[Hillcrest based fiction]
The Sex Defenders live in a weed patch on The Road to Hell.
Back in the eighties, the shortcut from Hillcrest to Cajuns Wharf (which takes you under the Cantrell bridge) used to be nicknamed the “The Road to Hell.” Because it was a gravel pig trail which passed by sketchy houses, brush thickets and a squatter camp for the homeless. The squatter camp is gone now, eradicated by the administrators of Episcopal school across the gulch. The road is now paved, with only a few derelict houses remaining, but the brush thickets are still there and so are five remaining squatters, hidden deep within the brambles.
These five men once led normal lives. They lived among us in normal Hillcrest houses, with normal Hillcrest jobs. But a sad series of misunderstandings and deliberate false accusations by persons unnamed, led to these men being wrongly accused of sex crimes and then wrongly convicted and forced to register as offenders. They were then spurned by the people of Hillcrest, who forced them from their sight. They lost their jobs, their homes and their families. Their children were taken from them and sent to places unknown. This is what happens when you’re registered as a level 4 violent sexual predator.
Before these men were wrongly accused and ostracized by our community, they didn’t know each other. Eventually, each discovered the sanctuary of the Weed Patch near the Cantrell bridge and soon became the closest of friends. Emboldened by this camaraderie, they made a sacred vow of loyalty to each other and they vowed to serve-as-one to protect the chastity and purity of the women and children of Hillcrest and surrounding neighborhoods: Capitol View, Stifft Station, and whatever their own neighborhood is called.
Today, these five men are known only as…The Sex Defenders.
They prowl the night, lurking behind bushes in poorly lit areas, keeping a vigil upon the neighborhood, disrupting sexual offenses as they find them. They’ve caught and thoroughly scolded: Exhibitionists, pederasts, gropers, sex scammers, heals, clips, broadtossers, molesters, fiends, and on many occasions…rapists. In cases of rape, the perpetrator usually disappears altogether after being confronted by The Defenders. Perhaps they were scolded so severely as to leave town from utter embarrassment. But no forwarding address has ever been left.
No outsiders have ever seen their Weed Patch lair, including myself. I was not granted special access, as I have not gained their trust. They have been betrayed and abandoned by almost everyone they have ever known, so their trust does not come easily. Their lair was, however, described by the more loose-lipped of the group. To access it you must wade through a deep, deep bramble of tall, prickly, tick-infested weeds and brush. Nobody outside this group has ever shown the fortitude or strength of character to endure this nightmarish trek. But in the center of the Weed Patch is a clearing, obscured from above by a giant shade tree. It is in this clearing that The Sex Defenders plan their missions up the hill and compare notes and correlate data. And it is here where they perform their sacred, secret rites and invocations.
The floor of the clearing is littered with the detritus of their personal lives: Flattened empty Cheetos bags, fruit juice cartons, Mrs. Paul’s fish stick boxes and other such food-husks, trampled flat under the frantic fervor of the sacred rites, and worn smooth like a laminated floor. In winter, on the coldest of nights, they forgo their adventures and stay in the clearing, clinging together with their arms and legs wrapped around each other, forming a massive fleshy ball, to preserve heat.
I paid a visit to the spot where The Road to Hell crosses under the Cantrell Bridge, the vague proximity of the Weed Patch. I saw a massive cottonwood tree in the gulch surrounded by razor sharp johnsongrass and underbrush. Could this be their tree? One can see the Capitol building clearly from there. And from the top of that huge cottonwood, one would have a grand view of much of the city. As I walked around the railroad tracks and the fascinating rock formations, I noticed odd things laying about. I found myself asking questions like “Why would someone come here to throw away their pants?” There was a pair of old pants laying below an abandoned railroad bridge girder.
The Sex Defenders seldom venture out in the light of day, as they fear attack from the very people they defend. And they fear lawful authority. They wish to avoid further legal entanglements that would force them even further into the Weed Patch. This is not to say they AREN’T in our midst during daylight hours. By day, they roam the storm sewers and peer out from storm drain inlets on the street. They gaze unblinkingly at each of us as we pass, like the all-seeing Eye of Sauron, profiling us and tracking our movements. On occasion, men who pause for too long near drain inlets, are shocked to feel a hand grabbing at their ankle, pulling them toward the mouth of the drain. This is an effort by the Defenders to “reach out” to the community. No harm is meant. The Defender only wishes to speak to us, to provide a bit of life-coaching and mentoring. They know many life-lessons, and only want to share.
If you believe the story told by the loose-lipped Sex Defender, this January he had an encounter with the villainous Hillcrest Pug Strangler! The Defender was on routine vigil, peering out from a sewer inlet near Pulaski Heights Church on Kavanaugh Blvd, when he sighted The Pug Strangler. The Strangler’s evil nature was obvious to the insightful Sex Defender who dearly hoped The Strangler would skulk close enough to the sewer inlet to grab his ankle and pull his skinny, putrid body down into the sewer, where justice would be administered. The Pug Strangler crept ever closer. He sauntered, really. He sauntered like the hipster ticket-scalper from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. As he inched within reach, the Defender’s sinewy arm sprang from the sewer and clutched his ankle! There was a tremendous struggle, but in the end, the Defender’s grasp only served to pull the Pug Strangler’s pants off and he lost him. He escaped. But the Defender was left with a souvenir: The tight, white cotton pants of the Pug Strangler. And to this very day, the Pug Strangler has never been seen wearing pants again.
Some say the Pug Strangler is a ghost, a spectral manifestation generated by the rising bile of someone living in Hillcrest. This theory accounts for his mysterious vanishings and appearances from thin air. But if this is true, might those pants also be spectral? And if they are spectral, how would he ever find replacement pants if his were lost or stolen? Or torn from him his body by a sewer dweller? Might the fact that he no longer wears pants be indisputable proof that HE IS a ghost? There is no consensus among local scientists on this subject, but some argue that he no longer wears pants because he wants to make it hard for a sewer man to grab hold of his leg. Could it be that simple? No, he’s probably a ghost.
Reflecting upon these events, I realized the significance of the discarded pants that I saw near the Weed Patch. I saw them clearly in my memory. Below the abandoned railroad bridge girder, lay a pair of …tight…white…cotton pants.
Go see for yourself, but leave them undisturbed, as they now belong to your new friends in The Weed Patch. Besides, they’re haunted ghost pants. That’s not something you want to mess around with. And while you’re down there, I hope you’re lucky enough to encounter the railroad workman who walks the tracks once a week, picking up severed hobo limbs and such. Ask him about the mysterious green glow which emanates from those pants when the moon is new and on the first Thursday of each month.
On these warm summer nights, the Defenders are always above ground—-and watching. On the darkest of nights, they creep out from behind the obscuring cover of bushes and trees and shamble across our lawns and peer into our windows, to guard us as we sleep. They fan out across the neighborhood to conduct their reconnoiter, but when action is called for, they converge. They converge upon particular homes, when necessary, to provide concentrated protection for those who need it most. If there is danger of sexual offense anywhere in Hillcrest, their careful research will lead them to it. And if left unhindered, they will protect us all.
So this fall, as you sleep comfortably in your cozy Hillcrest Craftsman home, rest assured that you are safe. You are safe, because your home is surrounded and guar
ded by the ever watching eyes of… The Sex Defenders.