by James Kompany
Thompson, Pennsylvania has always held a special place
in my heart. It was where I grew up--my
home town. Thompson was your typical suburbia
of the 1960’s; streets lined with overgrown oak trees created a shady oasis on those
hot summer days. Old Victorian houses proudly
stood guard over their neatly manicured lawns. On any given day,
you could hear children of all ages playing in the streets.
They knew it was time to come home when the street lights came on and when they
heard the sound of their mothers’ voices calling their names. At that time, crime was all but nonexistent. Most people kept their doors unlocked and slept with their windows
open. Neighbors watched out for one another. It was a different era—a cleaner era. It was an era of innocence and family values—a
much simpler time indeed.
The town center consisted mainly of mom-and-pop
shops and the municipal building, which housed the police and fire departments. The only other notable landmark in Thompson was the McClure Asylum
for the Clinically Insane, which stood atop Roosevelt Hill.
Located on the highest point in town, this towering
structure overlooked the entire Thompson Square. McClure was a century-old
fortress originally built as a prison to house Civil War detainees. After the war ended, it remained operational as a state prison. However, over the years, budget cuts and
deterioration caused McClure to shut down. It
wasn’t until years later that it was resurrected and transformed into its current
role: a maximum-security facility for psychopaths
and sociopaths alike. They may have escaped
their minds, but there is no escaping McClure.
Back in its heyday, Thompson had a lot to offer its
residents. There was no shortage of activities
for both the young and old. The highlight
of every year came in the fall when the crisp autumn air and sweet scent of freshly baked
apple pie could be smelled throughout the entire neighborhood. These were instant indicators the season had arrived. The Thompson Fall Festival was the anchor of this glorious time. Each year, this gala commenced on October 24
and culminated on October 30, Halloween Eve. Besides
rides, food, and entertainment, the fair also held a contest that quickly became an obsession
for most of the local children.
basis was quite simple: design the most
creatively decorated haunted attraction. All of the patrons
at the festival got to vote for their favorite display.
The reason the tradition started was to bring both children and adults together
during this special time of year. Young boys
and their fathers would spend hours on the weekends designing scenery, rudimentary mannequins,
and other types of props. Mothers and daughters
would sew costumes for the newly developed creations.
Although the festival was only a week long, the gates opened a week early for the
contestants. This gave us two full weeks
to create our designs. And believe me, every
day counted. The rules were clear.
All entrants received a space at the fair to construct their scenery. These spaces were private and cordoned off to ensure secrecy. Because we followed a code-of-honor system, no
one was able to see finished projects until unveiling them on Halloween Eve. As time passed and the popularity of the Thompson Fall Festival grew,
a competitive nature really began to emerge. Bragging
rights were at stake. And let’s face
it--for an adolescent male, bragging rights for an entire year meant everything.
Lenny Young was three years
my senior. He came from a very prominent and affluent
family. His grandfather started a coal-mining
company at the turn of the century. Lenny’s
father was currently in charge of the company. However,
it was only a matter of time until Lenny took over the entire lucrative operation. For the last five years, Lenny dominated the
competition. He used his cronies--Brett Cox,
brothers Rusty and Matt Harper, Roger Carlson, Manny Rivera, and Andrew Corrigan--to help
him overcome and demolish any formidable adversary who attempted to take his
crown. Breaking into private booths to steal
or destroy props was common practice amongst this group of heathens. They
would intimidate and bully other kids into voting for Lenny’s designs, even using
physical force when necessary. And when all
else failed, Lenny would ask his father to use his influence to politic for him in order
to get the winning votes. It got so bad that
other kids stopped entering the contest. Nobody
wanted to deal with Lenny’s wrath. He
could be relentless. Looking back, it was
truly pathetic the lengths these boys went to just to win some silly childhood contest. To this day, it still boggles my mind that none
of the adults in town had the courage to step in and stop the nonsense. I suppose this was because a lot of the men in Thompson collected their
paychecks from Lenny’s dad. Many of
them worked at his facility in one capacity or another.
My dad, on the
other hand, was different. He had been a
hard-working man—up every morning at five and off to his place on the assembly line
at the Thompson Electrical Components Factory. He’d
tried his hardest to provide for us, but always seemed to fall a little short. It wasn’t because he hadn’t had the work
ethic. He just couldn’t shy away from
the bottle of whiskey waiting for him at the end of his shift. He’d pissed
away every dollar he made at the local tavern, Morley McGovern’s, leaving us practically
cycle had continued up until the time I turned ten. I remember Dad coming home drunk one night and
telling Mother, my brother Jack, and me that he was going out west to Colorado to work
at some stereo equipment store that one of his war buddies had started. He was supposed to be the lead electronics man. He’d told us everything was going to work out and he would be
able to move the rest of the family out there as soon as he’d gathered enough money. In the meantime, he’d promised to send back
money each week to help Mother with the expenses. I’d known at the time
these were empty promises, and that we would never see Dad again.
Needless to say, his alcoholism
had followed him in his westward journey. What’s
more, the store had soon gone out of business, leaving Dad unemployed and eventually homeless. He’d ended up begging for money during the
day and drinking it away on the streets at night. Mother had received a call
from authorities informing her they’d found my father dead outside a pool hall in
a seedy part of Colorado Springs. All he’d
had in his possession was one dollar and 38 cents, his old work identification card from
Thompson Electrical, and a picture of Jack and me as children. Mother hadn’t
had the money to have his body shipped back east.
So, they’d buried Dad in a potter’s field where he remains today. From that point on, it was official. We were on our own: Mother,
Jack, and me.
To say mother
had her hands full trying to raise Jack and me would
be an understatement. While I was the rebellious
one, Jack had his own set of issues because of his condition. He had nearly drowned as a child, leaving him with severe brain damage. Physically, Jack was a fully developed adult
male. He was as strong as an ox, but had
the mentality of a six-year-old. He was unable
to understand the difference between right and wrong.
Jack was never far from Mother’s side and
seldom left the familiar confines of our childhood home. Mother had to tell
him what to do at all times. From my earliest
recollections, she never had a free moment to herself.
There is little doubt in my mind that the constant and relentless attention Jack
required contributed to Mother’s own health problems. She
slowly deteriorated over the years until the stress and burden eventually caught up to
her. It wasn’t until years later that
the magnitude revealed itself. Mother
suffered a stroke and lingered in a semi-catatonic state. The good Lord finally
called her home three years later.
The year Dad left, I was determined to create the most
realistic Halloween scenery ever, finally beating Lenny Young at his own game. I was the only kid who didn’t give a damn about what he could
do to me. So, it was just the two of us in
an adolescent showdown for bragging rights. And
like I said before, for a kid in a go-nowhere town like Thompson, a year of
bragging rights was worth its weight in gold.
I worked tirelessly both
day and night, before and after school. Although
it was tough at first, I got the hang of it pretty quickly.
The night of judging was only a week away, and things were really coming together
nicely. I constructed a giant graveyard,
pieced together a few mannequins, and dressed them with some clothes Dad left behind. I even stuffed them with sand to give them more
weight. Then, I put the mannequins in coffins
I built out of old pieces of timber from an abandoned barn on Warren Avenue. The whole thing looked pretty realistic in the dark. In fact, I was so confident, I began boasting to my classmates about
my inevitable pending victory. But as you
can imagine, living in a fishbowl of a town like Thompson, it didn’t take long for
word to get back to Lenny.
I still remember the day he and his lackeys cornered
me in the locker room during gym class.
“Listen, penis breath. You better withdraw from the contest if you know what’s good
“Not a chance,”
I shot back, as I laughed in his face.
That’s when things really got ugly.
