WAITING FOR THE CREEPER

Chapter One: Anguish Is A Bitch

Anguish is a bitch. Gareth was praying. You know, the kind of prayers that are essentially bargaining. If you give my wife back, I will never miss a Sunday at church again. Those kinds of prayers. He had been manically pacing in the dark all night long. His hands clenched into fists. He had no fingernails, just bleeding stumps at the end of his fingers. He was visibly sweating and could not stay still. He knew he was depressed; he had long experience suffering from depression throughout his life. However, this morning was uneasy. Throughout the night, he had experienced suicidal thoughts frequently. Gareth had tried all night to suppress the toxic thoughts. He experienced uncontrollable shivering and hand tremors; stopping those kinds of feelings was agony. He was sick. Vomiting and dry heaving were never-ending. He hated being sick. Anguish is undeniably a bitch.

Driving through Provo Canyon from Orem to Heber is beautiful no matter what time of year. Dangerous for sure during the Wintertime due to heavy snow and avalanches. Then there is Fall; the colors are distinctive and ever-changing — a beautiful time for photography. Spring's rebirth brings thoughts of fishing, kayaking, tubing, and maybe even mountain biking for the brave. But it is Summer; oh yes, Summer, the time of fresher temperatures in the canyon. What a gift when over a hundred degrees down in the valley. The weekends bring many boats, small and large, fast and slow, fishing, and even water skiing. Locals and tourists drive up and down the steep-walled canyon road that follows the Provo River to the dam. The dam with the colossal wall. The barrier that created the Deer Creek reservoir was built in 1938 and completed in 1941. It stretches a quarter of a mile across the canyon and is towered over by the majestic Mount Timpanogas. The snowy skyline is the backdrop for colorful hot air balloons and wicker baskets. Dozens of paragliders rise and fall across the reservoir over the paddle boarders below. Plenty of movement. Plenty of energy. Plenty of life. For Gareth, however, it was the loneliest place to be. For Gareth, the almost three thousand acres of deep water will soon be his bottomless grave. As someone who cannot swim and is terrified of water, this grave offers no return; after all, its maximum depth is one hundred and thirty-seven feet deep.

The road through the canyon was quiet that day. A few cars and a few semis drove the stipulated fifty miles-per-hour speed limit. It seemed he slowed the traffic down. Maybe that was because he was not concentrating, and his speed drifted up and down as he drove his soccer mom's white van. It was a warm but breezy morning, almost humid. He was going to Midway, Utah, to visit his eldest daughter. Midway is known as a "Swiss" town. Full of ornately decorated lodges and large cabin homes. One could almost forget you were in Utah. The homes suggested you were in Chamonix, at the base of the Mont Blanc, the junction of France, Switzerland, and Italy. It was a beautiful fairy tale village, to be sure. Gareth had spent time in Chamonix as a young boy. He loved Chamonix. Midway not so much.

His daughter did not know he was coming. I hope she is home, he thought. She was his Mont Blanc, his Mount Timpanogas, his rock. She was a wife and a young mother of a beautiful newborn baby girl — his first grandchild. But, truthfully, the last thing his daughter needed this summer was to spend never-ending hours listening to Gareth crying and hoping for a miracle. He had survived until now primarily because of her capacity to hate the sin but love the sinner.

Pulling into the dirt driveway, he instantly saw the family car was gone. An immediate sense of dread and hopelessness blanketed him. He grabbed the mobile phone as soon as he stopped. There was a dim hope that this new growing family had driven to the store a few miles away to buy baby items, and they would be back within minutes. Instead, she answered immediately and, with grave concern, asked if he was okay. Faking how he felt at that time in his life was almost impossible for Gareth. But he tried. "How are you all doing?" he asked. "We are driving to Hogle zoo in Salt Lake [City]," she replied. "But we will be back later." Sobbing and attempting to hold back his tears, he told her he loved her dearly. The phone went silent. For a short moment, he wept and asked himself why she would not be at home when he needed her. He immediately knew that was the grief talking. He loved her with all his heart. He had cared for her as a child back in England, but now the roles were reversed.

Gareth was floating between madness and self-hatred. It was a state he had been in since his wife had left him. Starting to unravel yet again was a terrible experience, and this time he was alone. He could not drive back to Provo. He did not want to go back to Provo. Provo was full of people he could not face at all. Provo was the most self-righteous place on the planet. He despised it. It was his hell on earth — his cage — a cage without a key. The truth was his wife had left for good reasons, the foremost being her safety. Gareth had finally recognized his cruelty and did not hide it from anyone anymore.

