Some Weird Sin
Disclaimer and some such:
I do not have the rights to use any characters
officially associated with The X-Files/ Lone Gunmen
television series. I am using these characters without the
permission of FOX, 1013 Productions, Chris Carter, or
any other copyright owners. Of course, this is intended for
[non-profit] entertainment only, and no
infringement on copyrights or trademarks
was intended by the author.
Any similarities to people, places, and other works of
fanfiction are purely coincidental.
All other characters not officially associated with
The X-Files/ Lone Gunmen (including, but not limited to,
Smithee and Ellroy) are property of the author
and should not be recycled into another story without
No animals were harmed during the making of this fanfic,
except for two mosquitoes and one waterbug.
Cost of coffee drunk while writing this: $15.82
Cost of paper used to print out draft copies: $2.38
Cost of Anne Hawley's beta-reading skills: PRICELESS
The 'present' of this story takes place a few years
before The Lone Gunmen series timeline.
* * *
His room is stark white. A fluorescent light hums
above me, dimmed to a green glow. It seems so
dark in here. A pretty nurse tells me it's
because his eyes have been closed for too
long and will be overly sensitive to stimuli,
if he opens them - and a dark room will make
it easier for his eyes to acclimate. She doesn't
seem hopeful that they'll open at all, ever.
But the fact that they're keeping the
lights dim - just in case - gives me
some measure of comfort.
Like maybe, he'll get better. Like maybe
I can ignore the mummified look to his skin.
Maybe I can pretend I haven't read his charts
and seen the words esophageal bleeding and liver failure -
Ignorance and denial never sounded so good.
They might as well turn all the lights on. Point
his bed at the sun and open the blinds.
Hell, bring in a couple of those trillion
kilowatt FBI-issued Xenon flashlights I've
seen Mulder and Scully use and blast them
directly into his eyes.
It won't make any difference.
I think about my mother, and then quickly
try not to think of her, and think of her
anyway. The words 'too late' are becoming
a painfully familiar chorus.
* * *
I have this nasty habit of hanging out with
men old enough to be my father. It doesn't
take a whole lot of psychiatric deduction
to figure out why.
The first one was Mr. Greene - my third grade
teacher at Saltville Elementary. He had a lisp,
which I'm sure made him the subject of teasing
when he was a kid - so he immediately recognized
me as a kindred spirit, a fellow victim. I
was too young to be self-conscious about this.
All that mattered was that he never called on
me in class, even though he knew I knew the
answer. He let me stay with him after school
and help tutor other students in math, even
after I graduated from his year. He used to
say to me, "You're the only smart one of them,
Richard. You're going to go somewhere," and
his support and recognition made me feel loved.
Until some kids took to shoving me into a
dumpster behind the school. They would sit
on the wooden lid, five or six of them at a time,
and chant the ever-original teacher's pet song.
They did that every day, for a week. But it wasn't
the bullies that made me stop helping Mr.
Greene - although they did tend to keep me trapped
with the garbage until the tutoring sessions were
long over. I was used to bullies; I was the class scapegoat.
It was the fact that Mr. Greene never noticed I
was gone. He never asked why I didn't show up to
help him for a week - not that I would've admitted
to being held hostage in a dumpster. But it would've
been nice to know he cared.
Frohike is my old man now, as wrong as that sounds.
Byers too, sometimes, even though we're pretty much
the same age; he just acts older, and paternity fits
him like a well-tailored suit. But Frohike - of
course, we've never talked about our relationship in
those terms, but I actually think he feels the same
way about me: Fatherly. I mean, let's face it. Frohike's
practically old enough to be my father. And I see the
way he acts with Byers, who has his own royally
screwed up relationship with his dad. Byers is more
openly needy, so Frohike openly responds to that.
He takes a totally different approach with me.
He doesn't feed into my self-pity, or put up
with my sarcasm, or back away when my temper
explodes - all of which happen on an
embarrassingly regular basis. He fights me,
makes me justify it. Frohike had me figured out
the day we met, as soon as I flinched away from
his hand on my shoulder. Textbook case.
But Ellroy . . . Ellroy was the most influential old man.
He was younger than my dad, but at least a
generation older than me. And he looked more
like me - or anyway, he looked like what I look
like now. For starters, Ellroy was the only grown-up
in Saltville with long hair. It didn't endear him
to the right-wing locals; we're talking about a town
that thought anything longer than a military buzz cut
made you a Commie. Even though Ellroy kept his hair
pulled back in a neat pony tail, my father referred
to him as 'that damn hippie fool.'
I don't think he liked Ellroy too much.
Ellroy was also the only person in town with
an visible tattoo. It was faded, handwritten in
a circle on his left forearm, just below the crook
of his elbow:
IT TAKES STRENGTH TO BE GENTLE AND KIND
I asked him about it once, before I knew better
than to be nosy about shit like that,
and he just looked kind of sad. "I got
it after I left Omaha," was all he offered.
I didn't ask him anything else. I recognized
the handwriting; it was his.
On top of teaching me about electronics,
Ellroy also got me started on my music
collection. He dubbed most of his bootlegs
and live shows for me. He was really into
the NY punk scene. He had all of the Ramones'
CBGB performances on tape - it's probably worth
a fortune on eBay now. I heard my first Ramones
song in his store, first Stooges, first MC5;
he played whatever he wanted and let the
customers decide whether to listen or leave.
I think his only redeeming quality - at
least to the more conservative
townspeople - was Ellroy's loyalty
to the University of Nebraska 'Huskers.
He was rarely without his battered Go Big
Red! cap - and during football season, he
made sure every TV in his store was tuned
in to the game. He'd even stay open late
and set up chairs and let whoever wanted
to come in and watch the game with him.
But as far as I was concerned, the coolest
thing about Ellroy was that he never judged me.
I could come to his store almost any time of
day and stay as long as I wanted, and he never
asked why or made me leave. He was my
escape - from bullies, from chores, from my
parents. From what I knew of him, he'd had a
pretty shitty life himself. He grew up in Omaha,
poor, no father - and that was during a time when
single parent homes were still really uncommon.
He was never too specific about his past, like
he didn't want to spend too much time thinking
about it. There was just something about how
intuitively he understood what I was feeling
that made me think he'd seen a lot of it firsthand.
I didn't even mind so much when he called me Ringo,
even though I asked him not to. Coming from
Ellroy, it was almost an endearment; he really
liked the Beatles. And when he told me Ringo Starr's
first name was also Richard, I actually fooled myself
into thinking the nickname was kind of cool - but
only coming from Ellroy.
I spent a lot more time in his store after
my mom left - being home alone with my dad became
increasingly intolerable. The last few seasons had
been bone dry, which was terrible for corn farms.
And what's terrible for corn production is terrible
for dairy farms because it means we don't have enough
food to support the herd. We had to auction off about
a third of the cows. Basically, we lost serious
income - and we didn't have much to lose in the
first place. My dad had to work double time just to
break even. He could barely afford to pay local
school kids to help him, and the fact that I wasn't
much use around the farm just created all this extra
tension between us.
He even started selling stuff around the house
to make some extra money. He sold my bike. He
sold my old computer. He never asked my permission.
When I confronted him about it, he got all defensive
and said, "If you can't help me with the work, the
least you can do is make these sacrifices."
I really didn't care about the stuff he sold - well,
okay, I was angry about the bike. When I was fifteen
and carless, how else was I supposed to get around
in Saltville? But all I really wanted him to do was
ask me first. I would've helped him; I would've been
flattered if he'd asked for my help at all. He just
didn't get it.
Ellroy helped me get through all of that by giving
me a place to go when I couldn't face going home,
letting me vent when I needed to, teaching me cool
stuff, feeding me music and stories about Life Outside
of Nebraska. I'm still grateful to him for that.
But it just made what he did even worse.
He'd been helping me plan my departure for a while.
He was the one who convinced me to go to Washington,
arguing that the cost of living would be easier for
me to handle than in NewYork. He also pointed out,
as delicately as possible, that DC's smaller,
somewhat-Southern hospitality might be an easier
adjustment for a sheltered farmboy to make. Plus,
he knew people in DC. He introduced me over the
phone to some friends of his, including Smithee.
It was settled: I'd go to Washington.
I'd have a job. I'd have a network of people that knew
me; or at least knew someone that knew me. There
were telecommunication jobs popping up in cities
all over the place - even in Omaha - so I
never doubted there'd be similar opportunities in DC.
For once in my life, I had Real Plans.
He gave me a going-away present the night
before I left - with a clear warning not to
open it until I arrived in DC. It was plainly
wrapped, flat, kind of square shaped. I thought
it was some vinyl, and I knew it would be nice
and loud, whatever it was. I hugged him tightly,
went home, set up my record player, and opened the
present. Ellroy wrapped it with one of his old
'Huskers shirts - on which he wrote with black magic
marker: DON'T FORGET YOUR ROOTS.
It wasn't vinyl. It was that missing family
portrait. The one my mother took with her
when she left. Expensively framed - which was
a shame, because I was so shocked that I dropped
it at my feet, promptly breaking the glass.
I ran the two miles to Ellroy's store - he lived
on the floor above. I was dripping with sweat.
I pounded on the door. When that didn't work, I
threw pebbles at his upstairs window. I was
about to start throwing rocks. Finally a
light went on, and his face appeared in
the window. He winced; he wasn't happy to see me.
"Shit, Ringo," he called down. "I told you
not to open it."
"Yeah? Well fuck you!"
"She told me to give it to you when you left
Saltville. Don't kill the messenger."
"Fuck you," I shouted again; clearly,
I was on a roll. "How long?"
"How long what?"
"How long have you been fucking my mother?"
"It's not like that. We aren't fucking," he said.
I couldn't tell if he was lying, but I
suddenly felt nauseous hearing him use
that word. "I'm helping her. Like I help you -"
"Where is she?" I screamed so loudly my voice cracked.
"She's not even in Nebraska. She's been
living in DC for a while."
"DC?" I repeated dully. I thought about the
one-way ticket sitting on top on my suitcase,
in my room. Ellroy and my mom?
"Why the hell do you really think I wanted
you to go out there? Do yourself a favor,
and talk to her. She misses you, Ringo,
she feels bad -"
"Bullshit. I don't need your help anymore,
you hippie fuck." I was losing it, getting
choked up, hysterical. Stay angry, man,
stay angry, he's lying to you, he betrayed
you, don't think about what he's saying.
She misses me?
It had to be a lie. Because if she really
felt bad she could've called, she could've
come back any time she wanted.
Hah! If she really felt bad, she never
"Listen," he called. "I was there when
she needed someone. And I was
here when you needed someone. Now it's
between you and her. I'm sorry. I didn't
want to hurt you. Okay, Ringo?"
Through gritted teeth, "Don't fucking call
me that ever again."
And I stormed away. At least, I'd like to think
I stormed away. In reality, I just didn't want him
to see the twisted look on my face from trying not
to cry, and not being able to stop. Sometimes I do
wish I was more like my dad - he wouldn't have cried
at all. He would have just gone upstairs and beat
the shit out of Ellroy. I bet he'd feel a hell of
a lot more satisfied than I felt right then.
I just felt numb, helpless. The way I imagined
my dad felt when he sold the farm.
It took me an hour to walk home. I raided my
dad's supply of Old Thompson. I don't
remember much after that, except that I cut
the bottom of my foot on the glass from the broken
frame. And I remember thinking just before I passed
out, well, at least I can do something as well as my dad.
It would be a long time before I missed anything
* * *