Chapter no 5

My Heart Is a Chainsaw

Jade’s dad doesn’t sit for the ceremony, but he’s there with Clate Rodgers, onetime Henderson Hawk, now working out of a garage over in Ammon. The two of them are stationed against the fence right by the grooved aluminum steps leading up to the stands, are Chuck from Footloose and Wooderson from Dazed and Confused—walking, talking, drinking cautionary tales, seemingly there specifically to scare this next graduating class straight, make sure they get those college applications in, lest they end up stationed at this fence as well. At least that’s what the two of them are until Sheriff Hardy saunters past then slows as if he’s just smelled something but doesn’t exactly want to turn around, see what it might be—see if Clate Rodgers is actually daring to show his face in Proofrock after all these years.

Tab lifts his coozied can to Hardy, daring him to check if it’s beer or not, Clate snickers and rubs his nose with the whole side of his index finger, and with that they slope away to some less public place. Jade, pretending not to have clocked this sad but typical interaction, lets her eyes keep roving across the crowd, up into the bleachers.

The way graduation usually works is that the thirty-odd seniors’ parents get to the football field early enough to stake out the middle seats with blankets and thermoses of coffee, but this morning was different. Some of the construction grunts were already there, and had been there since before dawn, or so Jade gathers from all the grumbling. But there’s some awe there too, isn’t there? So far the incoming residents of Terra Nova have just been a golf cap moving down an aisle at the drugstore, a tanned and Rolex’d forearm at the diner, an Aston Martin nosed into

a slot down by the banks—all sightings have been one at a time, but never all of them together. Even the newspaper articles just had them in their own frames, not grouped together like some superhero team.

Word now, though, is that the construction grunts still staking out the center seats up in the bleachers aren’t there for themselves, don’t have any graduates in this particular race yet, are just holding these seats, are just yellow-vested harbingers of the fable about to unfold at this graduation.

Because of that, the buzz and whisper is different. Both more hushed and more thrilled, like a formation of Oprah Winfreys are about to parachute down through the clouds, giving cars out to you, and you, and also you.

Jade tells herself that, should that happen, she won’t be one of those simpletons grubbing for outflung pennies, but, at the same time, she one hundred percent knows that it’s easy to be aloof when those pennies aren’t in play yet.

Where she’s seated is front row behind the low stage, and what she’s wearing underneath her gown are her custodian coveralls, because she’s on-duty right after this. It’s stupid that real life is having to start the moment all this so-called magic is over, but, at the same time, it’s like she’s in a music video too, isn’t it? The kind where you walk fast away from graduation into a montage of what’s waiting for you next, the bassline charting your steps: unmopped hallways, horrorshow restrooms, chalkboards needing a good Etch A Sketch shaking, to be blank for the next round of students.

Jade bobs her head two or three times, starring in that video, but then stops when she clocks the line of Bentleys rolling into the parking lot.

“Oh, shit,” she says.

“What?” Greta Dimmons asks, touching her hair, her hat, and her shoulders all in fast succession.

Jade doesn’t answer, has already turned away from the Bentleys, to who they’ll matter the most to: Mr. Holmes, up on stage.

“Well, fuck,” he says loud enough for even the row behind Jade to pick it up, judging by the snickers. Judging by how Principal Manx’s back straightens, it was loud enough for him, too.

Fuck is the only response, though. The Terra Novans are finally showing their faces in town. Jade hates it, but her back is sort of straightening too, to see better, to not miss a thing.

The Bentleys ease up to the gate and the tycoons and magnates step out in their languorous way. The women aren’t wearing gowns, but hip-hugging skirts and trim little blazers, effortless heels. The men aren’t wearing tuxes, but suits tailored and then tailored again, sunglasses that ride just low enough to look casual, accidental. The packed dirt path wending from the gate to the bleachers is a red carpet for them to pick down, hand in hand.

First is Mars Baker, the founding partner of some storied law firm in Boston, whose legal maneuvering is, according to the papers, what carved Terra Nova out from the national forest. He’s mid-fifties like all of them, mostly bald, and beaming, his severe wife, Macy Todd, holding his arm—the Macy Todd, who skated on a tabloid murder back in the nineties, then married the brilliant lawyer who’d gotten her off. Their twin girls Cinn and Ginny, twelve or thirteen if Jade remembers right from the profile in the newspaper, are tagging along, wearing matching flower-girl-looking dresses, though there are no flowers.

After them is tall gangly Ross Pangborne, with all his Bill Gates awkwardness and matching boyish charm. Also bald, Jade notes, and wonders if hair-burning testosterone and financial domination are somehow related. In the profile she read of him at the drugstore, instead of carrying a phone that can keep him up to date on the social media juggernaut he started for kicks and grins, he carries a simple flip phone, and sometimes not even that. His wife Donna is the female version of him. They look like brother and sister more than

husband and wife, but Jade suspects maybe it’s just the same way a dog will come to look like its owner after enough years. Not that she can tell which of them is that dog. Their ten-year-old daughter, Galatea, whose name means something fancy, Jade can’t remember, is slouching behind in blue jeans and a sweater, probably the most formal they could convince her to get. Good for you, girl, Jade sends across the bouncy red track. Don’t ever change.

Next is Deacon Samuels, full head of hair and a hundred-watt smile. It’s what he’s used to become a real estate magnate, apparently—well, obviously—and it’s also what he flashes on the cover of all the golf magazines whose covers he graces. Jade scoffs in her head. Holding hands with Deacon Samuels is his famous ex-model of a wife, Ladybird, the “first lady of style” or something vapid like that, though Jade does have to appreciate how smoothly she navigates the bleacher steps in those impossible heels. When Deacon gets to the seats Terra Nova’s workers have been saving, he makes a show of passing discreet but not too discreet bills to each of them, which is their dismissal.

Hundreds, probably. Good work if you can get it.

When the construction grunts start to try to squeeze past the Terra Novans flowing in—the papers have been calling them the “Founders,” since they’re founding a new community—Macy Todd, somehow with just her eyes, informs them that they’ll be going the other way, the long and awkward way down and out, thank you.

While they’re retreating, cowed, their yellow vests practically glowing with humiliation, two or three of their slouching manners familiar to Jade, Llewellyn Singleton makes his timid entrance up the bleacher stairs, smiling with embarrassment from all the eyes on him and his wife, Lana. He’s not used to public scrutiny, probably, would rather be in the office at his chain of banks, or franchise of banks—they’re like eggs the Aliens mother laid all across America, careful to leave one in each town. No, actually in,

as the ad used to famously say, “every single town,” ha, ha, ha. Ha. But either Llewellyn or Lana must have a cool bone somewhere in their body, or at least their sordid past: their son, six years old, is “Lemmy,” which has to be after Motörhead’s frontman, as there can be no other Lemmys.

After them is Theo Mondragon and his shiny-new wife, the aptly-named Tiara. Theo holds Tiara’s elbow as she balances on her even more impossible heels up the aluminum steps, and with his other hand he sneaks a single wave into the wall of graduates—to Letha. As near as Jade can tell, and not counting her own dad, who’s just Indian-dark and already skulked back into deeper and danker shadows anyway, Theo’s the only Black person in the bleachers at all. But he’d stand out anywhere, she’s pretty sure. His college-football shoulders tapering down to a thirty-year-old’s waist, the short work he’s making of the stairs, and just the fact that he’s the headliner, here. Not that it’s a bank-account pissing contest, but it kind of is, Jade suspects. And in today’s world, a media empire trumps banks and law firms and real estate brokerages, maybe even social media.

The five couples take their seats, and, because this is what kings do at these kind of functions, Theo Mondragon, the alpha of this group of alphas, stands and rolls his right hand in a sort of restrained amusement, kindly telling everyone they can proceed. Carry on, carry on.

Jade does, or tries to, but… it’s like gravity was explained to her, sophomore year: each planet is a bowling ball on the trampoline that spacetime is, and all smaller bodies roll downhill to it, just naturally, helplessly, the same way all eyes at this graduation, including hers, keep finding these Founders and their wives. It’s why Brad Pitt doesn’t eat at Burger King, she knows—all the eyes, all the attention—but bowling balls are going to do what bowling balls are going to do, aren’t they? People in Proofrock have never even seen anyone like these Founders, and now they’re literally, physically rubbing shoulders with them.

Which is to say, all of Mr. Holmes’s prophecies about Terra Nova’s disastrous impact are coming true.

