Okay, here’s the next portion of Outlaw’s Mind, as I warned might be coming. As a reminder, or for those who aren’t aware, the “cold opening” was already published/posted here, and this is now the main part of the story beginning, which goes back in time from the opening.
Timothy Outlaw had always hated his name.
Not his first name. That was fine. Even though some people had called him “Timmy” when he was younger, and a few other kids had teased him once or twice about it, he knew that such teasing was not really about the apparent subject matter, but was merely a force looking for an outlet, and if the name had not provided it, something else would have. Even as a young child, he’d known that. He understood only too well the internal pressures that could occur within the mind, and how irresistible they could be. This wasn’t to say that he was fine with the teasing, but very few people teased him more than once or twice. This was part of his problem.
It was his last name that bothered Timothy so much. He had no idea where in his ancestry it had arisen, nor had his father, but Timothy wished that whoever it had been had thought things through a bit better. It was not in Timothy’s nature to seek a legal name change. Partly this was because he had at best an unpleasant relationship with the court system and all its representatives, but mostly it was because, along with less positive traits, he had inherited from his father a strong sense of loyalty and commitment, especially to his family.
That loyalty had not prevented his father from physically abusing his wife on many occasions, but Timothy understood that this was not because the elder Mr. Outlaw was a bad person. He simply carried an innate and terrible surplus of anger—or rather, he produced it in copious amounts in his nervous system. Some men are unusually hairy, some women are born to develop enormous breasts, some children are graced with an inherent love of and skill for music, or for math. Morris Outlaw had been born with a congenital tendency to feel intense and powerful, undirected anger. This tendency had led him to lose his wife, finally, even before he was killed in a bar fight by a man who had been carrying a concealed pistol while drinking shots of tequila.
It was a tendency that his son had inherited in an even more purified form.
But Timothy had learned from the object lesson of his father. He didn’t hate the man—not once he was mature enough to recognize the powerful force that had victimized Morris Outlaw as much as it had those around him—but he resolved not to be like him. He wanted to be a good citizen, a productive member of society, someone who created more than he destroyed. And if he were ever to have a family, and children, he wanted to be loved by them, not feared.
This might have sounded both simple and easy, and to most people—certainly to anyone committed to these ideals as Timothy was—they would have been readily achieved. But even from his earliest days, as long as he could remember, a seemingly endless reservoir of free-floating rage was produced in his being, like pus gathering in some horrible, spiritual abscess, building pressure until it exploded, spewed its infection onto all surrounding matter, and then began to gather again.
This was why he was rarely teased more than once by anyone in school. Though he did his best never to “start” anything with anyone, if someone started into him…well, they got a taste of what it would be like to try to enter the burrow of a honey badger. Young Timothy had sent more than one child, older and bigger than he, home or to the doctor, and once to the emergency room. It was entirely possible that, if he had not been surrounded by other people who were able to step in and overpower him, he would have killed someone—more than one—even at that young age. He knew this, knew how lucky he had been not to have done such a thing, because when he became possessed by his rages, all reason left him, and he desired nothing more than to savage the target of his fury until it could no longer move…preferably ever again.
His teachers, and the school administrators, and even his mother—marred though her opinion had been by her husband’s example—recognized that this anger was not deliberate. They had all seen that Timothy was a boy who wanted to be good, who wanted to do well in school, wanted to be a contributing member of society.
But because of his terrible and effectively uncontrollable temper, Timothy had often gotten into trouble. Diligent at his studies, respectful of his teachers, eager to take part in extracurricular activities, Timothy had nevertheless been sent to the principal, and often suspended from classes, on numerous occasions throughout his educational time. On many an occasion, while languishing alone at his house while his mother worked and his classmates did whatever they were doing, Timothy had come close to fatal despair. His mother kept no guns in the house, for more than one reason, and this probably kept Timothy from impulsively taking his own life at a young age. He hated himself, hated the rages that made him—when they gripped him—not merely wish but yearn for the violent destruction of everyone and everything around him. In those bleak moments, he told himself that while he had absolutely no right to harm or destroy other people or their property, he surely had that right over himself. Would it not make sense, then, to bring about his own end rather than potentially to harm other people? Would that not be the best course of justice?
If he’d had access to a firearm, the impulse toward preemptive self-destruction might have been carried out, since the manner of doing so would have been quick, violent, and irrevocable. However, on those occasions when he considered more methodical techniques, from pills to razors to nooses, the preparation needed allowed him time to consider the effects his suicide would have. He imagined his mother finding his dead body—perhaps accompanied by blood, or vomit, or a purpled face—and being stricken with the horror of it, being devastated not merely by the fact that her only son was dead, but also by the simple, traumatic fact of finding a grotesque corpse in her house.
He’d also thought of going to a nearby high overpass, or to leaping from the top of a tall building, but each of these considerations was blocked by the recognition that someone—a passing car or a pedestrian below—would be discomfited, possibly traumatized, possibly even injured by his action. He did not want to be a burden to anyone, especially not that kind of burden.
Also, he simply did not really, deeply, want to die. He wanted to live without being the unwilling slave of his terrible, malevolent rage.
That this was painfully clear to all those who knew and cared for him was probably the only reason Timothy was not consigned to juvenile detention early in his teenage years. Even the strictest and sternest of teachers, school administrators, and other similar adults in authority, could not fail to recognize Timothy’s sincerity when he profusely, sometimes tearfully, apologized for the consequences of one of his outbursts, never deflecting blame from himself, always assuming more than his share of responsibility for any altercation. When he had sent a boy two years older and a head taller than he to the emergency room for teasing him about the way he walked, Timothy had taken it upon himself to seek out the boy’s family and apologize to them, abjectly and unreservedly, in person. If he had lived in the culture of the samurai, he might have offered to commit seppuku to demonstrate his sincerity.
It could not honestly be said that the boy’s family were completely disarmed by the act of contrition—they were poorly insured, and medical bills were a supremely unwelcome cost—but there was no doubt that they were impressed. Also, the shame of their child being a bully toward a smaller boy, and then the added shame of the fact that the smaller boy had sent their healthy youngster to the hospital in a fair fight, made it difficult for them to assume the moral high ground that Timothy offered without reservation. And, of course, a lawsuit would have been an exercise in absurdity; Timothy and his mother were significantly poorer than this boy’s family.
That event had led to Timothy getting his first girlfriend—the boy in question’s younger sister, roughly the same age as Timothy. She had, of course, heard of what had happened, and apparently had been morbidly impressed and fascinated by Timothy’s obvious toughness. He had been terribly surprised when, upon his return to school after a suspension, the girl had approached him, introduced herself, and started to hang around him.
Timothy had always felt unsettled by the cause of his acquaintance with the girl, but it had been difficult for a lonely boy just entering adolescence to ignore her obvious attraction to him. They never officially declared themselves to be “going out” but it was with this girl—Allison Haskins had been her name and might well still be—that Timothy had shared his first non-maternal kiss, and her still very underdeveloped breasts were the first that he ever touched.
The romance, if that was the right word, had not lasted long. One afternoon, when Timothy and Allison were walking home from school—this was no longer in the heyday of widespread helicopter parenting, and in any case, no one in Timothy’s neighborhood could afford to indulge in such overprotectiveness—they had seen a boy perhaps a year younger than themselves being accosted by two older boys, who were clearly intimidating him into letting them “borrow” his backpack, which was a very nice, name-brand affair, decorated with images of Lebron James. It had undoubtedly cost someone in the boy’s family quite a bit of money, more than would normally be spent on such school supplies in that part of the world, and the boy had been near tears, trying to worm his way out from the environs of the bigger boys, but trapped by them against a brick wall.
Part of the reason this brief spectacle had so enraged Timothy was that the younger boy was black and the older ones white; he hated any form of bigotry with stunning fervor, and this was a hatred of which he was not ashamed. Still, no other combination of people would probably have made a difference. As soon as it became obvious to Timothy what had been happening, his pulse had begun to pound in his head, time had slowed down, and he had more or less literally seen red. Not bothering with any kind of warning, Timothy had simply stridden quickly forward and slammed himself bodily, pushing at the same time, into the nearest of the two bigger boys. It was not in Timothy’s nature to hold back in such circumstances, and the bigger boy had been all but knocked completely off his feet, saved from a backward tumble onto the sidewalk by a collision with his comrade.
The two bigger boys had been too startled to react, and Timothy had shoved again, this time leading the second boy to lose his footing and sit roughly on the pavement, while the bigger one smacked against the wall. Timothy’s assault was too surprising for them to experience answering anger at first—they had simply been caught by a force of nature, as if a sudden gale had driven them nearly off both their feet, not a slightly smaller boy.
Timothy was not capable of fear in such moments. The word felt terribly distant, apart from the two boys in front of him, and a slight, high-pitched and faint whine overlaying the background of reality. The two bigger boys gaped, and Timothy now said, “You leave him the fuck alone or I’ll fucking kill you!”
The two bigger boys had gaped comically. They were clearly in uncharted territory.
“What are you waiting for?” Timothy had yelled, his voice hoarse, his firsts clenched into tight, pale cudgels at his sides, his elbows slightly bent. “I’m gonna tear your fucking heads off!”
He began to stride toward the partly unbalanced boys, pulling his arms up and back.
The two boys said not a word, nor did they share a glance. They fled, the one who had fallen scrambling awkwardly to his feet even as he tried to put one foot in front of the other. His friend didn’t wait for him, but sprinted on ahead, glancing only back at Timothy, clearly judging him to be quite insane.
Supporting that assessment, Timothy gave a loud, animal howl of fury and took one step after the two boys. Then he caught himself and, instead of taking off in pursuit, swung his own fist in a hammer blow against the brick wall. He would not feel the pain of the blow for a while, but it would last for days, and the scraping of the impact drew blood. The wall, being brick, didn’t notice the impact any more than Timothy noticed the damage to his hand.
