I used squeegees, jaggedly smearing many colors on photographs, now enlarged and gigantic, of homicide victims, all photos taken by police at crime scenes. Often I heard screams of fear, screaming voices of terrified children as I jiggled and vibrated the squeegees across the photos. The blur paint made on the images brought them back to life, as if the dead were animated. Resurrected them only to be killed again.
I’m an artist of the Ugly Beauty school and badly wanted the photos of the corpses of the seventy-eight schoolchildren after I killed them with an AR-15. I, a real competitor, had topped by one the number that that Norwegian had massacred. I looked at my hands after painting, seeing blood drip from them, watching hemoglobin redden my studio floor, the elementary school’s walls, the holes in the children’s heads, stomachs and hearts. On my partner Adam’s pants as I groped him after I finished my work. My seventy-eight little homicides brightened at sunrise.
Ugly beauty was the latest fad sweeping the country. Ugly meant in Norse “to be dreaded.” All were frightened of me. The entire nation knew my name, just plain Jo.
Adam camera phoned me using an AR-15, popping bullets from ten thirty-round magazines into gigantic photos of children and grandchildren of U.S. congressional representatives, senators, cabinet members and the President and Vice-President. A red-blooded American, I required quarries, at least for target practice.
I’d given Adam the life of the mind, something a working-class kid growing up alone, shuttled from one adaptive parent to another, didn’t have. He was unable to concentrate, ADD making him too obstreperous for any parent to cope with. I was bipolar and had a history of schizophrenia. Genius genes, perhaps. He thought me one, at least.
He swept his hands through my strawberry blond hair, wet with perspiration, my eyes lit up, the massacre’s afterglow. He told me after we sat down reviewing the video that I scared him, how he had once known a sweet water colorist who turned into a performance artist.
I laughed. “Performance artist, shit, didn’t you read Google News. I’ve set the record, and they’ll kill me for it.”
“I can’t sleep next to you until you stop taking the .223 assault rifle to bed. Your orgasm with the butt can’t be better than my shaft, can it?”
I stopped the AR-15 masturbation, slid the rifle beneath the bed, rolled over, and spoke into Adam’s ear: “The 78-Dead video hadn’t yet been taken down from a blog in spite of me being despised. Mass murderers are the new avant-garde. Now’s the time to make history.”
Adam didn’t move, except for his hand brushing back my sweaty hair. “You’re feverish.”
I said, “Growing up, surrounded by people who gave me brushes and colors, I wanted more. Don’t you see?”
A crow cawed; it was another sunrise.
“You know what happened to my kid. He OD'd. Why spread brutality as if it was irresistible peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, as in kids’ lunches. Or isn’t that hip?”
“Hip is passé. Passé is passé. I’ll have to slaughter dozens of kindergarteners again if another bloodbath doesn’t happen,” I said.
“You’re cold steel. You ground your hips against my pelvis as if you were that assault rifle.”
I turned my back, letting him see it wasn’t yet filled with entry shots.
“Look how the sun gives so much ugliness,” I said, rubbing a thirty-round magazine.
“I’m better than that rifle, aren’t it?”
Adam clung to hope, his gaudy sheen of optimism dripping in my hands and turning bloody, my fingerprints everywhere in that school and on his biceps, chest and thighs. I won’t morph into the queen of pacifism.
I got out of bed, and hugged the rifle. Naked, I went outside, a murder of crows flying overhead. I fired into the nearby hill.
We lived on a ranch isolated from other homes. It wasn’t satisfying: children were. Just because I couldn’t get pregnant didn’t mean I didn’t want them as dead facsimiles. They had me by my fallopian tubes. Dead schoolchildren were becoming so commonplace that my career would suffer if I didn’t act quickly. Grave moral injuries may occur. My experience with Iraqi war veterans, Adam one of them, with PTSD showed how even those most resistant to treatment could be healed. Now veterans aren’t written off as permanently dysfunctional. Moral injuries meant recovery: I wanted none of that. I’d end up under some overpass tricking if I hadn’t taken the AR-15 with me that day.
Was that spinning bullet coming toward me a shot from a cop’s gun? Or was it from a child’s point of view as the bullet sped toward him? Or the trajectory of a shell I painted and squeegeed on a photograph directed at another young, pretty forehead?
The unblurred life isn’t worth living.