“You’ve got to be fuckin’ kidding me. I’m supposed to pour my heart out to you with that”, he pointed at the life size mural on the wall, “reminder staring at me?”
The iconic mural adorned many a young teen’s room, and graced office buildings and government buildings across the United States. After all, John Carpenter stood for America and the American dream. If he didn’t inspire you, sitting on the Moon, looking back at Earth, nothing could.
Randolph Johnathon Carpenter would disagree. He’d tell you that mural constituted the bane of his existence.
“What do you mean, Johnny, the poster? What’s wrong with it? That’s quite an inspiration if you ask me. Man’s finest hour. Why would that bother you?” Dr. Jenna Blanchard felt confused. As a counselor and Psychiatrist she had some handle on human behavior and psychology. Most would say she had amazing insight.
“That’s my fuckin’ father up there inspiring the whole universe. Get the picture now? Didn’t have five minutes for his own son, mind you. But he makes a nice hero I think. He’s not shit to me though and I sure as hell ain’t shit to him. I don’t suppose you can replace that with a picture of Charlie Brown maybe? He’s more my speed.”
Jenna had a lapse in her usual cool professional demeanor. “What the fuck? You’re telling me you’re John Carpenter’s kid? Holy shit. What happened?” She caught herself a long moment too late. “What I mean is, I would think with all that opportunity you’d have taken a different path. I wouldn’t think you’d have to be living in a shelter if it wasn’t your choice. Did he disown you? What the hell happened?”
“What’s the point? He’s an American icon and I’m … I’m this. Does it really matter. Hey, he’s an abusive nasty fuck. He raped and killed my sister and beat me for trying to stop him. How’s that sound. SECURITY! Get a strait jacket. Bring a gurney. We need five point restraints here. This mutha fucker’s craaaazy. What else you wanna know? I prefer shock treatment to Thorazine. It’s exhilarating.”
Jenna looked at him with no expression. She’d regained full composure and his rant didn’t shock her. Rants like this were a dime a dozen on skid row. One thing she knew, all had at least a kernel of truth to them.
“So, where’s the goon squad? You’re going to handle me on your own?” Johnny crossed his legs with a ritualistic air. He stared at the doctor, but not in defiance. He set his jaw, clenched, but not tense, anticipating her answer.
“Handle? I don’t think you need handling. I’m here to help. I do think you need help. You strike me as having too much going for you to be a resident of the Midnight Mission, or a street dweller. You have obvious issues with your father. Are they true, or are you just telling tales out of resentment? Well, I have no reason to doubt you, but I have no reason to accept them as Gospel either. It seems a little farfetched that one of the great American heroes of the twentieth century could be a child rapist and a murderer. I recall some controversy, but he was completely exonerated.
“He killed her. So, that would be a problem. The coroner ruled it an accident. The police didn’t find me to be a credible witness. He drowned her in the bathtub. I tried to stop him, but he didn’t have much trouble handling my dead drunk ass. I was almost passed out anyway. But, I’ll never forget the sight of him holding her under water or the pure look of evil joy on his face.” Johnny looked like a little boy near tears. “You don’t believe me, no one does.” Near tears no longer described him, but they each came with a fight.
“It’s a hard to believe story, Johnny, and I won’t lie and say you’re a credible witness. I’m not saying I don’t believe you though. I don’t sense insincerity. I sense hurt. I sense the yearning for recompense. Within that exists a world where reality can obscure or it can reveal. I can’t blindly decide which. Would you trust me if I did? Officially, what was the conclusion?” She stared intently, ignoring the tears. She couldn’t consider them at this juncture. She had to look beyond them for the moment.
“Accidental death due to drowning. Oh fuck, man! His hand prints were clearly on her neck. The expression on her face said it all … utter terror, man. Blind terror as her own father murdered her. The raping bastard. Yeah, her big brother, too drunk to get off the floor to lift a finger. An accident alright. An accident of birth. Some plan, God. A real beaut. The raping father lives, the worthless drunk brother lives, the innocent child dies. Yep,” his eyes were dry now and no expression graced his face, “accidental death due to drowning. Tie a yellow ribbon. Walk on the moon. Let’s make a poster. All hail, send his son to jail. What’s up pops, no mail?”
