AMERICA'S MOST WANTED

 

He has done terrible things. You might think that he wouldn't be welcome anywhere in the country, but in Miami and Dallas and Seattle people stand in line for hours to buy tickets. He fills auditoriums in Newark, Chicago, and Phoenix. He doesn't lecture but merely stands on the stage answering questions.

In reply to a question in Albany he says, “Either the ice pick or the ball peen hammer, probably. It's hard to really say that any one of them is my favorite, but I used those several times.”

One night in Denver, he admits that there is much that he doesn't know about himself. “These are the things I did, and how I did them,” he says. “Some answers I have to leave to others.” He shrugs.

He's wanted not only in the cities, but in the real America, too, places like Rust Springs, Oregon, population 27, where Pop sets out folding chairs in the empty service bay of Pop's Gas & Go. The tickets aren't free, and a lot of loggers are out of work, but everyone turns out, even Betsy Means with her new baby. “Wouldn't have missed it for the world,” she tells Mandy Oster. “Worst in history, and here he is in our town!” Once things get started, Betsy even asks a question.

“Sure, I did feel bad,” he says. “Sometimes.” He does not elaborate.

To Pop's question, he says, “Without a doubt, the corkscrews. I thought about it a lot beforehand, about how, to get any purchase, corkscrews would have to go in between two bones. Shoulder. Hip. Vertebrae. Base of the skull.”

He describes the procedure: the false starts, the metal getting slippery, the effort to push and twist at the same time, the inadequate gag that he had to stop and resecure. The men and women of Rust Springs groan. Betsy Means shudders and holds her baby close. “My God,” says Joe Bluewater, who saw a thing or two in Vietnam. For a time, silence.

Betsy Means says, “And then what?”


Stories by Bruce Holland Rogers have been translated into over two dozen languages and have won two Nebula Awards, two Micro Awards, two World Fantasy Awards, and a Pushcart Prize. He teaches fiction writing at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts.