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So, in other words, I feel like I'm perfectly justified for wanting to get out of the house as much as possible. I've always meant to get out of this shithole of a town, but I can barely carry my own weight living in a trailer park.
I got into my black Ford that is now orange from years of rust and miles of driving on dirt roads. I decided on heading to the Goodwill to pick up some VHS tapes. Even though it's the twenty-first century, the trailer park doesn't have cable (forget about satellite), and I only own a VCR player. So as you can imagine, my sources of entertainment are limited to books and tapes. My friends tell me I'm perpetually living in 1997. I tell them I'm fine with that.
My town's Goodwill is crammed between a bakery and fabric store that's missing one of its neon letters. The walk from my car to the front door was excruciating, as I had left my sandals out in the sun and it felt as if I were wearing oily frying pans. My Goodwill is like any other, I suppose. All of the pants in the clothing section smell like their previous owners had never learned what a bath was, the toys were mostly composed of Barbies with missing legs and glassy, white eyes, and the books were eaten away by age, water, and probably earthworms. The movies section, however, that was my prize.
They had the usual. Hancock, E.T, Independence Day, Die Hard 2. A surprising amount of Will Smith titles. A few of them made me chuckle. Good Burger. That would be a good one to watch with the guys. About twice a month, my buddies and I sit down, crack open some cold ones, and make fun of movies, MST3K style. One of my friends, Dick, is actually a fan of SNL, and an even bigger Kenan Thompson fan, so I knew Good Burger would be a great movie choice. I snorted just thinking about it. As I picked it off of the shelf, though, I noticed another movie that was trapped in the back of the shelf. I couldn't make out the full title, all I saw were the words "Your Body."
Out of curiosity, I tried sliding it out from behind all of the other movies, but I pulled too hard and they all came cascading off the shelf and onto my sandals. I held back a yelp and noticed the teenage store clerk, glaring at me and popping her bubblegum. The "Your Body" film was still in my hand, so I gently laid it to the side and bent over, starting to pick up movies. I stacked them up and slid them all up back on the shelf in no particular order (as if they were in order before).
I couldn't find "Good Burger" after that, so I just counted my losses and picked up "Your Body." However, now that I held it in my hand, I noticed that its full title was "Your Body and You!" Upon further inspection, I realized that it was a Sex Ed film from the early 90's.
Jackpot. In my head, I did the math:
Outdated VHS tape + Uncomfortable child actors + Sex terms like "Testes" = Funny movie.
Aside from the title, on the front cover of the tape there was a prepubescent boy and girl, facing away from each other and looking generally shy, all set to a very "Saved by the Bell"-esque background. It was bright sickening yellow with a bunch of pink and purple triangles and circles.
Instead of there being a description on the back, however, there were three snapshots of events that apparently took place in the movie. One was of a clown-like man in white face make-up, ruby red lipstick, a crisply ironed black suit, and outstretched arms. Another was a person with a brown paper bag over their head, surrounded by corn fields. The last was of a person in a purple cardboard robot costume, with their dryer vent arms sticking out in 90 degree angles.
These images caught my eye as being very out of place for a Sex Ed film, and the more I looked at the tape, the more it looked homemade. As if it was a home movie and someone just compiled the cover of the tape together in Photoshop.
I made my way over to the register and handed it to the clerk, who gave me a weird "you're such a perv" look. I paid for it and she asked if I wanted a bag between clicks of her chewing gum. I said no thanks, and I carried it back to my car and drove off.
If we're being perfectly honest, I forgot about the tape for the rest of the day. I spent some time looking for clothes that would fit me (I've always been a stress eater; I had been going up a few sizes), and I ate at Chili's for lunch. After spending most of the day downtown, I made my way back down the dirt road and to my trailer. Unloading bags of clothing and a few groceries, I noticed the tape hidden under all of the plastic and I smiled again. This was going to be a fun movie night.
I called the guys over, but most of them had work or dates or some other stuff like that. In the end, I decide to postpone movie night to next weekend. But as I picked up "Travels With Charley", my mind flung itself back to the tape. For the second time that day, my curiosity got the better of me. I went outside at 11 o'clock to get an old Sex Ed film from my truck. I know, I'm a creep, but the pictures on the back had peaked my interest.
When I got back inside, I turned on the old black TV. It buzzed as it turned on, playing white noise at what seemed like full volume. I scrambled for the remote and turned it down, and then slid the tape out of its cardboard case and into the VCR.
It was clear that someone had been watching the film before I had and didn't take the time to rewind it back to the beginning. The tape started in the middle of a song.
The singer was the cardboard purple robot from the back of the cover. I hadn't taken a good look at the robot before, but now that I looked at it, I realized how laughably makeshift the costume was.
The body and head were made out of two separate cardboard boxes that had been painted purple. It had square eye and mouth holes cut out, but they were covered with black mesh so that you couldn't see who was inside. The arms were made from dryer ventilation, and legs were just purple sweatpants. The person in the costume was doing the robot and singing in a shrill, barely distinguishable voice. I realized it was probably a woman in the costume.
I wanted to rewind to the beginning, but I was entranced by the comedic awkwardness of the song. The music was okay, I suppose. It was synth music, and it seemed to be the only professional thing that I was seeing. I can remember a few of the lyrics:
"Get up, take off your shoes!
"Together, we'll spread the news!
"So, your body is turning.
"Don't worry, we're all learning,
"About the fun times,
"And bad times,
Like I'm saying, it was probably the most cringe-worthy thing I had ever seen.
When the song was over, the shot panned to two little kids who couldn't be older than 10. A boy and a girl, the same ones on the cover. They were both sitting on the carpeted floor, and they seemed to be in the middle of a game of Monopoly. They both clapped hesitantly.
The shot changed to a closeup of the clown man from the cover of the tape. I nearly jumped out of my seat. He was sweating profusely, and his white makeup was rubbing off, but he didn't seem to care. He grinned with his ruby lips and looked off camera (probably at the robot) and said, "Excellent job, Pubot."
I almost laughed at the robot's name. Pubot?
But then again, something about the clown rubbed me the wrong way. The way he looked at whatever was off camera like it was a piece of meat, or the deranged twinkle in his black eyes. I don't know. He just creeped me out.
Unsettled, I rewound the tape until I no longer heard the faint humming of the VCR and then pressed play.
It started with a single synth note that led off into nowhere, and the words appeared on the screen: "Baker Family Productions." And then, of course: "Your Body and You!"
It was at this time that I noticed how damaged the tape was. There was the occasional visual tear, but sometimes it went full-out distortion and it was almost unwatchable.
The actual film started with the boy and the girl laying on the carpet, playing Monopoly. The shot zoomed out and the clown man walked on screen. The boy and girl reigned surprise.
"Who are you?" The boy asked, standing up with the girl.
"Why, I'm Pubester, the puberty clown!" The clown man said in a gravelly Krusty The Clown impersonation. The kids didn't laugh at this ridiculous announcement, which surprised me.
Pubot jumped on screen. "And I'm Pubot, the puberty robot!" she said.
"And together," they said in unison, "We're going to teach you about puberty!"
"But what is puberty?" the girl asked.
Pubester glared at her. The girl gasped and put her hand over her mouth. Pubot dropped her arms. They all stood in silence.
"I'm so sorry, daddy," the girl said, wincing.
Pubester lost it. "CUT! FUCKING CUT! SHE ALWAYS FUCKS UP HER LINES, BETTY. FUCKING ALWAYS." He turned to the girl. "WHY CAN'T YOU BE MORE LIKE YOUR BROTHER?"
The girl tried to apologize again.
"FUCKING SAVE IT. IF YOU FUCK UP AGAIN, YOU CAN SLEEP OUT IN THE GODDAMN RAIN."
Pubester and Pubot walked off screen, and the boy and the girl sat down at the board game again. The girl wiped her eyes with her sweater.
And so they did the same scene again, me with my mouth gaping open. When it came to the part where the girl messed up, she stayed silent and the boy said, "But what is puberty?" And Pubot answered.
"Puberty is when your body goes through the changes that make you an adult."
Pubester smiled, his lips gleaming. "That's right, Pubot, and we're here to help these kids understand their transition from children to adults."
After a little bit of silence, Pubester ran over to the camera. "Alright, cut. Was that so hard, Tabitha?"
Emotionless, the girl shook her head. The boy stared at the floor. Pubester moved the camera to the side so Pubot took up the whole screen. "Alright, honey. Sing the song. Just like we rehearsed it."
After Pubester said action, Pubot started singing that horrible song. I fast fowarded, still in shock from what I just saw. Pubot finished the song, and the shot changed back to the close up of Pubester.
This was strange, as the film seemed generally unedited, but there were still cuts here and there. Pubester appeared to be the Director, and he didn't seem to be what my parents would call "all there." Perhaps he forgot to edit the film before it was distributed.
After Pubester finished his line, he said something without breaking eye contact with whatever was off camera. "Alright, Betty, move the camera to the kids." The camera shifted to the boy and Tabitha squeakily, and the clown said, "Action!"
"Gee, that was a great song!" the boy exclaimed.
"Yeah, it was spectacular," Tabitha said in a monotone voice.
Pubot started to say something, but Pubester stopped her. "No, Betty," he said, raising a gloved hand. His voice was strained, as if he struggled to keep his temper under control.
"We're done for today. Tabitha needs some timeout so she can reflect on her lack of acting."
Tears welled in Tabitha's eyes. "No, Daddy! I'll do better next ti-"
The shot changed to someone walking up the stairs. They had the camera in their hand, and I couldn't see who it was. They turned on the kitchen light, and walked over to the window. I could hear the rain pittering on the roof, and when the camera man set the camera facing out the window, I saw how dark it was outside. They turned on the porch light, and outside I could see that the house was out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by acres of cornfields. The front yard had a single baby tree and a dirt road stretching out for miles.
But as the camera adjusted to the new light source and got less blurry, I noticed something attached to the tree. There was a flash of lightning, and for a split second, I saw it perfectly clear.
Tabitha was chained by her legs to the tree, face first in the mud. Her back was heaving up and down, as if she were hyperventilating. The rain slapped the back of her neck, and her hands covered her head.
Suddenly, someone started speaking. Their voice was crisp and crackily; they were probably speaking right next to the camera's microphone.
"Consider this a lesson to bad actors, Tabby. Be more expressive or else you get to sleep out in the rain."
The shot changed to a man in his kitchen, frying bacon. It was Pubester, only he wasn't wearing his makeup or suit. He was an average looking guy, with some stubble and a bath robe on. The sun shone through the kitchen window brightly, and the bacon sizzled and popped. Pubester was humming the puberty song that Pubot had sung the night before. The camera was probably set up in some cupboard, as I could see the whole kitchen.
A woman with bedraggled hair and a white tank top stumbled in and turned on the coffee maker. "How did you sleep last night, honey?" Pubester asked, making Sunday morning small talk. It dawned on me that this woman, Betty, was Pubester's wife and was probably Pubot.
Betty almost said something, but then her eyes were caught by something out the window. "OH MY GOD!" She screamed, running frantically out of the screen door. Pubester smiled to himself, flipping a few slices of bacon.
About thirty seconds later, the screen door flung open, with Betty carrying Tabitha in her arms. The girl was soaking wet, and her face was a pale white color, as if she had been dressed up for her own funeral. Her eyes remained closed and her damp, matted hair hung from her scalp like wet noodles.
Betty laid her down on the kitchen's tiled floor, putting her lips on her daughters in an ignorant kind of attempt at CPR. This, however, was unneeded, as the girl's stomach was still heaving up and down just like it had been the night before, something Betty failed to notice. Tabitha was still alive.
Pubester turned around and grinned at Betty, his hands clutching the counter behind him.
"I let you say shit to my kids, Charlie," Betty gasped between pathetic necessitations, "But this time, you've gone too fucking far!"
Charlie stayed silent, looking at his wife like she was an ant trying to escape a swimming pool.
The smile stayed on his face, but it was only what I can describe as a fake smile. The kind that news anchors use when they want to seem charismatic. The kind of mask that only a sick, demented, shell of a person would wear.
He stopped leaning against the counter and approached his wife, slightly bending over as he walked, as if she were a small child.
"I was honestly hoping you'd say something like that," he said, kicking his wife in shoulder.
She fell to the ground, grasping where she had been kicked. She was about to scream something like, "CHARLIE, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?" Until she noticed him digging around in the knife drawer.
And even though it had been filmed on a shitty household camera, I could still see the terror form in her eyes. The way her expression had gone from infuriated to scared in just an instant.
Despite the pain in her shoulder and her daughter laying unconscious on the floor, Betty scrambled to her feet and out the screen door.
