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Erik Vincent Johnson had hands like baseball mitts: Tremendous, oddly-shapen, and a little bit leathery. Erik was 33 years old, and lived happily with his loving mother, Patricia. At an early age, Erik had been diagnosed with an advanced form of autism that left him mentally retarded, but Patricia loved her son all the same. Erik's father had long ago packed his things and left the house for a "business trip." He never returned. Erik thought that his business must be very important indeed, to keep him this long.
Erik didn't understand many things about the world around him. He didn't understand why people ate lambs when they were so cute and cuddly, or why priests who practiced sodomy spoke out against homosexuality. He didn't understand why people made fun of him when he went to the music store and sang along to his favorite song, as he was so very fond of doing. But most of all, Erik didn't understand why people found his great, big hands so frightening and unusual. His mother had told him that they were beautiful hands, because God had made them. Erik wondered why, if everything God made was beautiful, people reacted so poorly to seeing others naked. There were many things that confused Erik.
Erik's feet were not unlike his hands. They were large and swollen, with a rough texture to them. This made shoe shopping very difficult. Even when Patricia managed to find a pair in Erik's size, he found them very uncomfortable and cumbersome to wear. Most of the time, Erik went without. He couldn't understand why this bothered so many people, but his mother still loved him. Erik also loved his mother, even if she confused him at times. For instance, while she was taking a bath, she very fervently forbade Erik from entering the bathroom, for fear of him seeing her nude. This confounded Erik, who thought that everyone was beautiful, and often made him feel unloved.
One day, during Patricia's alone time, Erik decided to go for a walk. Erik was told never to leave the house without his mother's permission, but Erik didn't much feel like doing what his mother told him at the time. He walked to the grocery store, and he saw the plane ride outside. Erik had never gotten to ride the plane, because his mother told him that he was too big. Erik wanted to try it, but had no money. And so, Erik had to settle for sitting atop the device and pretending that it was moving. Erik enjoyed this very much, until the grocery store manager appeared and demanded that he get out of the plane. Erik did not want to stop his aeronautical adventure, but his mother had taught him to always respect authority, and Erik reluctantly followed the manager's instruction. After a brief talking to, Erik left the grocery store for elsewhere.
Erik felt upset at having been lectured. Erik did not like being yelled at. Perhaps the music store would make him feel better. Erik walked until he came to the familiar neon sign, and then proceeded to go inside. He headed straight to the music player, and he waited for his favorite song to play. Erik didn't understand how to browse or select music on the player without his mother, so he had to wait for the random shuffle to play the song he wanted. Erik had come to the music store without his mother's accompaniment before, but those times, the store was empty; not crowded, like it was today. As Erik waited, a boy came up to the player and pressed a button, causing a new song to play. Erik, not understanding how the machine worked, was very upset by the possibility that he may now have to wait longer to hear his favorite song, and began to frighten the boy. Fortunately, the store clerk, who knew Erik, was there to quell the situation. He calmed the lumbering Erik and browsed to his favorite song for him. Erik waited.
"If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!" The speakers began to play triumphantly. Erik was delighted, as he sang and he clapped to the music. The song was from a children's road trip CD that had long ago been advertised on the reel, but the store clerk took special care to keep the track on the machine just for Erik. Erik clapped and he clapped and he clapped some more, his great, big hands making cymbals of themselves for all to hear. This bothered some of the other customers, as some began whispering comments about Erik and others shuffled out of the store. Erik didn't care; he had his favorite song to keep his spirits up. The clerk didn't care, either, as he knew that after the song concluded, Erik would happily leave of his own accord.
Before Erik could finish his song, however, his mother entered the store, having finished her bath. She was very upset with Erik for leaving the house without her. Erik was told to return home with her right now, but Erik didn't want to go just yet. Erik was still enjoying his song. But Patricia was very insistent, and knew better than anyone how to handle her son... at least, most of the time. Erik had been having a particularly rough time of it today, and was not his usual obedient self. This frustrated Patricia greatly, and just before things looked as if they were about to turn ugly, the friendly store clerk approached the old woman with a CD in his hand.
Why, it was the CD that contained Erik's favorite song! The clerk handed it to her with a smile, and made sure that Erik saw the transfer take place. Erik was very excited upon being told that he would now be able to listen to the song any time he liked, but his mother knew better than to reward his misbehavior: She told Erik that he could only keep the CD if he promised never to leave the house without permission again. Erik readily agreed, despite not being very good at remembering promises, and Patricia asked the clerk how much she owed him. The clerk told her to take the disc free of charge, as a gift to Erik. "What a kind man," the two recipients thought. The two then left the store without further incident.
Erik listened to his CD over and over and over again. The whole next week, all poor Patricia heard was her son's singing and dancing to his favorite tune... but she was a strong woman, able to bear much on her stout, narrow shoulders. Erik loved his new gift. He loved it on Monday, and he loved it on Tuesday. He loved it on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and on Sunday. But when Monday came again, something began to feel wrong. Erik no longer felt the same joy he once did at hearing his favorite song. What was once his only means of forgetting his troubles and letting it all go, now began to grow mundane, as this rare treat became a common luxury. Soon, he no longer felt joy at all from listening to the CD, and this made Erik very upset.
"That clerk wasn't kind at all," he thought. "Now I can't even enjoy my favorite song, and it's all because he gave me this CD." These thoughts accumulated in poor Erik's brain like rodents around a lump of ricotta. Soon, Erik found that his only method of feeling joy had been taken from him, and this made him very hard for Patricia to deal with at times. Erik and Patricia began to fight often, and every time, Erik would lose privileges or otherwise be punished for his outbursts. This, too, upset Erik. But what could he do? Erik didn't know anything about the world outside, and certainly couldn't live on his own. Why, the month before, he had tried to call his grandmother using the microwave. Prior to that, he had to be convinced that the coolers at the grocery store were not, in fact, portals to Narnia that were just hidden behind the rows of milk. And let's not even mention the time he met with authorities after misunderstanding what was meant by the term "strip mall."
And so, Erik sulked. He sulked on Tuesday, and he sulked on Wednesday. It seemed to him like he was destined to now be forever unhappy. It was then that he came to a very important realization: If he was so very miserable, what more could his mother do to make things any worse? Erik had hit rock bottom, and was convinced that she had no power to bring him down any lower. And so, on Thursday, during another one of Patricia's baths, Erik once again left the house unsupervised.
This time, Erik did not go to the music store, or to the local grocer—even if he did want to investigate those coolers more closely, just to be sure. Instead, Erik decided to go to the nearby gas station, which he had never been to before. Patricia didn't drive, and had no reason to provide patronage to the convenience store's exorbitant prices. Erik had some pocket money, though, and thought that perhaps he would buy himself a package of M&M's. He preferred them to traditional candy bars because the candy bars didn't have such colorful characters on the labels. By the time Erik arrived at the mini mart, it was already late in the day, and dusk was fast approaching. He noticed a group of teenage boys huddling around the front of the store. Erik didn't like teenagers, as they were often very mean to him about his condition. But he so very badly wanted those M&M's, and decided to approach the entrance anyway.
The boys, of course, immediately recognized Erik by his great, lumbering hands and bare feet. He had become quite well known around the small town, and as might be expected, the boys wasted no time assaulting poor Erik with insults and mean-spirited jokes. Most of the time, Erik had a hard time understanding much of what was said around him, but he understood all of the words that these boys used, and they made him very hurt and upset. Erik tried his very best to defend himself, but every time he would try to form the words he wanted to say, these mean-spirited youths would take the opportunity to launch yet another assault on his helpless psyche.
Erik was hurt, but he was also very confused. Why were these boys being so mean to him? What good could it possibly do them to make such horrid remarks at his expense? Confusion turned to anger, as Erik began to lose his patience with being ridiculed. The boys were less than impressed, and responded to Erik's anger with taunts and goading remarks.
Ever since he was a boy, Erik had been told to never resort to violence, and that it was very, very bad to hurt other people. Erik had been very good about keeping to this code throughout his life, wanting only to show kindness and compassion to all living things. But even this gentle heart had its breaking point. Before the boys knew what had happened, Erik had grabbed one of their small necks in his monstrous grip and lifted the boy high into the air. He shook the youth like a ragdoll, angrily telling the boy not to make fun of him as his two companions began to panic. When they realized that their friend was in peril, they began to fight back, and tried to push Erik. But Erik was much larger and stronger than the boys, and easily swatted them aside with his large, free hand. He threw the boy he was holding down to the ground beside his friends, now lying unconscious on the concrete below.
