Periodically, when my despair of ever finding another job is highest, I begin to fume about the unfairness of my current situation. I think about the people who did this to me. In fitful wakefulness, late at night and early in the morning, I concoct elaborate and fanciful schemes of revenge. Some of these are more violent than others. Most of them are beyond my ability to execute. None of them is particularly satisfying in the imagining, but this does not deter me very much.
I have envisioned an explosion in the Albatross parking lot that sends Quentin’s Mercedes hurtling skyward, end-over-end in a ball of flames. I have watched Rod’s pick-up being loaded onto a flatbed truck and delivered to an auto recycler where it is compacted and shredded. I hope that his laptop is inside, full up with color coded spreadsheets. I have witnessed Ringcomme, stalking wild boar on a grassy hillside, split in two by a jagged flash of lightning. When the smoke clears, his favorite rifle lies atop his smoldering ashes. I have thrilled to see Fritz sent sprawling down a marble staircase, limbs akimbo, cracking his skill on every other step, to land lifeless and disjointed next to his shattered glasses.
These visions may not be satisfying, but they are entertaining to me—so much so that I felt compelled to confess them to a priest. There must be something sinful in taking perverse pleasure contemplating vengeful mayhem on the authors of my unhappiness.
The priest seemed to agree, at least insofar as he thought that these musings would eventually poison my spiritual life and dim the inner light that I ought to be tending. He recommended that whenever I felt compelled to daydream the visitation of bad karma on my enemies I ought instead to recite the Prayer of Saint Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon:
where there is doubt, faith ;
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
where there is sadness, joy
O divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
This is a lovely prayer, encapsulating as it does the essence of the proper Christian response to life’s troubles. It is also a beautiful sentiment in its own right, possessing an elegance of humility in the heart of its contrariness. It is that contrariness that appeals to me—its call to a flinty perfection that upends our every natural inclination. It is a hard thing to do, to sow love and pardon and faith and joy, when the only place to get those seeds is from the depleted stores of your own sorry heart. I know. I can say the prayer, but like most Christians, I fall on my face when it comes time to put it into practice.
It is doubly hard for me, I think, because I have a resource that most people do not. I can visit destruction upon my enemies without retribution. I can heap karmic retribution on Rod and Quentin and Bill and Fritz without fear of getting arrested, standing trial, or going to jail. I might roast in hell for it, but that would include the satisfaction of standing next to them and watching their torment. Well, to be honest, I can’t actually do it, but my wife can. My wife can kill a guy by wishing it so. She already did it once.
My wife has been in the real estate business for most of her adult life. When we lived on the other coast she managed several commercial properties including a large office complex. One of her tenants was an unctuous self-employed businessman of indeterminate occupation. It turned out that he was a con-man, but of course there was no way to know that until he was no longer conning anyone because he was dead.
On the fateful day of this fellow’s untimely demise, he tried to engage my wife in an unseemly and too familiar embrace. In her words, “he went for side boob.” My wife was wary because he had tried on numerous previous occasions to invade her space to the point of inappropriate contact, and so she was able to avoid having her goodies actually fondled. She was however incensed by the constant effort required to fend off his advances. She’d had it ‘up to here’ with the guy, which occasioned her to remark to the maintenance man that she “wanted him dead.” Her ire for the moment vented, she went on about her business.
That very afternoon the smarmy con artist went down to the local office of the DMV to renew his driver’s license—one of a half-dozen he had in his possession as it turned out, all issued under different names. Unfortunately for him he picked a day to do this when my wife had wished him dead, for when he reached the window and announced the name on the license he wanted to renew, he was recognized by an off-duty lady police officer who was standing in line behind him. She had in fact been looking for him to execute a warrant for his arrest. She decided there was no time like the present to do just that. There he was, within her grasp. She wouldn’t have to continue looking all over town for him. She announced her intention.
Smarmy con-man panicked. He snapped open his brief case, spilling most of its contents all over the waiting area of the DMV office, but coming up with the one item he wanted most desperately to retrieve—a .45 caliber revolver. The lady police officer had not anticipated this development. What for her had started out as a simple serendipitous opportunity to arrest a guy in a suit and tie on a misdemeanor bogus check charge had turned suddenly into a potentially lethal hostage situation. She drew her piece, and a stalemate of sorts was established.
One of the DMV clerks called the police, and in a short period of time the place was surrounded by a lot of regular police and a tactical response team complete with helmets, flak vests, and assault rifles. Among the first to arrive, coincidentally adding further to smarmy con-man’s extreme misfortune, was the husband of the off-duty lady police officer. Presumably the two had vowed not only to love, honor and cherish one another all the days of their lives, but also to have one another’s backs in the event of any tense armed conflict. It would also seem that they had rehearsed between them a number of scenarios in which they would be called upon to take out a bad guy while insuring one another’s relative safety.
The husband leapt to the fore, signaled for his wife’s attention, called an audible, and in short order the con-man was laying dead on the floor of the DMV waiting area in a pool of his own smarmy blood.
My wife learned of all these events the next day when the FBI showed up at her office to gather information about the con-man and as much detail about his activities as anyone there might be able to recall. She was visibly shaken when she came home that night.
“I killed a guy,” she said. “I wished him dead, and he died…the same day. I killed him.”
I tried to comfort her. “No you didn’t. It was just a coincidence. He’d have been killed anyway. He made bad choices.”
“No, it was me,” she said, and with finality.
If true, this is more than a little scary, but in a totally awesome kind of way. On the one hand it has helped me to stay faithful for years no matter how many nurses I wake up to in various recovery rooms. On the other it is a power that ought to be used for good. I continue to tell my wife that she shouldn’t worry about it, that it was just one of those things. Secretly, though I hope that it’s true. After all she loves me. Maybe I can prevail upon her to use her powers on my behalf. Not that I am particularly vengeful or inclined to violence, but I have started a list. There are people who need killing, and I think you know who they are.