I barrel over the Illinois state line, escaping the jurisdiction of the police who are on the lookout for my wife’s car.


“I’m not doing that,” I say, surprising myself by how calm I sound.

The media is going to have a field day with the fallout from this. When I go missing, I’m sure they’ll chalk it up to PTSD. “Another Veteran Goes Ballistic,” probably something a little more catchy.


I don’t care what gets reported, as long as it’s the truth. That’s all I ask. If anybody comes out with any other allegations when I’m gone, please let them know they have it wrong. I’ve been pretty honest here. Just show them what I’ve said. Don’t let any of them lie about me anymore.


I look in my rearview. I probably could put the car in reverse, because even if it blew my transmission, I could still escape from the cops on foot.

Keep thinking like a fugitive, and you just might make it to Africa after all.

I squint – my eyesight is now a serious liability. In the madness of my escape, I hadn’t grabbed my own glasses and, though a clear night, there’s only a half-moon of illumination on the road. Instead of crumbling Dad’s glasses, I should’ve pocketed them. As my hands tremble on the steering wheel, I find myself lamenting the loss of the days when I had sniper-steady hands and expert marksman eyesight.

As if my vision couldn’t get any worse, tears are clouding my sight. I shouldn’t tell you that I’m crying – and not because I’m afraid of displaying my weak state – but because it’s poor prose. I read somewhere that if you’re writing a literary work and you allow your character to cry, it’s actually a release for the reader, too. It’s better to have your character hold back tears. This is especially true of the first chapter – the reader hasn’t established any level of emotional connection with the character, so it’s a vain use of what could’ve otherwise been a poignant moment.

But, how I cry. Sorry if my callousness kills some literary illusion for you, but I should tell you upfront that this story isn’t for you. If it was, I probably wouldn’t start my story in Joanna’s car, utterly hopeless and realizing how my past decisions have put me on a fatal precipice – it’s the same exact spot I started my last story, and if I cared about your reading experience, I’d have figured out a different scene to start this one.


It’s not that I don’t care about you, it’s just that I’m pretty sure others aren’t going to want to care for me anymore after all this. You might think you want to care for me, but you haven’t heard my story yet. When an unlikeable character gets his comeuppance, nobody has empathy for him – another thing I read about writing (maybe even from the same source, if I could remember).


“Can we do four, instead?” I ask aloud. “Three makes me anxious.”


Prior to going to war, I thought myself a condemned hero. I thought I was Joanna’s hero. Not only did I find out that I’m not a hero, but I’m actually a villain – a condemned villain.

The cops were undoubtedly monitoring my house now. I had attacked Dad. I clenched a knife while screaming at Joanna for being a liar. I beat my dogs. And truth be told, if I got my hands on Romy right now, I’d beat that pup until she was numb. You think I’m exaggerating?


I used to believe that dying for a good cause automatically made a person a hero. In hindsight, I recognize how immature this thought is. Sure, dying for a “good cause” can offer instant martyrdom, but a person who sought out the chance to be a martyr will never realize the potential of their impact had they lived as a humble hero. Indeed, the intentional martyr’s heroics have a touch of villainry.

Ah, but then perhaps the reverse is true. If it’s better for the hero to live, is it not better for the villain to prematurely perish? Perhaps the villain’s heroics are found in his recognition that he must die.

What makes a villain a villain? Is a villain simply someone who has committed a series of wretched sins that he can’t take back? Does he have to want to take them back?

Eventually the blood dripping down my knuckles will dry up, and the stains on my shirt and pants and car seat will fade away, but I’ll still be fired from my job. I’ll still be expelled from school. I’ll still be separated from my wife. And the police siren in the distance reminds me that all of that doesn’t really matter much anyway, because above all of that, I’m a fugitive now.

The entire trajectory of my thriving life was shot down and desecrated in an instant. I had made one fleeting, fatal decision on St. Patrick’s Day, and now my life could never be the same again.

The mark of a villain.



It all started with one Google search.



MISTER MASTER EXACERBATION: My obsessive quest to uncover the final compulsion, and how my porn use got me fired from work, kicked out of school, banned from my field, separated from my wife, and warped me into an animal-abuser, a fugitive, and an all-around villain is now available for purchase.

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