No sooner had the boy regained his breath than he began to berate Erik for attacking them. This upset Erik even further. Erik wasn't the bad guy. They were the bad guys. And if he didn't stop them, they would just continue hurting people. And so, Erik raised his great, big foot, and he brought it down violently on the frightened boy's leg, snapping it. The boy cried in pain, but Erik did not stop. He continued to stomp on the three boys, their blood soaking his leathery feet, as they were no longer able to flee from his vindiction.
Erik knew that his mother would not approve of his actions, but he also knew that there was nothing she could do to punish him that would in any way worsen his life. In fact, Erik realized something. It felt good to disobey his mother, and to choose his own actions. And it felt very, very good to give these nasty people what they deserved. By the time Erik had come to this glorious realization, the three boys were utterly helpless, and it took only three well-aimed stamps to the skull to put an end to their mean-spirited behavior... permanently. Erik stood there for a moment, basking in his victory, unaware that the mini mart clerk had stepped outside, and had been watching the last several minutes of his gleeful endeavor.
Erik was delighted to see the girl, and politely asked for a package of M&M's, holding out some crumpled old bills he had been saving in his pocket. Terrified, the girl fled behind the counter inside, and activated the silent alarm. Like many things, this confused Erik. Erik wanted to know why she wouldn't sell him the M&M's, and when she refused to respond to him, he began to get angry again. He approached the counter, lumbering over the frail girl, until finally, she told him to take all the M&M's he wanted. Erik was now more confused than ever. He didn't have enough money to pay for that many M&M's. Upon telling her as much, however, Erik was thrilled to learn that he could take the whole lot for nothing at all. Since the M&M's were free, Erik asked if he could instead spend his two dollars on a Milky Way bar, to which she responded that he could take as many of those as he liked, as well. Erik was enraptured by this magical place called the convenience store, where all of the candy was free to take. What a convenient place it was indeed!
As Erik left the store with as much as his tremendous hands could carry, he contemplated how much better things had gone for him since he had disobeyed his mother's orders. For the first time in a very long time, Erik had truly had a marvelous day. "If only this day could last forever," he thought. Unfortunately for Erik, fate is not always so kind, as his mother once again arrived on the scene to berate her son.
There are men in this world who have witnessed greater tragedies than most of us will ever even hear about on the daily news. Wars, internment camps, rape and torture... these men, just possibly, may have a slim chance of being able to imagine the expression of horror and outrage on little Patricia's face as she witnessed the sight of her son standing over three bloody, mangled teenage corpses with an armful of stolen candy bars in tow. Patricia usually had the grace to withhold the bulk of Erik's scolding until the two were safely at home, but this was no ordinary case. Erik had crossed the line in ways she had never imagined he was capable of, and she unleashed a fury upon her son the likes of which has not been seen since the plagues of the Old Testament.
However, for the first time in his life, Erik was not afraid of his mother. In fact, he found it almost amusing, seeing this small woman standing before him, shouting at the top of her lungs in her shrill little voice, several heads beneath him. He found it very amusing. So amusing, in fact, that he began to laugh. He laughed and he laughed, he even dropped all his candy bars, he laughed so much. This infuriated Patricia even further, as she stormed ever closer to her son. Erik knew what to do in this situation. With a powerful sweep of his fist, he sent his mother's small head flying clean off her brittle old body with the same motion he had used to dismiss the boys before. Her body collapsed to the ground beneath his feet, atop the pile of candy bars he had dropped, and all at once, Erik's problems were gone.
Erik couldn't help himself. He clapped. He laughed and he danced and he clapped his big, beautiful hands for all the world to see. There was no one who could tell him not to leave the house. There was no one who could tell him not to clap, or to dance, or to sing his once-more favorite song. For the very first time, Erik was happy, and he knew it. And so, he clapped once again. Now he could live the way he wanted to, getting rid of all those nasty people who just cause problems for him and for others. There was no one who could stand in Erik's way.
Those mean old policemen never knew what hit them.
Written by Xelrog T. Apocalypse