by Michael Gibbs


           By Michael J. Gibbs

     What? I thought to myself as I threw down the wrinkled Sunshine Weekly and turned to the television. It was the first time I heard the name Odis Eugene Baldridge in about 27 years. I listened to newscaster John Bridges on the Channel 8 News as he reported the incident live from Lebanon State Prison. He said that the convicted murderer Odis Eugene Baldridge just committed suicide in his cell this morning approximately between 2-4 am. The prisoner took a rope, which the Ohio Police Department said he had paid another convict to get it for him, and then hung himself with it.

     I reached for my pack of full flavored Winston's lying on the end table, took out a cigarette and lit it up with the red Bic lighter from my pocket. Taking a long drag, I laid back into my worn out Lazy-boy recliner and slipped deep into the memories of my youth. Odis Baldridge and I were best friends from childhood and it stayed that way till we were young adults. My first encounter with him was rather comical. Seeing my new neighbor playing with his soccer ball, I hid behind the tree with my all black toy Uzi. He kicked the ball right next to the tree I was behind.

    "Freeze mother fucker, or say hello to my little friend", I shouted as I jumped in front of him like a flash of lighting. Odis ran about as fast as I had jumped out and hid behind his parents 82 Cadillac.

    "Just joking", I laughed, "I'm John your neighbor". Slowly inching his way from behind that big blue boat on wheels. He said, "You are going to hell for cussing, my mom and dad told me to not hang out with people with potty mouths". I replied with a hint of sarcasm, "Lord forgive this sinner, I will never curse again." Standing still looking me over for what seemed an eternity he said, " My name is Odis, nice to meet you". That was the start of a friendship that would last for years.

     Odis lightened up the more we hung out. We had many things in common. We were the same age, our favorite color was blue, both had dogs with the same name Brutus, and some said we even looked alike. Destiny eventually would have us both love to play war, have the same crush on the girl down the block, and also have the same favorite movie, Dawn of the Dead. Practically the only thing that was different is how our parents acted. His parents were extreme religious freaks; their names were Phillip and Betty Baldridge. My parents, John and Tabitha Young, they were just your average blue color workers, who spoiled me with anything I wanted even when they didn't have the money to pay for it.

     We lived in a small hillbilly town called Crainsville, Ohio. If Odis and I were not watching movies or playing war, we were messing around at Bantas Creek. In the last four years, there have been two dead bodies found down below the Bantas Creek Bridge. The one was a male who was said to have killed himself. He put a bullet threw his head which nearly took it all the way off. The other was a women who was found by my neighbor Bruce Williams, she had a Phillips screwdriver that was stuck straight threw her throat. Bruce told my parents that the screwdriver went in so deep it came out the back of her neck.

     Odis and I were together most of the time. We stuck up for each other when the bullies down a few blocks wanted our lunch money for school. That was every weekday except for Mondays; I guess they would recover from the weekend partying on that day. If I were sick I would call Odis and tell him that I wasn't going to school, same as if he wasn't, and we'd both stayed home so we wouldn't have to put up with them by ourselves. This went on for a while until the day my grandmother had passed away.

     My mom woke me up early that morning, and told me there had been an accident. I knew what had happened the moment I looked at the clock, because my grandmother was struggling with cancer for some time now. She told me to go back to bed, but I said no, I wanted to go to school instead of setting at home dwelling on the fact that my only grandmother left was gone. I miss her so much; we were closer than most kids are with their grandparents. As usual, I met Odis at his house and the bullies walked up and circled us. The one bully pushed me and said hand it over and I looked him right in the eyes and told him to go to hell. Everybody there looked at me in shock, even Odis, as I pulled my arm back and socked the bully in the nose with all my might. I looked down at him and the bully's face was covered in blood (I found out later that I had broken his nose). Then I kicked him in the stomach and walked the rest of the way to school crying about my grandma.

     That little scuffle made us "the craziest kids on earth" Nobody at school ever messed with him or me from then on. You could say we were the town bullies now. We started getting deeper into horror movies it was our favorite pastime. I liked them a lot but Odis was obsessed with them. We would go out in his backyard and come up with are own horror scenes, and then we would act them out.

     One day, while Phillip and Betty were at work, we were in Odis's garage looking for an axe to use in this brutal scene we came up with right after watching Silent Night Deadly Night. As I was searching behind the John Deere lawnmower, Odis gave out a psychotic-like shriek that sounded like a mad scientist laughing with joy after his creation was a success. I turned my head around quickly, almost causing whiplash, to catch my eyes looking at Odis picking up a severed bird head. It was the head of a Quail that I assume Phillip had hunted and killed for supper. He hunted and fished an awful bunch as I recall.

    "Corky" he said, as he gave out another high-pitched laugh. Odis looked at me with a face expression that pumped fear threw my heart down into my gut." That's his name Corky".

     After a couple of seconds the fear seemed to vanish from my system and I started to laugh also. I don't know why, but I thought it was cool. Odis said he was going to keep it for a pet and knew just where to put it. Odis walked out into day light with the bird head in his hand and I followed behind him.

     We went to Odis's room, I sat on the bed wondering what the hell is he doing while Odis scrambled threw a box that contained are weapons for playing war. He stopped scrambling and pulled out an empty round prize container that you get out of those 25-cent gum machines. We used them for grenades, just fill it up with water, pop the lid on and throw. He took the bird head put it in the container and popped the lid on. He buried it in his pocket and took it everywhere with him, to school, to my house when he spent the night. I wonder if he took it to bed with him. He would talk to it as if it was a pet dog or something.

     Odis had Corky for a year before he buried it out in the woods. You couldn't tell what it was any more the rigomortis had took its toll out of Corky. Odis's parents never had a clue about it. When it started to smell Odis had a little hiding place outside. He told no one about it, not even me. I hated the smell of the decayed thing but Odis, he loved it's stench. I was so glad when that damn thing was gone.

      Odis and I had are thirteenth birthday party together at my house. We had about five friends over; we didn't have many of them. I wonder why? I was satisfied with what my parents got me. Odis was not of the sort. Phillip and Betty got him a bunch of church clothes like usual and a couple of matchbox cars. After the other kids were gone, each of our parents went downstairs. I was wondering why they were going down there. My parents never take guest down there because its damp, it smells, and it looks like a tornado hit it. Odis and I didn't say a word to each other, just waited and wondered. They came back up with another present for each of us. Both presents were shaped the same, long and rectangular shaped. We ripped the wrapping paper off like it was a race for are life. The first word I saw was Daisy, and I knew it was an air rifle. It was what I always wanted, and Odis too.

     My dad taught us how to load, pump, and shoot are rifles, plus a couple of safety tips. After that we were off, shooting cans, bottles, and any thing that we could find to shoot. One day Odis and I were out shooting and he told me to look at the blue Robbin in the tree before us. Odis raised his gun, which was already pumped, aimed and pulled the trigger. That bird fell to the ground, it seemed in slow motion, and started flopping around like a fish out of the water. Odis picked it up and called out "Simon" and howled his high-pitched laugh again.

     Odis started to walk toward the garage with the bird in hand and I followed behind. He took an axe and chopped the bird's head off, like you would a chicken. He said it was his new pet, as I looked on not saying any thing. After that it just got worst, he got new pets Willie, Charlie, even a rabbit head named Tree. I started to worry about him he was changing into someone else as if he was being possessed. The incident that got him thrown in the high security mental asylum didn't happen until that next month.

     In the month of October was when the incident happened, right around Halloween. Jerry Fisher was having a Halloween party at his dad's house; an Odis and I were invited. Now this wasn't just any party. Angie White was going to be there. Angie lived down the block. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever set my two little eyes on. Odis talked about her constantly, he was even becoming more obsessed with her than he was his smelly pets. I never told him my feelings for her, didn't want to bring any bad blood between us. It was Saturday night; Odis called me and said he wasn't allowed to go because he had church in the morning. I had never herd him sound like that, he was furious and cursing up a storm, after I got off the phone little did I know that that would be the last time I would ever talk to him.

     I went to Jerry Fisher's party that night, but it was the most boring part I had ever been too. Angie didn't come and that was the only reason I, as Odis, even thought about going. They had dunking for apples and little kid games like that. I was hoping to see some horror movies or something. I got home about nine o'clock and called Odis to tell him how the party sucked but no one answered. I just assumed they were in bed. I decided to go to bed myself, wishing Angie would be in my dreams.

     I woke up the next morning, took a shower, and ate breakfast. I called Odis and like before there was no answer. I thought maybe there was something wrong with their phone so I started toward his house. I saw the cars were sitting in the drive-way, they must of just got home I thought. I knocked on the door for about five minutes but no one came. I turned the knob; it wasn't locked so I walked on in.

    "Anybody here" I walked around calling out for Odis or his parent's response. I walked to the room where Odis and I watched all those great classics like Freddy, Jason, Halloween, etc. Then I walked to Odis's room, and opened the door, but no one was there. A strange subtle fear started to grow within me, I closed the door. I turned towards Phillip and Betty's bedroom door. Noticing that my breath was heavier then before. I turned the knob and slowly pushed the door open. What I saw was the most horrifying and grotesque thing in my life. I turned my head and lost my biscuits and gravy on the floor.

     I called 911 and then my parents, my parents arrived first. My dad looked in the room and threw up also. The police arrived and questioned all of us. They hunted for Odis about a half hour before they found him. He was under the Bantas Creek Bridge surrounded by all his pets and playing with his two new ones, Phillip and Betty.

Sometimes I feel responsible for what Odis did. He committed the worst crime one could do, but I still feel sad that he has passed. It's been over a decade, meanwhile I have a family to love and raise. Kyle and Ryan, my two wonderful sons and my bueatiful wife Angie. Some people in this crazy world become unbalanced and fall into extremes based on there desire fueled obsessions. Losing the line between reality and fantasy. Though I am content with my life in many ways, I would not know what to do with myself if I lost my beloved wife or kids or my pet. His name is Herby, but no one knows about him. He's behind my house deep in the woods inside a round prize container from a 25-cent gum machine.

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