The Child Molester
Just as a diver will visualize a dive he himself is about to make, he likewise sees the whole scene in graphic detail. The walk to the end of the board, the tiny pirouette, the arms horizontal, the back to the pool, the spring, the back flip, twist, the entry into the water, clean like a knife leaving almost no splash. It is a perfectly executed dive.
He too sees it all. The candy, shiny through the wrapping, the multicolored presents, the actual couch in the apartment where the man lives alone, the brown stains on it. He doesn’t need forensics, magnifying glasses, hair samples, lab analyses. He’s visualized everything himself. He imagines a thicket of curly pubic hair, fingers entwining it, the softest down on the cheek, the little boy trapped, the moans, screams, finally a whimper. The man pudgy, doughy-fingered, red-cheeked, almost like a cherub himself, middle-aged, puffing, having difficulty moving, breathing, but prodded by his desires that light up his whole body until he positively glows. The cajoling, the wheedling, the games to undress each other, the police officer has cataloged all of it, every move in his mind.
He has children of his own. So he is horrified by what he envisions, but the visualizations persist against his will. The thoughts crowd his brain and torment him. He gets hotter under the collar. His clothes are ill-fitting lately, an inconvenience, a line of sweat trickles from his underarms, down his back to the elastic of his briefs. He pushes his spouse away when she is solicitous about what’s wrong. He can’t shake the pictures in his mind. They upset him too much. He is rough with her at times, then retreats further into silence.
“Just leave me alone,” he says to her. He lives his job.
“Round them all up! Get them off the streets!”
“Hey Jack, take two,” someone at the station house says.
It is his personal crusade. He loves children, is bound to their safety and welfare, can’t accept anyone taking advantage of them, gets ill over even the thought of it, the visualizations. They disturb his sleep, his relationship with his own children. He’s stopped spending time with them, doesn’t tuck them into bed anymore, and they’ve stopped calling out to him to come. He’s almost an absentee father scouring the streets for their protection.
His job has become a mission, a one-man crusade. He works overtime collaring what he calls the scum of the earth “to make the streets safe,” he says, “for our children.”
He lapses into gloomy reverie even at parties. Has to be snapped out of it. Friends comment that he’s not himself, has taken his job too much to heart. He needs a vacation.
But he’s afraid the street population of criminals will multiply with him gone, infest the whole city by the time he’s back. He’s needed to stop “the plague, the infestation,” as he calls it.
He’s sitting at the house of friends, at the precinct, in his car staking out an apartment on the outskirts of town that he is ready to bust into on a neighbor’s tip.
“Let’s wait for backup this time, Jack,” his partner says.
Jack imagines the pudgy fingers at the last button on the little boy’s clothes. The boy is down to his underpants. The man is slipping his index finger around back and working the elastic down over the little round buttocks. Just then there is a flurry of activity in the police car, a 1045 call on a robbery in progress. And the police car speeds away to a convenience store on Hardwick. A man is running up the street, cash in hand. The cruiser pulls up beside him. Jack rolls down his window and takes out his service revolver.
“Freeze,” he says, “or I’ll blow your head off!”
The man stops dead. Crouches on the pavement and covers his head with the cash.
“Take it, take it. Don’t shoot!” he whimpers.
Jack jumps out of the vehicle and grabs the man.
“Stand up, hands behind your back!” They handcuff him and book him.
In a couple of hours Jack and his partner are back staking out the apartment. Jack’s mind continues the narrative. There is blood on the buttocks this time, a torn sphincter muscle, like a balled up leech trying to protect itself. The multiple corrugations pulled tight to prevent opening. The globes of the white bottom are streaked red. The little boy is crying. Jack holds his fist to his forehead. There is a static sound against the roots of his hair where he turns his head in disgust at what’s happening out there.
He gets out of the cruiser.
“Jack, where’re you goin’?”
He walks aimlessly, then returns more silent.
He’s visualized it all, a hundred times before. He can barely look at his own kids. It torments him, but the rare arrest also bothers him. He wants to get them all. Round them all up like sheep, pigs for slaughter, every last one of them, use a Gatling gun or something. Then burn down the whole smelly stockyard. Or erect his own crematoria to burn their genes out of the human race forever, stop the bloodlines of pederasts once and for all.
Jack imagines himself goose-stepping through the city, searching every last house, with the authority of swastikas on each collar, and on the streets rounding up suspect men with young boys, every last one of them!
“Taking the kid to a movie, the park, a ball game. Yeah, sure. Tell me another one!” as he pushes their heads into the police car, crowds groups of them inside the paddy wagon.
“Sweep the streets clean!” He imagines himself a Pied Piper. That’s what that tale was all about. Saving the children from molesters! He’ll boxcar every last one in the city.
They’ll not know what hit’em, or where they’re going. They’ll be taken to camps all over the country that’ll be operated in secret to stamp out the gene once and for all, eradicate the vermin, an inferior strain of people, to remove the plague on all our families!
“Greek love!” he laughs to himself, shaking his head, and has visions of marble statuary, lewd nymphs, young goddesses, boys with delicately translucent bodies where the light almost goes through the slender limbs, and the giant phalluses all broken off, smashed to bits, powdered like the Acropolis by the Turks.
Jack imagines a simon-pure society, the removal of every sick obsession with body parts, and the preoccupation with youth. Sometimes he imagines everyone has designs on prepubescence, lowers his eyes and buries his head in his hands at the discouraging thought of just what he is up against.