Anyone that would listen would be in his Catholic confessional booth. As much as he continually vomited words of apologies for his actions, it did not change how he felt. Continuously running through his mind, a slide show reminded him of why she had gone every second of every day, twenty-four hours a day. What had he done? Really? You don't know what you've done? You piece of crap, you know what you did. I promise you will never forget it, said a voice inside his head. Oh yes, he knows what he has done for sure. He wished he could change it. However, it was not something anyone could change. It was not a small dink in the passenger door; it was the destruction seen at the worst highway wrecks — no survivors except those drastically maimed for life.

Now months later, his two young baby girls were also gone. They were his only link to the woman he loved so much. But that cannot be true, right? How could he love someone and hurt them so badly? Naïve, he knows, but it had never crossed his mind until his wife pointed out that those beliefs were incompatible. Educated and known to be wise, he would have known, right? However, he had always blamed her. In his disturbed mind, she should be with him and want to be with him every minute of the day. Why is she not talking? If you love someone, should they not be talking to you continually? Why did she hate him so much? It had been this way for a long, long time. It almost seemed routine. But once the light came on, he saw everything the way it was: no Love Story but Nightmare on Elm Street.

The girls had seemed a good idea to be with their mother. Girls need their mothers, he decided. However, that thought soon changed as the opportunities to see them slowly diminished to a point where Gareth was just another of the divorced dads at McDonald's on a Saturday morning allowed to be with their children for two or three hours. The girls ate chicken nuggets and played on the slides. All the dads looked depressed, and the air felt depressed. The yellow and red all around did not seem happy at all. It was freakin' miserable. The hours always seemed like minutes, and then the time was gone. He was not a dad anymore; he was a part-time babysitter. He had started to lose all hope. Anxiety had turned into depression, and depression had turned into hopelessness on a grand scale. It appeared as a flutter in his belly and a floating sensation. Then sudden darkness.

Eventually, the precipice drew ever closer. By now, Gareth did not care anymore. He was nothing without his wife of twenty-seven years and his two babies. What was the point? It should have been apparent from the beginning, but he always hoped they could reconstruct the burnt-out wreck he had called marriage. Even so, it was evident to all, except Gareth, that he lived in the salvage yards. No rebuilding here, only scraps. Yes, unwanted, severely damaged junk. So damaged it was unrecognizable.

Deer Creek Au revoir!

Gareth and his sister used to make up words as a young boy in England. The English have a humorous love affair with language. Sometimes it was just fun to mix two words. So it was with reservoir and the French phrase, Au Revoir, meaning goodbye. Au Reservoir it became. As children, they laughed loudly at their new words. It seemed innocuous, but it was to become goodbye in the reservoir on this day.

He was sure of it. He did not want to die; it was true. No, he was sure he wanted to end it all. Gareth could not cope with the grief. The anguish. Not another minute, not even a second. It was not only what he had lost. It was also the reason why. Almost sixty percent of his life had just vanished in one quick phone call and gone forever! Disappeared! The other forty percent? Well, that had gone a long time ago. One of the reasons both of them got married so young was to escape from their family homes. Affection had not been there for her, and fear was ever-present for him. Maybe they could finally find love, respect, and safety together? However, little did they know then they were already damaged goods. They simply did not know it yet.

Gareth did not remember driving the long straight lane from Midway to the reservoir. A four-mile ride with nothing to distract him except his thoughts. The radio was blaring loud music, but he was not listening. Then Dido started singing her classic song, White Flag. He listened now. The chorus destroyed him, "I will go down with this ship," she sang. Stopping the van was a nightmare. He could not see through all the tears. Slowing down, he skidded to a stop. He should not have had any tears left. He had cried every night, all night, every night, all night, every freakin' night, all freakin' night until finally sleeping as the sun rose. He had not slept in their bed since she went. "It was ours, and I did not want to sleep without her," he said. He slept on the floor next to the phone. "You never know; it might just ring, and I need to be there," he said. His daughter had suggested unplugging the phone and moving it closer to the bed so he could sleep. Gareth did not dare remove the phone cord from the wall; in his mind, that would be exactly when his wife would call him to say she was coming back!

The radio continued playing. Although with loud driveling gulps mixed with frequent pleas for help, shrieking loudly, Gareth did not even notice the radio. Driving anywhere in this condition would be impossible and not safe. It was safe for the moment by the reservoir side; he shut off the engine. The radio continued to play. As Gareth looked out over the vast mass of water, he again heard a familiar tune. He wanted to turn it off but found he could not. It was almost as if the radio was his modern-day punishment for scourging. The music continued, and he collapsed once more. It broke into the chorus, "Time to say goodbye." Although initially a love song in Italian, when Andrea Bocelli sang the song in English, all Gareth could hear was the heartbreak and sadness of saying goodbye to those you love. He could no longer stay sitting in the van listening to that damn radio. It was getting warmer too. There was nobody close to where he was parked, so maybe being in the open air would be better. Closing the van's sliding door, he walked a few yards to the low concrete barriers surrounding the reservoir's east side.

The reservoir has over eighteen miles of shoreline and is six miles long north to south. The various State parks and picnic areas sit on the east side next to highway 189. People of all ages sit and fish any time of day. Many people in the parks were legitimately there, while many more illegally crossed the concrete barriers overlooking the water. Over on the west side of the reservoir remains the railway track of the original Denver and Rio Grande rail line. All of this picturesque scenery sits in front of the gigantic Mount Timpanogas. If you gaze across the mile of buffeting water at certain times of the day, you will see a steam locomotive, just like Casey Jones. It lumbers along on its way from the Heber City depot to Vivian Park down in the canyon. A sixteen-mile trip usually takes about an hour each way. The steam engine pulls or pushes a few boxcars typically filled with passengers reliving 'old western' days long ago. It's a fun ride, although it can be expensive. Gareth had ridden on the train years before with his wife and young babies. Little did he know what part the 'Heber Creeper' would play later in his life.

Chapter Two: The Heber Creeper

The beautiful weather and scenery of Wasatch Back are awe-inspiring in ordinary times. Yet today, as Gareth was sitting on the large rocks on the reservoir's shoreline, the quiet beauty only triggered the never-ending Rolodex within his chaotic mind. Life had always seemed so black and white. There had never been any grey in his life. To avoid people hurting you, you harm them first, right? Nobody loves you. Everybody is out to get you. These thoughts made sense, didn't they? His therapist had worked hard to this point, and Gareth had been diagnosed with BPD. Of course, Gareth would not wish Borderline Personality Disorder on his worst enemies. However, he found out each session that regular everyday life for most people was not like this. Discovering that almost all of what you believed to be true in life was incorrect had been an enormous shock. How could that be? He felt like a baby trying to learn to think, talk, and walk for the first time.

The thoughts were now getting more intense and arrived at an ever-increasing rate. Gareth's jumbled mind again turned to his wife. Reliving vividly, the actions of not one bad day but years of bad days caused a thick black shadow to fill his mind. His vision became tunnel-like. His hearing sounded like distant voices echoing through cotton wool. And his breathing was becoming ever more shallow. Gareth felt pain in his head. It was like little demons were eating away at his brain. But, of course, he deserved to feel this way. He knew his life would never get better. A prison was too good for him; death was the only option.

It was evident to Gareth that the time had come. There was certainly nothing to live for anymore. He knew his daughters would be affected terribly by this decision, but he felt sure he could not live another moment. They would be much better off without him anyway. The anguish of mental health always hides internally. But right now, as with a Salvador Dali surrealist painting, all the doors were open. All the drawers were empty and in view. It seemed like he was hanging naked ready to be drawn and quartered. If not, he thought, he should be.

He had reached out for help from many friends he had known over the years. After serving in many leadership positions in his church, he knew many good people. His two best friends were always reliable. However, to his shock, his loyal friends and neighbors, in the hundreds, vanished when his wife left. They had all beamed from planet earth to the U.S.S. Enterprise and were gone. He suddenly knew how it would feel lost at sea without a life jacket — waiting to drown as your strength seeped away. As he continued to sit looking out over the massive body of water, he again felt the same loss. Finally, he moved down to the water's edge. All I have to do is jump, he thought. It was tough to see as his eyes had swelled horribly with his endless weeping. But he could make out a puff of smoke in the distance, on the other side of the reservoir. It was the Heber Creeper.

Gareth had worked on the railways for many years in England. He had driven diesel and electric locomotives, short distances in and around Crewe station to the high-speed trains to London. His father had also been a career train driver. His grandfather and uncle worked in Crewe's enormous locomotive and carriage depots. So if you had lived or worked in Crewe, the railways were in your blood. A puff of smoke is all it takes to get your attention.

Gareth needed help. Maybe this was it? A train would now help him end his life! Not in the usual way. Not a horrific death killed by a train. As a train driver in England, he suffered after people committed suicide in front of his train. He would not do that to another train driver. That carnage has a terrible everlasting effect on anyone controlling a train. While driving an express passenger train thirty years ago, a man had jumped from a high bridge and hit the right-hand side window of his locomotive. The noise was deafening and gross. Luckily he was driving on the cab's left side; the blood and body parts still covered the locomotive's front end. It was still horrifying. Getting out of the locomotive, down the handrails and steps, was even more horrendous. Everything turns to liquid and is yellow-green. Not easily forgotten.

No, his idea was more cerebral. Well, at least, he thought in his nonsensical state of mind. Confused and now irrational, he decided that his signal to jump into the deep water and end his own life would be the return of the Creeper. The train would return to Heber in just over an hour; he would wait for it, and as it passed, he would jump into his deadly watery grave. Easy but ironic choice. No one would see, and it would all be over by the time anyone found his white van. He sat down, wiped his eyes with his right sleeve, and waited. He could wait. English people are used to waiting. They will line up and wait for just about anything. It is called a queue. After all, an Englishman will form an orderly queue of one, even if he's alone, is the oft-told joke. He felt peace at last. He was still waiting. After a while, he realized it was not peace he felt; it was surrender.

It was way past lunchtime by now, and Gareth was hungry. Not for food, but for love. He was not sure anymore what love was. All he felt was a constant fear. He had not eaten for forty-two days. He had been drinking water every day since she left but no food. It was not intentional or fasting to excess. He simply did not feel like eating. He had now lost over fifty pounds in weight. When he last saw his wife as they crossed paths with the girls, he told her about losing so much weight. She laughed and noted, "Well, you've been trying to lose it for years; it only took you over a month; you should thank me." He cooked and fed his babies when they visited, but he did not desire to eat. By now, his body was starting to hurt inside. He had stopped using the bathroom for a while now. There was no need. He had only thought that his decision-making was becoming somewhat unstable the previous day, and not eating was not helping at all. He took more pills; they did not help.

Gareth had always struggled secretly and silently throughout his life with his mental health. Now it seemed this challenge had careered out of control. No sleep, no food, all alone, no physical touch, no baby girls, no home, no possessions, no money; everything had gone. So it seemed to make perfect sense to cross the concrete barrier once more and sit. Only a week before, he had been contemplating his funeral. His excellent therapist was worried, and his dutiful daughter was anxious. Gareth, however, was not alarmed at all. After all, there could be no coming back after what he had done and the appalling consequences. His mind kept repeating his father's words told him when he was a child; "You are no good, You are worthless, You are a terrible child, You will never be anything but a cripple." It was true. I should never have been born, he often thought.

This thought was not a new idea. Gareth had repeatedly fought this idea ever since he was eight years old. Being sexually abused as a small child only seemed to increase those thoughts. After all, he and other children always accept the responsibility for their abuse. Why? Because adult abusers tell them so. Along with terrifying threats to stay silent. Gareth often looked back and noted that the family dog, a tan and white corgi, was never mistreated. The dog had a comfortable bed with a doggie blanket. Gareth and his siblings were often thrown into the metal bathtub inside the bathroom to sleep. No blankets. Only cold metal. That is what you do to 'bad' children, right? They should behave themselves, shouldn't they?

STUPID QUESTIONS

Gareth slowly climbed down the large rocks a little further. Not too far. It was dangerous, he thought. He hoped breathing in the clear fresh mountain air and gazing at the high desert mountains' magnificence would help him calm down. Maybe even consider himself fortunate to be in such a heavenly place? Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. The grief and anguish only ramped up at an overwhelming pace. He was now starting to shake uncontrollably and sobbing like a child. Saliva dripped from his mouth as he leaned forward to hide his face from any passing boats. Both tears and phlegm poured out from his nose. If he had a mirror, he would have seen his face dirty, sweaty, and bright red. He looked as if a heart attack was impending. He was ready to burst. He only looked up as he heard a loud noise.

