
The officer replaced the sheet on the face and walked to the front door which was exactly opposite of the bathroom door.
"Thanks, Dan," the man who pulled the stretcher said.
"Remember to watch those stairs. They are just a little too steep for my taste."
The young man took off his wire-framed glasses as Dan closed the door after the two men and the body were gone from the room.
"I have a whole lot of questions that needs answers," Reed said as the young man rubbed his eyes.
The young man replaced his glasses and nodded. There were still no sign of tears.
Reed sat down in an empty black bean bag. A rectangular wooden cabinet separated them. On the cabinet was a black compact stereo system. The features included a record turntable, AM/FM radio and duel cassette player/recorder. Beneath the cabinet, records and cassettes were stacked.
"First," he said while scribbling on the pad. "I need to know your full name for the record."
"Sure. My full name is Henry Lawrence Waterford but friends and family just call me Henry. I live at 458 Green Street with my mother, Wilma."
"Okay. Where is his parents?"
"Who knows," Henry said before taking a deep breath. "His parents divorced when he was about twelve. His father remarried and moved to Oklahoma. His mother left Little Bend a few years ago with a biker."
"All right, Henry. Please tell me what's on your mind. At times like these, it is best to share your pain."
"I knew Johnny for a long time. It's his pain that I'm feeling."
"Tell me," the officer said.
Henry took another deep breath and collected his thoughts.
So much to tell and so much to do, Henry thought before opening his lips to speak.
John Edward More was his full name. He was the most unusual man that I have ever known. He often wanted to change his birthday from Valentine's Day to Halloween. Johnny thought that his being born at 3:33 in 1966 was a sign or some omen from the beyond.
I met him in the sixth grade on a trip to the Kansas City Zoo. Johnny was the only kid with a notebook and he would often write something in it.
I had recently moved to town with my parents and so I was the new kid on the block. I needed to make friends so I introduced myself to Johnny. I can still recall his first words as he looked at the lions through his thick-lensed glasses.
"What was the name of the Frankenstein's monster?" he asked while not even taking his eyes off the caged cat.
"Adam," I replied.
He turned his head and his green eyes went wide with excitement. Johnny asked me if I was into monster movies. I replied by saying that I saw Godzilla ten times.
We got along great after that. He even showed me his notebook. There were poems in it which were mostly of love and nature. Johnny could have had a poetry book published way back then.
From that day on, we tried to get in the same classes. I found that he was very much the loner. I found out why one day in our seventh grade gym class.
Mike Stivers called him four eyes and said something about Elvis Presley being a drug addict.
Johnny's face was getting red as the other boys laughed. Calmly and for no reason, he just smiled.
When Mike asked him if he liked Tammy Wade, Johnny walked up to him. Johnny's right fist connected with Mike's nose. Mike yelled as blood ran down his nostrils.
"Don't you ever say anything bad about Tammy," Johnny yelled while looking at Mike.
Tammy was not the most popular, prettiest or smartest girl in our grade. There was something about her that attracted Johnny to her. One of the bullies pulled on her ponytail a few weeks before and he came to her aid. Johnny was sent to the principal's office and was suspended for a few days.
She would never admit if she like him or not. They never went out as far as I know. Tammy's married now with two kids.
I think Johnny often regretted not getting closer to her.
Many people teased him about his home life. Everybody in town knew that his father was a drunk. Johnny's mother was a bartender at the local private club. It was just him and her against the world.
The teasing caused him a lot of problems in being able to cope with society.
In the eighth grade, Johnny got pulled into the principal's office for writing love poems to Tammy. It wasn't her that turned him in but somebody stole it from her. Some of the poems were a bit graphic in their detail.
While Johnny could never talk around girls, he knew the right words to flatter a girl in a poem. Some of the girls thought it was cute when they got a poem him and often teased him about it. I think Tammy was the only girl that never made Johnny embarassed by letting other people read her letters from him.
He got suspended a week from school after a teacher read that one letter. She claimed that it was porn and went straight to the principal's office. Johnny never stopped writing love letters to girls but he was more careful in what he wrote.
Johnny spent the week at Cherry Steet Park. He played in the grove of trees that we knew by heart. We had a special grove in that park. We made trails that only we could follow. We always made plans to camp out there someday.
Looks like I'll be camping alone.
In high school, we discovered roleplaying games one day when we went to Wichita with my mom and older sister, Sheila. We stopped at our favorite comic book store to pick up the lastest comics when we saw a basic set of AD&D on sale. We both bought a set and quickly opened them on the way home.
Johnny freaked when he saw that the game was much like storytelling. He fell in love with it right away since it combined fantasy and horror. The first character that he created was Shastna, an elven magic user and fighter.
He mastered the game since his imagination really made the game come alive. Johnny always had a surprise in store any time that we played the game. His imagination came from all the reading he did.
Johnny loved to read anything he could get his hands on. He would read comics, magazines and novels especially if they had to do with horror, fantasy or science fiction. Johnny loved comics the most because the last thing he ever received from his father was a Captain America comic book when he got his tonsils taken out. That was he was in the third grade so he had been reading comics for a long time.
He often told me how his father would often abuse his mother and him. Johnny's mother had a scar on her left cheek where she was burnt by a steak knife. One of his darkest desire was to find his father and pay him back for all the pain he had caused.
About the end our Junior year, Johnny started to get deep into the occult and heavy metal. He bought a witchcraft manual on one of our jaunts to Wichita. Johnny drew pentagrams and placed them on his walls. He was always careful not to invert it.
Johnny wasn't into Satanism or any of the really dark religions. He always hated people who thought that Wicca and Satanism were the same. There is a big difference between the two: Wicca worships nature while Satanism worships Satan.
His favorite entertainer, Elvis Presley, was soon replaced by Alice Cooper, who took his name from a sevententh-century witch. On Halloween, I was invited to his mom's house to summon up a succubus. Needless to say that we failed in our attempt. Johnny said it was because that we started a second after midnight.
During our Senior year, I noticed a dramatic change in him. Johnny and his mom, Janet, were having problems. She was seeing a biker by the name of Vinnie Stock. He didn't want to see her mixed up with another loser.
Johnny moved into this apartment when she left Little Bend with Vinnie. It was the best and the worst thing for him.
After graduation, Johnny got a job as a drill press operator. He was making over four dollars an hour. Johnny saved and worked hard. He wanted me to move in with him. My father had just died from a heart attack so I could not leave my mother alone so soon.
We had some really wild parties. He knew these two girls from the other side of town. Their names were Becky and Amy. Becky was a shapely blonde while Amy was a brown-haired beauty.
They came over one night after getting stoned. Johnny invited them in and they brought out two bottles of Jack Danials. They also ahd a small plastic bag half-filled with pot.
I said no to the pot.
After a little sweet talk from Amy, I took a swig from one of the bottles. I wished I would have said no. Whatever was in that bottle, it was not Jack Danials.
Johnny and the girls shared a joint. I watched them as I sipped from a bottle. It was the only time that I ever knew him to take any kind of drugs.
The girls insisted on listening to music so Johnny put on Alice Cooper's Welcome To My Nightmare album. He laughed through the first few songs. The girls were all over him and me.
When the record finally got to "Only Women Bleed," Johnny started crying. He was singing to the song and crying his heart out.
It was the only time that I ever saw Johnny cry.
By the time the song was over, the girls left to find a better place to hang out. The next thing I knew, Johnny took the bottle away from me and we were sitting in the kitchen, drinking black coffee.
"Don't ever take the black road," he said while pouring the rest of the bottle down the sink. "Stay silver as long as you can, man. This world is just here for us dreamers to stay until we can get back into the dream."
I just nodded while my mind floated.
"One of these days, I'll be waking up," he continued while putting the botle in the trash. "You won't be able to stop me and when you find me, you'll be wanting to follow me. Let me tell you that your time will not be ready for a very long time. I want you to try to make the big bucks that I can't seem to get with my work. Find someone to publish my poems and stories. I know that you can do it for I about to wake up."
That was a week ago.
The room was silent as the young man looked at the law officer. Reed could see that there was pain in Henry's eyes.
"Looks like he finally woke up," Henry said. "I have a lot of work to do. Getting his stuff together will be painful..."
"I wouldn't mind taking a look at some of his work," Officer Reed said.
"Well, I could recite a poem of his right now."
"Sure," Henry said with a small smile. "The last one that the wrote was my favorite. I never knew why he wrote it until today. It's called Entitled To Death and goes:
"The stainless steel blade shines as I hold it to the light.
How easy it would be even if the deed is not right.
A deep slice ehre on my wrist, cutting deep and withdrawing blood.
I can feel the river of death, washing over my sould like a flood.
Regrets do not enter my mind for I was a failure in life.
Lay me down to rest in peace and slowly play the hollow fife."
The silence was loud in Reed's ears.
"That was good," he finally said. "Where does he keep all of his work."
Henry was staring at a poster of Alice Cooper that was on the door to the left of the bathroom.
"He keeps them in a file cabinet at the foot of his bed."
"I looked in there when I was searching the apartment. The file cabinet is empty..."
"What?!" Henry said before getting to his feet and running to the bedroom door.
He opened the door and reached to his left for the light switch. Upon finding the switch, he flipped it up.
A big sigh escaped Henry as his eyes focused upon the bed across from the door. On the purple blanket, a large box sat. He crossed the black carpet to the bed and looked at the name written in red.
"For Henry Waterford," he read aloud.
Reed frowned as he looked around the room. He saw a sword hanging diagonally above the bed. Its twin was in a plastic bag in the bathroom along with the empty sleeping pill container.
The reporters are going to have field day with this suicide, Reed thought as Henry opened the box.
Inside the box were folders of papers and a note.
"Thanks for your help, Henry," Reed said as he turned around. "Before I go, could you give me an idea what Johnny may have wanted on his tombstone?"
"Sure," Henry said as he glanced at the note. "Something like: John Edward More, born February 14th, 1966, died December 25th, 1988. May God stop laughing now!"
Henry wept as Reed closed the door behind him.
© James F. Dinsmore @ 2013