Monday, July 7, 2014
Where do you find your villains?
I recently read Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. Odd is one of the best characters ever. He has the most amazing spirit, but he often falls into deep thoughts about evil, what makes a person evil, what counts as evil, the different types of evil. In that way, Odd and I are a lot alike. The first time I ever truly believed in good guys and bad guys I was in third grade. I'd already met assholes in my short life. I'd been bullied. Hit. Teased. But none of that made it on my radar until Bob. Yep, that was his name. He was our neighbor. I babysat his little girl. One day at the beach Bob and I were in the water. I splashed him. He gave me a funny look before slamming his hand on my head and shoving me under water. I thrashed and fought, but I wasn't going anywhere until he let me up. When he finally did, he looked down at me and said, "Mess with the bull, you'll get the horns." That was it, but he had created my first villain.
A cousin of mine in Iowa raced me in the pool one summer day. I won because when I was fourteen I was a force. He didn't like that and started a splash war. My girls didn't like that, but quickly he won the war by putting me in a genuine choke old. A real one because in a couple seconds he had wrapped around me and cut off all my air. I went still, completely mesmerized by the turn of events. We had been playing and he just lost it. Not too long after that while crossing some train tracks he got hit by a train and died. A different kind of villain, someone who could threaten me and still make me care and mourn him.
My eighth grade homeroom teacher subbed for my science teacher one day. He started telling us about walking along a river. He was a small, wiry man and the kind of person you kept your eyes on because there was no mistaking that he was ready to explode. One second he was telling us how beautiful the river was and the next he was talking about bathing in the blood of his friends who were killed upstream. He retold that day in the Vietnam War as if it was happening right there in our dark, hot classroom. All the rooms were dark because light equaled heat, and on Guam without air conditioning you had to do what you could to stay cool. Later that day he had locked himself in homeroom with Jesse. They never got along. Jesse was like me, an outcast, but he was a cool dangerous outcast. I was just on the outside. They fought and our teacher never came back to school. He'd beaten the shit out of a student. A villain who needed help. Not a bad guy until he snapped.
Where do you get your villains? I wish Odd Thomas were real because I think we'd have some neat chats.
"By Taro Taylor from Sydney, Australia (Dark Days Are Coming Uploaded by Multichill) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons"