IF LOOKS GOOD, KILL
Good-looking people want you to die. That was all it said on the otherwise empty television screen, with emergency broadcast sound wailing on repeat.
“The handsome will destroy us all,” Mother whispered. We were always whispering to each other out of fear of being heard.
Heard by the easy on the eyes, the well-tanned, the shapely, the ones with sex appeal. They had faces that were symmetrical and eyebrows turned downward in a sultry way, like maybe they were practicing for a modeling session? But also, truly, they were trying to kill you. In the hot air of their attractiveness was murder. Always, it was murderously sultry outside.
Don’t become aroused or it’s too late!
“They’ll grab you by your engorged genitals, and they’ll rip those genitals from your body,” my mother said, which above all made me think nothing could ever be sexy again. This may have been her plan, too. She was canny and clever. She’d get me to understand the threat. She knew what was real.
The television Baywatch Beach of years past, if it still existed, would consist of the hacked-up human remains of the homely, who’d wandered out there, thinking these fictional life-guarding heroes in their revealing bathing suits could produce real world help. But no, like all the others, they too killed without mercy. The homely had hoped they fell into that middle ground, as maybe only one-half ugly or however you’ll apportion attractiveness into some kind of metric. They did not. They were no better than the ugliest among the earth’s population. They learned this quickly and savagely.
Except that the homely, too, become ghosts. And they will visit the living, and if you listen carefully, you will hear what they have to say. And this is how my mother first learned of the danger of those with looks that are pleasing in our very superficial societal assessment of beauty. Well before any news reports, reporters on television generally being at the time too attractive to do anything but be attractive and murder those who are not.
Beyond their murderous rage, we didn’t know what the attractive had become. They very well could have been continuing their other previous, probably less violent interests when not rousting us from hiding and generally plotting ways to end our lives. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. The rousting and the plotting were all we could afford to concern ourselves with.
My mother made videos meant as warning, meant to make a lasting impression on me.
A man in a mask that was apparently a Brad Pitt mask (he now one of the most murderous, despite his age and declining good looks) walked up to a home that was obviously my own home (I could tell from characteristic paint chippings on the siding and certain oblong bushes our neighbors did not have). My mother was inside, playing the part of an impressionable youngster who could be taken in by the charms and guile of the handsome.
The man knocked on the front door.
“Who is it?” my mother sang, childlike. The film had all the ambiance and production value, not to mention quality of acting, of a low budget pornographic film.
“It is me from Hollywood, Hollywood Pitt. Are you old? Can I have sex with you?”
“Yes, I am old. Let me open the door so you can have sex with me.”
And where normally porn would occur, if this video had been made by less ugly people in more stable times, my mother opened the door and the man stabbed her in an obviously phony but still grimly effective way. She let out a dying scream, and he looked into the camera, pointed, and said, “If they grab you by your genitals it’s too late!” He shouted these words really hoarsely, like he shouted often. The message was doubly effective because of the hoarseness in his voice.
“The whole point,” Mother said, “Is that with your hormones raging you might think you’re old, and so you might also think you’re ready to have sex with a handsome person. In my youth, that’d just have meant you’d have to learn the hard way through constant rejection and failure. But in these days in which murder is everywhere, the handsome killing with abandon, I just don’t know. So you understand? You understand I do this because I care. I don’t want anyone to tear off your genitals, my sweet, sweet boy.”
“Mom, you mind not saying all the stuff about ‘tearing off genitals’? You’ve made your point.” I said.
“I just don’t want anyone to do that,” she said, visibly stifling her compulsion to mention genitals again.
And then came the day when I was home alone, and someone knocked on the door.
“Who’s there?” I said, trying to sound brave but sounding fearful and therefore betraying my hideousness.
“Hi, it’s Hollywood Pitt out here. Was wondering if you’d be willing to answer your door. Promise I won’t grab your genitals.” It sounded a lot like Brad Pitt from the movies I’d watched on our VCR. We had all the hits: Legends of the Fall, Cool World and Meet Joe Black.
“Why are you here?”
“Not to do anything with your genitals. I can tell you that.”
I reached into the drawer of the side table and pulled out my mother’s revolver. I opened the door and fired, fired multiple bullets into Hollywood Pitt.
He stared into me with his dying eyes, those eyes I’d seen in so many movies before. He said, “Why’d you do it, sonny?”
“If it looks good you have to kill it. That’s the rule we live by around here,” I said, surprised by how matter-of-fact I was, how able I sounded. “I always follow the rules.”
My mother came clapping out of the woods, tears streaming down her cheeks. She dropped the firewood she carried. “You did it. You did it! You killed Hollywood Pitt.”
I did it. Before nightfall I’d do it again. As long as the handsome freely roam the earth, I’ll need to.
MATT ROWAN lives in Chicago, IL. He’s editor of Untoward Magazine, with the lovely Ashley Collier. His story collection, Why God Why, is coming in 2013 from Love Symbol Press. Previous and forthcoming publications include PANK, Artifice, Hobart, Corium and H_NGM_N, among others.