max sits on the couch, a news bulletin has interrupted his basketball game.
his roommate looks up from facebook.
“what is it?”
“another guy killing defenseless people.”
“southern california. near san diego. a friggin’ cinco de mayo parade.”
max stares at the newscast, one that has been well rehearsed. two months ago in florida. six months before that in south carolina. the places change, the names, the headcount, but the core message stays the same. the furthest extreme has become commonplace.
a photo of the assailant fills the screen. looks like a high school portrait. a serious young man, his gaze fixed up and away from the camera lens. “timothy michael wallace. now that’s a name for a mass murderer.”
his roommate looks up, “everybody’s got a mass murderer name. you know, like everybody’s got a porn name.”
“your porn name is your first pet plus your mom’s maiden name. my porn name is bullet manley.”
max laughs. “wow. that’s good. you could sell that.” he thinks for a moment. then laughs even harder.
his roommate erupts in laughter.
“it was a goldfish.”
“kissy lovejoy, the transvestite john holmes.”
“the movie writes itself.”
the laughter slowly gives way to silence. max’s roommate lowers his eyes back to facebook. there’s been a post about the massacre.
“so what’s your mass murderer name?”
“it’s the same as your serial killer name.”
“okay, and that is…”
the roommate looks up. “it’s just your entire name, like it’s read off your birth certificate.”
“maxwell charles meriweather.”
“they can’t call you max meriweather, you sound too human. like you had a life, a couple of friends. like the world softened you up a bit during your time on it. that doesn’t sell newspapers.”
“henry lee lucas.”
“you see that? does that sound like your neighbor? no. that’s an alienated outsider. a lone gunman. they might as well call you by your phone number.”
“richard allen davis.”
“in the perfect news story, the audience has to be terrified… and blameless. if they feel guilty, they might ignore the commercial break.”
“what about ted bundy?”
“what about him?”
“well, i’ve never heard him called theodore. and i don’t even know his middle name.”
“i’m sure he was theodore middle-name bundy for a couple months. but when you get famous, and develop some kind of mystique, then they let the bogeyman be your friend. i’ll bet a million bucks that kid hasn’t heard the name timothy since his mom yelled it when he was seven .”
“there’s something seriously wrong with this country.”
they watch more footage. mesmerized.
max shakes his head, “looks like little timmy wallace killed himself when he was done.”
“yeah, i have a theory about that, too.”
“why doesn’t that surprise me?”
“everyone wonders how people can bring themselves to kill a boatload of perfect strangers. i think that’s looking at things backwards. these aren’t killings. what they are is extroverted suicides. a guy lives in a box all his life. he wants to die, but he’s ashamed cause he’s never accomplished anything. never made a difference. this way, he can snuff himself, and leave an imprint on a world that abused him.”
he starts typing again.
“that’s really uplifting.”
“the question isn’t why this happens so much. the real question is why it doesn’t happen every day.”
a woman sobs on screen. an eighth-grader’s aunt.
the roommate turns his focus back to facebook.
max stares at the screen for a few minutes more.
he looks over his shoulder, “can you check the computer to see if the celtics are still ahead?”