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Stalkers of Mine

My first stalker sent me letters written in crayon. Actually what she’d done was color entire sheets of paper red and then scratch out her messages, things like SEE ME and I SET FIRE IN YOUR HEAD AND RUN HAPPY TONIGHT. I knew at once who did this because I immediately recognized the words. They’d been plagiarized from a poem I wrote way back in second grade, an ode to a jack-o-lantern. The ‘see me’ part was my teacher’s comment, and so I knew at once the culprit was her, Miss Searfoss, my second grade teacher.

What gave her away more than anything was the writing. I never told anyone this before, but in second grade I sent her a secret valentine. I colored a paper heart and etched out the words: MARRY ME MISS SEARFOSS. She didn’t respond to that, so I sent her another one in March, another in April, and a final one on the last day of school. I suppose now I was her stalker long before she was mine.

I don’t know why it took her nearly two decades to respond, but I was flattered that she’d remembered my work after so many years. More so, I was thankful that the police located her before she attempted to set fire to my head, which had been a detail in her retirement plan for the past 17 years. She confessed other facets, but the police said I’d be best off not hearing about that. They did tell me this much: They found her with red wax under her fingernails, twenty feet of nylon cord, three Bic lighters, and a strap-on phallus she called Mr. Humpy. She was hiding under a tarp in my backyard.

My favorite stalker was the Canadian. He was subtle and quiet. Before he died, he told me he’d been stalking me for months before I noticed, even when he was in my house, in the same room with me, eating at the same table. That’s how discreet he was.

For the last two weeks, he stood behind me in every line—at the bank, grocery store checkouts, airport security. If there was a line and I was in it, he’d be behind me the whole time and I never noticed. I remember now detecting the slight cooing sounds he made, a high-pitched purr that he transmitted telepathically and only I received. At the time, I didn’t know what it was or where it came from, and for those two weeks, I thought I was going insane, though I must admit it wasn’t entirely unpleasant.

It’s true. I could actually hear a thought crossing his mind, a hollow flapping sound like a pigeon flying through a vacant warehouse. He grew more adept at beaming out his thoughts, and one day slipped up and sent me too much information. It blew his cover. I can’t tell you what it was, only that it embarrassed him enough to run away, into the street without looking both ways first.

I followed the ambulance to Grant Memorial and found him alone at the end of a dark hallway, strapped to a gurney and cooing under shallow breaths. There he made me promise never to tell anyone what he was thinking. I made a deal with him, a solemn vow. I don’t know if he heard me, what with all the blood in his ears, but I still have to honor it.

Six years and as many stalkers later, I feared Miss Searfoss, my second grade teacher, had escaped her facility. The chilling clues accumulated on the ground just outside my bedroom window: a pile of what looked like red crayons worn down to nubs. Closer inspection revealed them to be cigarette butts coated in candy apple lipstick. My stalker now was one who chain-smoked and applied sanguine cosmetics in goopy layers.

The smoked red butts appeared there behind the rhododendrons under my bedroom window every third morning for the entire month of January, along with enormous footprints in the muddy, semi-frozen slush. Based on the width and length of the shoes, I calculated my new stalker’s height at nine feet, two and a half inches. However, further tests based on the depth of these prints demonstrated a body weight of 127 pounds, 130 tops, forcing me to conclude that my stalker was merely a slight man in very large shoes and horrendous makeup.

I forwarded this description to the police and they rounded up everyone who matched it, sixteen suspects in all. Odd thing is, they all fit in the back of one squad car and not one of them complained. Instead they honked their bulbous red noses and spritzed each other with seltzer bottles.

My stalker was among them, contributing to the antics by tying balloon animals into obscene positions. Down at precinct, I easily picked him out in a lineup. I remembered him from my daughter’s tenth birthday party. I’d hired him because I felt sorry for him. He was a hunchback, which didn’t make for a very attractive clown, and he’d tried to capitalize on his deformity with a memorable stage name. He was, sadly enough, Humpy the Clown. You may have seen his fliers posted in that liquor store next to the Guild.

His actual name is Stanley Suggs, I learned after my daughter’s party, and he didn’t have a ride home—home being a steam grate near the corner of 31st and Penn. I was in no mood to drive into the city, so I offered him the sofa in the rec room. He politely accepted. I asked him if he needed to wash off his face paint. He said no, he felt more comfortable with his makeup on. We stayed up late, drinking beer and talking baseball. In the morning, he was gone. I didn’t think much of it then, but he left a single paper flower on the kitchen table.

It all came back to me during the lineup down at precinct. While all the other suspects threw pies and beat each other with inflatable hammers, Stanley Suggs—aka Humpy the Clown—stood there solemnly withdrawing a huge bouquet of paper flowers from his breast pocket. It was almost like he wanted to get fingered.

I don’t know how my last stalker found me. I mean, I know who she is: Mimi Price, the Republican candidate for district eight. Everybody remembers her from the way she snapped on live TV when the results came in, how she held two interns and a soundman hostage, demanding recount after recount until finally they told her she won, so she put the gun down and the SWAT team jumped her and for some reason she never went to jail. Yes, that Mimi Price.

And for some reason, I still can’t figure out why, she developed a habit of sending me clippings of her hair and nails, along with Polaroids to illustrate, specifically, what part of her body they came from. She ignored every restraining order I took out on her, choosing instead to burst into my office and my kitchen, always demanding clippings from me in return. Once she followed me to the gym. I ducked into the locker room, but she came after me, waving a pair of pinking shears and yelling over and over: “We had a deal! Don’t you turn your back on me! We had a deal!”

The hell we did. I never even voted for her.

There have been others, but those are the ones I remember most. The retired schoolteacher, the timid Canadian with telepathic powers, the homeless hunchback clown, and the losing candidate for district eight. It’s that last one, the Republican, I can’t seem to shake. She just won’t go away. The rest are gone. Weird thing is, sometimes I miss them. endnote

Stephen Ausherman is the author of the award winning novel, Typical Pigs, and a new collection of travel essays, Restless Tribes. A native of North Carolina, Ausherman now lives in New Mexico. For more see Restless Tribes.

Copyright © 2004 Stephen Ausherman.