After the smacking, sickening sound of Timothy’s fist’s impact with the wall, there followed immediately two gasps. Timothy turned—whirled, really—and saw Allison and the boy with the backpack looking at him. The boy looked, if anything, more terrified than he had when being threatened by the other two, though perhaps less aggrieved. With wide eyes, he looked at Timothy and said, “Thank…thank you,” before turning and running off in the other direction.
Allison’s gasp had been of quite a different character. She had not seen Timothy enraged in this way before—and to be honest, he felt rather proud of himself for behaving in what was, for him, a somewhat restrained fashion—and surely it was a shock. But she did not seem to be afraid. Her face was flushed to the point where she looked feverish, her mouth hung slightly open, and she breathed a bit more heavily than usual. Timothy saw her lick her lips once, then she stepped up to him and took his right hand, scraped and injured along the line of his folded pinky.
Timothy, his head still pounding and his throat tight and dry, didn’t resist her. She lifted his hand in both of hers, looking at the injured side of his fist. Then, to Timothy’s surprise, she kissed it.
With wide eyes and red cheeks, she asked, “Your mom’s not home yet, right?”
Timothy, slowly governing himself, still feeling the urge to take off after the two boys and try to batter them into jelly, said, “Right.”
Allison smiled—a smile that was, in its own way, as frightening as Timothy’s rage. “Good,” she said. “Let’s go to your house right now.” Still holding his fist in her hand, Allison began walking forward.
Timothy, however, did not move with her. Something about her demeanor troubled him. Perhaps she just wanted to make sure that he disinfected his hand, in which could only feel a throbbing that wasn’t yet painful. “Why?” he asked.
Looking back indulgently, Allison smiled again, licked her lips again, and speaking barely above a whisper, she said, “I want you to…to do it with me.”
Timothy had blinked and had felt a shock almost as great as must have been felt by the two boys at whom he’d just charged. He and Allison had each been thirteen at that time—Allison a month and half away from her fourteenth birthday, and Timothy almost four months from his—and he was almost certain that she was no more sexually experienced than he, which was to say not at all, beyond light petting. They had never so much as directly touched each other’s genitals, even through clothing, and now she was saying that she wanted to go back to his house and have sex.
If Timothy had been more prone to self-delusion, he might have thought that Allison had been moved by his chivalry, his heroism, that her passion and love had been aroused by his fearlessness and his sense of justice. But Timothy was an old soul. He was practiced in trying to know himself, contemptible of self-deception, though as prone to it as anyone else. When he misled himself about himself, it was more often to his own detriment than to his aggrandizement. Thus, he saw, with a keenness of perception that would have been more expected in a man in his late thirties, or perhaps in his sixties, that Allison was not feeling the love of a maiden inspired by a brave knight.
She was turned on by his rage. She was aroused by his natural violence, by the fact not only that he’d been so terrifying to the two bigger boys, but that they’d been right to be terrified. He understood, or thought he did, that even the fact that he’d been unable to contain himself without violently striking an unyielding wall of brick and mortar had been arousing to her.
“What?” he asked, not wanting to be right, not sure why he was disquieted.
“I want you to…to have sex with me,” Allison repeated, more firmly than before. “I’m serious. I want it. I know it’s gonna hurt…but that’s okay. I want it.” Her breath was almost comically heavy, like a comedy skit version of a phone pervert. Her cheeks seemed to be getting redder by the second.
For Timothy, time had stood still outside him, as he’d had an epiphany, a vision of a possible future that lay before him.
Allison was not frightened of his anger, or if she was, that was part of what she liked about it. She had approached him after he’d hurt her brother, not because he had impressed her for being able to stand up to a bully, but because he had been so violent and dangerous. And now, having seen it—in relatively restrained form—firsthand, she wanted to give herself to him. Or, rather, what she probably wanted was to be taken by him.
He could see and read a possible future of their relationship. They would go to his house, they would have sex, and she would welcome any associated pain…and if they stayed together, she would reinforce his rage and violence, responding to it with horniness and release. She might even welcome violence upon herself, who knew? He’d read that such people existed. She would encourage and nurture, probably unconsciously, that horrible side of him that he hated, and he would become ever more prone to such violence.
If he were ever to kill someone in rage, she would probably help him bury the body, after wanting to make love in its presence.
Someday the two of them might become some modern equivalent of Bonnie and Clyde. Someday, he might even kill her…and she would not be completely averse to it at the very end. And he might end up in prison or, more likely, be killed as his father had been killed, by a stranger in a bar, or perhaps by the police.
He saw all this in an instant, saw it more vividly than the real world before him. It horrified him—all the more so because he also found it terrifyingly enticing.
“No,” he’d said softly. “No. I can’t do that.” Whether Allison thought he was referring to sex alone, or whether she understood that he was speaking of something larger, Timothy never knew, because he turned around and walked away from her. They’d never spoken again after that.