“The Mad Bomber” is a submission for the Argus Arts Section’s November Fiction Series. Each Argus issue in November will contain either an excerpt or an entire student story submitted to the contest. The second half of this piece will be published on Friday, Nov. 18.
I like to think of myself as a simple man. I love my country, my sisters, and my ma. I never bothered with marriage, I always went to Church, and I believed that an action required a reaction—physics, you know, or the eye-for-an-eye thing. So, you’ll understand me when I say that I was surprised when the detective who read me my Miranda rights told me that I had been one of the most complicated cases in Manhattan’s history. I was so taken aback that I blurted out an apology. He laughed for a minute and slapped me on the back a few times.
I spent the next 20 years after my arrest in a mental institution. I avoided lobotomy and made quite a few friends. I was asked a number of times if I regretted what I done all those years ago, and I would think about it—for their sake—then say no. As I said, an action requires a reaction. Simple as that.
I left my first bomb on the windowsill of the Consolidated Edison Power Plant. I never meant for it to go off. It was just a warning, you see, a little teaser. If I had meant for it to go off then why would I have left a note? Those cops can be real fatheads. They called me an idiot because I couldn’t get my bombs to go off, as though they “wanted” them to go off. I didn’t want to hurt nobody, same as them. But Con Ed needed their reaction. My love note on the first bomb read:
CON EDISON CROOKS — THIS IS FOR YOU
I signed it “F.P.” if only to throw them off. The bomb made the “Post,” not the “Times,” so I had to try harder. They stole from me, you hear? Right out of my pockets and lungs. But I’m hard-boiled. I hatched a mighty fine plan.
I had been on the job for a few years at the Consolidated Edison Power Plant when the accident happened, and I swallowed some bad gas. By that weekend I had TB. You can’t tell me I got TB from anything else besides that bad gas. I know how things work. I knew the types of gas I was handling. So I filed for worker’s compensation and instead of giving me time off and pay, I got shafted. You’d be angry too, anyone in their right mind would.
I sat on this problem for nearly 10 years. Every day when I coughed, laughed, or even sucked in a breath, I was in agony. I had suffered for 10 years when my boss said they were going to have to let me go if I couldn’t pick up the pace. So now I had a new problem to sit on: how to build a pipe bomb.
The library was closed on Sundays so I had to wait until I could go after work on Monday. I brought a scratchpad in with me and took diligent notes and redrew some diagrams here and there. I made a shopping list—brass pipe, gunpowder, sugar, flashlight batteries, toolbox, milk, eggs, butter—and began sketching out some prototypes.
As I said before, I didn’t even put a fuse in the first one. You can’t listen to the press, O.K? They made me out be some sort of Lenny character who can’t even build a pipe bomb. In all fairness I shouldn’t even been charged for that first one, but what’s the real difference between 46 and 47 charges? It doesn’t matter; I didn’t go to trial anyway, so I’m not bitter about that anymore. But I’m getting ahead of myself, because that first bomb was everything.