Suicide Square (Pt. 3)

Part Three

Suicide Square (Pt. 3)
Kelley Square, Worcester, Massachusetts

~ Chapter Four ~

“Suicide Square,” in its day, was a remarkable cacophony of engineering idiotcracy that was a true sight to behold, never mind attempt to maneuver across safely. Imagine, if you can, six intersecting streets consisting of: a freeway on ramp, a freeway off ramp, two major arteries and two secondary streets all converging, intersecting, like knife slices in a pie, into this kind of free-for-all, demolition derby-like madness called Kelly Square. No signs, no traffic lights, no islands, no rotaries, no directions, no suggestions… just fucking drive… or don’t… but if ya don’t, you are liable to get plowed into or run the fuck over, so just drive… and pray, if you are so inclined. My mom, back in the day, closed her eyes and floored the goddamn gas to get from one side to the other… no shit. She scared the living shit out of me every time she drove, truth be told. And it was here… at ‘Suicide’ Square… I decided in a flash of highly questionable genius or not so questionable stupidity, where I intended to lose those two Worcester cops, at about 80 mph or so… and for a brief second, I wondered… do they have the balls to try the same thing?

I came flying up on a traffic-filled “Suicide Square” at about 70, down shifted the Boss from fourth to third, grabbed some brakes and cut the wheel hard to the left, then immediately back to the right, sliding sideways into the middle of the square, in between two cars going in the opposite directions. Upon coming up on this, the first cop behind me; no balls here, slammed on his brakes, lost control of his car and went careening into the Square, slamming into the front end of some poor fuck’s oncoming car. Fucking idiot, Ha! (The Worcester cops were the worst frickin’ drivers, I swear!) I then grabbed second, popped the clutch and punched the Mustang in the midst of the slide and got thrown violently back into the drivers’ seat as I rocketed straight out of the middle of the square and up Vernon Street, almost losing it, fish-tailing radically, as I got onto I-290 to head south, with the second police cruiser trying to weave its way through the chaos I had just left behind. Once on the freeway, I lost sight of the second cruiser within a half a mile, and by the time I exited at Auburn Street, a few minutes later, there was not a cop to be found or in sight. I got the Boss up to about a buck thirty (130 mph) on I-290!!! Man, what an amazing ride!! Still, I could not imagine driving around undetected in that bright Grabber Blue Mustang much longer, ‘cuz as soon as the BOLO (Be On The Lookout) went out over the teletype, that car was going to be hotter ‘n hell all over Worcester County, so I ditched the Boss in Auburn… with great reluctance, I might add, because just a couple of days prior to this, I got shot at somewhere in the vicinity while stealing an Auburn cop’s personal Harley with my cousin Randy, and really didn’t relish the idea of walking anywhere around there—but we got away with the Harley… so, what the fuck, right? I parked the Mustang on a dirt road on the back side of a well-to-do, sleepy little bedroom neighborhood, wiped it down for prints and went prowling around Auburn at dusk looking for another car to steal and hopin’ I didn’t get shot at again… Christ, I hate it when that happens…

Night time (after 6 PM) and sleep has always been pretty fuckin’ impossible for me at worst, difficult at best. I heard a line from a television show recently that kind of jolted my attention and took me for a little stroll down nightmare memory lane. The line “The night is dark and full of terrors…” made me laugh out loud at first, in a nervous, false bravado kind of way; so far removed from the actual physical and emotional events of the night horrors I experienced in my early childhood and teenage years, but still just-under-my-skin close enough in memory and long-term impact to clearly resonate to the core of my mentally fragile being. Indeed, the night was dark and full of terrors. Ha! What a fucking understatement…*sigh*… I am not quite sure how much graphic detail I will get into during the telling of this story with regards to all I experienced in those early years of my childhood. There are many who know nothing of the dark childhood secrets I harbor, and I am not sure, after all these years, if I mean to tell them or the rest of the world either, for that matter.

