When I was fifteen two men came to the house and told my father they wanted their money. My dad said he didn’t have it. They broke both his legs with a tire iron and the short one shot our little old black mutt dog in the shoulder, belly, and leg. She was old and died in my arms. I knew where these men lived and worked, cuz my old babysitter knew them in high school. They operated out of a house in a nice residential neighborhood. I stole the .357 I knew the neighbor kept in his toolbox on the third shelf in his crafts garage and I rode my bike over to these mens’ house.
As I walked up the sidewalk I could see an old lady in there on the couch watching tv. I guess she was their gramma. I pushed the doorbell and when the first one opened the door I shot him in the face. The short one was the second one. He rushed at me through the door and I shot him in the shoulder, belly, and leg. And then in the face. The gramma was still watching her show. It was Bonanza.
I was a minor so only had to go to juvenile hall for three years. At first I was worried the boss of the guys who hurt my dad and dog would send other guys but there was too much attention now from the TV and the law and he ended up being okay.
In juvie they kept us girls separated from the boys by a chain link fence. I saw a lot of dicks through that chain link sprouting like toadstools. That was kind of funny. What wasn’t funny was that everyone had to wear the same underwear. The boys got tightie whities and we got these granny panties and I swear every single one of them had period stains in them.
When I got out I decided I wanted to live on the beach because it was the closest to a big open space I could think of. I was having a lot of anxiety and it was worse in enclosed environments. So I took a bus down to the beach and just sat around down there. There was a tiny lagoon, a kind of mini estuary fed by a giant drainage pipe and I liked to sit there. I slept behind the big rocks there. I spanged for food money and brushed my teeth in the public restrooms. There were outdoor public showers but I got to be honest I didn’t use those too much.
The only time I was happy was at night when I was sleeping. I would be with my dog, her name was Jason (my dad had let me name her when I was little) and she was sleeping next to me in the twin bed that used to be back home and peddling her little legs in a dream. With her lips inhaling and then puffing out again as she imaginary barked in her sleep, protecting us from evil squirrels and the spun monkey mailman, (Jason always knew when the mailman had quit taking his meds and was trippin on jesus again).
When I woke up I was always bummed. Then I made a friend and was happier. His name was Frank and he was a rich kid and only child and a heroin addict. Frank had a high funny voice but was a big guy. Over six four. Plus he could act batshit crazy. No one fucked with him even though he had already gotten pretty skinny. Frank sat on the same bench I liked one afternoon and we got to talking. He told me his parents had a quarter horse ranch in Wyoming and he originally came down to LA to start a band. He said he had a girlfriend who had died of a heroin overdose and that he felt guilty because he didn’t think she would have gotten as heavy into it if she hadn’t met him. Her name was Sara and when she was high she liked to watch old cartoons like the Pink Panther for hours and play with herself.
Frank was the only one I told about my dog. He said he was sorry about what happened to her. He told me his favorite animal ever was a rat he had during his crusty punk phase in Hollywood. Her name was Raticus and she followed him around like a dog and came when he called her. “I’d sit down on the sidewalk and let her look for some tasty treats in a trash can and when it was time to go I’d say ‘Raticuuus’ and you’d hear this rustling and then her little head would pop up out of the trash and she come bounding toward you like freakin Lassie” he told me. It was the second longest sentence he ever said to me. Most of the time we just sat quietly on the rocks or in the parking lot where we could spange the tourists.
We “did it” a couple times but both of us were kind of sick. Frank was always either high or getting sick because he couldn’t get high and I was just lousy with microbes and a lot of bronchitis. Plus we couldn’t always afford condoms and Frank was militant about using them because he was worried he might have HIV. I told him I didn’t care and he said No.
The longest sentence Frank said to me was right before he died. He said he wasn’t feeling good and I got afraid because he truly did look fucked up. “Was it a bad shot?” I asked and he said he thought maybe. I gave him my blanket and covered him up. “I’m gonna call an ambulance” I told him and I got up to go but he said “No! No! I want to tell you something.”
He said he had a hundred bucks in his pants, sewn up with floss. He pointed to where I should cut the floss and an old wrinkled hundred dollar bill popped out. He told me he didn’t want his folks to see him like this and asked me if I would go see them and tell them he was sorry and that he loved them and that it wasn’t their fault. I said “Okay Frank I will Frank.” It was late afternoon and the sun was shining on the drainage estuary and on his hair. I could see some people on the beach further down. “I love you” he said, “You’re going to be okay.” And then he died.
I sat there with him. I started to say something to him, stuff I wanted to tell him, but I just sat quietly next to him. There was a seagull standing on the rocks nearby too I remember. After a little while he flew off.
I packed up and called the cops from the last payphone standing and anonymously told them there was a dead body in the rocks and then I hitchhiked to the Greyhound bus terminal and bought the bus ticket to Wyoming. Frank had written their address on the money and I’d recopied it onto a pamphlet that was laying around and put that in my pocket. I didn’t cry until I was on the bus.
