Original Short Fiction: "Merry's Prom Night"
This story is fiction.
It does not depict
any real persons or actual events.
The Prom of Absolute Perfection
Rob Morris had annoyed me by asking me to the senior prom. He was always acting out as the class clown. But he was still very popular; he was liked by not only the "in-crowd," but was well tolerated by the "jocks," and he seemed to have the admiration of almost everyone else. I despised him, but since no one else had asked me to the stupid dance, I gave it some thought.
It was like on the first day of spring that my mother, Merrywether—yes, that's my full name too—started needling me, asking me if any young man had asked me to the prom yet. She literally kept buzzing with ideas for the perfect dress, the perfect hair-do, the perfect make-up, the perfect blah, blah, blah. It made me wanna puke every time she had some perfect piece of crap to talk about. Every day before school and after school, she would burst into my room and offer me perfect prom advice. She never failed to mention that her senior prom had been the high point of her entire life; she simply cherished and adored every moment of it.
My perfect mother had attended her perfect senior year high school prom with the perfect man she would marry, my father—Garland Whitfield, III. My father did not remember anything about that perfect prom except that it provided the occasion for his first kiss with the perfect girl of his dreams.
After being raised by Garland and Merrywether (Madison) Fanton, the perfect couple, as their yearbook had labeled them, I was not the perfect daughter. I was morose, melancholy, moody for most of what I can remember of my childhood. I'm sure I caused my happy, perfect parents untold agony, except for the fact that they were incapable of recognizing agony. I had two brothers and three sisters. All I can remember about them is that they were perfect.
Every transgression of mine—from skipping school to cussing out teachers to shoplifting—received that same hopeful prediction that that I would grow out of my misbehavior after I met a fine, young man to settle down with, and then start giving them those perfect, beautiful grandchildren.
So, my parents were perfect; did I mention that? I was not. But I am telling this story primarily about the prom because it happened. The prom is the reason I am here today—serving life in prison without the possibility of parole. Well, of course, that is not exactly true. It's what I did at the prom that stuffed me into this fine institution. But I have begun to digress, I guess. Or jump too far ahead of this tale.
That Special Kiss
Okay. Now, readers, you must be bummed! No doubt you were waiting for me to report how wonderfully romantic the prom was, how gracious and manly that certain prom date was, and how I fell head over heals in love with that Rob and am now living the good life, after that special kiss that convinced me life was for marrying that special guy and giving your perfect parents perfect, beautiful grandchildren.
No, sorry! That's not what happened. This is:
After much stewing over it, I decided I would go to the prom with that Rob. My mother had made sure I had the perfect dress and that I knew how to dance all the right dances. Day by day, I grew more and more angry. I loathed everything I was doing. The dress made me cringe. The dancing made me want to puke my guts out. All the blathering bilge about female duty, female honor, female position in the community had dumped me into a deep rotting stupor of blind and utter hatred.
I loathed my mother with a furious passion for her incessant buzzing over the trivial details of a stupid, little dance. I despised the dress of putrid pink, and the asinine dance steps that made no sense, and I could never remember them.
Every night I had vivid nightmares about marrying that Rob Morris, spawning off a dozen little snot-nosed bratty monsters scampering around the house, all the while my perfect parents gushing and cooing in happiness over all the things that were making me wish I were dead.
That dreaded day finally arrived, and by God, I was ready for it. But not in the way my perfect parents, my perfect prom date, my perfect school had thought. My hatred had exploded in my head so many times I had no idea what I was doing, thinking, or going to do—well, no, not exactly!
Lisa Schrage in Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)
Before I lay it out for you exactly what I did, I have to say this! All you gun control nuts can go straight to hell! I did what I did because of who I was/am, not because I could get my hands on a gun and do it or because my friend's parents owned a gun to protect their family. If I had not been able to get a hold of a gun, I would have probably driven my car into the prom dance hall and probably have done more damage than I did. So, go fuck off! for blaming the goddam gun! blame me! the one who committed the goddam crime!
Sorry for the spoiler, but here's what I did: I stole the revolver from the desk of my friend's father. I had often studied with her, and I knew her father kept a gun in his desk drawer. I guess she just enjoyed knowing that she was sharing a secret with me. I had no idea I would consider such a theft at the time she showed me the gun. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the image of that weapon lying there in the drawer deeply engraved itself in my mind's eye, and four years later, I spirited that gun away after my friend and I had studied for our senior year finals.
My mother had assembled the perfect evening bag, filled with everything the perfect female prom date would need, including my wallet with a few bucks and my identification, perfume, make-up, comb. She instructed me that at least twice I should excuse myself to the ladies room and freshen up with those make-up items: she'd always add, "be sure to comb your hair real nice after a few dances."
I emptied out all that crap and I tucked the gun away in that evening bag. Back then they did not check bags when people went into buildings.
Popping Off at the Perfect Prom
"So, Merry, you look great tonight, could you go for a glass of punch?" my prom date Rob Morris put this inane question to me.
"Hell, no!" I snapped, pulled out the gun, and popped him in the head. He fell. I stepped over him and moved on to the punch table and popped everyone around it. People started scurrying for cover. There was much screaming, everyone was screaming—but the music kept blaring, and a couple was still dancing cheek to cheek until I popped them.
I stopped, reloaded, and then I started popping anyone in sight. I felt so calm. I was starting to feel even calmer. But the screaming grew louder, the dancers kept on scattering out. I kept on popping people—here, there, everywhere—until finally I began to hear the sound of sirens.
Like kernels of corn staring to pop, cops popped through the door, into the hall, and I popped a couple cops before one cop popped me. I guess I fell . . .but I don't remember anything after that, until I woke up in the hospital, shackled to the bed, restraints on my hands and feet.
I had killed a total of 81 people: 74 students, 5 teachers, and 2 cops. I did remember popping people with the gun, but at the time I did not recognize who any of them were. Only later, however, I found out that I did know them all, except for the cops.
My perfect parents got me the best public defender they could find, or so I have heard. And then they vanished from my life—which was certainly okay by me. I never really knew them, never had any idea what made them tick, and I never had any desire or reason to find out.
I avoided the death penalty just in time by a last minute confession. I had begged that stupid ass lawyer all along to let me confess, but the idiot wanted to claim something was wrong with me: "diminished capacity," "mental illness causing inability to be responsible," or some crap to that effect. She just wanted to make a name for herself with a big fancy trial. All I wanted was what was coming to me.
Here I Sit, Paying
Hells bells, I knew I was the only one responsible. I couldn't blame it on anyone or anything, because I was the one who committed the goddam crime. I knew exactly what I had done, and I thought I knew exactly why.
However, that "why" has become more screwed up confused in my mind as time moves along. I have been here in federal prison for twelve years. As I said earlier, I will be here until I die; I have no possibility of parole, unless, of course, some goody-two-shoes shit- for-brains politician smelling a passel of votes takes up the cause of people like me. I have and will continue to have a big bunch of time to think, to ponder, to consider, to wonder, and to try to connect the many unconnected dots in my mind, and just generally to wallow in sorrow. I do spend a lot time reading. The prison library has become my best friend.
I hate what I did. I hate, loathe, and despise myself for killing all those innocent people. And for what did I do it? Because I chafed at trying to live up to the standards of perfect parents? That's bullshit! Hell! Garland and Glendale were not perfect. I now give them kudos because they never ever claimed to be perfect. I now know that I just imagined that they thought they were perfect. Maybe it was because of my own personal failures that I imagined other people thought they were perfect, and that they thought I was just a screw-up. I can see now that it's likely that only I thought I was a screw-up.
I still don't know why I committed that crime. But I do regret what I did—deeply regret it! And most of the time, I keep thinking that is the one and only thing I have learned in this life: that I did a bad wrong and I now deeply regret it. I don't even know what I might be thinking next. I guess it just depends on what I can learn about how to live. And this might sound odd, even unbelievable, but I really do take some comfort just knowing that I am paying for my god-awful crime spree . . . but then I'll turn gloomy again, when I realize that my "paying" will never bring back those poor souls that I with so much malice popped at the prom that awful night, that awful prom night.
© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes