Killing Scott Clark
The mind builds walls to harbor our many illusions--but walls are also built to protect us from truths we are not ready to see.
David Carver's wall is dense and high, and it shows up with his acerbic wit, a masterful ability to deflect, and a healthy dose of denial. David's wall has served him well for 48 years.
It was a wall he needed, once upon a time, to keep him safe inside.
He just never realized who the wall kept out, or why.
But his wall can't protect him anymore--in fact, it's not only hurting him, it's threatening everyone--and thing--closest to him.
On an unforgettable drive to an unforgettable destination, David and his wife, Christy, walk on brittle hurts, and waver on a tight rope of trying to re-connect, as they struggle with the future of their relationship
Even through their love for one another, Christy can't seem to reach David. More worrisome: David can't seem to reach himself.
Crawling along the highway through blistering-summer construction, memories, like a flash-flood, fill David's thoughts; memories that involve his boyhood friend, Cory, and their close-knit families: next-door neighbors, yet worlds apart. David doesn't know why the memories come now, of all times, but he soon discovers they are the key to saving everything he holds dear.
While David struggles to understand the vital parts of his past--a seemingly-idyllic childhood in the heart of sheltered, Mormon suburbia--his foundations tremble as he recalls childhood events that pulse with a dark and painful center. Through the eyes of the boy and man, we see how the friendship between Davey, Cory, and their families, follows, informs, and changes the course of David's entire life.
Based on true events, and a whole lot of fictional ones, Killing Scott Lark is a riveting, emotional story that takes us through time, from 1971 to present-day; from the hysterically naive thoughts and antics of the 8-year-old Davey, to the sharp, cutting wit of the now-grown David. Carter-Winward's novella will make you laugh and ache as Davey and David's attempt to grasp the terribly confusing world of grown-ups, and the sling-shots and potholes of growing up, coalesce into a moment of truth that will shatter the very foundations of David's past and present, and possibly alter his precarious future.
Part-coming-of-age, part-dark comedy, part-family drama, this novella is a poignant yet humorous look at family, marriage, parenting, friendship, and the walls we build to save us, and blind us.
As David and Christy travel to an event that will forever impact who he was, and is, he soon discovers how his friendship with Cory, even after forty years, saves him once again, at a time when David needs saving the most.
Excerpts from Killing Scott Lark:
I'm not proud of what Cory and I did. But what's done is done. We were determined. We were just kids.
And we were going to kill Scott Lark.
And it's not like he didn't deserve it. He was big and stupid. You know, the kind of stupid where you would spell it "stoo-pid" kind of stupid. He was ugly and he smelled. His family was the poopy streak on the pristine white cloth of our neighborhood. The front of his house looked like a double-wide trailer that had been stacked one on top of the other to form a two-story house. It was in shambles. His front yard was dead. The only life was furry—cats and dogs everywhere—oh, and feathered. They had pigeons, too. Whenever Cory and I went to his house, Cory and I played a game called "try not to step in the shit," because I kid you not, there was crap everywhere. Not just dirty clothes and garbage…actual animal poo on the floors.
His dad was a big, deaf oaf who wore nothing but mechanic overalls, and his mom? Oh, my heck, his mom. She was a nurse. I mean, didn't they teach about hygiene and crap in nursing school back in the 50's or whenever she went? She had a mustache, too, and she was fat. Really fat. Like ten-doughnuts-away-from-a-crane fat. You would think after one retard like Scott they would have stopped breeding. That's the rule, right? You get a retard, you stop. But he had a sister, too. Her face looked like she was constantly pushing out a turd.
All the games he wanted to play were stupid. Everyone knew cowboys and Indians were kids' stuff. We were serious, me and Cory. We had real things to pretend. Like cops and army and superheroes. We only played with Scott to learn about him. Learn his habits, learn what he thought, where he went, what he did, what his weaknesses were. Sure, he was bigger than us, but Cory and I knew we could take him down.
So we were going to kill him.
“Jesus!” Chris braces herself against the dash as I slam on the brakes.
I wince a little because taking the Lord’s name in vain, well, His son, still kindles this part of me that’s entrenched in my family of origin’s church. We’re from Utah, so that means we were Mormon. I was Mormon. I still technically am since I never got my name removed from Church records and they never kicked me out.
I don’t remember the Church being a big deal when I was a kid, and I remember we had a jar of instant coffee in the house up until Julie was a little older, like maybe eight. Then my mom got this mysterious infection and had to go to the hospital.
When she recovered and got home, the coffee was gone, and suddenly, church attendance was mandatory. Before that, Mom was sort of a convenience store Mormon. Stop in, grab what you need on the fly, buh-bye. But after Mom’s hospitalization, we were full-on church-goers and it seemed like a noose tightened around our whole house.
I don’t remark on the language. Christy was raised without Mormonism. In Utah, this breeds a sort of natural contempt for members of the Church. I can understand why; being a non-Mormon kid in an all-Mormon neighborhood can be a lonely thing. In any case, I rarely say “God” unless I’m really mad, and I never say “Jesus.” It feels like it’s disrespectful to my mom, of all people.
Chris makes fun of my “goshes” and “jeezes” but there’s nothing wrong with playing it safe. If it did bug God to take His name in vain, I figure I’d cover my bases. Other than those, though, my language covers the “colorful” spectrum nicely.
“He stopped short. Sorry about that,” I say, heart just a little north in my gullet. It had been close.
“Yeah. I saw he stopped short. Thanks.”
Christy wants to pick a fight. She’s learned that when I get angry, the damn springs some holes and I let stuff out. I guess if I’m going to be honest, fighting for us is usually her needling me until I lose it, and then I end up blathering, booming and ranting, and then if we skip to the good part, we have really great sex after.
I don’t mind that bit. But the stuff preceding it is not comfortable at all, so I always try to avoid taking the bait. Avoiding taking the bait has historically made Christy angrier. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it isn’t. She has this elephantine memory that reaches back into every slip-up I’ve ever made and she manages to weave in my slips like a practiced artisan. Oh, this is also apparently my fault.
I don’t know whether to take the bait this time. I weigh my options. She will be terse and curt with me all day and into the evening if I ignore it. Today I’d like to be my best in front of a bunch of people I don’t know.
I plunge ahead.
“I was apologizing for scaring you. No need for sarcasm.”
“Wow, Dave, that was, like, two whole sentences. And it was a personal commentary. Do you need to go lie down?”
Yeah, she wanted this one real bad. I know because she had actually pissed me off and usually I only act pissed until I suddenly find I am pissed, and then, boom, the flood. If she wants a fight, I can give her a gosh-darned fight.
“You’re channeling your inner thirteen-year-old again, Chris. Maybe you could stick out your tongue out and call me a ‘poo-poo head’ next.”
“Oh, so I’m immature for using sarcasm, and so you respond with sarcasm by telling me I’m immature… in a sarcastic way. Nice projection.”
“What do you want from me? Why are you attacking me?” At a certain point, the game stops, drops and rolls, and the fires of hostility take over.
“Now you’re acting like a victim.”
“Oh, okay, I’m acting like a victi—okay. So let’s step back. You try and pry information from me, information that I don’t have. Then when I try and satisfy you, you get pissed. I try to apologize, and you’re sarcastic and ridicule me for being polite, and now I’m going to get assaulted by your effing therapeutic glossary of terms. What’s the term for you? Oh, that’s right, passive-aggressive. But see, I’m not going to call you that because it’s a total dick thing to do. So what is it, Chris. What the hell do you want from me?”
The car’s interior is ringing slightly from my voice. I realize we aren’t going to be able to have make-up sex, nor will we get through this fight before we get to our destination. I realize I had been a little clouded by the make-up sex prospect, and isn’t that just the story of my life?
“I can’t get you to talk to me!” Okay, so her voice is shrill and fills up the car way more irritatingly than my voice. She does that turn-adjust thing people do in car seats when they have their full attention on someone. A tactic smart drivers don’t use while driving, I’d like to add.
“I see things going on in your head, David!” she continues. “I know you aren’t just living in the moment, pondering orange cones, and UDOT, and the fucking government! You have never told me anything about this guy, and now we’re going—I just can’t take you withholding from me anymore!”
Okay, so shit. Because now she’s crying and she explained it in a way that definitely paints me in the role as the asshole, and…shit. How does she do that? The term “withholding” is one Carol introduced us to, and I bid a silent “fuck you” to dear Carol the Therapist, because there’s no defense against it. Do I withhold to keep Christy away from me? If I answer honestly, then that’s a no. No I do not. I can’t see past this fact so I go with it.
“I’m not trying to withhold from you. I’m not, Chris. I swear, I’m not. Please.” But now she’s slumped against the passenger door crying, and then she opens the glove box and starts fumbling around for a napkin and I want to say something that’s going to make it better, clean the floating anger from the air so we can both breathe. I restrain myself from telling her an interesting statistic on women over forty and remarriage. “Don’t cry, okay? We can figure this out.”
“Argh! That’s from that stupid male-female whatever-relations book you read, David! Stop saying things like that!” She’s now crying and pissed. I can work with that a little better.
“It’s called Speaking Their Language, and it happens to be true. We can figure this out.”
“That stupid book is written by a man and it’s all about placating the ‘crazy-emotional woman’’’—here she uses her fingers in the air to denote quotes, but I assure you, the book never once says the exact phrase, crazy-emotional woman—“and Carol told you that book was insulting to women and to me because it invalidates my feelings and gives you a goddamned emotional escape route when you should be facing the issue!”
Yeah, she has a point. The whole book is about learning how to dodge the old estrogen bullets. And I realize that’s totally sexist. But who the fuck isn’t a sexist? I am. She is. You are. We’re all sexist. I really want to talk to her about how we’re all sexist, and that gives me hope that maybe I’m learning to open up. I try some things out in my head—a skill I learned from that book, thankyouverymuch, the whole “think it through before you spill it” technique, and it has headed off many-a hairy traps.
I hear my inner voice speaking calmly to her: I know you think that book is sexist, Chris, but aren’t we all a little sexist? Hm? No. I could go on the offensive: You don’t like that book because it was written by a man. You are a man hater. That’s why I don’t feel safe talking to you. Hmm. Doesn’t feel right and isn’t exactly true. Okay, I have a vague sense of something…
“Isn’t why that’s we’re in therapy? To figure stuff out? We’re in a car, stuck in traffic, late, and it’s hot and we’re tired and…isn’t that all just a recipe for disaster? Can we just give it a break for a while until we can really talk?” Okay, that, ladies and gents, that was freaking brilliant. I won’t deconstruct for you how that was brilliant, but it was. I know it’s brilliant, too, because her face changes and she starts taking some deep breaths.
She speaks quietly and I start to feel relief.
“You know, Dave…it’s Carol’s job to facilitate the process, but it’s our job to figure it out. And if you aren’t even going to try, why should I?”
Okay, so the relief may have been premature. I replay what she said and I take a deep breath. Then I remember something from the book and I’m sure it will work. I glance and her and reach for her hand.
“I feel really close to you right now.”
I’m undesirably surprised when she tears her hand away, shakes her head and bows it, her hand now covering her forehead. I honestly don’t get it. In chapter twelve, that’s listed as one of the sure-fire ways to placate a crazy-emotional woman. Not that it says that.