Nevertheless, I’m sure enough of that human fuckin’ tragedy will come out during the writing of this memoir, as it is indispensable to coming to terms with all that followed and all that occurred as a result. Suffice to say, for the moment; that traumatic, terrorizing and horrific enough things happened to me in the dark during my developing years to permanently affect and forever alter my ability to sleep, especially in the presence of others. For the longest time, I gave up on normal sleep all together and just did drugs to either pass out or to stay awake—eventually, lots of drugs, and sometimes; I did more fuckin’ drugs and combinations of drugs than anyone would ever think humanly possible. As I was quite fond of sayin’ back then, “I just can’t get high enough, fast enough…”

Indeed, at the time, in their capacity, drugs were my salvation, my sanctuary and my deliverance. They were a warm, soft hug in a small, quiet, dark chamber of blissful solitude, far removed from the kaleidoscope of maddening memories, filled with rage and despair, that incessantly tore through my splintered sensitivity. Indeed, sometimes, drugs sheltered me and the rest of the world from the inner madness of my malicious and malevolent mind. A mind and emotional state created by the sociopathic hate, bigotry and alcoholic rage of one sadistically brutal and violent person and the neglect of another, to protect me from such things. Sadly, my drug use is also my downfall and my “undoing.” I will die very soon because of them…

~ Chapter Five ~

The town of Auburn, Massachusetts in the mid 70s and much like the rest of the surrounding towns that made up southern Worcester County were, at the time, primarily white, blue collar and middle class but unlike those other towns, Auburn also had a couple of newly constructed upper middle class, white collar neighborhoods with huge houses, vast lawns, long driveways and in ground swimming pools. Though the sun was setting, it seemed to have warmed some and big, fluffy snowflakes were lazily spinning to the ground when I dumped the Boss on a dirt road off of Pollier and by the time I bounded out of the woods onto Sherwood Road, the last remaining light was fading; although most of the houses were brightly lit up in the various blinking and twinkling colors of Christmas; the widows casting warm, inviting glows on the newly falling snow that was covering expansive, finely manicured lawns.

As I walked from one end of Sherwood to the other, both ends of the street came to a dead end. In the middle, Inwood Road intersected with Sherwood at a “T” and was the only way in and out of there. As I walked past Inwood, among the many vehicles parked in front of one house, I noticed the tell-tale “Continental” hump on the trunk of a Lincoln Mark III parked in the driveway and went over to check it out. It was parked in the driveway of large, split-level home, with a two-car garage and two other cars parked to its right, one behind the other. The Lincoln was parked closest to the front door of the house, (about 25 feet) and in clear view of a massive bay picture window that looked out over the driveway. A massive bay picture window that was also full of well-dressed people mingling around, participating in what looked to be a Christmas party. A massive bay picture window that someone, later on that evening, would be staring out of, in absolute wonderment, at how someone manage to make off with their car, from literally, right beneath their fuckin’ nose... Ha!!... but… for now, the trick was to get everybody out of that widow long enough first to get the car out of the driveway…unfortunately, after what occurred, there would certainly be no wonderment about how for the owner of that Mark III on this evening.

So, why not, some may ask, just go find an easier, less risky car to steal, right? Why not one in the middle of a store parking lot or one at least parked on the street and not parked in someone’s driveway, under a massive picture window, with the owner standing in it, greatly increasing the likelihood of getting caught? Man, if I had ever possessed the answer to those types of questions, I surely could have and would have saved myself from a whole lot of trouble and the State; a whole shit load of money. I now know, after years of study, aside from the Antisocial Personality thing, the “disconnect" I experience is a side effect of brain chemical production when in a PTSD hyper-vigilant but concurring dissociative state. Simply put, my brain, under stress, seems to shut down the neural-transmitters that regulate “peripheral, cognitive and deductive reasoning.” One of its functions is the “little voice” or that part of your brain that reasonably but ultimately says “no” when presented with or contemplating doing something you inherently know you should not do or is risky or harmful. My brain, instead, becomes hyper focused on what it perceives “needs” to be done in attempt to mitigate stress without the capacity to decide or contemplate whether or not it should be done, thereby, shutting out all logic and reason peripherally. Kind of like someone running into a burning building without thinking. In other words, in that state, I am not capable of thinking about anything else or reasoning through any alternatives—because there aren’t any alternatives neurologically available to me due to the maladapted, dysfunctional “hard-wiring” of my brain and the damaged state of the neural pathways that regulate my emotional and cognitive processes. And with that description, as you can well imagine, this, among other PTSD related and non-related disorders, has caused for me and for many I have encountered throughout my entire life, an incredibly copious and perplexing amount of conflict and suffering that unfortunately continues to this very day.

I bring these thoughts to bear now because of what occurred that day back in Auburn and because of what will become a re-occurring theme, throughout the telling of this story. My only intent was to distract the people in the window long enough to get the car out of the driveway undetected, never thinking beyond that specific need or about the possible consequences of my actions. I just needed a place to stay; certainly, and while no thought was given to such a thing, there were unarguably much easier cars to steal but I needed out of the cold like now… and…and… and… Christ…

As I walked between the parked cars, I immediately noticed the passenger door of the Lincoln had a “slip lock,” but it was unlocked. I almost laughed aloud. Ironic, really, in a sad kind of way because I fuckin’ hated slip locks; they are a son-of-a-bitch to open from the outside and had the Lincoln not been unlocked, I would not have wrestled with those slip locks for however long it would have taken to get that prick open (we’re talking minutes here and not seconds), while standing in that driveway, in front of that window, occupied or not and run the risk of being seen…not ever, so, go figure!!! Ha!!! Anyways, at seeing the door unlocked, an ill-conceived plan came to mind and got stuck there. I continued pass the cars, onto the back of the house and found a sprawling redwood deck. Next to sliding glass doors, on the deck, were two large trash cans. I then turned around and headed back to the Lincoln. When I got back to the cars, a rather handsome man was standing, well, kind of swaying, really, in the window, looking out, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other and he appeared to be singing. Either he was too inebriated to notice, or my reaction was quicker, but I managed not to attract his attention as I quickly dove to crouch down behind the Monte Carlo parked next to the Lincoln and I waited. A few moments later, a tall, lithe, stunning brunette sauntered up next to him and with a vivacious laugh over something he said that I am sure was either witty or vulgar, pulled him back into the room and into her arms. As they moved to turn, I moved and as I watched their heads come together in a kiss, I was crawling into the Lincoln, quickly shutting the door and laying down on the floor, as the front seat was viewable from the window, I was just sure of it.

Ten seconds later, the Lincoln’s ignition is “popped” and on the floor next to me, and the car is ready to start. I reach up quickly and tear the dome light from the interior roof, then open the door and crawl back out of the car, closing the door silently behind me as I head back to the rear of the house and those trash cans. The crunching of ice encrusted snow under my feet sounds to me like it could be heard for miles. I am sure my heart is beating just as loud as well, as it pounds into the walls of my chest; my heightened senses are like a drug coursing through my veins, my awareness cold, crisp, calculated and vibrant, my vision and hearing acute, and my muscles are tense and pumping to the rhythm of my heartbeat.

Through the kitchen that lies beyond the sliding doors and into a dining room, five or six people are milling around a table laced with holiday foods, cakes, pies ,and treats and further into the house, in what I believe was the living room, over-looking the driveway, were another 10 or so people in various stages of eating and drinking. As I made my way all around the deck from one side to the other and was about to open an aluminum 30-gallon trash can to peer inside, I found, instead, sitting next to the trash can, a small, red two and a half gallon gas can, ‘bout half full… It was only supposed to be a small trash fire; just big enough to get everyone running out the back door to see it. However, what started out as a plan to light a small fire in a trash can, turned into a near catastrophe as I reached for the gas can, poured some gas on the full can of trash, tossed one can into the other, lit a match, tossed it and ran…

~Chapter Six~

Somehow, somewhere along the line, I seemed to have developed a rather profound and inexplicable early fascination with fire, which may be directly connected to my two earliest childhood memories, both of which involve fire. In the earliest memory of the two, at approximately age two and a half, I vividly recall sitting at my grandmothers dining room table, on my Uncle Kenny’s lap, who was trying to teach me how to “strike” a match to light his cigarette for him. As the story goes, while this was occurring; my grandmother, mother and her two sisters, my Aunt Bev and Aunt Sandy, were all discussing a newspaper article about a book burning that had occurred earlier that week, in Boston (1963). Later that evening, at approximately 4 AM, I climbed out of my crib, found the same book of matches, still on the dining room table used earlier to light my Uncle Kenny’s “Lucky Strike” cigarette, proceeded to a closet used for storage and lit a pile of magazines and newspapers on fire, causing the entire three Decker, six family structure on Florence Street to burn to the ground…

I remember all of us in the backyard, blackened and covered in soot and smoke, (everyone got out safely, no one was injured) talking to the firemen afterwards or… well… they were talking to me and my Mom… with this big circle of people standing around just staring at us. My Mom was crying and looked so scared that it still saddens me deeply and profusely to remember her face on that day.

My second earliest memory comes at about age four. It begins with me sitting on the parlor floor, holding a book of matches and then me being violently kicked across the room, kicked and stomped on repeatedly, dragged to the kitchen by my arm, being held down on the cold linoleum floor… and lit on fire. I have two memories of this event. In the first, I recall the memory in the first person; as the person being lit on fire. The smell of burning Sulphur from matches or the odor of burning hair triggers this memory and its all its’ terror filled emotions. The second memory, however, is much more profound and unsettling for me because I am observing myself being lit on fire; as a casual, emotionally detached observer in the room. Of the two, this is the much more vivid memory and typically shows up in nightmares or as an intrusive thought or accompanied by blood curdling screams of a burning child that I sometimes wake up to… in an exaggeratedly startled, panicked, highly agitated and confused state.

Now, one would think having had such horrendous, traumatic experiences, like burning down a house and being intentionally set on fire, would cause one to avoid fire at all cost, right? Seems a reasonable assumption but I ask that question because of what happened that night back in Auburn. There was a semblance of rational thought given to the plan of lighting a small fire to cause a diversion that all inexplicably changed at the mere sight of that can of gasoline. Again, a switch got flipped and without any thought or care what so ever to the consequences, (no little voice saying “HEY!! You shouldn’t do this”) I tossed that match which almost immediately caused an explosion, almost catching me on fire and spraying burning gas all over the majority of the deck and the back of the house… catching all it touched on fire. To further complicate matters, as I ran around to the front of the house to climb into the Lincoln, most of those inside were running out the door; not the back door to put out the small fire with everyone in the house looking on as planned, but out the front door to escape the fire and onto the lawn right next to where the Lincoln was parked—and just as I was coming around the corner for all to see (Where is that “little voice” when you really fuckin’ need it?). Rather than run and before they could react to seeing me, I dove into the passenger side of the Lincoln, instantly locking both doors, started the car and flew wildly in reverse out of the driveway and onto the street in the wrong direction. As I turned my head to look back at the house, which was now definitely on fire, people were running towards the car shouting silly ass shit like “Stop,” (Ummm… just NO!!) “Get out of the car” (Yeah right!!) and everyone’s favorite, “CALL THE POLICE!!!” (Holy Shit Batman!! Now there’s a novel idea!!) Then… something occurred… kinda fucked up really… I am not exactly sure what it was, with the house on fire and people running amok and all, but I instantaneously thought of this song by Charlie Daniel’s called “Uneasy Rider.” So, I cut a quick donut with the Lincoln and chased all them silly fuckers back towards the house as I whipped around through the front yard and headed for the only way out of there…

"Mario Andretti would've sure been proud

Of the way I was movin' when I passed that crowd

Comin' out the door and headed toward me in a trot

And I guess I shoulda' gone ahead and run

But, somehow, I just couldn't resist the fun

Of chasin' them all just once around the parking lot

Well, they headed for the car, but I hit the gas

And spun around and headed them off at the pass

I was slingin' gravel and puttin' a ton of dust in the air.

Well, I had them all out there steppin' and fetchin'

Like their heads were on fire and their asses was catching'

But I figured I'd better go ahead and split before the cops got there… "

(C. Daniels, Uneasy Rider, 1973)

Almost got one of them too… *sigh*…silly bastard… ran right out in front of me. He must have watched too much television as a kid or something ‘cuz he tried to jump on the hood of the car. As it turned out, he got smacked in the head with the passenger side windshield post for his valiant but ill-conceived efforts and luckily for the both of us, bounced far enough off the car that I didn’t run over his stupid ass with my rear wheels. As I looked back towards the flaming house one last time, the wail of a lone siren could be heard off in the distance… I did not pick up a newspaper for weeks afterwards, out of fear that I would stumble upon the details of what occurred that night and the damage I had caused. I never did find out the outcome of that night’s insanity. Not long after, I stopped reading newspapers all together… didn’t stop playing with fire though.

fact or fiction
J.K. Chenevert, BSCJ, CPS
J.K. Chenevert, BSCJ, CPS
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