Jade manages to look away from Theo Mondragon, find her history teacher now in the speaker area kind of off to the side—because this is Mr. Holmes’s last go-round, Principal Manx is giving him the mic to say his farewells, lay down his final pronouncements and prognostications, deliver one last lecture, who knows. His left hand is patting his jacket pocket over and over, like being sure his cigarettes are going to be there the moment this ceremony is done. To get over what’s happening right now up in the bleachers, though, Jade bets he’s going to have to chainsmoke the whole pack, crushing the butts underfoot until he’s standing in a pile of dead soldiers. And maybe that won’t even be enough.

To add to his woes—and delay his retirement—Jade’s got a petition in with him to let her please please please complete her coursework for his class. All the other teachers were happy enough to let her slide on the last couple months’ work, but Mr. Holmes is Mr. Holmes, and so far he’s not letting his last act as a teacher involve sacrificing the “no excuses, no forgiveness” policy he’s always been known for. What that means for Jade is that this ceremony is a sham, as she still doesn’t have her last history credit done, and now, with Mr. Holmes’s replacement not here until August, when can she finish it? And will the replacement let her fudge the assignments, write about history through the lens of slashers, and never exactly get around to state history, so much?

She knows the answer to that.

Without meaning to, she rubs the inside of her unscarred wrist, wonders if a matching set is what she, and the world, really needs.

Sitting beside Mr. Holmes, wildly enough, is Rexall, in something approximating a suit. He’s being honored as well. It’s sick: Misty Christy, whose daughter almost got slapped

by that bus, wrote a letter to the superintendent of the district, thanking and praising that “elementary school janitor” for saving her daughter’s life, and somehow never quite using a pronoun in the process.

When Rexall’s radar pings on Jade’s glare, he looks back, gives her a nasty smile and a slimy nod, and then waggles something suggestively at her from his lap. Before Jade can help it, she’s already looked: his phone. He found it. Meaning it can’t be used against him anymore, shit. Also meaning that, since he couldn’t have found it by calling it or pinging it, there must have been a pinhole camera in Main Supplies, watching her. Which would be the only reason he left her there “all by herself” so easy, just on the chance she might change bras in slow motion.

Jade’s skin wants to crawl off her, slither away. She shivers, shakes her shoulders, and tips her head back to see the top row of the bleachers, which she’s telling herself is where she’d rather be. And she sort of is—a pale version of her, anyway: her mom is up there in the high corner, sitting off by herself even in the crowd.

It’s the first time Jade’s seen her… since just after Christmas maybe? Since her last slide and skulk through Family Dollar, anyway. Kimmy Daniels. Technically she and Jade’s dad are still married, but she’s been living in a trailer with some other Tab for nearly five years now. As far as Jade knows—and she guesses she does know—her mom is the most senior check-out girl at Family Dollar, or in its history altogether, probably. More important, if the store’s not crowded, and if the manager’s putting out some fire in a far aisle, Kimmy will let Jade walk past without paying for the hair dye she’s always needing. Jade’s never been sure if she’s stealing it or if her mom pays for the hair supplies herself, but that’s mostly because they never speak. Jade just walks and glares, and Kimmy just drinks Jade’s every step in, her own leg muscles maybe tensing and relaxing, because she remembers being that old, that young.

The reason she’s up in the bleachers now, Jade imagines, is because Jade’s doing what she never did, as she was pregnant with Jade by what would have been her own graduation. Pregnant and staking out the hospital over in Idaho Falls, to see if the love of her life was going to wake up after his big wreck or not.

If only you knew, Mom, Jade sends across to her. I’m not really graduating. This is all fake for me.

Which is to say: it’s a fitting end for her high school career. Maybe Jade should have used her roll of masking tape to say all that to her mom on the top of her mortarboard cap instead of doing her standard happy face with X’s for eyes, but screw it, right? Being here one day out of a whole childhood doesn’t exactly make up for anything. Next cruise through Family Dollar, Jade’s taking the whole shelf of hair


Take that, Mom.

As for the color she got special for today, for the big day— bright pink—it’s not dye, but spray-on Halloween paint. Because Indian hair won’t go light enough for full-on electric pink. But screw it. It’s not like anybody’s going to be touching her hair, or studying the hatband of her mortarboard.

Her earrings are full-size dangling dice, because life’s a gamble and then you die, and her lipstick’s black like her heart—sticky, too—her fingernails blood-red.

Soon enough Letha Mondragon, the new girl with no real history as a Hawk, is up at the mic, delivering the commencement speech to louder and louder rounds of applause. The loudest is when she cedes her valedictorian medal to Alison Chambers, since “Grade-point averages transferred in don’t reflect feet-on-the-ground grades, do they?”

She really is perfect, isn’t she?

If Jade had any doubts about her final girl status, they’re melting away more and more with each word of the speech,

each round of applause.

When it finally dies down, Principal Manx saunters up to the podium, holds two fingers up for eventual silence—his V’d fingers are wolf ears, which means “stop howling, listen”—and then shuffles his papers, tells the crowd this next speaker needs no introduction. At the institution of Henderson High, he is an institution, teaching wave after wave of students Idaho state history, because, “as everybody knows, if we don’t know what’s happened before, we’re doomed to repeat it.”

A smattering of compulsory applause follows Mr. Holmes up to the mic. The first thing he does is page through the sheets of paper Principal Manx left behind, holding them up just enough that the graduates behind him can see that they’re all blank—props. Because Manx has done this same ceremony so many times, he could sleepwalk through it.

Mr. Holmes straightens the papers, sets them back down, and then he turns, looks from left to right at all of the graduates before coming back around to stare down all the faces in the bleachers.

When it’s finally pin-drop silent, he leads off with, “The saying is actually ‘Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ ” To punctuate this never-asked-for correction, he clears his smoker’s throat, even has to sneak a hand up, tug at the loose skin over his Adam’s apple like trying to make room for the air he’s going to need here. “It’s from George Santayana, a Spanish-American philosopher from the first part of the twentieth century. He also famously said that history is a pack of lies about events that never happened, told by people who weren’t there.”

He takes the podium in his hands and leans onto it, glares out into the bleachers, adds, “We, however, are all here in this moment. Yes, in the months and years to come, our stories of this momentous day will become just that—stories

—but for this, for right now, for the moment we’re in,

perhaps we can, as a group, understand just what it is that’s happening here. Just a little.”

Now it’s Principal Manx’s turn to offer a corrective, in the form of a cough probably meant to remind Mr. Holmes of some conversation they had about the content of his retirement speech, here.

Mr. Holmes doesn’t seem to hear it.

“We have guests among us today,” he says, holding his hand out to the Terra Novans, giving everyone license to look to the center of the bleachers again. He holds his hands up to the side to clap, but there’s something distinctly mocking about it, so the few who fall in clapping with him trail away almost immediately.

“And I say ‘guests,’ but please, Mr. Mondragon, Mr. Baker, the rest of you—I don’t mean to suggest your stay here will be temporary, of course. We should hope it won’t be. You’re the saviors of this mountain town, this lake, this valley, this county—of all of us.” Mr. Holmes stops again to clear his throat, and when he comes back to the mic, he’s nodding with resolve. “There is of course another filter we can understand ‘guest’ through, as many of these graduates will know, from having processed through my classroom. In Ancient Greece, the gods would come down from Mount Olympus to walk among the mortals, but they would come in the form of travelers, of beggars, and so what developed in that society, due to that belief, was an etiquette built around abject fear. Completely sensible fear. If they didn’t comport themselves properly, offer a bowl of soup, say, even their last bowl of soup, then… then Zeus could stand up from those beggar’s robes and strike them down, erase them as if they never were.”

Mr. Holmes lets that settle, then repeats it for emphasis: “As if they never were.”

“Mr. Holmes—” Principal Manx starts, coming up from his chair, but Mr. Holmes holds his hand back, not asking for

another minute at the mic, but informing Manx that he’s taking that minute.

Go, sir, Jade says inside, grinning with wonder.

“But this is America, of course, not the Mediterranean,” Mr. Holmes says. “I should be more even-handed, use iconography more associated with this soil. Apologies. Let me… here, I know. Pre-contact South America, how’s that? We can find an apt example there, I believe. Look to the Inca, say. Not the Inca as they were when the Spanish blundered into the Andes, but as that empire had been rising and falling for millennia, all on their own. And, before you ask, I don’t mean to say that this mountain we live on is the Andes, or that gods and rulers walk among us. But, these ancient Inca, whose technological sophistication rivaled and surpassed any of their contemporaries across the globe, they eventually achieved a level of social stratification that essentially deified the ruling class, the wealthiest of the wealthy, and how this played out for them is something we should perhaps pay attention to ourselves, still keeping to our Santayana, as that ruling class, the wealthy elite, they didn’t only lock all the resources up for themselves, casting the working classes into not just penury but destitution, but they so revered themselves that they would build elaborate houses for their mummified dead, and continue to serve them food, and assign servants to them, and a society this top-heavy is of course doomed to topple over and over again, until it finds a more stable, and even-handed, way to persist and thrive. Or if you resist Santayana, then perhaps you’ll listen to Mark Twain, who said that history doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme. I only hope that Proofrock won’t be part of that couplet. But, please, I don’t want any of you associating these Incan houses of the dead with the very nice homes going up across the lake, of course. We’re not the Inca, are we? Neither should we be the Ancient Greeks. When the gods knock on our doors, instead of offering them our last ladle of

hard-won soup, we should perhaps, instead, offer them the point of our spe—”

“Thank you, thank you for that riveting tour through history, Mr. Holmes,” Principal Manx says, finally stepping between Mr. Holmes and the podium and then turning to the side to lead another round of applause—farewell applause.

In the bleachers, Theo Mondragon is the first to stand, clapping loudly, but then Mars Baker is standing alongside him, and Ladybird Samuels, Macy Todd—all of them, beating their hands together, not a smile among them.

Mr. Holmes turns back to the graduates, says, just loud enough, “It’s not just soup they want,” and Jade’s the first to shoot up from her seat, clapping, sneaking a look over to Letha in the second row—the only other row. Her lips are moving uncertainly, but she can’t stand with her classmates, against her dad, and Jade hates herself for it, but she regrets having led this round of applause. No, what she regrets is this whole stupid ceremony. This whole stupid town.

As if confirming how stupid it is, Principal Manx, trying to salvage graduation, motions for Rexall to rise, accept his certificate for going, as Manx says into the mic, “Above and beyond the duties of a custodian.” The applause continues, and Jade knows that out in the parking lot, her dad’s lifting a can for Rexall, which has to be why he was there. Not for his only daughter, the second Indian non-graduate in twenty years. The only words the two of them have had about graduation at all is when Tab asked her where she was moving out this summer.

What Jade told him was that it was none of his concern, thanks.

What she didn’t tell him was that it would pretty much either be Camp Blood or the couch of whoever her mom was living with.

Rexall shuffles up to the podium, his phone still tight in his hand like a life preserver, but when Manx steps to the side

to formally present him, Misty Christy stands up from the crowd, waving her hand back and forth like can Principal Manx please call on her?

It stops the ceremony, everyone looking to Misty Christy.

Misty Christy is shaking her head no, pointing past the podium.

To Jade.

Jade shrinks, slouches, licks her lip, probably frying her lipstick, blackening her tongue. For the first time in maybe ever, she wishes her hair wasn’t so easy to find in a crowd.

“It was her, not him!” Misty Christy is saying, her voice unamplified but loud enough.

Principal Manx looks back to Jade and Jade has to look past him, past the bleachers, past all of it.

“I saw too!” Lucky says, from another part of the bleachers. He drives the school bus. He was the one who almost hit Misty Christy’s daughter.

“Me too!” Judd Tambor, Proofrock’s other realtor, calls out, his voice booming.

Jade’s ninety-nine to a hundred-and-fifty-percent certain he wasn’t there that day, but this is his chance to stand up for the unstood-up-for, and no way in hell does he let his main rival get all the good will for that.

And now, after Judd Tambor, Jade can’t clock all the other Proofrockers chiming in that they were there, they saw, they know. Part of it’s that herd-thing Mr. Holmes is always telling them about, Jade knows, which is like the underbelly of mob mentality, but part of it too is that, if they don’t stand in support of her, then Rexall gets that certificate, and they probably know him and his high school days and further exploits better than Jade ever will.

She closes her eyes, counts to three for all of this to be over, but then she looks again at the count of two. Not to Misty Christy, not to Judd Tambor, holding his toddler daughter up and waving her back and forth like some sort of

proof of the hero Jade is, not to everyone clapping now, but to the very top corner of the bleachers. At her mom.

She’s smiling that close-lipped smile she has.

Jade closes her eyes tighter, is not going to fucking cry right here, in front of everybody. And then, right on cue, her dad steps out from under the bleachers, not in from the parking lot. He’s banging two trashcan lids together like cymbals, his beer clenched between his teeth, splashing onto his face and down his shirt.

It shuts the rest of the clapping down, but he keeps clanging those lids until Hardy thins his lips, walks down along the fence that direction.

Jade closes her eyes again, harder. Reminds herself that with every good, there’s two bads. That’s just the way it is. Maybe it’s a thing with Indians, or maybe it’s just her, it doesn’t really matter. True’s true.

When she finally looks again, peering up from under her bangs, Rexall’s seated and Principal Manx is leaning down to the mic to “Get these degrees handed out!”

Because the alphabet is what it is, Jade’s second to walk the stage, second to have to shake Manx’s hand, and the first and only to receive no hoots or applause or confetti cannons going off, since her dad’s been removed from the premises, and her mom couldn’t handle everyone looking up to her, has slunk away under cover of all that clapping.

When Letha walks, though, in heels for once—she’s got to be six-plus feet in them—the yacht nobody realized was drifting in behind them does a long airhorn blast that sends a choreographed whole flock of white doves up from some hidden place on shore.

Of course.

Sidestepping down the second row to take her seat, Letha squeezes Jade’s right shoulder in a sisterly way, a supportive way, and Jade hates more than anything the way her eyes heat up from this contact.

Where were you all my life? Jade says to Letha in her head, which is when she remembers having said that once before, or close to it.

Shooting Glasses.

Jade scans right to left for a yellow safety vest that hasn’t made a complete exit, and sure enough, there he is leaning against a stanchion of the bleachers on the right side, as if he hasn’t earned a seat up in the bleachers. Not after having stolen them from their rightful owners.

Jade nods once to him and he nods back, tips the shallow brim of his hardhat in congratulations, then steps away, and she realizes that’s all he was waiting for: her.

Because she’s the one he saved, and he wants to see her all the way through?

Because he…

Jade shakes her head no, not that, not her. No way can he be into her. She shakes the possibility off, finds her eyes locked on Theo Mondragon again. He looks for all the world like Bruce Wayne, with Batman just under his tasteful suit. He’s entrancing, has to own every boardroom he sweeps into, every shareholders’ meeting he graces, every dinner table he settles down at.

Every town he builds a house in.

Jade can’t be sure, but, from the angle of his head, she’s pretty sure Mr. Holmes is either watching him too, or memorizing all the Terra Novans’ faces, to burn them in effigy later. Some people count sheep, and some light matches under their enemies, Jade imagines. She knows which of those types Mr. Holmes is. Except he doesn’t use matches, just flicks his lit cigarette to the gas-soaked tinder under their feet.

Go, sir, Jade says again.

This is what she’ll remember, she knows. That she wasn’t the only one at this laughable, embarrassing event who would rather have burned it all down. It’s good being the horror chick, sure, always standing away from the rest of the

crowd, smoking bitter cigarette after bitter cigarette, she’d have it no other way, but it’s nice to make eye contact with someone else with a black heart, too, and then breathe smoke out slow, like judgment.

When it’s time to throw the hats, Jade holds on to hers, smuggles it off the football field, and leaves it smiling up from the last trashcan on the way back to the high school for her mop and bucket, and whispers to the camera surely watching to hold on those X’d-out eyes for a few seconds more.

They’re a good preview of what’s coming.



For my Interview Project on Proofrock History, since I couldn’t interview an ACTUAL slasher as they don’t take appointments and are kind of known for leaving anyone within slashing range dead, usually along with their pets and

classmates and family, I had to interview someone who had once been slasher ADJACENT, which you said I could do if I could find such a personage. Well I did, Mr. Holmes. I think you were joking when you said it, but if you were then allow me to introduce you to the punchline. It’s Mrs. Christine Gillette at Pleasant

Valley Assisted Living, who will be 100 2 years from now.

Perhaps this will be a break from all the other interviews in this stack of

papers having to do with mining history or with Henderson-Golding or with Glen Dam or with Indian Lake or with Caribou-Targhee National Forest, which I’m

guessing must taste like backwash to you since it’s all stuff you told us already this semester, which a student would only know if she had been studiously listening the whole time and hardly that absent if you think about how much she’s HERE when she’s here, and yes this is supposed to be 5 pages, but since I haven’t started the actual interview, I’m not even counting yet, this is all just

bonus introducing material I’m doing now.

As for the slasher in question it’s Stacey Graves the Lake Witch, surprise. Common knowledge known locally is that she’s an urban legend like Bloody

Mary, that she’s the Idaho version of Slender Man for the generation that lived and died by Leave It to Beaver. But this is just due to the rust of time covering up the truth, sir, and this interview is the rust remover, bam.

My original and initial plan was to find a survivor of the rampage at Camp

Blood, but this is better in that it’s previous to that. And it’s even got old timey details that I could never in a hundred tries make up. Let me give you a perfect example.

Evidently when mining collapsed from all the producing mines in the new town of Proofrock getting swamped by Indian Lake having risen and risen,

people started having to boat across the new lake to hunt elk if they didn’t want to starve. No seasons, no limits other than how many bullets you had and how smart the elk were. But the problem that came up really fast was getting those

big heavy elk back across the lake to town. You can search online that they weigh anywhere from 500 to 730 pounds.

The solution to all that heaviness was to use rawhide string or a belt to tie the elk’s mouth shut, and also plug up their aft end, as Mr. Krabs might say and I

don’t want to think about, and then using your mouth to blow as much air as you could into the elk’s nose holes and plug them up with mud before the air can whistle back out.

What you’ve done now is turn this big dead animal into a flotation device, sir. So one day Christine Gillette’s friend’s dad Mr. Bill got an elk, and only shot it in the head instead of the side so there wouldn’t be another hole to plug with mud. And there he is floating that kill back to town like a champion hunter when that elk thrashes awake in the water and blows its two nose plugs of mud up onto Mr. Bill’s boat like dog droppings fresh from the dog, and you can tell we’re in the interview now, since this is Paraphrase and Distillation instead of Transcription, just like the example you gave us.

What had happened, Christine Gillette says because she wants me to get an A for this project and therefore save my semester grade in one fell swoop, was Mr. Bill had evidently shot that elk only in the BASE of its horn, not the skull, so the elk was only knocked out. And Mr. Bill hadn’t dressed it out by cutting its stomach open because then all its air would leak out too.

So now this awake and severely unhappy elk was tied to his actual boat, which has to be a panic situation. What Mr. Bill had to do in order not to sink

down to Drown Town, which was still Henderson-Golding to him, was shoot that elk between the eyes and then cut the rope, at which point that elk sunk and sunk.

End of story? Not even close, sir.

That was too much good meat to just kiss goodbye in starvation times, see. So Mr. Bill came back with an iron hook from the hardware store and paddled back and forth all night until he hooked onto what he was sure was that elk.

Either that or a submarined log. But he didn’t think it was going to be a log.

Because it was too heavy to lift with arms and shoulders, he brought in this local dude Cross Bull Joe, who drove the model A version of a tow truck. This means he had a cable and winch on his truck. And what he did was back that truck all the way down the old pier, as Christine Gillette called it, the outsides of his rear tires hanging over the actual edges on both sides.

What I asked her here as I’m sure you can guess was “OLD pier?” As in, there was another before the one that’s there NOW? How do we not all know this?

What ELSE do we not know, sir? This is why history class is a requirement. If I wasn’t for sure graduating, I could take it again and again, until I knew about ALL the old piers.

But, Christine Gillette. Or, Cross Bull Joe, really. His winch strained and pulled and I imagine that, like Quint in Jaws, he had to pour water on that winding-up

cable. What he finally pulled up made all the women scream, all the children fall to their knees, and all the men take a long step back like whoah.

It was an Indian girl, sir.

Which, I know what you’re thinking, Mr. Holmes. You’re thinking that it’s sad

but people drown in lakes every day, probably more back then before life jackets and safety signs, and that Indian Lake is cold enough that they don’t even

decompose, just bob around in Ezekiel’s Cold Box, waiting for the day somebody with a tow truck hooks them, pulls them up into the light. I know this is what

you’re thinking because it’s also what I was thinking.

But we’re both wrong, sir.

The way Christine Gillette told it to me, the way they knew this wasn’t some random Shoshone or Bannock in a stolen and rotting water logged dress was what happened 10 seconds later. But let’s time these explosions if we can. The first for me sitting there in room 522 of Pleasant Valley Assisted Living was what you’re probably asking now, which is “Stacey Graves was INDIAN?”

If you’re rocked and shocked, it’s because this is not exactly common knowledge and it’s also not part of the accepted lore about our Lake Witch. But evidently Stacey Graves had been half Indian, meaning that since her dad was all white, her mom must have been full blooded. Which everybody used to know and I guess we still would if we talked to the right old people. Christine Gillette told me that the boogeyman of Indian Lake used to not even be Stacey Graves in the first place, OR Ezekiel with his big hands. It used to be Stacey Graves’s

MOM, always walking around the shore line looking for her lost daughter, and taking any kids after dark back to her cave where she would hold them to her, in Christine Gillette’s picture painty words, “leathery dugs” and make them drink her milk, which pretty much did the opposite of real mother’s milk, so the lesson there was to not go out after dark, kids, get it?

Anyway, with THAT explosion of Stacey Graves having been Indian hanging in the air above me and Christine Gillette, she activated her inner demolition man

and detonated the next charge, even sort of acted it out so I’d be sure to get it. What she did in her wheelchair was reach her right arm up for the big iron hook coming in under Stacey Graves’ chin, gouging up into her head like she was a fish wriggling on a trotline. And then her left hand joined her right, and using the strength of both she pulled herself up off that black hook, which Christine Gillette said was a good 2 dollar one, which is probably a fact we could check to verify the truthfulness of her story.

Because of the barb at the point of that hook that caught in this little girl’s

chin right at the very end, when she was already trying to fall away and do what Stacey Graves DOES, which you of course already know from having lived here for so long and heard the stories, the final releasing of her hands made her hang sideways by only her jaw and everybody thought it was going to crack off and tear away. But then only SOME skin tore instead and runny black blood spurted out and then she was off the hook and to the races, and everybody was shrieking and pulling their hair and going to church first thing and promising not to go across the lake for elk anymore, which is kind of the secret real birth of the national forest if you ask me.

And Christine Gillette saw all of this 1st hand, Mr. Holmes. She was 14 that year. And the way I know she’s not making it up is that the story went on after that, and not because she was just trying to keep me there since nobody ever visits her according to the sheet I had to sign.

After what happened HAPPENED, nobody would go out onto the old pier anymore. Not even Cross Bull Joe to get his truck. So then one morning they

heard a cracking and crashing sound, and by the time anybody looked out there, the old pier had mostly collapsed under the weight of that tow truck, probably when one bird too many landed on that black hook and that tall V of pipe holding the cable. If a pier can be a camel’s back, then a bird can be a straw, right?

Christine Gillette’s dad told her he would give her 1 whole dime if she would swim out there and untie that 2 dollar hook for him, but Christine Gillette says that her life was worth more than ten cents, which back then was a lot more than today of course.

So that hook’s still out there, I guess. And maybe that truck too, all rotted and flaked away, the window glass all turned to crumbles.

And also Stacey Graves, Mr. Holmes.

You had to know that’s where I was going.

So in conclusion and wrap up for the WHOLE SEMESTER including my course grade which maybe shouldn’t be history, what we thought was just fiction has in fact a basis in eyewitness testimony. And the way you can know I didn’t make this up is that if I were the one coming up with that then at the end of the story Christine Gillette would huff air out through her nose and two plugs of mud would splat onto the ground between us, and then I’d look up the moment after a shape just left from looking in the window, and there would probably be scary piano and violin playing too.

But none of that, sir.

Christine Gillette just reached a shaky hand for her coffee cup of only water, and I helped her by guiding the cup closer to her hand, and then held my breath when she drank because it was always about to spill but never did.

Then when I was leaving after many nods and grins and thank you’s, me the whole time imagining being 14 and seeing a live dead girl hauled up from the cold depths, Christine Gillette hummed a little bit, sir. It stopped me. I looked

back to see what was up and if maybe she was having an episode or what.

“We used to jump rope to it,” she explained, and then added that they would jump rope to it when they could steal a rope from their dads’ shops or the beds of their trucks or from the “tack” shed.

“Jump rope to what?” I asked, because the good interviewer prompts with pertinent facts and phrases, as you told us.

What Christine Gillette came back with, sir, was straight out of a Freddy

dream pretty much, and you know I don’t write poetry, so this is all her 100%:


Stacey Stacey Stacey Graves Born to put you in your grave

You see her in the dark of night

And once you do you’re lost from sight Look for water, look for blood

Look for footprints in the mud You never see her walk on grass

Don’t slow down, she’ll get your–


Christine Gillette didn’t do the obvious rhyming word, but she didn’t need to. I felt the shiver all the same, and am still hearing her and her friends’ feet

slapping the packed dirt as they chant this, being sure to get indoors before dark, because Stacey Graves isn’t just a campfire story, Mr. Holmes.

The Lake Witch is real, and she’s still out there, coming soon to a nightmare near you, near all of us, we can only hope. Or, if “we” can’t hope, then don’t worry.

I’ve got enough for all of us.

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