Prom Night
By John Marfink
It was time. He’d never been to Virginia. Vir-gin-yah. It sounded good when he said it, slowly drawing
out the syllables.
“Vir-gin-yah’s full of virgins.”  
He sang it over and over while getting ready for his trip. He still had fourteen empty boxes. He’d started
with fifty, one box for each state.
Alaska had been the hardest. They had such wild country and it was hard to find just the right place. He
finally figured out how to rig something off an overpass. Though the most difficult, Alaska had also been
the most fun. He wished Mom would say something whenever he returned home. She never did. He’d
show her. He wasn’t dumb like Daddy said. He was smart…real smart. They’d all see that when he filled
up the last box. Nobody would ever call him dumb again.
He loved prom night. All those girls dressed up so pretty. He had a prom date once, Mary Miller, a really
nice girl until Daddy hurt her. Mom didn’t say anything then either. He’d had to stop Daddy all by
himself. That was back in Tennessee, when he filled his first box…his first prom night.
Maybe Mary would like to see his boxes again. She always smiled. It was nice of her to keep Mom
company all the time. Especially after Daddy hurt her.
He’d have to be more careful this time. It was getting harder and harder. For thirty-six years he had
been attending senior proms all over America. But now somebody was spreading tales about prom
nights on something called the Web; tales that called him an urban legend. Most times, they had him
wearing masks and carrying hockey sticks.  He snorted. He wasn’t an urban anything, just a country boy
enjoying prom night. He did make real good webs though. Webs so strong the pretty girls couldn’t ever
get away, not until he got what he wanted for his boxes.
Time to go now.

Clare couldn’t wait to get home and tell her mother. Jimmy had done it! He asked her to the prom. Her
mother would freak! Jimmy was so hot, even her Mom said so. He could have any girl in school, but he
asked her.
As she wandered down the street in a daze, dreaming about gowns and dreading the mandatory sex
lectures from her giggling mother, Clare never noticed the old station wagon parked across the street.
She literally danced up the walk to her house and did a little hip-hop shuffle up the steps.
Throwing open the door, she called out to her mother, “Mom, wait ‘til you hear what happened to me
today.”

He watched her enter her house. She might make a real good addition to his collection. When he filled
another box come Saturday night, there would only be thirteen to go. As he pulled slowly from the curb,
he briefly wondered what he’d do when he filled his last box. Chuckling, he sang a little tune to the
melody of On Top Of Old Smokie as he drove away:
“I’ll have no more boxes then what will I do? Guess I’ll start over. Why, wouldn’t you?”

Clare was easily the most beautiful girl at the prom. Jimmy couldn’t believe he almost failed to ask her in
time. If Coach hadn’t given him such a hard time about ‘the great running back can’t even ask an itty
bitty girl out for a date...’ he’d probably still be leaning against the wall with the other stags.
It was almost time for the crowning of the King and Queen for this year’s prom.  There were so many
really cute couples; he wondered who they’d pick. Probably Jeff and Marlene, after all Jeff was the star
quarterback and she was the head cheerleader. He voted for them himself and Clare had too. That was
all right though, they deserved it.  They were really popular. Besides, what did he care about kings and
queens, he was still floating after that last dance with Clare. Once again he berated himself for almost
letting her get away.
Coach Wilson and Miss Barnes from Home-ech stepped up to the microphone.  “Settle down everybody.
It’s that time again. Ed, the envelope, please.”
The drummer in the band riffed an impressive roll as the senior class president, Ed Smathers handed the
coach a sealed envelope. The coach took it and handed it to Miss Barnes, while making a joke about the
Academy Awards.  
“We tried to get Billy Crystal or Ellen Degeneres, but they couldn’t make it, they were too busy fighting
each other for next year’s Academy spot.”
The large crowd laughed appreciatively as Miss Barnes nervously opened the envelope, pulled out the
card, gasped and handed it to the coach.
“And this year’s King and Queen of the Franklin County Senior High School Prom is...” He paused and
looked right at Jimmy and Clare. Jimmy felt his heart beating right through his tux, “Jimmy Anderson and
Clare Deveraux!”
The band broke into the Eagles fight song as their classmates rushed to surround them with
congratulating hugs and several back thumps strong enough to almost drive Jimmy to his knees. He’d
never expected this. He almost left early to go over to Smith Mountain Lake and the kid’s favorite make-
out spot. Clare indicated after they left her house that it was a wonderfully warm night for ‘looking at the
moon and stars’.
He wondered earlier why Ed stopped and talked to him about nothing. Ed must have already known the
envelope’s contents and was just stalling him. Now he and Clare would have to stay until Midnight and
lead the last dance. The band started playing and Jimmy led his Queen out onto the floor. As they
danced, the rest of their classmates joined them until the music finished. Jimmy and Clare were still
accepting congratulations when Jeff and Marlene came up. Jeff had a knowing smile on his face and
Marlene looked flushed, as if she’d just run a race or something.
Jeff got close and whispered into Jimmy’s ear, “Since you’re stuck here, how about we swap cars for
tonight, here’s my keys. The T-Bird is just too tight for tonight!”
Jeff made a little sing-song with the last line and did a bad imitation of a moon walk. Jimmy couldn’t
believe it! Jeff was giving him his brand new T-Bird for the night? And all he had to do was hand over the
keys to his Dad’s old Buick LeSabre? Like DUH! He reached into his pocket and handed Jeff his keys,
snatching Jeff’s before he could change his mind.
As they turned to go, Clare asked Marlene, “Aren’t you afraid of the Prom Chopper?” then giggled.
Marlene leaned toward Clare and stage whispered, “Honey, I’m certainly not going to let that old, urban
legend get in my way tonight. If there’s any ‘chopping’ to be done, I’ll do the whittling and bring Jeffey
boy right down to earth.”
Jeff laughed and draped his arm possessively over Marlene’s shoulders and both Clare and Marlene broke
into a fit of giggles.
Punching Jerry lightly on the arm he said, “C’mon guys, that just a myth. Besides, isn’t it always the
King and Queen that get chopped up?”  
The two couples danced a cha-cha to the Pussy cat Dolls version of Sway, Jimmy intently counting out
“one-two, cha-cha-cha” to himself until Clare whispered, “Oh Jimmy, just dance.”
When the dance ended, after a final hug between the girls, Jeff and Marlene left the gym.

The sheriff stood leaning against his squad car and watched his deputy throw up yet again.  
“Damn it, Virgil. You can’t have anything left. Now take the damn tape and secure their car. The M.E.
took what was left to the morgue and we gotta get this area sealed off so the lab boys can do their
stuff. Goddamn Kids! Why didn’t they stay at the dance?”  
With tears streaming from his eyes, the sheriff began the slow and painful drive into Rocky Mount to
notify the parents. There was no need to wait on the coroner’s confirmation. As soon as he had seen
the old Buick, and the mutilated bodies half un-dressed in the back seat, he knew who the latest victims
of the ‘Prom Chopper’ were.  James Anderson and Clare Deveraux. The girls in the office had been
talking about it when the call came in. Everyone expected Jeff and Marlene to be crowned, but Jimmy and
Clare won instead.
Damn it, he thought and slammed his hands against the steering wheel, nearly driving off the road. He’d
known Jimmy since Pop Warner days when he’d coached him. The kid would probably have been All-
American at Tech by his sophomore year. Maybe then Coach would have finally won his national title. The
sheriff drove on, replaying the bloody scene in his head, slamming on the brakes when he remembered
seeing the long crescent scar on the boy’s back. Jeff Dalton had gotten that scar during the
championship game last fall. Jeff, not Jimmy. The boys must have... they must have switched cars. With
a flick of a switch, the Sheriff turned on his siren and did an immediate U-turn in front of the Westlake
Kroger and headed full-speed back to the crime scene.

Mary’d be really pleased. Driving back to Tennessee, his box sitting in the seat beside him, he realized
that they had tried to trick him this time. The prom King and Queen swapped their award with some
other dumb kids. Hell, even the teachers were too dumb to know what happened. He’d tell Mary all about
it. How he had done his surveillance and checked out all the likely prospects, then how he’d watched that
smarmy kid break into the principal’s desk and swap the envelopes. Hell, he just tossed the original
envelope into the nearest trash can. It only took a minute to identify the real King and Queen. No sir,
they couldn’t fool him. He’d tell Ma too, show her just how smart her boy really was. That would show
Daddy.
As he headed down I-81 towards Bristol, he again joyfully planned in his mind the celebration he and
Mary would have in another thirteen years; when he’d bring that last box home. When he’d take out all
fifty pairs of heads and spread them around Mary’s lovely body lying there, next to Mom’s headless
torso sitting upright in the old rocking chair. Mary would be wearing her prom gown and her Queen’s
tiara, stretched out on top of Mom’s favorite comforter, the huge stain under Mary’s breast where his
daddy had shot her, now faded to an ugly brown. He would put on his King’s crown from that long-ago
prom night and he and Mary would celebrate.
The first box he’d open for her would be the one from Tennessee, his very first box; the one with his
parent’s heads in. Mary would like that.