Featuring Anna Rose Hopkins, Austin Irving, Jason Lew, Alex Moyer, Adam Pally, Jenna Roadman, and Janet I can hear their screams. I love it. I love that I can hear their screams before they scream. Before they know what is going to happen to them. They have no idea. I’m the only one who is in the know. That almost feels better than it’ll feel to actually take these fuckers out. That’s really like you’re God. That knowledge. But killing isn’t a God-like thing at all. It’s just being an animal, doing what animals do. And I know that’s all I am. Nobody needs to pull the blinders off me. I know that, if there is a God, I’m less like him than a fucking bag of Doritos. Speaking of Doritos, I’m eating some right now. Haven’t had one since before I got locked up. Forgot how fucking good they taste. They’re killing me slowly, though. But that’s life in general. Life kills you slowly. If we could be alive without having to deal with life, we’d live forever. Think about that. Yeah, I guess I can be pretty smart sometimes. But I’m ready to get stupid. Ready to get stupid with some fucking murder. FIRST STOP: FRED DICK Fred Dick. Dead Dick’s brother. If anyone knows where Dead Dick is, it’s Fred. Don’t know why he named himself that. Well, I do know why. It’s because he’s fucking stupid. He’s the kind of guy who would laugh like crazy if he ever heard “dog” and “frog” used together in the same sentence. Jesus, he’s a fucking idiot. Actually the only good thing about Dead Dick was how brutally he’d make fun of his brother. Whenever we got high and Fred was around, he’d just launch into him. “THE ONLY THING YOU’RE GOOD FOR IS ADDING TURDS TO THE SEWER SO THE OTHER TURDS DON’T GET LONELY!” So funny. Not really a way to treat your brother, but they’re not real brothers anyway. Dead Dick was adopted. Forgot to mention, Dead Dick is about as Asian as a carton of lo mein on Bruce Lee’s grave. What’s funny, though, is that Fred didn’t think it was so funny. Don’t think he’ll find what’s about to happen too funny, either. But I never was one for making people laugh. Janet and me go around to the backyard. Fred’s always in the backyard. He likes to stare at his lemon tree. He loves his lemon tree. I knock on the gate, and he opens it. He always just opens it. Never cautious. Always dressed like a fucking idiot too. Little fact about Fred: Guy’s been wearing an American flag as a cape for the past eight years. This is gonna be rough. “TOUPEE?! What the are you doing here?!” “I’m here for your brother, Fred.” “My brother? My brother’s dead, you stupid piece of shit! You drove his body off a cliff.” “How about that? Fred knows the story, the old story of how I got fucked over. Who’s telling you stories at night, Fred? Who’s tucking you in, child-brain?” Fred makes a run for it. We do a couple laps around the lemon tree, but he doesn’t get far. I kick him in the back of the knee and grab his American flag. We play a little game of patriotic tug-of-war. I give him a sweet punch to the booger box. He matches it. Shit! Now I’m really pissed! I spin him around, knock him to the lawn, and wrap the flag around his meaty throat. “Where’s your fucking brother?!” “He’s dead!” “He’s not fucking dead, but you’re gonna be!” “Please don’t hurt me anymore. Please stop!” Shit. Now I feel bad. He’s just trying to look out for his brother. What else is he gonna do? Who else does he have? “Just tell me where he is, Freddy, and there won’t be any more pain.” “I can’t!” “Tell me, and no more hurting, Fred! Tell me!” “He’s at the Gata’s!” “What?!” “He’s at Gata Blanca’s!” Not good news. Not good for me. Not good for Fred. CRACK! Shit. I went and broke his neck. Janet’s asking me why with her eyes. Had to, girl. Dead Dick’s at Gata Blanca’s, so I had to. Poor Fred. A real nothing of a life. Wonder how long it’ll be till somebody finds him. Wonder if anyone will care. Wonder if anyone will care once they find me. Little backstory about Gata Blanca: She runs everything. She knows everything. She is the desert. We all work for Gata, and most of us don’t even know it. That’s why I killed Fred. Couldn’t take the chance of him letting her know something she most likely already knows. She’s waiting for me. She’s got Dead Dick, and she is waiting. I guess I should say my good-byes, just in case. NEXT STOP: CANDY AND FLOWERS Don’t have much family. Mom and Dad split up and shipped out early on. No need for kids. We apparently ruined their stupid fucking marriage, so naturally their sociopathic asses assumed that we’d just keep on ruining their nonlives. “We” being me and my sisters. Candy and Flowers. Flowers and Candy. Professional dancers. They take their clothes off, sure, but they’re not strippers. Don’t even think about calling them strippers. Strippers are hookers before they realize that they’re hookers. Strippers want it all and give nothing back. Nothing real, anyway. That’s not my girls. They give everything. They take nothing. They’re what all dancers should be. They’re what all people should be. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t their brother. They’re just so perfect in every way; I’m jealous of the men who have experienced them. Not that I want to fuck them. But they are perfect, and it must be nice to lie with such perfection. Real nice. Candy and Flowers. Flowers and Candy. The two prettiest girls I know who I’ve never fucked. My blood. My blood before more blood. We immediately start in, laughing our asses off. Doesn’t matter what kind of trouble any of us are up against. Or how much our shitty lives aged us that week, month, or year. When we see each other, we’re little fucking kids again. We start playing all our favorite games: Ass Flash, Dance Dance, Push-Ups, Running Through a Shirt. All of the classics that have been wowin’ and zowin’ since I had hair on my head, and then no hair on my head. “What brings you over, Toupee?” “Too much, Candy.” “Too much?” “Too much, Flowers.” “Are you OK?” “Yeah.” Feels bad to lie to those you love. Those who’d never lie to you. But I don’t want to worry them. I don’t want them to know that this is probably the last time they’ll ever see me. Better to just find out a few days from now. Better to just find out. “Is your favorite food still Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Toupee?” “You know it, Candy. That’ll never change.” “You promise?” “Of course.” That I can promise. I love that Kraft shit so much. I can’t even stand it. Not one bit. I can’t stand this, either. I don’t want to die. “Is your favorite TV show still Small Wonder?” “Until my dying day, Flowers.” Which will be soon. My eyes are already starting to feel tired. It’s like they’re ready to be closed forever. Not yet, eyes. If it’s coming I wanna see it. “When will we see you again, Toups?” “I’m not sure, girls.” “You sure you’re OK, Toups?” I’m not sure about anything. I never have been. I leave Janet in their care. They’ll look after her. Bye-bye, babies. NEXT STOP: LOVE My last stop before the last stop. Love’s. Love is my love. Well, the closest thing to love that I can love. Not sure if I love. If I do love, I love Love. Love sits me down. She strokes my toupee like it’s real. I tell her everything. I always have. Love is there. Love has been there. I take in her face. How can I describe her beauty? I fold into her. How can I truly communicate her embrace? Love fills me with sense. Senses of things. Senses of my senses. I never want to leave. Especially now. But that’s never been the arrangement. Especially now. Love plays her game, even now. Why wouldn’t she? If she didn’t, it would all just feel worse. Keep it same. Love’s right. Feel good for now and keep it same. She looks at me less the longer I’m there. I understand. I’d look at me less, too. We’ve never known and we shouldn’t know now. Keep it same. “I…” “Yes?” “I…” “What?” Love is simple. Love is short. Love is love. LAST STOP?: GATA BLANCA What am I doing here? What am I thinking? I should just leave town. Should hightail it the fuck out of here and never look back. Should stay alive. But I’m at death’s door. And the door’s wide open. I walk in. Didn’t even bother to bring a gun. That’s expecting this to be too simple. And a gun would do no good, anyway. Gata can feel a piece from a million miles away, and if I insulted her like that, she’d kill me instantly. I’m not going to pretend I’m any sort of match for her. In a situation like this you gotta be honest with yourself. That humility is your only chance, if you have a chance at all. “Out here!” Her voice. I remember how that voice would make me feel. I’d hear it, and it would be like I was losing my virginity for the first time. Here’s a little thing you should know about Gata Blanca and me. We used to fuck. Was it something more than that? Must have been, because we stopped. You don’t stop if it’s not something