October 8, 2002
Florida State Prison, Bradford County, Florida
I was benighted amidst the yellow birch, conifer and sugar maple in the forests of the Midwest.
There I ran with the squirrels. In my child’s voice the song of the Scarlet Tanager echoed, harbinger of spring, my bared toes massaged the loam under hemlock and black oak.
The sky was wide. It offered a seamless verticality.
When the sun hung above the horizon, I felt, in my child’s body, a tensing of muscles, as if I was lifting something heavy.
Dirt and asphalt cut black scars through the hills.
For me, life was a matter of straying from the shoulder of roads.
Soon the forest gave way to concrete and the broken skyline of cities.
There I met the gritted teeth of the world.
There is a dream memory of me, floating above my child’s body.
It haunts me at night when the alcohol wears off.
I am motionless and lying on black, star print sheets, staring through the popcorn ceiling, peering at a life lived rogue, and a future I can’t imagine.
No, can’t hardly think of me an old woman. Ain’t no getting old.
I heard the nauseating sound of a chord struck, like strings out of tune on an old Dobro guitar.
In the dream memory I can make out his hairline, blocking out the dim sixty-watt hanging from the fixture, his thumbs pressing into my wrists, smell of his stale cigarette and Schlitz breath and see that stars of Dixie tattooed on his neck—my mother’s father—and a bright white light erupted from above.
Not until I heard my grandfather was dead, did the pieces fall together.
And your Father?
[Father was a pedo. Hung hisself in the Pen.]
The grace of Jesus. That’s what I thought it was then, that’s what I call it now, waiting here to die.
The light was a signal and a map.
Codified in pain, I was tasked—me—with removing from the world eight demonic entities.
This was a quest I couldn’t comprehend nor deny.
If you asked me, I would tell you, in my own street talk way, that I shifted from child to woman.
Like a manual shift transmission.
Fast and smooth like that Camaro I boosted with Tracy when we was on the lam from that fucking piece of S.H.I.T. Jasper.
Pressed, I would foreswear my childhood.
That the shift never occurred—was imperceptible—and that I was born an angel, with womanly parts and disposition.
You had a child at fourteen you gave up for adoption?
Ain’t gonna talk about that, okay?
Here, this is where we enter the world of the transaction.
Somewhere, inside me, a vacuum.
They said I was too immature to grasp the finality of death.
Prosecutor was a condescending prick. ‘Scuse me for sayin’ so.
But my awareness stemmed not from a lack of maturity but a diamond honed sense of survival.
To avoid pain and embrace the reptilian.
Escaping pain became centrifugal.
A damaged and primitive child, I slipped through the teeth of the world and bared my own.
When I was at County I met an Indian lady, looked me in the eye and told me I was a container.
F-ing Tupperware, I says to her?
No, she told me that I contained everything; anguish, loneliness, sadness, anger and love poured into the hollow point between my sternum and above my pubic bone.
Learning eventually that the foundation would always shift but the center wouldn’t never change, you know?
I rode the road.
And the in between plushness of death, extended to the men I encountered.
Under cypress and the smell of wet soil, diesel and aftershave, I absorbed them into mine.
Gave my tender love to Boys who later died under the oily umbrella of a Kuwaiti sky.
In the low-lying hitchhiker’s thumb of the continent, skirting gators in the glades, lessons in the secrets of the transaction were practiced.
Meanwhile, I looked for the signs and signals of the eight.
See, violence in America is idiosyncratic.
I was further enlightened with a pistol in my rectum.
Back of some bastard’s Buick Le Sabre.
Hell fire of rubbing alcohol to wash away the evidence, his sin.
He was my first and when the hammer hit the firing pin, I shot true, relieving the world of the first of eight demons.
This was in?
Must have been ’round Thanksgiving, ’89.
Then it was the principle. The deputy. The businessman. The pastor.
You got any cigarettes?
Thanks [shrugs and motions towards her restraints].
That upon leaving this world I would be met by the holy trinity.
Those spirits would bear the names: sodium thiopental; Pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.
What about the other homicides?
When I met them, each of them, my muscles tensed, mouth filled up with hot spit like when you’re about to puke. I’d hear with clarity the strumming of a badly out of tune guitar.
The notes, was always sour.
But it’s how I knew.
The dance I had to perform with them was always terribly painful and violent.
Getting punched in the mouth. Raped in the, you know, in the rear…
But I had faith.
With God. My Jesus was by my side, guiding my hand, sending those demons back to hell.
The used-car salesman. Unemployed high-school coach. Tax preparer. Bar tender from Pensacola.
Before I killed them, they asked me my secret.
What is your secret?
Call me Lee…