The Jet Ski came from the other side of the reservoir. A man dressed in tan and green was riding over. Although he looked and felt terrible, Gareth smiled somewhat as the rider came closer. More of a sad grin than a smile, but he tried. As the Jet Ski closed into the jagged rocky side of the reservoir, it became apparent that the man was a park ranger. Ranger Smith looked like a man on a mission, with full camo and a sidearm in holster. He was sweating; it was hot now; it was approaching noon. "Howdy," said Ranger Smith. His name tag read, 'Lavell Smith.' He continued, "Are you having a good day?" First stupid question. "How did you get here?" Second stupid question. Gareth attempted to respond, but Ranger Smith interrupted and asked for a driving license or identification. Third stupid question. Why would I need a driving license to sit on a rock? Then came the question of all absurd questions; Ranger Lavell Smith asked, "Have you got a fishing pole?' Unquestionably the fourth stupid question! The trouble only started when Gareth replied. "Yes, it's in my pocket," he said sarcastically. Ranger Smith was not a happy Ranger. He frowned, and as the sweat ran down his face, he retorted, "You should take this more seriously, sir. I have been checking fishing licenses all day. You'd be surprised how many people don't have licenses." Gareth stood up and walked away back up the rocks and over the concrete barrier. Ranger Smith yelled up, "So, have you been fishing?" The only reply the ranger heard was, "Jerk" The soccer mom's van drove away. A mile down the shoreline, it stopped. An empty pull-off. Not a soul around.

SUICIDE

This word always catches people's attention. The act itself also grabs people's attention. The actions and choices before the 'final solution' often go unnoticed. How many times have you heard this classic piece of advice? Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Gareth had heard that little gem more times than he cared to remember. It drove him crazy just listening to it. Don't you think I freakin' know that? He thought that where I was and how I feel is not a problem. After all, he continued, A problem is when you run out of gas. A problem is when you are late for work. Feeling this way is a nightmare, not a damn problem or a stupid dilemma.

Running through his mind over and over were David Bowie's lyrics. Gareth's version of 'The Width of A Circle' bounced from one side of his brain, rattling around. He thought, I saw a monster under a tree; I looked up, the monster was me! This monster had once been an innocent victim of child abuse and rape. However, he was a grown man, and grown men knew the difference between right and wrong. He knew it was his fault. He was not trying to hide it; he told everyone who would listen he was a monster. Not just under the tree. In the movies, all the monsters die, and the world applauds. Gareth was doing the world and his family a huge favor. He looked at the watch on his left wrist. How long is this damn train going to be?

Gareth placed his hand into the water. The water seemed cold to his touch. It did not matter either way; after all, he could not swim and was terrified to boot. He was not naïve. He spent years at church with those who deemed themselves righteous and those less 'perfect' who both needed help at some time. They had severe mental health challenges, including some with suicidal tendencies. He knew about these tragedies, these mysteries, this debilitating disease, and the dark feelings of hopelessness one encounters. However, knowledge means nothing when it is you in the padded cell. He chuckled to himself. It seemed strange to laugh, but this memory was funny. At least to him, it was.

He had been in a padded cell, alone, with a shiny aluminum table-like bed in the room. Completely devoid of anything except the padded walls and floor. Why had he spent the night in a padded cell? He laughed again. It was by far the safest damn room in the psych ward! The psych ward had a dozen or so rooms with two beds. He was to share the room nearest the nurse's station. He looked and saw a man sitting outside the room.

Gareth asked why a guard was sitting by the open door. The nurse explained his potential roommate had sudden violent episodes and needed a guard to protect the other inmates. "What? Are you kidding me?" Gareth asked. "There is not a chance I'm sleeping in that room," he continued. There were no other rooms or beds, explained the nurse. The medical team called for the doctor to bolster their explanation. After a few minutes, the tall white-coated figure appeared. He explained there was no option for Gareth. No other way. Furthermore, if Gareth were unwilling to obey staff instructions, 'other' choices would have to be made by the medical staff.

One thing you can guarantee from most Englishmen is their immediate response to anything conceived as forced obedience. It was enough to endure such conduct at church without dealing with the Gestapo in the hospital. He asked what the 'other choices might be. In his sternest voice, the doctor suggested a stay at the State hospital might be that 'choice.' The doctor also pointed out that the State hospital was like a prison, and once you entered, there was no specific release date. Another thing for sure, an Englishman would not, and could not, be frightened into submission. He declared with force, "You guys do what you are going to do, but I am NOT staying in that room with uncontrollable crazies." The doctor pointed out that I had nothing to worry about as the violent patient was always in a straight jacket! Gareth laughed; he was not impressed. The doctors and nurses moved away and chatted together for a moment. "The only other place is the padded cell," they said. Expecting a negative response, they were all surprised when Gareth said, "That's the very thing for me, Jimmy," in his best Scottish Billy Connolly accent. They seemed bemused.

