The dimensions of most of my coffins are about 14x4x4, give or take. They’re this size because it just so happens that that’s the size of a…ahem, “Popular girl’s doll.” So when I started making these regularly, I suddenly had everyone and their mother trying to fop dolls off on me. I took most of them gleefully, because if I didn’t use them for coffins, I’d hack the heads off and make “Predator” style necklaces or attach them to remote controlled cars, or burn them or crucify them and generally make teen goth-art out of them. Oh, to be young.
What’s also key to this story is the fact that I drove an 87 Nissan Pulsar NX as my first car. It was a sporty little job, originally purchased by my stepmother, then handed down to my brother, and finally, to me. I immediately festooned it with several bumper stickers, including “JESUS IS COMING. LOOK BUSY” and “OPERATION RESCUE, COME TO MY TOWN, I’LL LOCK YOU IN A CHURCH AND BURN THE FUCKER DOWN.” The backseat was tiny, and as I drove around, visiting friends, they’d give me dolls. Bags and bags of dolls. Soon, my backseat was full of them. They spilled out onto the floorboards and filled the foot wells. Those I couldn’t use I had cut the heads off of, and made a garland of unblinking, perpetually smiling blonde heads, most with shorn hair and upside down crosses drawn on their foreheads with marker. It hung from my rear-view mirror. I should also add that I had a bright blue mowhawk at the time. This will be important later.
The next thing to keep in the back of your mind while reading this narrative is that, since childhood, I’ve been plagued with an absolutely explosive temper. I’ve calmed down considerably in my middle age, but as a teen, I was a real motherfucker.
One winter, backing my tiny, impossibly light little Nissan down my driveway, I gave it too much gas and the car drove up onto a massive ridge of ice formed alongside the driveway by months and months of compacted snow thrown by the snowblower. Three of the four wheels were off the ground. I put the gas to the boards. I shrieked myself hoarse. I punched the driver’s side visor and got a lap full of broken mirror for my troubles. Eventually, I was absolute insensate with rage. My solution was to go into the garage, grab a massive axe, and laboriously chop my car free. I eventually succeeded, tossed the axe into my backseat, and drove off to do whatever I was in such a hurry to do, which was probably to buy LSD or go play “Hey Mister” at the local liquor store.
Fast forward to the following summer.
I have never kept a particularly clean automobile. The axe was still back there, atop the piles of dolls and books about sorcery and empty packs of cigarettes.
One weekend, I spent the night at a former girlfriends. I drove home the following evening, having brought along my “overnight bag.” Let me say a few things about my “overnight bag.”
I have never been a large man. I’m about five foot nine and have never weighed more than 130 pounds. Back in the day, when I was driving around with dolls and axes and had a blue mowhawk, I also had a healthy appetite for hallucinogens and booze and filterless cigarettes. I was (and still am) a hypochondriac of mammoth proportions. So I thought it wise, in an effort to perhaps counter the insalubrious effects of the smokes and the acid and the whiskey, and maybe also help me put on some weight, to also take huge quantities of vitamins. I had it all in that overnight bag. Fish Oil. Garlic Pills. Rose Hips. B12. C, Zinc lozenges, Multi-vitamins, Echinacea, you name it. They didn’t do shit. I’m still the same size I was when I graduated high school.
So, on the drive home from aforementioned ex-girlfriends house, I decided to stop off and visit a dear friend who worked the overnight shift at a gas station near my house. This particular friend has quite literally made it his life’s work to document the strange goings-on at that particular gas station in that particular corner of time, but that is a tale for another telling. He was, and is, a great, affable gent, and all the coffee I could drink was on the house. I pointed the Nissan with it’s cargo of axes and dolls and nefarious grimoires towards the gas station.
I should point out, here, that at the time, I lived in a crappy, conservative suburb. It was also the early nineties, and not many people had blue mowhawks, facial piercings, and bumper stickers on their cars full of axes and headless dolls that made it fairly clear that the driver was waging a one-man war against Christianity.
The cop following me certainly thought he was on to something.
Just as I was about to turn the corner into the lot of the gas station, the cherries came on. I had no drugs on me at the time, I knew I wasn’t speeding, and I was eighteen. I just assumed this was another case of a fucking power-mad pig hassling the weird kid. So I got out my license and insurance card and waited.
The cop approached the car a little more slowly that I had become accustomed to. His flashlight beam lingered on my bumper stickers, and as I rolled my window down he stopped. As he began asking me if I knew why I had been pulled over, his flashlight played into the backseat. He stopped talking and unsnapped his holster.
This was like, eight months after I had thrown the axe back there, man. I had totally forgotten about it. It was only after he forced me out of the car and led me back to the squad that I glanced in back and saw it. I laughed. He tightened his grip on my clasped hands.
I was seated in the back of the squad car and watched as he picked through the bizarre detritus in my back seat. He held the axe aloft and shone his light directly on the axehead, looking, I presumed, for traces of human blood. He stacked the dolls on the trunk like old photographs of piles of corpses at Sobibor. Then he opened my overnight bag, found the baggie full of vitamins, and called for backup.
Twenty minutes later there were four more fucking cop cars there. They were actually getting a chance to use their field test kits, putting one of each vitamin pill into a test tube with a reactive catalyst and shaking them vigorously in front of the headlight beams and matching them against a color chart. “It’s only B12!” I shouted through the partially opened wing window in the back seat. “They’re ROSE HIPS, Dick Tracy! Fight the real enemy!” I was full of witticisms. They were not amused.
The only thing they could hang on me was driving with a suspended license. I had decided years prior to this that paying for parking tickets was fucking extortion, and as it turns out, if you believe thusly, and with enough conviction, they will summarily suspend your license. They called for a tow truck, but not before asking me if I wanted to get anything out of the car before it was taken to the impound lot.
This is how I got a cop to help me carry two garbage bags of dolls and an axe into my house at two in the morning one fine summer evening. I went in the basement and made coffins until the impound lot opened.