“You OK, Jack?” his partner asks.
“Yeah, I was just thinking.”
He can’t stand the mental picture, sees bloody leeches everywhere, dripping from billboards, the reddest lips holding cigarettes on the dry mouths of even coworkers he talks too. They must be saved even from themselves. He wants to do the cleansing himself, with sulfuric acid, something! But it is beyond him. It’s all over the city, and he can’t seem to stop it. The streets need hosed down, and he’s only one man on the force.
Then they get a call, over on Gunhill Road they have word of a molester. A charge has been filed. The police car speeds crosstown. Sirens blaring, the blue light revolving. On the way Jack once again visualizes it all, relives the seduction. He’s seen it a hundred times in gross movements that make him almost shy away from his own children, suspecting molesters everywhere, sniffing out body fluids, their behavior on their clothes, on furniture fabrics, not making eye contact anymore.
They get to 521 and are out of the patrol car in a flash. Jack is the first to the entrance, pounding on the door.
“Police, open up! Police!”
He knocks, turns the knob, pushes at the door with his shoulder.
The door is opened by a large pudgy man with red cherubic cheeks and gold metal-rimmed glasses. The shock of hair over his forehead gives him a middle-aged boyish look. He’s just like Jack visualized. He knows the man already, every feint, gesture, blink, the camouflage of abundant pink flesh. Jack is wiry, gaunt, and pushes the man inside his apartment, muscles him across the room.
“We got a call on you, man,” he says. “You’ve been seen with a young boy? Taking him places, entertaining him here! In your apartment? Huh?”
“What’d you do to him? Where is he? Someone’s filed a complaint.”
“I don’t know.”
Jack pokes him in the chest with his forefinger, pushes him down on the couch. Jack is spitting epithets at the man, frothing at the mouth.
“You scum, low life! Turn over, turn over! What I’d like to do to you!”
“Jack, take it easy!” his partner yells, as Jack unhooks his handcuffs, grabs the man’s hands, and clicks them on his wrists.
“What am I being charged with?” the man asks.
“Molesting a minor!”
“We just want to take you downtown for questioning,” the second officer says.
The man is silent. He no longer bothers to defend himself. He remembers the times he had with Johnny. It seemed too good to be true. Taking him to the amusement park, the gifts, buying his favorite toys, food, their holding hands. His mother was rarely at home, and his father was always working, so Johnny spent more and more time with him. Many an afternoon they sat on the same couch and watched TV, talked, played games, the man read to the boy, helped him with his homework. On Saturdays he took him to the park. Occasionally the boy brought friends over, but mostly seemed to want the man all to himself.
No, the man had no wife, and even met Johnny’s mother once or twice at the supermarket or somewhere, but she was unimpressed with the man and was just glad Johnny was out of her hair and behaving better lately. She didn’t question the money Johnny got, or didn’t seem to mind the time he spent away from home.
The little boy was the light of the man’s life. He just enjoyed being around him, enjoyed his innocence, purity, grew in fact to love the little boy, his freshness, his quick responsiveness to the world, to the man’s tutoring, to the simple pleasure they took in each other’s company.
And was the man attracted to the boy in the way the officer had so often visualized? The man probably didn’t know himself. Perhaps his desire was piqued by the anticipation of the boy coming over, by seeing the boy, by being with him, sharing sweets, holding hands at the amusement park. That was the extent of their physical involvement. Had the man wanted to touch the boy further, and had he, both the boy and the man would have been confused.
You might say that the man’s sexuality was at ground level, never plumbed or visualized taking a dive beneath that. There was no pool behind him or acrobatic back flip, no seamless entry into the water, no bloody sphincter leeches like Jack envisioned, no bottom breached.
The man was the kind bemused by sexuality, for it seemed not to pertain to him or be an issue in his life. What was kept alive and visualized by the man’s neighbor, by Jack, had never occurred to the pudgy, pink man with a cherub face and gold-rimmed glasses.
The man did speak of the boy to friends, describing the beauty of the boy, but to them it was almost marmoreal, for his limbs had the smooth polish of remote Greek statuary. His friends even joked that the little boy must have wings.
But visions of statues can break, be smashed by the most unexpected violence, so too the man found himself on the floor of his apartment. Jack’s rage got the better of him. He couldn’t wait to book the man, for the trial, for court proceedings, the verdict, the incarceration, couldn’t wait for the boxcar, the gas chamber, the crematoria in his own mind burning with anger at the man. Couldn’t wait to reduce the pink flesh to ashes as his fist collided with the man’s jaw and sent him reeling backwards, crashing amidst not only the statuary of his own mind, but Jack’s preoccupation with every stain he already spied on the couch, around which he had sniffed like a police dog with the most sensitive snout you could imagine on one human being who can visualize every last detail of another man’s crime.
Richard Krause’s collection of fiction, Studies in Insignificance, was published by Livingston Press (2003) and his epigram collection, Optical Biases, was published by Eyecorner Press (2012) in Denmark. Seventy of his epigrams are translated into Italian at Aforisticamente.com, an international website for aphorists. His writing has more recently appeared in The Alembic, J Journal, Hotel Amerika, qarrtsiluni, Fraglit, Scapegoat Review, and The Long Story. He teaches at Somerset Community College in Kentucky.