I Was a Teenage Mansonologist


Sexy Sadie what have you done?

I’m belly deep in the shag on a creepy crawl in search of talent in a north Dallas McMansion when there’s trouble. My head bumps into what I think is a chair leg but it’s the cold steel of a double barreled shotgun. I think: What would Charlie Manson do? I keep cool and raise to my knees, hands in the air.

Dad puts the barrel under my chin and lifts my head to get a good look at me. It’s a total Dodge City daddy got the drop on the bad guy cowboy moment. This being Texas, I’m lucky to be alive. It gets better. A light snaps on and there they are, two girls in pajamas and robes standing on the stairs, like they’re posing for the Christmas morning portrait. Dad keeps his eyes on me and speaks.

“Darlene call 911.”

“He looks scared, Daddy.”

You’re daddy’s little girl, ain’t cha? She looks my age, about seventeen, tough but needy, a desperate cheerleader with searching eyes who doesn’t believe any meaningful rah exists in pom-poms and barbecue. But if she says pull the trigger for home and country he will. She’d make a great addition to my team. The next one looks like the brains of the two, a hard sell with a scrutinizing smirk that says thumbs down. One thing I got from Charlie is that you have to be a fast judge of character. And that pony tails are deadlier than guns.

“He’d better be scared. Call 911 now, Darlene.”

There’s the crack. I studied Chuck a long time: his tactics, and how he recruited street meat from Sunset Boulevard. There was a philosophy behind it. It was all about empowerment. When you’re a plain Jane somewhere near Oklahoma and the guys don’t dig you and there’s nothing to look forward to on Saturday night except wrestling a steer at the local 4H Club murder must seem like a good Plan B. We all need to talk. I hear Charlie whisper into my ear from his prison cell. He suggests that when you’ve been caught breaking and entering and the man of the house has a gun, some courtesy is in order.

“Excuse me sir but I think I’m in the wrong house.”

He laughs.

“You sure are, shithead.”

Darlene still hasn’t moved.

“Get the phone,” he says.

I drive the wedge in.

“Better do as your daddy says, Darlene.”

She stares at me, amazed that I talk. Dad kicks me in the face and I’m bleeding. Darlene runs down the steps and moves between the gun and me. She kneels and wipes my nose with the belt of her terry robe. I’m definitely in the right house. Then the sister pulls a cell from her pocket and tosses it to dad. Darlene intercepts.

“No, daddy,” she says.” Let him go.”

Dad slaps her and takes the phone. She falls to the floor and gets fetal, her body shaking with silent sobs. I hear a metallic click behind dad. Is it a hammer being cocked or a door being opened, I can’t tell.

It’s the wife. She’s wrapped in a quilt like she’s been sleeping on a couch. There’s a revolver in her hand and she holds it at arm’s length. I wait for a bullet but it never comes. She points it at dad and shoots. She grabs the shotgun before he hits the floor, then tosses the revolver at me and I catch it. There was only one bullet in it. She thought of everything, and quickly, too.

“Darlene,” she says, “Take the gun from the man and give it to me.”

Darlene listens to the Queen Bee. Momma holds the gun by the barrel and loads five rounds into it.

“Now, call the police.”

Take the queen and the workers will follow. Did Charlie say something like that?

I need to talk. I don’t think even Charlie could talk as fast as I have to.

Hey, Sexy Sadie, don’t make a fool of me now.

~ fin ~

Steven Nester is a freelance writer and host of Poets of the Tabloid Murder. You can read him at website or listen to him at Public Radio Exchange. He lives in New York City.