more to someone. I walk out to her porch, and she’s sitting there. So is Dead Dick, and he’s alive. I join them. Some butcher knives are laid out on the patio table. And some tea. That’s nice, I guess. At least she made tea. Ever the perfect hostess. “Good afternoon, Toupee,” she says with a big smile. The wider the smile, the more murderous the eyes. “Hola, Gata.” Don’t know why I said that. Gata ain’t Spanish. She’s whiter than a cloud made of blow. But her body is pretty Spanish. Jalapeño hellfire. “I believe you know Dead Dick.” “Hey, Toupee. Sorry for all the confusion.” I forgot how much I hate his whiny voice. Asian fuck. “There’s no confusion, guys. You fucked me over.” My hands can’t resist. I make a grab for him. But then Gata picks up a knife. That’s all she’s gotta do. I simmer down. “Would you like a tour of the house before we start, Toupee?” “Sure, Gata. That’d be just peachy. What do you think, Dead Dick?” “Let’s get this done with. Let’s get you done with.” I bury my rage. Save it, I tell myself. Save it for the stage. “Gata, just in case I don’t have the chance to ask you again: Why did you do this? Why did you fuck my life?” She laughs. “That’s none of your business, darling. That’s not for you to know.” Dead Dick laughs. “Yeah, it’s none of your business.” “Please, Gata. For old times’ sake, tell me why. Are you in love with me?” She laughs again. Even uglier. “In love with you? I can have any man I want, you dirty bird! I was bored. I was so, so terribly bored.” That hurts. It hurts bad. “Well… the fun’s over, assholes.” She leads us up the steps. Her backyard is beautiful. Almost as beautiful as her. “I had my gardeners create a kind of forest/jungle motif. I wanted that sense of being in the woods and being in the jungle at the same time. All of these bricks, they were all gray at one point, believe it or not. I thought the gray ones had a better texture, so I had them dyed.” Dead Dick grabs me! Wraps his hands around my neck. I guess I’m not the only one who can’t wait. Don’t know why he’s so pissed. What the fuck did I do to him? As I’m gasping for breath, though, I get a closer look at his eyes. He’s high as shit. Good to know. That might give me a little advantage here. Gata smacks Dead Dick, and for some reason we grab her. It’s a real clunk fest. She throws us off. “There’s plenty of time for that,” she says. “Let’s try to enjoy this time while we still have it.” I take a deep breath. I’m ready. I feel ready. I feel like a killer. “The more plants, the better I breathe. Isn’t it just so breathable back here?” Very breathable. Last-breath breathable. She leads us up to this stage-type room. Looks like the type of stage you’d do some shitty children’s theater show on. I’ve been here before. We fucked up here once. Today one of us will die up here. She smiles bigger than I’ve ever seen and holds up three plastic death masks. The kinds that look like faces but not at all like faces. Plastic dead faces. Her eyes are bright, malicious diamonds. “Well, boys, let’s get into it, shall we?” She hands us our knives. We circle. Slow. We go. Fast. Dead Dick takes a swipe. Misses. I jump. I slice. I touch. Dead Dick’s throat is open. Fuck you! Fuck you and die, Dick! Dead Dick is dead. And this time he is really dead. But there’s no time to celebrate. Gata goes for me. She sat it out for a second while me and Dead Dick went at it. Classy. Gata misses. I’m as surprised as she is. The second surprise: I manage to sink my knife into her side. It’s not good for her. I’ve hit something important. “I can’t believe it! I cannot fucking believe it.” I get on one knee, like I’m about to propose. I ask her to die. My knife goes in again. Her dying face is near mine. She licks me. Still loves me. What a fucking shame. I stand over their bodies, wishing I felt some sort of closure. But closure ain’t real, right? Closure is just a pit stop. Then you get back on the shitty highway of life and try not to get run off the road. I’m still on the road. I hope I stay on it. I like this road, even with all the bullshit. I can still get a nice buzz. Maybe even a nice piece of ass. That doesn’t ever have to end. Until I do. And does it end? Who knows? This is my pit stop. They’re dead. I’m alive. For now. This is the final installment of Toupee, a novel by Brett Gelman about disgusting depravity, murder, a dog named Janet, and baldness. Read the previous 11 chapters here.