"So anyway," Professor Smurfy said to Jose, still trying to understand his experience a week ago at the art exhibit, "no one can identify a true Sociopath by looking at his face or into his eyes. I am not sure if I am capable myself of decerning such a fellow or worman -- in fact, I know for a fact I cannot, even though I have studied this pathology for well over thirty-five years.
"It is not possible. A Sociopath is not like Hollywood Hannible Lecter with a funny or terrible mask. He does not have dripping fangs and bloodshot eyes. You do not get this literary chills down your spine or intimations of something wrong. John Wayne Gacy, a socialized pyschopath of a different sort than what we are speaking, did not put 30 people into quicklime in his basement by looking like the monster he was.
"A Sociopath is comfortable to you. He feels somehow useful and helpful and friendly. Genial and seemingly good-natured. Consider Klaus Barbie, later termed the Butcher of Lyon. All his French neighbors protested even as he was taken away for horrible war crimes as a Nazi that he always was a very good neighbor. The very French whom he savaged so bestially. They are very good at faking the emotions which they do not have. Meyer Lansky was a good family man.
"Yes, to such people you are always a good buddy, a fine friend. Often volunteering in the community, as Gacy did as a clown for children's parties.
"Truth is there moves through the population at any one time well over one hundred thousand Sociopaths and very rarely do any of them commit murder. As far as we know. These Sociopaths continue their careers as useful members of society.
"Most of them understand that if they get caught committing murder or any sort of crime there is a vast machinery of legal apparatus that will set in motion to deny them what they want. You will never see even the murderous Sociopath directly by looking into their face -- you can only see them like physicists see mesons and quarks -- by the vapor trail they leave behind in a vacuum chamber, by the extraordinary damage left in their wake after they have gone. Their usual method is that of manipulation, of an exchange of favors which always seems to benefit themselves the most in some way.
"When you look at a suspected Sociopath, do not talk to anyone that person knows in the present -- talk to people who knew him in the past. You will learn that everyone who knows him in the present calls him "un bonne camarade", but everyone who knew him in the past calls him an asshole.
"A Sociopath cannot feel any emotions other than a profound self-pity and a deep-seated anger based in narcissism -- this often gives the impression of a depth of feeling which is simply not there. He feels no love, no real empathy to other human beings, although he can mimic such emotions quite well. You will notice how the Sociopath never laughs unless it is a joke or story told at someone's expense, someone suffering because of some complicated machinery of entrapment. This he likes very much.
"The Sociopath is a shell of something similar to human, but he has no attachment to humanity and could not care if anyone or any number of humans died beyond how it would inconvienience himself. In the Sociopath there is the example of a person without a soul, the most chlling thing anyone can encounter, and you will find in your studies that people who have been affected by a Sociopath feel their entire trust in the human species has been destroyed.
"That is the destruction of the Sociopath. That is their vapor trail -- the annihilation of human beings, rarely by killing their bodies, more usually by destroying their spirits. There is no known cure for Sociopathy. You can only incarcerate them forever or kill them by means of the death penalty. That fact alone is enough to cause sufficient damage by its knowledge. Their habit is to cause hate to arise from once fertile minds.
"Such a person is the Angry Elf of which you speak. "
All of them in the Old Same Place Bar were silent, pondering. What kind of evil had infected their town and what had any one of them done to deserve it.
Sociopaths or Psychopaths or Shining Path -- that sort of thing was more proper for New York or LA. Or at least Babylon until they got a handle on it.
Outside the coastal breezes knocked the crabapple tree branches and a few let go deadfall that thumped when it hit the ground.
The door flew open causing everyone there to startle with wide eyes, but it was only Old Schmidt, coming in for his regular nightcap.
Out beyond the Golden Gate, Pedro Almeida piloted his boat El Borracho Perdido through the swells of the fishing grounds. Tugboat sniffed the air and woofed. Pedro opened the door and sniffed the air as well. The fog had gotten denser of late and the new moon of Thursday last now waxed greater sliver by sliver on seas that took on a deep ultramarine. The seasons were changing. Soon time for the crab pots and other things that like colder water.
The radio talked about the drumbeat of war, getting louder with each passing day. Stories of atrocities, real and not filled the bloodlusted media. They are getting us ready for another war in the usual ways. Pedro changed the channel to the one that carried his favorite televangelist, Pastor Rotschue.
"This is the last week of reruns for the Lutheran Hour and we will be coming to you live once again from that little town we all love so much, the town that Time bypassed, leaving out an off-ramp on the highway of history. This week we return to a show we did last fall in Jackpot Nevada at the famous Top Hat Lounge . . . "
At Marlene and Andre's the Household was midways through Rosh Hashanah, which began more or less appropriately before the New Moon. They now were getting towards Yom Kippur and the entire Household was being dragged along willy nilly.
"Okay now," Marlene said to Martini. "I want you to apologize to Sara. You have to be sincere about it."
"She hates me."
"She hates you because you were an asshole. Maybe if you apologize things will start to change."
"So what if she just spits in my eye like the last time?"
"It don't matter so long as its sincere. You gotta enter the New Year free of all your shayt. And believe me, Martini, you are really full of shayt."
One might think that Marlene's doctrinaire approach stemmed from some kind of 12 Stepper Graduate infexibility or post-therapeutic attachment to formalized spirituality that is so often employed to stitch together the pieces of ruined human beings (in addition to Sociopaths, the world suffers Psychopathic damage enough) however the simple truth is that the one bedroom cottage home to fifteen souls could not allow dissension in that tiny space to continue for long, and so keeping the peace was a very important task when open war would ruin all of them.
It is getting time to perhaps tell some of Marlene's story, how she was born, how she survived the thing sometimes called childhood by some, how she came to the Island and how she met Andre. Tell some but not all, for there was enough white knuckled gripping horror in her past to cause one to recall the words of a famous poet: "Alas! ... the Demons . . . must sleep, or they will devour us - they must be suffered to slumber, or we perish."
The Editor paced back and forth in the darkened offices, slippery galleys left strewn on the floor. All the news that had come over the transome had been forboding, diluting the happy news that the Island kids had been improving their API scores against a declining trend Statewide and making muddy the Neptune Beach celebration. Someone had spraypainted Mrs. Almeida's chickens bright neon orange, while doing the coop entirely in vivid green. Mr. Howizter's firm had chopped down a cedar on Alameda Street which had stood on the property for over one hundred and fifty years.
Then the bickering about begging on Park and the squabbles about putting in a single fast food burger joint out on the Point -- it was enough to make the old Editor want to tear out his few remaining white hairs.
He walked to the back veranda where the unruly lemon tree sent sprays this way and that with abandon and lack of pruning, such that branches heavy with fruit regularly snapped to endanger the crowns of passersby.
He relit his cigar. He really ought to do something about that lemon tree.
The troubles of the world are multidinous. As the Woodman once said in one of his movies, "Life is divided between the horrible and the miserable. The horrible consists of things like lepers begging on the streets of Calcutta, amputations without anaesthetic, ebola, war with all its horror. The rest of us are just miserable. Be grateful for misery."
Beyond the veranda, the darkness of the yard extended to the old coachhouse, now a garage where neighbors stored a 15 foot kayak. The immense box elder tree, thoroughly infested with the notorious box elder bug and shrouded by various species of parasitic vines loomed under the sliver of the waxing moon as the fog tendriled itself in. If he shut his eyes, the Editor saw again the tracers arcing out and the flashbangs and the screams of the nighttime firefight at Ba Ap, 188's going off with all the clamor of the Final Trump, again and again and again. And the morning's discoveries embedded in the mud, once human beings, now meat.
The captured NVA commander had said, "We did not think Ba Ap was of any importance to us, but since you came here, we thought it must therefore be important in some way. That is why we came and we fought for that hill over there . . ".
Beyond the yard the ocean of human misery sloshed and chopped, its depths unplumbable by anyone of sane mind, for down there, in the inky depths where luminous memories flashed with all devouring maws packed with razor teeth. Just when you think you have descended past the unimaginable there floats up from some deeper place a thing worse than Klaus Barbie, worse than the things the doctor at Auschwitz ever did, things beyond language or image. And always, way down deeper than any human that calls itself such ever will go, breeds yet more sickness, ever mutating, ever changing, ever arising to inflict new pain yet undiscovered.
O, Klaus Barbie. His French neighbors in that quiet suburban district all called him genial, "un bonne camarade." Even as the authorities took him away to be charged as the Nazi "Butcher of Lyon."
The Editor puffed his cigar and thought to himself, when will we ever learn that to be human, you must act humanely. When will we learn to be like the physicist who sees the meson, the quark, the subatomic particle not by looking at its face, but by the vapor trail it leaves behind, the fragmentation of the target, the wake of its damage? And know that for some, none but a higher Power can offer forgiveness for they who seek it not, earn it not.
The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated from far across the water, across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline; it snaked through the cracked brick of the old abandoned Cannery with its ghosts and weedy railbed and silent chainlink fences as the locomotive glided past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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