He always giggled to himself about his story in the psych ward. Once again, he gazed across the empty rail tracks a mile away over the water. Where the hell is the Creeper?

The afternoon had almost passed. Frantic thoughts brought one wild memory after another. These unpredictable thoughts again returned to the tragedy called marriage — a Shakespearean tragedy. It was the damage to his wife that tortured him. Thankfully he knew she had been receiving support. She would need it. He was much more concerned for his eldest daughter. She appeared to have everything under control: a new husband and a new baby. She was well educated, and she looked just fine for all intents and purposes.

Yet, he could see she was crumbling underneath the necessary façade she had created over the years. Their relationship was so close, and he knew she had endured the craziness around her for many years. It had been fun to see her when she left home for college. Her unique joyful personality came out for a short spell. She was never one to complain at all. She had been stoic and kept her anxieties hidden inside. Not just hidden but buried deep within her dungeons. He was worried about her. And yet, why would he choose suicide if he was so concerned? Wouldn't that make her already tender heart crash into a million shattered pieces?

When you break someone's heart, the shattered pieces never go back together as they used to. Gareth felt those thoughts reverberate around his now painful, illogical, ready-to-explode head. Where is the damn train? Did I not see it? I am sure I would have seen it or heard it. No matter what continent you are on, the freakin' trains are always late. I'm English. We hate people who are late. It means they do not like us when people are late, right? It had been hours, and it still had not returned. The freakin' Creeper hates me!

At first, he had not been too concerned as the Creeper had a reputation for breaking down. After all, it was an old steam engine. However, now everything started to confuse him. The train had to come back. The depot was in Heber; it had to come back. By now, he had begun to lose the ability to think straight; he even considered that the train was being held back on purpose. Maybe somebody knows my plan, he thought. Gareth only had one thought. If you are waiting to die, how long do you keep waiting?

THE NIGHT APPROACHES

It did not seem that late, yet dusk was fast approaching because of the high mountain tops. The mobile phone rang several times in the last hour, but he did not answer or even look at it. Eventually, Gareth walked back up the large rocks and placed his phone and wallet in the unlocked van. Now at least the police could identify him. He did not wish to cause anyone more trouble than was necessary. Even with madness in his head, the English concern for appropriateness was still at the forefront of his mind. That is the problem with illogical thinking; it does not make sense. It did not seem he grasped the inappropriateness of his choice at all. Had the intention always been about Gareth making the only option available? Or was the choice already made for him? Were the bewildering ideas inside his brain an illness? A disease? Or was he utterly aware of his actions and making a false choice? To him, it had always been a war within. Now it was about to be a war without. A fight he would surely lose.

Gareth was becoming angry. Not at the world or anyone in it. But at himself. He could have avoided all this. If only. I never wanted to hurt anyone, he thought to himself. If only. He recalled vividly being a naïve young sixteen-year-old. Even so, he had recently started to work as a civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture. He had even purchased his first motorcycle, a Yamaha. His father made fun of the bike because it was Japanese. His father thought he was funny and intelligent. He was neither — he was a monster of a man who created a monster of a boy.

Gareth was a man now. He worked and had his transportation. An air of self-confidence was starting to show. His self-esteem had been non-existent as a boy. Of course, terrified children do not develop the appropriate self-esteem. But now, it was different. If only. Even wearing a three-piece suit with a conservative tie, as rules required, did not make him a man. A sixteen-year-old man is still a boy, no matter what he says. During the first month at work, Gareth was to attend a senior management party, and when there, he would be introduced to the manager's beautiful daughter, Maxine. Only sixteen and receiving invites and introductions. He was proud that the manager had so much confidence in his work. And perhaps even more excited to see Maxine. He had seen her pictures; she was tall and blond, aged sixteen. Yet, this thirty-year memory was not a good one. Upon arriving at the ancient and expensive-looking manor near Chester, his manager directed him to an upstairs bedroom where Maxine would be waiting to meet him. He thought it strange, yet he was excited. If only. He opened the double doors. There was no Maxine. No teenage beauty. Only his manager behind the doors. His manager punched and strangled, held him down, and viciously raped him. The truth was that there was never a Maxine. If only Gareth had died by suicide, hanging in his closet when he got home that night as planned. If he had done so, he could not have hurt anyone in the future. If only.

