Monday, August 19, 2019

Dizzy The Park Ranger

Part 19 of 31
They Found Another Body

O the sad innocence of this poor idiot! Born without a single enemy. Everyone’s his bosom buddy, his best friend. Or so he thinks. Well, I’m not his friend,and I’m as nice a guy as you’ll ever find. But, c’mon man, sticking your arm down an alligator’s throat and expecting it to be your friend?

Sure, I know some people are like that, so merciful they can’t leave well enough alone. When all the time, our purpose is not to live forever, but to live through Life’s Day, then pass on to our reward — for some the fires of Hell, for others like me the Gravy Train of Glory on High. Oh yes, I haven’t been perfect, but that doesn’t matter. I’ve got the inside track: “I’m lookin’ over Jordan and what do I see, comin’ for to carry me home?” It ain’t an alligator comin’ for to eat me down, that much I can say, and that's absolutely doctrinally true. Although — even if it was — alligator or no alligator, the Gravy Train of Glory on High’s already punched my ticket.

So Dizzy here, the idiot friend of alligators everywhere, had his way, which was going forth to Do Good. When he got there that first day, obviously he didn’t know he was going to come across an alligator that had somehow gotten the (rusty) head of an ax, with some of the handle broke off too, wedged in its throat. Which is sad, very sad. I hate the thought of any child of nature — beyond flies, fruit flies, roaches, etc. — suffering a premature death. And certainly at the hand of man, which is what a broken ax represents. Yes, your first instinct would be to Do Good and help when reasonable.

With Dizzy, though, he put his own life on the line to save an alligator. Maybe a fair trade in Dizzy’s case, but not for most of us. Personally, I would’ve called a ranger, who could go and take care of the problem in a professional capacity. But the fact is, even though the ranger would’ve gone out, he would’ve also shot the alligator to put it out of its misery. He wouldn’t have risked his own arm. That’s the way it should be, either that or let the alligator die of natural causes. You’re not helping a bit by disrupting the cycle, although our first thought is how to make it more merciful.

All that isn't the dumbest part. That's another couple months or maybe three months, whatever it was, when Dizzy rushes out to the lake thinking he will have a grand homecoming, just him and the alligator. They’ll get together and frolic in the water, splashing, play-fighting, and will finally end up on a desert island cuddling until midnight, at which time the alligator makes its way back to the swamp, after having conveyed Dizzy across the swamp on its back.

Well, of course the alligator, assuming it was the same one, didn’t recognize Dizzy from Dopey, and … what can you say? … the other rangers had a couple hours paid leave for his funeral, and each got free counseling.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Bad Fortune, Not Surviving Cave-In

Part 18 of 31
They Found Another Body

FORTUNE: You will see the inside of a dark cave, never the light of day.

Some old friends of mine were once trapped in a cave. It was touch and go, a bad situation. But then -- thanks to it being an episode of The Adventures of Superman (George Reeves) -- Lois, Jimmy, and Clark were all saved. That may have been a happy ending, but I’ve heard of so many cave-ins in my life that I’m more afraid of caves than any other cause of death. And, yes, I know I don’t mention it that often but it's something I’m passionate about. That and the danger of choking on air pollution. Which actually goes along with cave-ins.

A lot of people have been very upset with me on this issue, even demanding that I "stand-down" and give up the microphone when I’ve tried to raise awareness of cave-ins. Which always leads to a lot of foolish mockery of me, mimicking me, the whole babbling thing that enemies do, to the point of them dressing like stereotypical cavemen and speaking in idiotic broken language, "Caves bad, no caves good." I never said that!

It’s good to get that off my chest, although I have no real reason that the anonymous readers I get on the blog will be any more sympathetic than the others. Some of my critics were even so mean as to put signs on my lawn “Caveman Lives Here,” etc., warning others that I might run out and club them to death. This is the biggest reason I don't give out contact information. In retirement I cant afford the security team I'd need to keep protestors from encroaching on my property. And maybe you as an individual are good. It's still a concern. But enough about me.

Can you imagine being in a cave-in? A lot of us don’t have much experience with caves period, so it’s probably not something we worry about. But there have been a lot of people who’ve been through it. My own experience with caves tells me it’s good to be wary, but none of them caved in while I was in them either. The more dangerous caves I've been in, I've kept a wary eye on the hole. And professional caves that are open to the public have to be safe enough for the public, mostly for insurance purposes.

Yet there are indeed caves that are dangerous. If you ever come across a cave, obviously there’s going to be signs that people know about it and that it’s not a new discovery by you. If it were 100% dangerous they’re going to have at least 20% of it tended enough to make it less dangerous, at least for their purposes. But that work may have happened a hundred years ago, meaning what was 20% then might be 2% now. You’d be better off not going into it. Then there’s the problem with turning corners, going in you turned left. Coming back out you might forget where to turn right and end up in a hole.

It’s only in cave stories where caves always collapse. And where there are evildoers trapping people in caves, etc., as is the case here today. To be killed in a cave it’s usually done two ways. 1) Being hit by debris; 2) Running out of air. The graphic portrays sabotage, an actual cave-in at a particular planned moment. Those are done by a person, since ordinary cave-ins never happen on a schedule or the exact time you want. I wouldn't want that as my fortune. Running out of air has to be one of the most terrifying ways to die. Unless you can fall asleep at will and not wake up. At least in drowning death is close to instant, depending how many times you come up for air.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

A Tricky Case To Decipher

No. 17 of 31
They Found Another Body

I see at a glance what we have here. A case where very few facts are clear. To the layman, the amateur viewer, it's inscrutable, indiscipherable, but also oddly compelling. Right away, you sense guilt, thinking there’s a victim, and guilt must be assigned and the aggrieved consoled. But who's who? You can't rush it. You'd like to see at the least signs of nervousness, shiftiness, straining to get away, etc. Is someone looking to give us the bum’s rush? What's the status of any weapons there may be? Fingerprints at this stage would be of only limited value. But you must preserve the scene.

I suppose, though, as I look at the graphics I can discern a few more clues. (I already know what happened so I can afford to take my time.) Certainly if you were with the police, under the gun with your career threatened, you’d give it your all. And then hope your all was good enough. But you might be so keyed up you'd rough up somebody to regain the edge, but that's against regs. Whereas I'm used to stepping into situations in life and not having the slightest clue what I’ve gotten myself into. But I take a breath, twist my head to really wake up, then open my eyes and go, “What have we here?” One big thing to know is it’s a six-year-old’s birthday.

Here then, yes, looking at it from every angle, surveying the scene, allowing my eyes to roam, and letting a little mind/mental action have its way, my tongue begins to tell the tale: “I see, let’s see, there is a particular story before us, at least the pieces.” Then I twist my head, move my arms and legs like the detective machine I am, even my lips are murmuring in a robotic gibberish, and I finally spit out a paper tape like a pharmacy receipt, 12-foot-long if it’s an inch.

We’ll start with the headlines: A. “Put Yourself In Her Place!” and B. “If Only.” There's two figures. One has the upper hand in a tumultuous encounter. The encounter has an end, with the single figure on the right the survivor, struggling with the implications and expressing regret, “If only.” That could be “If only” I hadn’t come, none of this would’ve happened. “If only” I’d been ready I could have killed her more handily. The inscrutability could keep you guessing.

Here's the actual truth: There's two sisters, the six-year-old's mother and her sister arguing over a plate of cookies. The mother in the party hat started the cookies, then stepped out for a minute. Which became more like 25 minutes, at which point the cookies were burning. Her sister went in to get them out and turn off the oven. The mother came in at that point and started some commotion with the hot pan. She tried to pull it away but pulled it into her own face, fell to the ground having a heart attack, a pacemaker implosion, something! She died. The sister called the ambulance and police and in the aftermath is lamenting, “If only I had done such and such.” Maybe made a cake myself and let her sister rest. Now her death has ruined the party for everyone.

Since receiving this piece, I fired the artist, but, interestingly, invited him over to bake cake with me sometime. And he said Yes! So that’s great, cake plus revenge. We’re gonna have a dead artist on our hands. And everyone knows dead artists’ works are more valuable than those of the living.

Friday, August 16, 2019

So Many Disgusting Hands

Part 16 of 31
They Found Another Body

We know deaths come in more stripes than drownings. Drownings (or being brutally murdered and tossed in the river where someone ultimately notices you) are just the theme of the month. Because it’s what we’re forever hearing on the news, “They found another body in the river today.” It’s literally never, “We found another accident victim on the interstate," because those are always obviously there, never needing to be found.

Have I ever gone to the river looking for bodies? Yes, I have. But only halfheartedly because I'm the world's worst pessimist. Not that I want to find anyone, but I figure I'm as good as anyone, why shouldn't I be Johnny on the spot when someone floats by? Then there's the quandary, What would I do then? By the time I go for help and return, it'll be way downstream and I'll look like a liar. Or, duh, I could use my phone. But under that kind of pressure, I'd be a basket case, potentially. "Uh, is this the sheriff's office? You're not going to believe this, I hardly believe it myself..." "Get to it," they interrupt, "State your business." I'm like, Wow, I wasn't expecting rudeness, and hang up and refuse to answer it when they call back.

Before everyone had phones I used to live in a town with a river just outside of town, and went there whenever I could. Thing is I never found anyone there either. But we used to go there once in a while when the water was high and throw bottles with notes in it in. Never heard back from anyone either, so my life hasn't exactly been charmed. That'd be another way to call the sheriff. If you throw someone in the river, there's no statute of limitations. And even it the note takes 50 years to reach them, the sheriff could still show up. But in 50 years I'll easily be dead, and they, stumbling along, could find my skeleton washed up in a beaver hole. No one I knew before.

In short, we never found a body.

Here, though, since I’ve pretty much become the spokesman for the dead washing up in rivers, keeping track of them and encouraging them to come forward, that’s what I’m known for now. I wasn’t so bold when I started this. And now this weird public mantle's been bestowed on me. I’m really not worthy. And when I say that, it’s not false modesty. Not only do I not deserve this, I’m pretty sure I don’t want it. I just want to write my corny articles and find my way back to obscurity.

And yet it’s come to this. Everyone who’s ever lost anyone, presumably now they have a real glimmer of hope, however small, that someone, anyone, I, might help bring their loved ones home. So they’re writing, calling, stopping me on the street, the police sometimes coming to pick me up, not because I’m in any trouble, but because an assembly is outside the station clamoring to hear from me. All because I wrote a few articles online. I hate it, yes, but you know, if they ever start bringing me pizzas, I might embrace it.

Still, germophobia betrays me. I don’t want to touch people. I don’t want people touching me. And yet they’re reaching out, like they really think I have a clue where their loved ones are buried or are floating. I don’t have any idea whatsoever! This is false hope! Which is better than no hope at all, although it’s that too. Still, I’m a living spokesman, so they keep reaching, one dirty hand, two dirty hands, three dirty hands, full of germs! Is there a beaver hole in the house? Asking for a friend.

But, really, that’s just what I need, one of these people reaching their dirty feet up here. Better not. Whoever reaches their dirty feet up here, I’ll purposely put your loved one’s name in the circular file and not look for him or her ever again! Even if I see them, I’ll let them float on by. All the way to Texas or Pakistan, wherever the river comes out first.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Final Verdict in Forensics

 Part 15 of 31
They Found Another Body

In these days of anonymity — most of us going by fake names, carrying false ID, never answering our phones — it’s good to know somewhere in society it matters who we are.

Of course it doesn’t usually matter. I blend in, there’s nothing especially extraordinary about me, positive or negative. I got two legs and the usual number of everything else. I’m not hobbling along with one leg which would make me special. If I try really hard I can present myself as a responsible individual, saluting the flag, picking up litter and carrying it to the garbage, etc. Because I'm in the Big City I've learned as well as anyone to step demurely over dead bodies. Then there's my wild side. I take a devil-may-care attitude as well, which lets people know, That guy’s nobody.

But just let yourself be a victim — in a moment of weakness, you’ve gotten comfortable and some guy’s on you with a lead pipe — and next thing your wallet’s gone and your body’s floating in the river. You were nobody before, but that's when society springs into action. Where’d this guy come from? Who is he? What happened to him? The sirens are going off, every police car in town is swerving around corners, the blue and red lights flashing. They get to the river and they’re scouring the surface with flood lights. "That over there, that's either a stump or him!" You’re somebody!

Pulled in with a hook, they look for signs of life. Are you breathing? Is there any twitching, any babbling? If the answer is no, no, no, they call in the coroner, who takes one look and pronounces you dead. He pushes his hat back with his gun, wipes his brow, and says, "It's getting hot out here, Danny." The sergeant nods. The only sign of life they might find is if they tap your knee with a rubber mallet, your reflexes still work. Which is the same as being dead, but it once was a functioning joint.

Then at the morgue they turn on the apparatus that hums and clicks in one last effort scanning for life. It’s a great invention, holding out hope if possible, or taking away all hope and doubt. Whatever the cause of death, it's confirmed. If drowned, it seals the deal, giving the utmost assurance that the verdict is true, you are no more. It’s terrible to die, I’ve heard, but it can be worse for the survivors. The sergeant gets home, cleans his hands meticulously and even takes a shower. He's playing with the kids, oblivious to his somber exterior. He thinks, "They deserve their innocence."

Now it’s up to the Missing Sersons' department to call around. What calls has Missing Persons received? If none, the investigation takes a whole different path, discovering what they haven’t known to this point. They scope out the final verdict, who you were and what steps (1-2-3) led to this tragic point in your life. Another day, another dollar.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Two Bears Vs. One Boy

No. 14 of 31
They Found Another Body

If you put these two head-to-head — bears vs. the boy — it’s hard to root for the bears. Because we have a certain nostalgic interest in the human being surviving. Part of it's our self-interest, not just sympathy for the boy. Because we feel that it could be us, in which case we’d want to escape.

But really what’s the use of “rooting” for someone? He’s going to get out alive or he’s not. Unless the laws of physics are overruled by hopes and wishes. Then we have to consider, he was there when we got here. It's all past tense. They either got him or they didn't. If I had to guess, I'd say it was easy to overpower him. Maybe the boy even had the advantage, because the brute beasts, two fighting over one might let him slip through their paws. He might've pitted one against the other, then escaped.

We really think we can outwit an opponent. Cause a distraction. Use trickery to divert the opponent’s attentions away from their position of power. Is it fair play with bears? In a sense, no, because the bear doesn't understand trickery. We’ve always been taught that we should “tell the truth,” and that’s not true if you’re creating a distraction. But pitting one thing against another, being able to escape rather than die, is good even if it hurts the bears' feelings.

Joey, the boy, was at a loss, distracted in his own mind. He had a sweet tooth and that did him in. With the kicker being his family had honey in the fridge. And there might’ve even been an unopened jar in the pantry. But he apparently thought, “Fresh from the comb is best." So he hazarded two natural enemies, the bees themselves in addition to the bears.

It’s understandable that he'd want to crawl into a honeycomb. We used to do it. Playing hide and seek, you dig in the side of the comb and get in as fast as you can before the honey drains out. Joey patched it up pretty well because the honey's still full to the top. But that fact cuts two ways, deprived of fresh air and trapped by bears without so much as a fire escape.

It’s sad, it’s regrettable, but they did get him that day. Even though he got out, he was so coated with honey that running was futile. Plus, boys are no match for bears. It all took place right there. And in Joey’s honor, next year we'll have warning signs.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Blind Men & The Elephant

Part 13 of 31
The Found Another Body

Someone came upon a cluster of lost blind Hindoos, and knowing that blind Hindoos are usually looking for an elephant to feel up, led them on, “His pen is this way and, believe me, this elephant, he means business!”

They thought it over, "He 'means business,' that can only mean personal relationships up the wazoo, unless the colloquialisms have changed since junior high PE. But blind as we are, we must feel our way through whatever challenges present themselves. And maybe we'll mitigate some of the bodily thrusting and live through the experience."

OK, so as not to make a short story any longer than it has to be, they made their way into the pen, reaching out, feeling here and there. The first said, “Wait, spread out! Let’s take it one at a time, and if there’s any survivors, long life to you.”

He approached the elephant and got right down to business but was a little too frisky, making him the first victim to get kicked to death, just like that. The elephant’s feet came up like a World Series outfielder running for the fence, with each blow landing harder than the last just to make his point. The blind man was dead.

The second felt around very gingerly, giving proper attention to the trunk, then made his way gradually toward the business. But he mistakenly thought he’d felt two different elephants’ business. The comparison did him in. “The first elephant was properly hung, this one’s a living embarrassment!’ There being but the one elephant, he showed he was one of a kind, a true stud, and kicked the blind man to death.

The third felt the elephant’s tiny tail and second his business. His mistaken assumption was the tail was the business and the business the trunk. “I’ve never felt a tinier trunk, and as for his business, it’s so small it’s an afterthought!” At which point the elephant’s sufficiently proportionate feet kicked him to death.

The fourth “blind man,” having feigned blindness for years for sympathy and free food, as well as the constant ability blind Hindoo men have to couple with well-hung elephants, knew which end was which and which label was appropriate to which organ. He stayed with the elephant through the long day, then the long night. Because it wasn't till morning that the townsmen came with the elephant's daily gift of peanuts. The “blind” man quickly reached out and ate the offering. The elephant immediately kicked the “blind” man to death, thinking, “You guys can feel up my dick all day long, but don’t mess with my nuts!”

Monday, August 12, 2019

Tiny, You're Huge In Pictures

Part 12 of 31
They Found Another Body

Every story of someone being found — in the river, in the park, their den, the alley behind a strip club — starts somewhere. We could go way back, way way back, when these happy souls were prancing off to school. I’ve heard of cases where kids don't do that anymore, so it’s good to know we’re making progress. Even back then, we would’ve been better off staying home and learning what we needed behind the barn. The teachers were psychos, the principal, the lunch-ladies, the gym teacher, and certainly the guidance counselor. As soon as they saw you they hung out to dry, and, what goes up someone must cut down.

I spent an entire month decrying the psychotic (in practice) profession of guidance counseling. Ground I’d rather not cover again. Since I wrote that I’ve been temperamental and antisocial. I went to a dance and didn’t want to dance. Then a psycho came in and shot the place up. It took everything we had to talk him down. To make a long story short, I danced three or four dances with him and he went home and was apparently redeemed. Surprisingly, they dropped all charges because of the promise he showed as a dancer.

He and I didn’t share any guidance counselor stories, but I wouldn’t have been surprised to find that he had the same problems. Although the big difference between me and him would've been, I didn’t deserve the problems and he no doubt did. Definitely, he presented himself as a guy with multiple deep problems, problems gnawing away at him over the years, chewing at him, gutting him, emptying him out, literally making him rotten to the core. And whatever there is beyond a person’s core, I’m sure it had several negative aspects as well, if I had to judge, off the charts rotten.

What I’m really thinking is, What would it have been like had I been his guidance counselor? Say I went into guidance counseling. It’s not impossible to imagine. I’m idealistic. I could've gotten in there, whatever the situation was, and done it right. I’ve seen it done wrong all my life, I could train guidance counselors single-handedly. But the first thing would be to throw away their books and diagnostic notecards. We’d grind them up and have them danced on by exorcists. Then start fresh. With great techniques, the best techniques that technicians have never even imagined, technically speaking.

For instance, I wish I could've helped this guy, the hapless subject of a rather large painting. A man of greater girth makes an innocent remark that insults him. "You’re tiny, your picture is big, that is to say, you’re a tiny shrimp of a man and don’t deserve such a big likeness. Or you’re a small man and having a big picture makes you look smaller yet. We could make the biggest picture of you in the world, a canvas stretching across the Grand Canyon, then when you see it, we’d know you were a speck of dust just waiting to blow away, to blow violently against something, like a bug hitting the windshield. In your case, you’d hit your own huge picture like a speck of dust against one of the painting’s county-wide nostrils. You're tiny, tiny, tiny, nothing.”

Not a good tact. And what happened next ... which was before I heard the case and could've helped … it's unfortunate, too tame a word for it ... but at least we still have the painting to remember him by.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

IF, One Of The Biggest Small Words

Part 11 of 31
They Found Another Body

I remember when we were kids they were always trying to teach us about words, then slip in life lessons in such a killer way that we’d never forget them. I don't know if you remember that. I’ve lectured about it in motels, mostly for focus groups that help struggling blog writers. Most of them had no clue what I was talking about. And yet I still finished the lecture.

It goes like this. The teacher writes on the board 10 words that are real jawbreakers. Big huge complicated bug-like words, lots of Ks and Js and Xs, like Polish, bigger, harder words than we've ever heard. I remember accommodation, wherewithal, purloined, recommended, xylophone, landfills, and stalactite. She said, “How ya like the looks of them jawbreakers, eh?” And everyone of us knew exactly what she was talking about: If I’m supposed to understand words like that and know how to spell them, let me out now, this is officially my last day of school...

But her educational wiles weren't quite over. It turned out what we thought was the main course — the bullseye of her strategy — was just the warm up act for something more challenging and devious. (A lot of kids dropped out that day, but my square parents wouldn’t allow me one little bit of personal freedom.) The teacher was just warming up for a mental jawbreaker to burden us with. “Well, listen to this, children, the biggest word in the English language (and this is possibly true for other language groups) is “IF.”

Oh! I remember having a cow when I heard that! It was like I was drowning in the river and couldn't catch my breath. I had a cow and I’m not even built with the female off-ramp. Despite that, I did give birth to a full grown cow, something from the magical powers of disbelief. We were in fact so beside ourselves, the fact that that schoolhouse and teacher weren’t burned to the ground or killed, respectively, were miracles as mighty as the feeding of the 5,000. And this was after lunch break.

The teacher's explanation was lame. “IF” is the longest word — her contention — because IF you have a plan, IF you have a purpose, IF you need to borrow $40 million to pay the taxes on a vacant mall site, your challenges have just begun. And so, thereby it is proven — by hook or crook — that IF is one of the biggest words...

Trying to keep bodies from popping up in the river requires a big IF too. IF you’re thrown into the river because you stiffed a guy on loans… IF you’re thrown in the river because they've shot you … that represents a failure along the way, a bad decision, or something. IF they simply took you because of a false identification, there’s a reason there too, but not as good. You shouldn’t have looked like everyone else. IF you’re that average, fluff up your hair, wear a turban, dress in purple, anything. Go nude jumping a rope. Do whatever you can to stay out of trouble (1), and (2) Make sure you have follow-through for your plans. Don’t end up in the river and you'll just wonder, What IF?

This goes for everyone, the guy from the Amazon River, Joe Average, Grizelda the Green Witch, and even the late Abraham Lincoln.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Poor House

Part 10 of 31
They Found Another Body

You know how I said my plumber also gives me legal advice he learned in night school? Well, the same guy rounds out his careers by sharing financial planning with me. I turned to him some years back when I was very embarrassed and, frankly, depressed. Down to several potatoes manifesting strange spots and softness and needing dog food, everything was so bad I had to take on a paper route. I seriously thought I'd reached the end of my rope. But whereas most people at that point let go the rope, I hung on for dear life and was able to cinch it up, a loop here, a loop there, and pretty soon I had a makeshift chair as I hung. My plumber, Dick, was pleased, and ever since has witnessed my turnaround with other potential clients. "If this guy did it, anyone can!"

To this day, Dick frequently gets handsome rewards from my survival. But, Dick or no Dick, I’ve always had a sense about me that life is worth living even if I should briefly descend to the absolute pits. Fortunately, my definition of “absolute pits” has never been set in stone or I surely would’ve been gone by now. But instead I’ve learned a certain tolerance for complete despair, although, to be frank, despair's never complete, just as it's never enjoyable. Still, I can honestly say I’ve never yet gone a full year without food or shelter. So things could be worse.

And that’s why every now and then I give a little something extra to Dick for his financial advice. A lot of his advice is right in the middle of the target, common sense: You never want to spend your money so much that you can't climb out of the morass. And you don't want to leave money lying around as a target for thieves. Instead, go for the median, a kind of common sense middle, not too much, not too little. If you can keep your bills tamped down, not adding unnecessary things — the common sense definition of that being something you’ve lived without till now — you’ll have more money for later. And if you’ve been stupid in the past (on this point I haven't), you pay off the sharks who continually circle.

Dick has some points about sharks that are worthwhile. Don’t get involved with them in the first place! And if you ever have, try to get out as soon as you can. Get smart. Try a disguise. Disguises aren’t just for Halloween, but can be a way of life. Next, remember, every road leads somewhere. If you don’t tell anyone where you’re going and if you just disappear, always have the discipline never to leave clues where you are; that's to your advantage. It's something to consider carefully though. Because at the very least you still have to deal with the government, welfare, Social Security, etc., which leaves tracks. My solution to you, a strictly amateur bit of advice, is pray that fairies exist, because any time you can sock away three wishes with very few strings -- giving up your firstborn, etc. -- it's good insurance.

But, on the other hand, say you've really screwed up. You're cornered and there's no moves left. Even then you have one final possible residence. And that's the Poor House. Which in my experience stands for the last place on earth when there's nothing left. Your life is one of total embarrassment, but you still hope to live. (It might not actually be the last place; monasteries still exist.) But the problem with the Poor House is it’s only a label that “stands" for the last ditch place, it doesn't seem to be a physical place.

And, unfortunately, when people tell you where it is, and you’re optimistic you might find it, the directions seem to always route you somewhere near the river. Definitely time for professional help. Or a monastery. There might be a divine plan, giving you the chance to disappear into the loving arms of a monastery where you are so good they literally beatify you and you're St. Loser, the guy who gave up everything and lost the rest. You have nearly nothing and you're super happy, and now ... you inspire others, sometimes in a positive way, sometimes -- how regretful! -- negatively.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Maelstrom: Uncle Dingy's Regrets

Part 9 of 31
They Found Another Body

This was a relative of mine, Uncle Clarence aka Uncle Dingy, who actually died before I was born. Once upon a time something happened and Dingy went a little rancid, wormy in the head. These days it might’ve been called a mental breakdown, because he was definitely under the weather where it counted. He had several close calls with death. He saw more than a man of his limited mental capabilities should see. Involving someone else's wife, likely from the neck down in full display. And he ended up dying of natural causes, some say murder. There was a prolonged vigil, rattling the cages and storming heaven's gate but it didn’t do any good.

I’m kind of glad it all went down before I was born. I have the space to stand back semi-detached and judge from a distance: “What happened to you, Dingy, that you couldn’t make it to old age like the rest of the brood? Did you forget every teaching they taught you, not to get involved in the affairs of people of such low character, with more on their mind than citizenship, patriotism, and doing good? You know the family, right, Dingy? We wisely stand back when the world’s going to hell in a hand-basket. Where others wilt in the face of temptation, we stand tall. So what happened to you? Was she that hot?

Ouch, that might burn, I got a little too close to the truth, which I wasn’t going to touch. But there was a jealous husband, jealous to the point of taking it out on Dingy, it being a firearm, a pistol to be precise, waving it about, about to fire it in that room of sin, with red wallpaper and nude paintings, the works, after backing Dingy to the headboard, who strained his neck something fierce when there was nowhere else to crawl. Bang!

His last word was “Maelstrom! Maelstrom!” I’ve heard of that, but I had to look it up to get a fuller understanding. The dictionary says, “A powerful whirlpool in the sea or a river.” And “a situation or state of confused movement or violent turmoil.” My first thought is that Dingy was out of his mind and randomly remembering something maelstromesque. But I ran it by a friend and he said Dingy likely was likening his experience with the woman and her jilted lover/murderer to a maelstrom, something he wished would’ve never happened, and if he had it to do over, he wouldn’t have. Or would've taken her to a different town.

That’s pretty smart reflection. ‘I did something, I’m sorry I did, and if I could do it over again, I wouldn’t have, or would've gone farther.’ But then he was in a maelstrom, a whirlpool of consequences, sucked down, dragged inexorably toward a fitful though regrettable conclusion, death.

What could he have said to call off the dogs? If a word like maelstrom didn’t call them off, probably nothing would have. “I’m sorry, it was a one-time thing, nothing we’ll repeat, I’ll make it up to you somehow…” “Make it up to me, huh? There’s no unsullying her good name and honor!” Bang, bang!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Dizzy Dies In Pink Silk Bloomers

Part 8 of 31
They Found Another Body

We all know death is out there, but it seems like there's a definite point in our lives when we consciously realize that, yes, we are going to die. "This robe of flesh I'll drop and rise..." It doesn't mean you have to dwell on it. Maybe a nodding acquaintance is enough, with each day (thump, thump, thump) being a day closer. And we’ve certainly heard enough people having premonitions and suddenly, [throat-cutting noise]. Sometimes your doctor just hasn't got enough time to search for a spleen donor.

Another thing that comes into play is how we interact with our fate. So, realizing and interacting, that’s the ticket. But how do we interact? We have the classic (negative) interaction in the young whippersnapper above. We’ll call him Dizzy. Even Dizzy’s workmate allows himself a quick look of disbelief at his tone. Note to self: “Please allow me to be ‘umble. Being ‘umble is always better. ‘Cause if you’re not ‘umble you’re in for a t'mble!” And I’m not talking a t'umble in bed with Minnie La Aha or Chesty La Morgan, the two extremes of varying sizes. But in the old grave, Old Sunken Acres Cemetery down in the valley.

OK, Dizzy has a whole vibe of taking things for granted, being vain in his assumptions and surmises, and a self-image ripe for a fall, the opposite of humility, being entirely thoughtless as to the ways Life can put the clamp on your privates and make you scream “Bloody Sister,” who had problems of her own. In this regard, it would be fatal for me to say ‘I’ve got it going on’ in this regard. Surely the skies would immediately open and a battalion of battle angels similar to what they saw on D-Day would rush upon me. And I’d be dead before I finished this post. That’d be a tragedy! I’d rather live at least till this is posted. Then if everyone hears I was subsequently vain about it, OK, sure, bring on the angels! But I will remain ‘umble.

What is Dizzy saying? He’s unconsciously summing up his life as he sits there. He’s worked for the firm long enough to be a recognized success. He’s been at it and blessed enough to be able to look back on a long career of success and now he's in the position to sum it up. If I were the other guy I would’ve thrown my dress over my head like Scrooge's maid. This man’s batty! I must get out of here! Then I would’ve counseled him, look for a good family-owned funeral home…

“I can afford to lean back…” Right there you know Fate’s cause of death. … “and having leaned back, smoke a $90 cigar…” Waste not, want not… “and luxuriate in these expensive pink silk panties.” I have no objection to that, what else are silk panties for but comfort and kink? But when he does… [O! the mountains are tumbling! the ocean's seething! the rest of me's surging! Judgment's in the air, we have a new body to find, as foolish Dizzy leans back and rubs his thigh (the silk panties were actually bloomers), and falls back, breaking his neck and crushing his head, legitimately dying a horrible, terrible, not so good death, and at breakneck speed.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Racers Meet Their Maker

Part 7 of 31
The Found Another Body

I heard one day that there hasn’t been a racing fatality in so long, years, that they're shaking their fist at heaven, daring the Almighty to "Bring it on, Big Fella!" A disgusting sentiment. But because the safety features are so great, all the latest designs, and have stood the test of time, nothing can possibly go wrong. I’m glad that's the case in a way although of course most of us know that a little real life danger puts the edge in things. If nothing can ever go wrong — as much as we hope for people’s survival — it’s too cut and dried.

That’s not how it used to be, back when a man was a man and the Future Corpses of America always had their rooting section at the races. I used to go to the races as a kid and we only got popcorn money if someone got killed. But to be fair to our parents, we also got money for nickel candy if there was a major pileup and no one perished. And there were other levels of reward, like if the winner suddenly fell dead of a non-race-related problem, aneurysm, bleeding hickey, or lung cancer. One guy died of all three once and I spent the next year on my own in Hawaii, meeting beach girls and getting plenty of leis.

Those were great days, like the wild west of family outings. We went with other folks, relatives, and had a blast. My uncle and dad made sure we got out of there fast, pretending to be traffic guys. We scooted right out. There might be a 10-car pileup behind us, and, yes, an occasional fatality (never involving bleeding hickeys), but we got home quicker. The answer to your question is NO, we didn’t get anything if other motorists died. Maybe our ass kicked if we didn’t warn dad that someone was stuck under the tires and messing up his gas mileage.

Anyway, back to the races. There were always some professional drivers, and professional wanna-bes, high school kids, their dads, uncles, etc., always guys, and most of them had something to prove about their masculinity. I know if I were a high school kid driving I wouldn’t want my friends at school dumping on me because I had a light foot on the gas. You have to put your foot on the gas and go for every advantage. If they have the flag out, “Well, I didn’t see it till a couple minutes after!”

I’m glad I survived. The races I’m talking about had a crew that patched up the stands nearly every week. One side, the north end, was constantly collapsed, since that was the hairpin turn and you weren’t anybody till you skidded out and wrecked there. We definitely vied for seats near that section, because it does give you some extra bragging rights if the cars sail over you. That happened one night and the guy was crossing himself religiously as he sailed over. And good thing he did too, because he took out the women’s outhouse. The ladies would’ve skinned him alive had he survived.

Even now as I remember all these things — I’m hungry — wishing I had some of the popcorn we used to get. And the satisfaction of earning it the old fashioned way, one crazy accident after another.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Local Man Dies Of Old Age

Part 6 of 31
They Found Another Body

In preparation for this series, I devoted myself to going to 30 funerals, done on a daily basis, skipping Sundays. I haven’t used any of the inspirational words that I got from each one, seeing all that as a precious bit of comfort for the families, and personal, no matter how obviously it's just a lot of jawboning fluff. Yammer yammer yammer.

Today is the only day I’m going to refer to these gatherings, mourning the dead, comforting the afflicted, the sad, and the often-impatient wanting just to get it over with. I went to the final goodbye ceremony for this guy, who will go by a fake name today so as not to further agitate the family. I’ll call him Yon Quith, no relation to Yon Q. Public. But of course the Quith family is a big one, rivaling the Public family, Quith being one of our main names. Unfortunately, though, because they "had something better to do" or out of some heinous grudge they have against their own, most of the Quiths weren’t there, but a representative sample of brave souls, holding their nose, still made for a decent showing for the deceased.

You see Yon above in the panel of undoctored photos, that he started early manhood with a youthful appearance and good color. By the end, though, he’d withered substantially and lost his natural color, taking on something of the hues and tones of the Incredible Hulk, green but not with envy. I can’t think what it is that causes people to turn green, too much copper, not enough parsley root, something, bile in the liver. I hope he did something for it, medicine at the very least, Quith Bros. Cough Drops, Trade and Mark, cherry, licorice, anything but lime. He was green enough.

In addition to liver problems, the other disease that took him away goes by the generic name of Old Age and associated conditions. I myself am well beyond my teen years, and the things of Old Age, generis degeneris has me degenerating at a pace commensurate with my calendar age. I’ve been able to avoid the hospital so far, being one of those guys who’d rather die at home up until the pain is too great. At which point, hopefully, the Angel of Final Mercy will leave the Quiths and the Quones long enough to take care of me. But I’m really in no rush. I need to outlive my dog.

Mr. Quith here has the full range of things that accompany a good death. The appearance of Father Time himself, an old favorite from New Year’s Eve when he’s freshly born, pictured here in one of his guises, the old man from earlier on Dec. 31. My grandpa used to have a bunch of scythes like that for cutting weeds, so I grew up wielding those. They look scary to the average guy but they’re a great comfort to me. Then there’s a mailed-in poster card from Death himself, someone I also know. Really, the only stranger here to me was Yon himself, and the way they described him he would’ve been a heck of a guy to know. Started a business, hired a bunch of people, sent birthday cards to their children, etc. A real suck-up, but they’re still sorry to see him go.