Compost

(2013)

It’s Earth Day and people keep posting that really old story about the guy who began Earth Day later killing and composting his girlfriend.  And why not? Everything is TMZ on Facebook. Besides, it brought back memories of the time we hung out with a guy who later killed his boyfriend. Not much later, in fact, just a week or two.  We were hanging out with our pals–he was a heavy metal record producer, and she a violinist–and the two guys came over to join the party. They lived in the next door apartment. We smoked a lot of weed that night. Drank cheap beers. Talked about music and old movies. We all loved Hitchcock, I remember that, all of us talking about Hitchcock and all his clever murders. The victim to be was cool–funny, sweet, and had a great pot pipe, this beautiful thing. The still latent psychotic killer was a little weird. Never smiled, and had an intense stare. It would have been unnerving except he was maybe five feet tall. It’s hard to be unnerved by someone five feet tall when you’re nearly a third taller than they are. Besides, I knew lots of weird people and it never occurred to me that any of them would ever be weird enough to chop up his boyfriend. But that’s what happened, a couple Saturdays later. No one knows why, the cops said there’d been a fight but none of the neighbors heard anything. No one heard the actual killing either. After he killed his friend there was the classic problem of what to do with the body. Rendering it into compost was not an option–this was the Fairfax District and there wasn’t a composter handy and even if there had been you couldn’t use it on a Saturday.  So he cut the body up into pieces and wrapped each carefully and hid them away in the back of the closet. Then he cleaned up. The bathroom was spic and span, they said, not a splash of blood or drip of gore to be seen. He was a bit of a neat freak I remember. His boyfriend had mentioned that. And he avoided the mistake that Raymond Burr made in Rear Window, dumping parts of his wife in the East River, and some in Central Park, and a toe or a finger in with the geraniums for someone’s yappy little dog to find. He’d seen Rear Window. He’d seen Psycho too. So he stuck the packages of his boyfriend in the back of the closet, behind all the clothes and boxes, and took a flight to Mexico. The flight was already booked. Actually he had tickets for two to Mexico, but there’d been the change in plans and it was just him now and he probably enjoyed the extra elbow room. And I have no idea if he had planned this killing long before, buying the extra ticket anyway, or if it was a burst of inspiration to go alone. I do remember his boyfriend telling us about their upcoming trip to Mexico. Cabo San Lucas was supposed to be nice this time of year he said. We’d never been, we told him. That makes three of us.

Our friends finally noticed that something was amiss. It was summer, and their bedroom was right next to the closet. It wasn’t perfume, they told us. The cops eventually caught the guy, they said, down in Mexico. I’m not sure how we missed hearing about the story. It was in the news, a big deal. But L.A. was Murder City USA back in the 80’s, and even a gay man chopped up into carefully packaged portions and stacked neatly in the closet was just another homicide. There were so many killings back then and they all tended to blur together. You actually saw bodies in the street in those days. Wild times, though you got used to it. In fact, I actually forgot about this murder for years. But it was just one of many horror stories. Somebody else I knew nearly accepted a ride from the Hillside Strangler. Richard Ramirez tried to break into another buddy’s house, but his window was bolted so Ramirez killed one of the neighbors. I could keep going. I won’t. There are one or two that really bother me, even years later. Makes me sick and angry and sad remembering them. And L.A. is so peaceful now, so low crime. I haven’t even heard a gunshot in ages, let alone seen a cholo in a T-bird rolling through a redlight at Western and Sunset with a knife in his back, stone dead. That was three blocks from our pad, then, and we were giving my nephew a tour of the town. He’d never been here before. The low rider came through the intersection at an odd angle, jumped the curb and smacked into a lamppost. The driver never moved. It was a beautiful car, too, a vivid metallic blue, just inches off the ground, with chrome pipe organ speakers, big fat tires, wire spoke hubcaps, the whole bit. All the traffic sat still, staring at that knife. Welcome to Hollywood, I said. Jesus Christ my nephew said. Is that for real?

It was. Though now it’s just another wry story. You survive the craziness and you’re full of wry stories. Funny stories, horrible stories. After a while they start to get jumbled up in your head. You mix ’em up and grind ’em up and mulch them all together and out come new stories, like this. Just like compost.

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