THE END IS NIGH

It seemed apparent in the darkness that the Creeper was not coming back tonight. There had been no movement on the rail track since this morning; Gareth did not understand. What happened? It should have been a good thing. Why? Why? Oh, why? Do I have to go back to the Fatherland, Provo? It was dark, but it was not dark. The moon was shining brightly over the mountains. The vast mass of water sparkled as in a Disney movie, except without the inanimate objects talking to each other. No teapots are dancing here. No bears singing in grass skirts. Maybe Aladdin could come by and take me away, he thought. He could live in a cartoon. After all, he always wanted to be Tigger as a child; he loved listening to Tigger speak. But now, he would be Eeyore, the miserable freakin' donkey. He was tired and had not thought straight all day long and longer. Gareth tormented himself. He felt paralyzed by hopelessness, guilt, and dread. His specialty was what he called his disaster theory or worst-case scenario — never moving on and experiencing eternal pain.

His thoughts rapidly jerked from one side of his brain to the other. "Typical," he said to himself. "I can't die without it being a freakin' failure." Gareth never considered all the successes he had encountered over his lifetime. Under the shiny chrome exterior of positivism and Tony Robbins-like language lay a void or space. It had been empty since childhood. Very empty. It had been stolen from him and never given back. What does a child do when his innocence is gone at such a young age? Imagine being eight years old and knowing what only adults know. It is too shocking to imagine. His family accused him of dreaming it; not so, he lived it. It was all too real and had been for a very long time.

The previous day Gareth met with his local church leaders to ask for help and confess his sins. The response was not what he expected. Their focus had been on avoiding any bad press for the church and not spiritual aid for a sinner. The truth was his ex-communication would take place because of "bringing the name of the church into disrepute." He had hoped that with nowhere to lay his head, as the scripture reads, Jesus and his only true church would help him atone. Not so with this Jesus. Not so with this church. Even God himself does not forgive the deplorable. Men, I expect. God, I do not. Gareth thought maybe he did not need the Creeper to certify his time of death. Making choices today was becoming ever more like Eeyore; oh no. Not again, Stupid ass donkey!

Waiting for the Creeper changed his life. At least that day. The waiting had been excruciating to an extreme. The reliving of past traumas should have pushed Gareth closer to his death. At least, he was hoping so. That day they did not. The song from MASH says, "suicide is painless." It may be so but waiting to die is categorically not so — a voodoo doll, covered in large razor-sharp pins, would be the only one who knew how he felt. Yet, ironically, Waiting for the Creeper had saved his life. The torturous day scarred him forever. But he deserved that, didn't he? He kept thinking back several weeks when he talked with his wife at the water's edge of Vivian Park. He had begged and pleaded. He pleaded with her and swore he would change. He was sorry and sorry again. He certainly understood her reluctance. As she walked away, she told him that she hoped he would die. She almost got her desire that day.

Gareth never did find out why the train had never reappeared. He drove home slowly. He made it back to Provo. It would be wonderful to announce the Creeper was the pivotal moment in his life, eventually leading to happiness, fairies, and being Tigger. Sadly it was not the case. The Creeper was the first in many moments over the next decade of similar ilk: homelessness, hunger, five years of therapy, and at least three more attempts at death by suicide. Through carbon monoxide poisoning in the van, a Glock revolver in his mouth, and suffocation by plastic oven bags. All failed. In ongoing trials of various brutal medications, most were worse than the sickness they were supposed to improve. Do you all know what they say? Fake it until you make it. Gareth did just that for years, to no avail. It never worked out. So why tell me what hurts? If you remain silent forever, you and your life will eventually disappear. Are you prepared to do just that? Or are you willing to share? After all, the pains shared ultimately become love.

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I live &write on two continents ⚽🏈 teacher, coach, and writer. Religious cults/Mormonism are my main interests. Contact me at stevearrowsmith.com@gmail.com

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Steve Arrowsmith MA

Steve Arrowsmith MA

I live &write on two continents ⚽🏈 teacher, coach, and writer. Religious cults/Mormonism are my main interests. Contact me at stevearrowsmith.com@gmail.com