The bus ride took days and days. I had to sit next to an old stinky cowboy who told me his life story. He told me he had just come from visiting his sister in Los Angeles but that he lived in Idaho in a small cabin with a donkey that liked to break into the house and watch tv. He kept talking to me and I just kept going “Uh huh Uh huh.” He said “It’s going to be okay miss, you just keep that little pilot light of hope on, God is takin care of you. No one’s better than you. Poor people are smarter than rich people, and they’re gonna take their money back from the folks who stole it from them.”
“Sure mister” I said and then I pretended to fall asleep. I was hungry. I didn’t have enough money to buy anything besides some stale bags of potato chips. “It will be okay Miss” said the old cowboy again and he then he mercifully fell asleep. What did that guy know about me? And God could suck it.
I missed a lot of the states because I just tried to sleep most of the time but I was really shocked when we rolled into Wyoming. It was in Cody and I could see these hills getting all purple in the dusk and the sky was a dying orange and pink sky. There were tall pine trees all around. It was beautiful. Frank’s parent’s house was also gorgeous. They had their ranch built on a meadow of rolling high prairie right out of a movie. The Grand Tetons were in the distance (the part of the Rocky Mountain range that’s in Wyoming are called the Grand Tetons). The mountains were covered in snow and the sky was so big and blue in the daytime and eagles were flying around in it. It was the prettiest shit I’d ever seen.
Frank’s parents were nice and they cried when I told them what happened to him. I started crying which made me want to chop my head off but I forced myself to sit on the couch with them. I wanted to leave and see about hitching back to LA. But they asked if I would stay with them. They offered me a job as a ranchhand. They said I could sleep in the spare bedroom and muck out the stables and do odd jobs around the property. I got the feeling they wanted to take care of me the way they’d wanted to but couldn’t with Frank. I said okay. But I ended up not being able to handle sleeping in the house. It was too quiet and they’d left Frank’s room just as it was when he left and it creeped me out. I slept on a bunch of bales of alfalfa in the barn that were stacked about a story and half tall. It was warm up there and I liked hearing and smelling the sleeping horses.
They had an older married couple who helped run the ranch and they were real nice to me. They taught me how to saddle horses and clean the tack and pick out the frogs of a horse hoof. The frogs are the inner part of a horse’s hoof and you have to take this little knife scoop thing called a hoof pick and you scrape out all the crap and dirt that’s gotten embedded into the hoof and held there by the shoe. Sometimes when you pick it out what’s underneath there smells like toejam. I enjoyed doing it, it was satisfying to make the horse comfortable and know I was eradicating microbes.
I learned how to be a really great horsewoman. Frank’s parents said I had a “fine seat”. The horses were my buddies. I loved it up there. I had to have dinner with Frank’s folks every week but that was okay. They were real nice, although they were compelled to be up in my business. I was real grateful though that they gave me a job and a place to stay. It was the first time I ever had a job and I knew it was one of the coolest ones. They were concerned I was troubled or into drugs like Frank and they gave me a bunch of self help books to read. I only looked at one but I got to say it did actually help my self.
One book said that all the negative stuff that happened to us in our childhood, all the traumas and shit people have said or done to us, that it gets recorded in tapes in our brain. These negative tapes tell us bad things about ourselves and the future. And that the reason people go to talk therapy is to get to tell someone what the negative tapes are saying so that they can be erased.
But that the quickest and most efficient way to erase the tapes is to write down what they are saying longhand and then read it to someone else you trust. This is because vast chunks of the brain are activated during longhand writing, and you can excavate more crap out if you write it down instead of just talk about it. Then, when you read it out loud, your higher self, the most intelligent and aware part of your mind, can hear it objectively and discard what isn’t true, thus freeing you of the bondage of the negative tapes.
I decided to write about my past. I was surprised because some weird shit came out. The first thing I ended up writing about was my mom, who left me and my dad when I was little. I didn’t even know it bothered me that she did that. I didn’t even know I felt abandoned. I even wrote down that I had been in love with Frank, which was of course true. I read all this crazy shit to Paula, the older lady that helped run the ranch. I knew I could trust her with these secrets. I started crying during part of it and she actually crushed me to her gigantic tits and said nice things that you would say to a little baby or something, like “There, there”. I’m not going to lie it felt good.
That was about six months ago. I’m still at the ranch. I’ve actually started saving some money. I don’t know, I could go to school if I wanted I guess, or travel and see the castles in Europe. I could get my own place even. I don’t know. Right now my only dreams are just to feel safe and I do here. And plus I got another dog. It never occurred to me that I could do that. He’s another little mutt, maybe part cattledog and some other kind of shepherd mix. He’s funny, he’s wiry like a little monkey and actually climbs up the hay bales with me every night and sleeps at the foot of my sleeping bag on his back! Like a cute dead cockroach. So I call him Raid. I love him.
Copyright © 2013 by Kim Campion