Death in the Making, Chapter 3: The Victams

Note: All spelling and grammatical errors are there for reason. And now… 


Chapter 3: The Victams 

Chapter 3, The Victams

“Well kids were almost to the airport!” Sam Drake said happily. He was a tall man in his late 20’s. He had light long brown hair. His kids, 13-year old Jimmy who had black hair and was dark. And 9-year old Andrea. She likes to be called Andy. She was pretty. With blond hair and blue eyes. They were in the back seat of the blue jeep cherokee. “Jimmy would you stop reading that X-Men junk. It’s too violent,” Sam said defensively.  

Jimmy looked up from his comic and just said “Dad I’m thirteen.” 

“And Andy stop playing that game gear,” Sam said.  

She repeated, “Dad I’m thirt nine.” 

“I see where you get your sense of humor.” Sam laughed. They pulled in the parking lot of the airport. “Got all your stuff?” Sam asked. 

“Yeah” they said at the same time.  

“Good I hope Chris is around here.” Sam said while looking around.  

“He’s a dork. He’s mean and he doesn’t like Ruby!” Andy yelled. Ruby was their dog. He’s at the pound.  

“Yeah Dad the jerk’s a total loser. I mean he always smacks me on the back and says ‘hey kiddo.’ He annoys me Dad.” Jimmy said while putting headphones on.  

“Look he works with me and we gotta check it out. Ahh there he is. Hey Chris over here!” Sam yelled. Chris turned around. And started running toward them. He was very tall. In his early 20’s, he had thin black hair that always stayed in place. He wore a gray buisnesssuit with a white shirt under it. He carried a large briefcase that Andy probaly couldn’t carry. He shook hands with Sam and slapped Jimmy on the back and said “Hey kiddo. What’s up.” 

“Nothing.” Jimmy mumbled. Jimmy whould of kicked the craip out of him if it wasn’t for Sam.  

“So what’s this park about? Is it like an old park with just roller coasters and rides? Or anything exciting?” Chris asked quickly.  

“Slow down. I think you’ll like it. You see I don’t know. But my brother Micheal works there, he invited me, and he said it was really interesting.” Sam said.  

“Sounds great.” Chris said enthusiastically.  

“There’s the helicopter.” Andy yelled over the sound of the helicopter.  

“Dude.” Jimmy said walking closer. “Is Uncle Mike in there? Man this is cool.” 

“Well he might be in there. I dought it though, he’s probaly working.” Sam answered.  

They walked in and who else but Micheal Drake was sitting in a passenger seat. “Hey guys.” Drake greeted them.  

“Uncle Mike.” Both kids yelled as they ran and hugged their Uncle.  

“Slow down. Hey guys kids what’s up. I missed you guys!” Drake said.  

Sam and Drake hugged. Then Chris came up. “Hello I’m Chris Links. Assistant manager of Star Fun Parks.” They shook hands.  

“Everyone sit down were going!” yelled the pilot.  

“Who’s that?” Andy asked queitly. 


“I’m Jackson Winters. I’m the handyman around the park. It’s real fun. I’ve seen the whole park about five times because I’m always walking around the park fixing every craipy thing that’s wrong. Oh, sorry.” He lit a cigerette and started smoking. “I get a little carried away, because our boss is so cheap. He’d sell his grandmother for five bucks, he-he, Max Wicks. That’s his name. He’s making you guys pay ya know.” 

“No problem. I brung money.” Said Sam.  

“Who else works with you?” asked Jimmy.  

“Well other people well there’s Jackson, Steve Hicks, Kasey Simpsom, Cooper Michaels, Jack Russell, Duran Jones, Agan Bason, George Blanton, Bart Robinson, and there’s others.” Drake informed him.  

“Excited about it now kids.” Sam said. 

“I don’t know Dad. It depends on what it’s like.” Andy said playing game gear.  

“Well were almost there. About five more minutes.” Jackson informed them. “Look down and see the park.”  

Andy and Jimmy looked out the window. “Whoa. Look at that. It’s all trees and mountains, and” 

“Monsters.” Drake said queitly. “Monsters.” 

“What do you mean.” Sam asked.  

“Yeah I don’t get it.” Andy butt in.  

“You see you ride around in a car looking at monsters that run at you and terrorize you. They look real and they come out of nowhere to scare you.” Drake replied.  

“Yeah it’s a real hoot when you get to the mountain and the de–” Jackson started. “Oh sorry again better not give it away. He he. Well down we go.” 

The helicopter lowered down onto the large piece of land. “Stay with Uncle Mike okay.” Sam told his kids.  

“Right.” They both said. They Andy ran out and stopped in their her tracks. It was he most beatiful thing she’s ever seen in her entire life. There were beatiful groves of forests, hills, streams, and a huge waterfall coming down from a huge mountain.  

“Wow. This is great.” Andy said astonished by the sites. 

Jackson jumped out and put his hand on her shoulder. “Like it. It’s a great view. Your hotels up there.” He pointed to the top of the mountain. “You get a view of the whole entire park. You and your brother can share the room overlooking it. Even I took that room. It’s so beatiful.” 

“Do all the workers stay there?” Andy asked.  

“Nope. Only the people who don’t live around here, like your Uncle Mike, and Steve Hicks, and me. You can meet the guys and you can go on the tour. Sounds fun.” 

“Yeah. I can’t wait.” She said enthusiastically.  

Andy was thinking about going on the trip. It was going to be fun. She loved getting scared. Especially while you were getting scared and having fun at the same time. I can’t wa–Jimmy’s voice interupted her thoughts.  

“Is there any pools at the hotel?” 