“I’d like you to spend a few days here, Johnny. We can chat a little. Three squares and a cot. Beats the street. Can ya dig the beat? Take a load off your feet.” She smiled and conveyed sincerity and something more.
Johnny remained silent for quite some time. He surveyed the contents of her office. Pictures of kids, no husband, how foolish to let a thought like that on board he considered. Degrees, of course, a serious woman, a smart woman … an award or two, a caring woman, worthy. A slinky, hers no doubt about it … books, lots of books, she’s read them all. “Sure, my feet are imploring me, it’s a good idea. This isn't committing myself, is it? I can go when I want, yes?”
“Voluntary. Attend some meetings … if you want. Talk to me, mandatory. See how it goes. Maybe, maybe I believe you, Johnny. That’s a start.” She leaned forward and spoke, “Earl? I need you to escort this gentleman to a room please.” She smiled. Just a smile.
In a few moments a hulk of a man, who wasn’t the least bit intimidating, collected Johnny and escorted him to a surprisingly welcoming room. A T.V. already broadcasted a Seinfeld rerun. The setting sun looked to be in order as it sent a few final beams dancing on the wall. Yes, it beat the street.
“Dinner’s in an hour. Make yourself at home. Shower’s down the hall, not after ten though and not before nine. Try not to drive anyone nuts, let me know if you're driven nuts. That’s about it. I’m Earl the Pearl.” It was near a pirouette employed as he turned and exited with a flourish.
Several days passed uneventfully. Johnny met with Dr. Blanchard and more importantly the alcohol and drugs left his body, and some semblance of health, both mental and physical, began to take hold of him. Discussion continued and Jenna began to formulate her assessment of Johnny’s story about his father in her own mind. This led to a phone call.
~~~~~~~~~The Phone Call
“Yes, Mr. Carpenter, thank you so much for taking my call. This is Dr. Jenna Blanchard at the Mission of Hope Clinic in Los Angeles. I’m treating your son, Randolph, and I’d like to report to you he is doing well.”
“I see. I do appreciate you taking the time, Dr. Blanchard. I’m sorry to say my son and I are estranged for reasons I don’t care to go into. We haven’t spoken in years. I’m pleased if he’s taking responsibility for his life and making forward progress. But you see, there’s nothing I can offer him. I do offer you my thanks. I’m not a part of his life, but I certainly wish him well. Thank you for calling.”
“Wait! Please hear me out for just a minute. You may never get another chance at this. I believe I’m on the verge of breaking through his long held delusions about the death of his sister. I know you have a stake in that, Mr. Carpenter. It can’t be beneficial having your son running wild, talking to the tabloids, making wild false accusations. They may be the false ramblings of a troubled boy, but you know as I do, people hear things, and they stick in their heads, yes?”
“Indeed, I can tell you firsthand, it is the truth. I’d give anything for him to come to his senses. I lost two children that day, Doctor, a daughter and a son. The road to nowhere had already become a familiar route to him. His sister’s death just quickened the pace. What could I do … I mean, he witnessed against me … he accused his own father of murder. Of course, it was insane, and I was found completely innocent, never charged, but the pain of it never leaves me. You say he’s on the verge? The verge of ….”
“Yes. He knows he was blacked out and couldn’t possibly have a clue. I want you to sit in on a session with him. You have no worries, I’ll be there. There’s a chance he’ll see reality. As his doctor, I’m looking out for his best interests. But I know it would be in your interests too for him to come to reality, yes?”
“Well … boy, oh boy. This is out of the blue. If you think there’s a chance … then, yes … yes, I’ll do as you ask.”
Plans were made and times were set.
“Good morning, Johnny.”
“Gee, why so formal, Doc? Someone die?”
“You’re going to have to trust me today, Johnny. I know trust is not something that comes easy to you. I want you to know, I believe in you. Do you believe me?”
Johnny paused, looked at the floor and then looked directly at Dr. Blanchard. “Yes, I think I actually do. I’m not sure why, but I think I do. Why the serious tone. What is this?”
“Your father is coming. I invited him. I’m going to start a session with the two of you, then I’m going to have you both go into a private room to talk alone. I want you to try and get the truth out of him one way or another. Do you understand? It doesn’t matter if the world knows, Johnny. It only matters that you know. He may tell you … IF he’s that arrogant. I’m betting he is. If not? We gave it a shot and at the very least you’ll see he doesn’t own you. You can face him on your own two feet. You know I believe you can do that, right? You can stand up to him. I want you to do that right now.”
Johnny looked perplexed and his bottom jaw moved side to side while his tongue sought a comfortable resting spot in his mouth. “Ah … okay then. I get it.” He nodded.
Dr. Blanchard leaned into the intercom. “Send Mr. Carpenter in, please.”
Earl the Pearl towered above John Carpenter who, nonetheless, had a hero’s glow about him. He looked to have climbed right off that damn poster and into the room. Earl slipped from the room like a gazelle you thought you saw in a forest glade, and John Carpenter took a seat by his son without acknowledging him.
Dr. Blanchard broke the silence. “There are a couple forms to sign, adoption papers and the like.”
Johnny laughed, and after an overly long delay, Mr. Carpenter managed a fake chuckle.
“This just says we monitor all sessions and often record for reference. All sessions are protected by doctor-patient confidentiality, of course. A medical release … ah, in case you have a stroke etc. A guest sign in sheet … all the usual formalities. How does it feel to see your father after all these years, Johnny?” She sounded downright festive.
“Well, I haven’t seen him except for that poster in so long. Hell, I haven’t seen anything through sober eyes in so long. I guess nervous, scared, angry, maybe hopeful. Maybe some truth will come out today. Maybe I’ll find out if I know what I thought I knew … maybe I’ll find out I’ve pissed my life away and I’ve known nothing but my own excuses to be worthless. I don’t know. It’s not a tearful reunion.”
Mr. Carpenter stared straight ahead and spoke to the air in front of him. “Perhaps, your life can begin today … son.” He said “son” like it was a burst appendix risen through his digestive tract to the tip of his tongue where it simply fell off.
Again, silence threatened to drown the two Carpenter men as it sucked up the air like a wildfire.
The Doctor’s voice sounded loud and eerily cheerful as she spoke, “This is most inappropriate, I realize, but my niece begged me.” She pushed an 8 x 10 glossy print of the famous Man on the Moon poster in front of John Carpenter with a pink pen replete with fluffy pink feathers adorning it. “Please, to Lucy Ann, wish you were here.” She giggled like a school girl.
Nothing could’ve been more out of character in Johnny’s eyes. He looked up to catch her gaze she returned it with an all knowing, I know exactly what I’m doing response. He imperceptibly nodded his head. She had a plan. He had no clue what it might be. She turned back to Mr. Carpenter with an almost glassy-eyed stare.
John Carpenter signed the photo and his shoulders lost a great deal of tension. “How’s that?” He leered at her would be the best descriptor. His eyes fixated on her cleavage as she seemed to pause leaning forward to retrieve the photo. She glanced up briefly to make eye contact.
Dr. Blanchard smiled broadly as she ogled the results. “Oh my God! She’ll be so thrilled. Thank you so much."
"Think nothing of it, dear. I get it all the time. I don't mind at all." His eyes moved up and down here body as she observed. He then made eye contact with his son who averted his gaze.
"Well, this is going well. In my talks with Johnny boy, I’ve come to believe he was blacked out when his sister drowned on that awful day. I think he’s beginning to realize it as well. I’d like the two of you to try and recall the events of that day in private. There’s a good chance you’ll come to an understanding of what really happened. It’s more of a chance for Johnny to finally believe in you. He has no reason not to. HE was the one who failed. He needs to face that. Just go through that door right there. Knock on the door if you need anything.”
As though there was no choice in the matter, both men arose and headed to the door and the room behind it.
~~~~~~Father and Son, The Meeting
John Carpenter wasted no time. “I could be at home right this minute relaxing. I hope you appreciate what I’m doing after all the hell you’ve put me through.”
“Sure, Dad. What can I say. I know what I know.”
“Do you think it matters a fuck what you know? I walked on the moon, you little turd. You’re a skid row drunk. Do you think you matter? You’re a fuckin’ insect buzzing around my ear. If you’d just shut the fuck up, I might make life a little easier for you.”
“I have shut up, Dear Father. What choice do I have? You’re supposed to be telling me what really happened. I’ve already heard your lecture a thousand times.”
“The whole world knows what happened. Your damn sister drowned in the fuckin’ bathtub while you stretched out drunk in the hallway. What’s the mystery?”
“I was shit faced … yeah … drunk as shit, nothing new. I wasn’t passed out, pops. I saw you holding her down ... also, sneaking into her room night after night. I heard her crying and moaning in pain as you viciously fucked her … fucked your own daughter. I wasn’t too drunk to hear all that. I was just too pathetic to do anything about it. Is that what you’re going to tell me?”
“Why tell you what you already know? My daddy fucked me every time I fucked up … beat me too. I thank him every time I see that poster. I thank him every time some young thing sucks my cock. You know why, Son? Because it made me the kind of man who walks on the moon. Shit. You’ve got that cunt doctor snowed out there. Ha! I’ll give you that. But you saw her face when she realized who she was talking to. Yep, the man in that poster. The moon man. America’s hero. You think she believes you now? Get real.”
“So tell me, Daddy, why’d you kill her.”
“She was going to tell her fuckin’ teacher! You think I could allow that. My flight was two weeks off. A flight to the moon for Christ's fuckin' sakes. She would’ve cost me that. I had no choice. Don’t you see that? She could’ve been the daughter of the man who walked on the moon. She wanted to destroy that, just like you always have. Tough luck little girl. Sayonara. Go tell your cunt doctor I told you that. I’ll tell her you had a relapse and oh sorrow, so sad, I thought he was going to come around this time, boo hoo. He’s still in a dream land. Fill him up with booze and throw him in the alley. Say, Doc, wanna suck a cock that’s been on the moon. Ha! Talk away, you little punk. It’s been ten years and got you nowhere.”
Johnny picked up his chair and threw it at the wall. “I want the truth out of you, you bastard! Admit it! You killed my sister. You fucked her for years and then you killed her. Say it to the world, hero!”
Mr. Carpenter headed towards the door. “Help! Help! He’s out of control.”
Johnny blocked his path. “Say it out loud just one time. You killed her. You raped her. Call Channel 7, he's gonna come clean."
“Help. For God’s sake. He’s going to hurt me.” He had a huge smile on his face. He whispered to Johnny, “Keep it up boy, your credibility’s rising by leaps and bounds. Throw something else. Take a swing at me, ya little punk … HELP ME! OH GOD! I THINK HE’S GOING TO KILL ME!” He could barely keep from laughing.
The door burst open and Earl the Pearl filled the room along with another man half his size. Dr. Blanchard was with them.
“Oh, thank God. Put that crazy bastard in restraints before he hurts me. Christ, what kind of an outfit are you running here?”
Johnny backed into the corner and tensed up. He’d seen this scene many times. He wasn’t about to go down without a fight. His father had confessed and now he was going to be the one in trouble. Why had Jenna done this? What did she think would happen, a big hug and sloppy kiss? You win again, Dad. "Bring it on, fuckers!"
Earl grabbed John Carpenter’s right arm and thrust it behind his back and pushed it up to the middle of his back immobilizing him. The man with him grabbed his left arm and simply held it steady.
As local sheriffs arrived on the scene and began to handcuff Mr. Carpenter, he cried out, “What the fuck are you doing, he’s the one assaulting me?” He nodded towards his son.
“Mr. Carpenter, you’re under arrest for the murder of Laurie Carpenter. You have the right to remain silent, you have the right to … “
“Where’s your evidence? What the fuck … I walked on the moon!”
“Video confession, moon man. Signed consent.” Dr. Blanchard didn’t look back as she approached Johnny and embraced him.
All the tension left Johnny’s body as the full realization of what had occurred began to sink in. “You ... you believed me.”
“Of course I did, Johnny. You’re no liar.”