First, Andrew Corrigan sucker
punched me. He was always the weasel of the group. Although stunned, I tried my hardest to fight my way out of there,
throwing wild punches in every direction. However, my futile
attempt at defending myself only fueled their rage.
Coming at me from all sides, they quickly overwhelmed me. The Harper brothers held down my arms as Lenny, Brett, and Roger took
turns punching and kicking me. Manny stood
guard at the door to make sure no teachers were coming. The more I struggled
to break free, the more furious the beating.
The whole time, Lenny kept
taunting me with insults.
matter, Jimbo? Your dead drunken dad isn’t
here to help you? Maybe you should call your
mommy. That whore’s probably at home wiping your
retarded brother’s ass.”
These words echoed in my ears and burned into my
brain. When I could no longer stand on my
own two feet, the Harper brothers dropped me directly into a piss-filled urinal. Bloodied and semi-conscious, I remember getting spit on and hearing
the sound of sinister laughter.
last thing I recalled before blacking out was Lenny’s
“Now let’s go
see what this panty waste has been up to.”
Eventually, I regained consciousness and dragged myself to
the fair grounds. I found someone had cut
the lock on my stall and destroyed all of my creations. As my anger grew,
I became determined to rebuild. I would have
to start from scratch with less than a week to finish.
On October 30th,
the day of the contest, Lenny found a note stuck to his locker at school. It was from Roger.
“Jimmy hasn’t quit. He’s been rebuilding all week.
Meet me and the rest of the boys there tonight.
We’ll wreck his work and finish this little asswipe once and for all.
Lenny was incensed. He could hardly wait until night fall to rush
down to the fair to teach me a lesson for the last time.
At exactly seven p.m., one hour before the opening of the contestant area to the
public, Lenny hopped the fence only to find me waiting for him.
“Hello, Leonard. How’s
Perhaps it was
the tone of my voice, or the devilish look in my eyes. It could have even been that I called him by his
birth name. No matter. Lenny’s instincts had told him something just wasn’t right.
bet you’re wondering where everyone is: Brett,
Rusty, Matt, Manny, Roger, Andrew. They were
supposed to meet you here, weren’t they?”
Beads of sweat
formed on Lenny’s brow. He began to
fidget as he stood anxiously before me.
Lenny. You’re not alone. All your friends are here. As
a matter of fact, here comes Roger now.”
if on cue, a large, hulking figure emerged from the
darkness--my brother Jack. He held the severed
head of Roger Carlson in his hand, and stuck it on top of a stake protruding out of the
ground. Jack was also dragging the headless
corpse by one of its feet and released it at the foot of the stake. I plugged in an extension cord, illuminating a massacre of bloody carnage.
A long steel rod pierced the anus of Brett Cox. It traveled deep through his thoracic cavity and
exited his mouth. He had been hog-tied and
placed on a make-shift barbecue rotisserie. He
was slowly roasting over an open flame. The rancid smell of burnt
flesh lingered and permeated the cool evening air.
Embers creeped higher and higher as the oily meat particles seeped off his carcass
and dripped into the pit of fire.
Harper brothers were naked, seated back to back, and wrapped
tightly together with duct tape. Rusty sat
disemboweled, his innards spilled in his lap and scattered on the ground below. Matt’s genitals protruded from his mouth after being severed
and stuffed there. His body was stark white from
the voluminous loss of blood.
had the claw end of a hammer buried so deep into the
back of his cranium that only the wooden shaft was still visible. Blood
careened from his mouth, nose, and ears.
old-fashioned Whitehead gag propped open Andrew Corrigan’s
mouth. An empty bottle of hydrochloric acid
lay at his feet. Both his top and bottom
lips had completely disintegrated. The flesh from his cheeks
and chin had liquified, leaving his lower mandible openly exposed. Festering puss oozed over his facial tendons, while his teeth remained
anchored into his jaw-bone, forming a skeletal death mask.
For Lenny Young,
it was as if time stood still. He was completely
frozen and paralyzed with fear. Although
his mouth was open, he could not speak. Only
the sound of urine trickling down his trembling leg onto the ground below broke the silence.
“You pompous piece
of shit! Your own arrogance blinded you
that you didn’t even realize one by one your friends started to disappear. All that concerned you
was humiliating me yet again!”
I took a deep breath and
calmed myself in order to savor the moment.
“So what do you think, buddy? Not too bad, huh? I think
this year I finally have you beat. You know,
Jack and I really worked hard on this. We
put in a helluva lot of effort--and in such a short period of time too. You really didn’t leave us much choice after you and your crew
wrecked my original designs the other day. Truth
be told, I should probably thank you. Clearly,
this new display is much more realistic than that boring old graveyard. I guess in a weird way, you actually inspired me. At first, I really didn’t know how I was going to pull this off. But then I thought of Jack. He’s always willing to help me any way he can--does anything
I ask him to. When I told him what happened
and what I needed, he was more than eager to get started.”
Suddenly realizing his fate, Lenny sobbed uncontrollably
and began to beg for his life.
sorry. I…I didn’t mean any of
it. I always liked you. It was the other guys. They
made me do it. They hated you. Not
me. Please, Jimmy. I don’t want to die. I
just want to go home--”
“Enough! Come on,
Lenny. Stop all that whining and blubbering. It’s really unbecoming of someone of your
“But please, Jimmy. Pleeeease...”
you at least a little impressed? I thought
the hard part was going to be luring each one of you parasites into our little trap. It turned out that was the easiest part of all. You
know that note you got on your locker telling you to meet Roger here? Well, all of you dipshits got the same damn
note! Every last one of you thought you were
invincible--thought you could have carte blanche to do whatever you wanted…without
consequences for your actions. Well, Lenny,
Jack and I are here to tell you differently. But I guess
none of that really matters now.”
“No, Jimmy! No!”
“Jeez, look at the time.
It’s getting late. People are
starting to file in already. The voting will
start soon. I suppose the only thing left
to do is put the finishing touch on our project here and hope for the best. The crowd is really going to love what we did. I can feel it in my bones.”
“Oh my God! Please,
don’t do this, Jimmy! I’m begging you!”
“Yes siree. I can
feel it in my bones. Speaking of bones, I
think the perfect addition to this masterpiece would be a life-sized skeleton. Yes,
that’s what we need. Do you
agree, Lenny? I know Jack does.”
Jack agrees, Jimmy.”
know you do, Jack. You’re such a good
boy. Let’s show Lenny just how good
you are. Show him what you can do. Skin him alive, Jack! Skin
the bastard alive!”
Jack pounced on Lenny with
the quickness and ferocity of a lion capturing a gazelle.
The mass of his 260-pound frame made Lenny easy prey. The noises of the carnival drowned out the shrieks of agony and cries
for help. And thus, Lenny Young was forever
immortalized as part of the main attraction at the Thompson Fall Festival. It really was quite an honor.
And I got my bragging rights for a long, long time.
That was so many
years ago. Yet, I remember it like it was
yesterday. Thompson has certainly changed
a lot since then. It really is a shame. At least I can still see the fairgrounds from
my room though. I wonder if there will ever
be another contest. Jack and I would love
to defend our title. Being locked up in McClure
all of these years has given us plenty of time to think of new ideas for an even bigger
and better display.
that right, Jack?”
“Uh huh. Jack thinks that’s right, Jimmy.”
“You know, it’s
almost time for lunch, Jack. I wonder what
they’re serving today. Maybe fish sticks…or sloppy joes. You
really likes sloppy joes.”
huh. Jack likes sloppy joes, Jimmy.”
“Or maybe it’s hot dogs…or chicken
are your favorite.”
Jack’s favorite are chicken fingers, Jimmy.”
a good boy.”