They walked into the control room to meet the workers. Jimmy stared at everything then spotted the long window stretching all around the room looking out at the park. “Wow.”
“Jimmy listen.” Sam whispered in his ear.
“–and people will pay lots of money to bring and pay me to come and look at the park. Find that interesting kids?” Max went on.
They didn’t answer. “Now you can meet the group.” Max said happily.
Jimmy noticed a strong man with uncombed black hair, tanktop and jeans. A tall weak man who didn’t look the least bit interested. A short teenager, some mexican people, a fat guy in a police uniform, and a guy who looked like a used car salesman, and a man with long blond hair.
“–and so thats everybody you need to meet.” Max finished. He noticed Andy looked quite bored too. At the end they gave Sam a flare gun and six flares. Just in case. They finally went to look at the hotel. They walked outside through some grassland to the hotel. Drake led them to their rooms. It was on the top floor and Andy and Jimmy had a great view of the whole park. Sam and Chris’s room wasn’t as good. They had a nice room in all but the view just showed some grass. What Jimmy didn’t understand was why there were bars on the windows. He found it quite rude. I mean it’s not like the monsters are going to attack us.
“Now your sure you got everything under control?” Jack asked Raymond.
“Yes everythings great. The only problems that chip. I need to get it.” Raymond said.
“You mean this chip.” Mac walked in holding a computer chip.
“You took it!” Raymond yelled.
“Uh what. I-I don’t get it. I found this lying around in the hall someone should of dropped it.” Mac said nerveosly.
“Did you see who took it?” Jack asked.
“Um no. It was just laying there.” Mac replied.
“Well thanks Mac. Now go back to work.” Raymond said.
“Well looks like you got everything under control now, huh.” Jack said happilly.
“Yeah I guess.” Raymond replied.
What I remember: When I gave a finished copy of Death in the Making to my sixth grade English teacher, Ms. Conlon (later Mrs. Bracken), I included a short questionnaire on the back. I asked her who her favorite character was, why, and if she had any additional comments.
Her favorite character? “Jimmy.”
Why? “He reminded me of you.”
Any other comments? “Keep writing. You’re good :)”
Is there a more affirming thing a teacher could write to an 11-year old aspiring author? About 12 years later, Arthur Kopit would scrawl a similar sentiment to me in the front cover of a collection of his, a gesture that I cherish almost as much Ms. Conlon’s simple words. Granted, Ms. Conlon only read the first five chapters of the novel before becoming “too busy” to finish, but I digress.
Jimmy was me. Well, perhaps some idealized version of me. One where I was a few years older, bratty but assured, a hero who had loved and lost (we’ll encounter Jimmy’s heroics and failed courtships in later chapters), a kid on the verge of adventure and affection. Okay. I’m giving him a little too much credit. There’s nothing very interesting about Jimmy. He’s rude and boring, as was I at the age of 11. I honestly didn’t have much of a life. Not many friends to speak of. When I think of sixth grade I remember the following things:
1. Wrestling with the YMCA. In one of his many bids to foster my athletic side, my father signed me up for wrestling classes. We practiced at a local Detroit-area high school that was littered with bullet holes and smelled like sweaty plastic. I kinda hated it, but not really. I hated getting up at 6AM to drive to Southfield for tournaments, but I still have my one gold medal I won (as well as the one silver and several bronzes). I used to write when I came home from practice, often while eating a TV dinner and watching The Monkees.
2. Andrea. My “girlfriend(?)”. Tall, blonde, awkward and bespectacled, Andrea was my first girlfriend. My brother saw a photo of her and famously quipped that she was “ugly as sin”, a phrase I still attribute to him. She had a birthday party and I told myself I’d kiss her but I never did. She was much taller than me and I broke up with her while my friends listened in on the line and giggled. It was awful and so was I. I may revisit this (and other) middle school crushes and romances (so few, but so potent) in later chapters, as I remember Jimmy does have some emo moments.
3. Jeremiah. My best friend and worst enemy. I still write about this kid. We met in first grade and rekindled our friendship when we both ended up at the same middle school (L’Anse Creuse Middle School North). When he found out I was writing a book, he began one to spite me. He never finished. He went from being wildly supportive to oppressively demeaning at the drop of a hat. He was, in many ways, my only friend. And my only enemy.
4. Yesterday I was discussing (tongue-in-cheek) several of my life’s most traumatic events with a psychologist friend. We were trying to pinpoint those moments you can concretely recognize as catalysts for your deepest fears, etc. We spent the bulk of our time discussing the last five years or so, but I’d be remiss to not bring up Wagon Wheels West, the first of two melodramatic Westerns my middle school produced during my tenure at LCMSN (the third was a melodramatic jungle adventure titled Hurricane Smith, which bears no relation to the “black rage kung fu” epic of the same name starring Carl Weathers). 
Stakes were high on getting cast in Wagon Wheels West. As one of about 20 students in the Beginning Drama class, we were looked at as the kids to beat, as the kids to carry LCMSN Theatre to the next level (I smirkingly realize how ridiculous this sounds). These were also our “expected friends”. A tight class like that, built on interaction and team-building, meant that these were your companions, but also your competitors, for the next three years. We were all on the verge of stardom or failure at that time, just waiting for the first big audition.
