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Danehy

Matthew Raymond Salls: 1984-2006

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Hey Killer, what's up?

Y'know, that nickname is often applied rather capriciously, but you've earned it, the way you slaughtered that young man a couple of weeks back and just kept on going in your killermobile ... man, everybody else is just a pretender.

There's that band out of Las Vegas that just released their second album; you should charge them a royalty. And people still call Jerry Lee Lewis that name, although there's a chance that he might have earned it. There have always been those rumors that he killed his sixth wife or his eighth wife. But he's just a burnt-out rock 'n' roll psycho. You're waaay colder than he ever thought of being.

So you're just driving along at 3 a.m. Saturday night/Sunday morning, high on life and probably several other things as well. Or maybe you were on your way to church, wanting to get there early for the good seats down front. Whatever the case, here comes this kid, 22, but really still a kid. He's walking across Irvington Road, drops his cell phone, doubles back to pick it up and gets in your way.

You had no choice, really. You didn't want to swerve; that takes miles off your tires. I suppose you could have hit the brakes, but why should you be inconvenienced? That dude stepped out in front of you, and he wasn't even in the crosswalk. Legally, it probably wasn't even your fault. That's why driving away and leaving him dying there in the road elevates your status.

Somebody once said that nothing good ever happens at 3 in the morning, but this is just a coincidence. It doesn't really prove anything. Heck, you'd probably have to run over three or four more people for it to even be a trend, let alone a rule.

Just so you'll know (not that you'll care), his name was Matthew Salls. He was a graduate of Sunnyside High School, just an average kid. He wasn't a football star or student-body president, but he worked hard in class; he liked the cute girls, and he was polite to his teachers. In fact, he'd go back and visit his favorite teachers every now and then. Teacher friends of mine tell me that seeing how well kids turn out is one of the things that keeps them in the classroom.

One teacher told me, "Matthew was just the nicest young man. You know, the way things are set up, in our schools and in the world, one's attention is drawn to those at the far ends of the spectrum--the high achievers on one end and the troublemakers on the other. You end up wishing you had spent more time with the hard-working, quiet ones in the middle, because often, they (and not the super-achievers) become the backbone of society."

He wasn't on the college track. His last couple of years in high school, he talked about joining the military. But when he graduated, he got a job, and then he got another. He was working at a pizza place and at one of those vehicle-inspection stations.

Matthew had finally taken and passed his test for the Army. As a matter of fact, he was walking home from a going-away party that his family had thrown for him when you came along and took his DNA sample with your SUV. When you snuffed his light out on Oct. 15, the 22-year-old was less than 30 hours away from heading to Phoenix to finalize his paperwork and step into the military life. Here's an ironic touch: The Army doesn't even allow cell phones at basic training.

They had a memorial service for him last week. His twin brother cried, and other family members spoke grimly of his easygoing manner and optimistic outlook. It would have been bold of you to attend, but you were probably busy trying to find somebody shady enough to put on a new bumper, maybe replace your windshield and headlights, and pound out the dents without becoming overly suspicious. Darn that Salls kid for inconveniencing you like this.

Some say that people in your situation experience guilt. Both Dostoyevsky and Edgar Allan Poe used the theme. But one of those guys was a Russian and the other a drug fiend, so they made their homes in guilt. You know better. Guilt is for suckers.

Some might wonder why you didn't just stop. He wasn't in the crosswalk. As long as you were proceeding at a reasonable rate of speed--somewhere in the vicinity of the speed limit--and your body wasn't acting as a repository for all kinds of perception-altering chemicals, you probably would have been given a pass.

In Phoenix, they don't even prosecute people who kill others while breaking other laws (running red lights, speeding) as long as they weren't also drunk or high or both. That's probably it, though, isn't it? The impact probably sobered you up enough to realize that the stupid cops would probably find a way to blame you, so you booked. You are the man.

That one teacher told me, "Matthew wasn't going to save the world. But it is a better place for his having been here."

Wish you coulda met him. And I hope we get to meet you.

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