Charlie was in no rush; he found the particular knife he was looking for, stepped over his daughter, and walked briskly out the door. After a few seconds, I could hear him faintly in the distance:
"THERE'S CORNFIELDS FOR MILES OUT HERE."
For minutes, I stared deeply into my television screen, waiting for something to happen.
I nearly jumped when the little boy walked into the kitchen in his onesie pajamas and pulled himself into his seat. He saw his sister laying cold on the floor, but he didn't say anything, or even look at her. It was as if he were trained not to speak up.
Part of me wanted to fast forward, but I was overcome with a sudden empathy for the kid. His stomach audibly growled, but he didn't do anything about it. He just sat there, still as a statue, awaiting further instruction.
Minutes passed, and Charlie returned, his bathrobe sopping wet from the last night's rain. His knife was gone.
Ignoring his son, Charlie picked up Tabitha's body, and carried her further into the house off camera.
He returned and made himself a cup of coffee. Drinking it black, he walked over to his son and ruffled his hair.
The final scene of Your Body and You was probably the reason I chose to burn it. It wasn't for a religious reason or anything, or even for censorship. I've always firmly believed in the pursuit of knowledge. But there are some things the world would be better off from seeing.
The final scene was the same one depicted on the back of the tape; a girl with a paper bag over her head surrounded by cornfields. Her golden yellow hair twirled down from under her bag and onto her shoulders. She was moving amongst the cornfields, speeding quickly through the yellow stalks. It didn't take me long to figure out that she was in the back of a truck.
The girl sat as still as a statue, despite the fact that she was in the back of a speeding pickup.
After minutes of the same continuous shot, the truck slowly glided to a halt. I heard the driver's door open and then slam shut.
Charlie walked into frame, looking pissed off. He opened the back of the pickup and grabbed the girl by the wrists, then dragged her out of the back and into the dirt. I half-expected her to kick and scream, but she stayed still, only slightly wincing when she hit the ground.
Charlie sat her up and pulled some rope out of his jean pocket. The sun beat down on them both, as he tied her hands behind her back and forced her to stand up. He walked over to the trunk and unscrewed the camera from its tripod.
Grabbing her by the wrists, Charlie began to lead her into the cornfields while carrying the camera. The stalks brushed by them as they walked.
The more they moved, the more I could make out a small clearing in the distance where a couple of stalks had been pushed down. They made their way to it, and I felt a dropping sensation in my stomach. As if I had just fallen off of a skyscraper and was just seconds from hitting the ground.
Charlie pushed his way into the clearing. Inside was Betty, laying face down in a puddle of dried up blood. It had crusted into the soil, making it reddish brown.
Charlie forced the girl with the bag on her head to her knees. At this point, her shoulders started moving up and down, and her chest shuddered. Even though the bag blocked her face, I knew she was sobbing. She knew where she was, and she knew what had happened to her mother.
Instead of saying anything, Charlie sat in the dirt with his daughter, still pointing the camera at her.
"Tabby, when was the last time Mommy took you to Sunday School?" Charlie asked.
Inhaling deeply as she spoke, Tabitha said, "I don't know."
Charlie didn't say anything immediately, but I knew he was smirking behind the camera.
"When I was your age, my Mama had me and my brothers walking to Church every Sunday morning."
"I never really bought into it myself, the whole 'Jesus loves you' thing. Besides, if he really loved you, do you really think you'd be sitting in the dirt in the middle of nowhere next to me?"
Tabitha shook her head under the paper bag.
Charlie continued, "My Mama was a very strict Christian lady. However, she didn't always agree with everything that the good book said."
"She always said that she never believed that the Devil was a snake or a fallen angel. In fact, she believed that the Devil lived out here in Nebraska, eating from people's cornfields and making men beat their wives."
"Whenever I asked her if I could go out and play in the fields, she always warned me that if I should come across Satan himself, I shouldn't look him directly in the eyes. I should drop to the ground, cover my head, and call for help."
"She spoke about him as if she had met him once."
"I never came face-to-face with the Devil. Never directly, anyway." Charlie got up and dusted off his pant legs.
"Mama always said that the Devil could twist a man's will. Turn a martyr into a murderer."
"I suppose she was always right about that one."
The tape ended there. The screen turned blue, and a single word appeared on the bottom left corner.
Was this the end? How could it be? What happened to Tabitha? The boy?
It eventually crossed my mind to do research on the matter.
Like I said, Internet was not an option in my neighborhood. I must have wasted a quarter of my rent money on driving to the nearest library.
When I pulled up, I walked inside the glass sliding doors. Mmm... Air conditioning. A luxury I had never been able to afford.
The elderly woman at the front desk asked if she could help me. I asked if I could use one of her computers. She said yes, as long as I had a membership, which I did not. I paid a couple of bucks for the registration process, received my username and password, and then sat down at one of the monstrous white computers.
The library was almost deserted; the only other people were the librarian and a fat guy drooling over the graphic novel selection. I logged in and opened Chrome. Unsure of what to search, I typed in "Your Body and You!"
I clicked through a couple of pages of search results, turning up nothing of interest. Just a bunch of .gov pages.
Scrolling back up to the search bar, I typed in "Charlie Baker." It turned up with the Wikipedia page of Charlie Baker, the Republican Governor of Massachusetts. Dead End.
Scrolling back up, I typed in "Baker Family Productions." Surprisingly, there are a lot of Baker Families out there that produce things. Gospel music bands, homemade films, even canned goods.
However, after scrolling through a couple of pages, I found a single thread on some backwater gore fanatic forum entitled "The Charlie Baker Murders."
Reading the thread, I saw that it was started by someone like me who discovered one of Charlie's VHS tapes, only the one he saw wasn't "Your Body and You!" it was a film called "Everett's Big Day."
People on the forum were interested by the movie, as it was also unedited and showed Charlie Baker's general abuse to his wife and children.
They dug deeper, and through public record and several deleted Wikipedia articles, they uncovered more and more about who Charlie Baker was.
Charlie Baker was born just on the outskirts of Monowi, Nebraska. The town was small back then, but now it has a population of just one: Elsie Eiler. The town is now the smallest in Nebraska, and by extension, the United States.
Charlie grew up with only one parent and four brothers, and when he was a teenager he got a job at a nearby Corn Mill, which he kept until his later adult life.
As he grew up, Charlie spent increasingly more time at Monowi's Tavern, which was owned by Mrs. Eiler. Eiler was not only the mayor of the town, but also the owner of the library and tavern. And it was at this tavern that Charlie would meet Betty Scaggs, a single mother who lived in an old farmhouse in the middle of a bunch of overgrown cornfields.
They quickly built a relationship and got married, and Charlie moved into Betty's house.
However, as time passed, Charlie got more and more irritable and aggressive. He lost his job at the Corn Mill as he would constantly get into fights with his coworkers, and he was deemed too dangerous to be around heavy machinery.
It was at this point that Charlie bought a camera.
At first, he filmed things just to document. He'd take the camera with him when he went for rides, or to the general store, or basically anywhere.
Eventually Charlie decided to make movies. His wife was worried about how they were going to feed the kids, but she was also terrified of what Charlie would do when he snapped, so she humored him.
The local police found Betty and Tabitha dead in a cornfield; Betty from knife wounds, Tabitha from dehydration. Charlie was gone.
After a couple of months, they found the body of Everett, Betty's son, stuffed inside of the house's sewage tank. His body reeked of shit and blood. His skin had started to peel off from weeks of corrosion.
Together, the Baker Family made over a dozen feature-length films, however only four of them were discovered by the forum users.
"Your Body and You!" was the final uncovered film by Charlie Baker, as far as I can tell. None of the forum users had discovered it yet, and the thread hadn't been updated since 2010.
And so I burned it.
The world doesn't need another Charlie Baker.
The final post on the thread was by a user called "Rematrib."
He was a Nebraska resident who was intrigued by the whole thing, so he took a trip down to Monowi and managed to get an interview with Elsie Eiler. Her husband had died in 2004, making her the only resident left in the town.
He sat down with her in the Monowi tavern and asked about Charlie Baker.
"Oh, him," she said distastefully.
"I was friends with his Mama, you know. He was always such a sweet boy. I can't imagine why someone so nice could go and do something like that."
"There must be some reason why," Rematrib told her.
"You know, when he was a boy, he would come into my shop with his brothers and tell me about his day. I would give them a small order of fries and sit down and listen to them."
"It was the usual kind of thing a little boy would talk about. Who shot who when they were playing cowboys, who got stung by the most bees, and so on."
"However, every once in a while, Charlie would tell me that he saw the Devil out in the cornfields when he got separated from the rest of the boys."
Written by Ameagle