Now, Wagon Wheels West’s sub-villains were three goofy gunslingers with alliterative names I can’t recall. At the time, I thought the comic stylings of myself, Jeremiah, and another “sorta-friend” would be perfect for the roles, but they (unsurprisingly) went to eighth-graders. This was fine, there were at least thirty roles and there had to be a place for go-get-’em wildchild such as myself, right? Jeremiah got cast as Josiah Aimless, a minor role. Sorta-friend Darren was cast as a soldier with no lines. And sorta-friend Chris got Chuck Wagon (yes, Chuck Wagon), the lead (as a sixth-grader)! When I opened my slim envelope (Mrs. Hannert, the director, left envelopes in her classroom to pick up in the morning), I didn’t see the colorful cast list and rehearsal schedules that everyone else had in their fat ones. There was simply a white piece of paper and a few cocktail words about how there were only so many roles. I was devastated. I cried in front of my friends. I watched them high-five, watched them giggle as the eighth-graders patted their backs, raising their eyebrows in a sort of paternal admiration. I remember walking through the cafeteria on my way to the buses every day, passing the stage where Jeremiah and co. would be laughing and practicing, getting a wave maybe, nothing else.
I was an instant loser. It was sixth grade and every single one of my friends/sorta-friends was cast in the play and I was not. And every day in drama class, every time I hung out with Jeremiah or the pretty girls or any of those sorta-friends they regaled me with stories from rehearsal and how amazing all of it was and sad it is that I didn’t get cast. It was a dark time, honestly, followed by a much darker time the following year (one which also relates to an LCMSN play and is on the traumatic list).
I understand this may all sound rather trite (it does to me as I write it), but I suppose one of the points of this blog is to gain a kind of understanding about who I was at this age as I wrote this book. And where it came from. And where I came from. See, middle school was a formative time for me. Middle school was a horrible time for me. But, shit, when I was in middle school, I would’ve died for the girls I had crushes on. I would’ve sold my soul for a good role. I would’ve sliced my wrists onstage, bleeding out in the name of some shitty melodramatic Western. Emotions were almost impossibly high at that time in my life, and I think so much of that began with not getting cast in Wagon Wheels West as a goofy gunslinger (or a solder with no lines).
In lieu of all of that, every day I came home and wrote this book. And when I think of loose timelines, I was probably writing this chapter (or something near it) around the time I didn’t get cast. In the same way my play Lamp & Moth brought me comfort as I adjusted to Char being gone and losing God and faith, Death in the Making brought me a comfort as I reconciled myself with being an outcast for the very first time.
But wait! We haven’t really discussed the chapter! That’s okay. This chapter is, more than any other, the most blatant ripoff of Jurassic Park, from the helicopter ride to the “beatiful” scenery to the bars on the window. My continuing obsession with setting up Steve Hicks as a character stands out, as does Drake’s pointless list of other employees, some with names so aggressively fictive that I wonder what method I was using to create them (Agan Bason?!). The introduction of Chris Links is fairly important, as that character offers a surprising amount of pathos later on. What I’m perhaps most struck by, though, is age.
I was eleven, writing this book. Park employee Jack Russell is described as being in his teens, Chris Links (an assistant manager for a major theme park corporation) in his early twenties, and Sam Drake (assumed owner of a major theme park corporation) is in his late twenties with a thirteen-year old son and eight-year old daughter. Clearly, I didn’t understand age. And to wonder where I expected to be when I was in my teens or my early twenties is a sobering thought. Where did I expect I’d be? What did I want to do? Write books? Be the next Mark Paul Gosseler? I dreamed, as we all did, of being loved and respected and famous with no doubts, no filters, no expectations, no heartbreak, no understanding of what it was to fail. What Wagon Wheels West gave me was my first true failure, and is there any more potent? I say yes, but only half-heartedly.
The fact that this chapter is called “The Victams”, and victims is spelled “victams”, and beautiful is spelled “beatiful” and so on and so on speaks to my then-innocent desire to know things that I did not yet understand. I was so young, right on the verge of so many life lessons, so many aches and pains and friendships whose violent end vomited loss and heartbreak upon an heretofore bright sky. 

Keep writing. You're good 🙂

Sure, it’s life, I know…but to remember an age where age was practically irrelevant…well, it makes me feel old. And a statement like that brings us to the edge of a deep, dank well that nobody needs to look into just yet.  
Coming soon: Chapter 4, The Tour
 Beautiful: “Is there any pools at the hotel?”
 They finally went to look at the hotel. They walked outside through some grassland to the hotel.
Embarrassing: “Well other people well there’s Jackson, Steve Hicks, Kasey Simpsom, Cooper Michaels, Jack Russell, Duran Jones, Agan Bason, George Blanton, Bart Robinson, and there’s others.” Drake informed him.

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