Sunday, August 25, 2019

Murder House, House of Horrors


Part 25 of 31
They Found Another Body

Now that I live in the Big City — quite a change for a small town boy — I realize there’s more Murder Houses and Houses of Horror than you can throw a machete at. A far cry from some of the other places I've lived, tiny towns and midsize cities, when occasionally someone dresses up their house in a scary way for Halloween. Very spooky! That was fun, but these guys are playing for keeps. If they're even in there. Sometimes you don't know.

It appears some of them are playing for keeps. They're in the news a few times a week. According to several victims — some of them with only mute testimony — they wish they hadn’t gone in or even become acquainted with the residents. I myself do NOT go in, not that I know where any really dangerous places are in particular. I ride my bike around about a six block radius and otherwise keep to myself. Would I like to go in? Sure, I have an exploring nature. But going in doesn't seem wise, and, anyway, there's nothing I need.

The way to do it, naturally, would be to stand outside behind a tree and listen. Keep your eyes and ears open for anything going on. And simply wait them out. If they’re in there, being as quiet as they can be, just hoping you come in, they can’t keep it up forever. Because everyone moves sometime. And you’re outside, watching and listening. There's going to be some noise.

But it could be a stalemate, if you don’t go in and they don’t make a noise. One way to flush them out would be to heave bricks toward the windows. The glass is usually broken anyway. A brick comes through the window, if someone’s in there, they’re going to react. As for you, you’re in the best spot, because as soon as they react -- the rat-a-tat of machine guns -- you’re going to fly!

OK, let’s advance a little bit. You're outside, and you're satisfied there’s no danger. Even though the visitor’s guide — or the picture in your head — has a gun-toting murderer at the front door, a veiny claw hand reaching for the world’s most dangerous wrench, and one story up there’s two gnarly boys either joined at the hip or hooked together in some other way, forever at odds. Then the front room upstairs, there's a gun pointing at you and a man rolling a boulder down a cliff. Even the attic isn’t safe. A man with a bandaged head, bleeding to death, a boy throwing a banana peel on the road, and the world’s biggest bagel or foot-long bun toted under someone’s arm. This could be a game like Mousetrap, with all the moving pieces!

And you're still out there. Finally you decide, No one’s made a peep. So you go to the front door and rattle the handle. That’ll flush ‘em out. Still not a peep. You try the door, everything’s fine as it opens. You walk in, it’s all OK. When suddenly the door slams, and the procession of people already described, one by one, attacks you! You’re virtually dead, when out steps the boy with the banana peel and stuffs it up your nose, cutting off your breath, and the arm with the bun finishes you off, pounding, pounding, rancorous pounding with a piece of bread so hard he could pound nails all day and it'd never soften!

Think I'll stay home at least today.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Raging Hormones, Then Inferno

Part 24 of 31
They Found Another Body

How could something that felt so right turn out to be so wrong? Who among us hasn’t asked that a million times, every time we get involved with someone? Then, inevitably, nonetheless, we're running through the conflicts, the potential suicides of other loves ones, and bringing the walls down because of our momentary lust for … wanting it all. When we probably should've heeded the warning and simply said, "I’m old, I’ve had my fill. It’s the same thing over and over, humpa humpa, big whoop, pay the hotel, let's go home."

Of course it's worse if you’re out in the wilds somewhere, where adventure lives. Then you’re up against the primal elements, not just the niceties of a motel, but the slouching matron at the front desk who could care less what you’re up to, just so you don’t drag it to the hall, and leave the light shades alone. I remember one particularly hot weekend — I’ve denied this episode in court several times, so please don’t report it — that one guy got his business stuck in the vacuum cleaner and that was painful for him. I’m only happy I wasn’t also drinking, because there might not have been anyone to get him out. As indeed it seemed painful, but thank God when I'm sober I can wield a crowbar with some precision.

In the wild, though, everyone’s wilder. And the things of primal lust lead to primal behavior, being macho, being outrageously feminine, or what have you. I know they weren’t using rubbers, so how much more primal can you get? That’s right in the open pure lust, hanging low, springing high, showing off, anchors away, not coming up for air, basically making a buffet out of things when you don't even know their expiration dates. My personal policy on that is a strict No, thank you!
But not everyone’s me. The world would be a better place if everyone had my adamantine self-control (patent pending). But since they don’t, they're at the mercy of animal lusts, which of course know no boundaries. They’re down the hall with their Tarzan yells. Their doors are wide open, there's various mobile adult bookstore devices hooked to them, and they’re even running up and down the hall. It’s rustic enough, of course they can get away with it. Until the matches and gasoline come into play. That's when I left.

Thank God this was other people and the rest of the story's secondhand. But in the end there was a fire, and (head bowed) none of the couples or extraneous horny singles involved made it out alive. Which way could they turn? There was fire down that hall, up that hall, fire going vertical through the elevators, then at an angle and down the stairway, and of course at another angle and up the other stairway. The only thing the fire didn't touch was a flower pot by the back door.

What a terrible disaster. So many charred bodies found, one for each victim. But they had put up a brave front, and I can only console myself with the thought that their last words -- reportedly shrieks -- comprised an earnest heartfelt prayer.

Friday, August 23, 2019

I'm Shutting This Party Down

Part 23 of 31
They Found Another Body

I hope I’m not coming across too moralistic in this series, a goody two shoes kind of guy. I’m trying to cut everyone a lot of slack, really. Engaging everyone’s proclivities, trying to see the good sides as well as the bad. And even though they always end in death, there’s still some degree of good in getting there. And whether death is the only outcome, I don’t think I’ve claimed that. For every 20 people who die, I have no doubt someone survives. Only to die another day, having built up so much false self-confidence by the apparent escape.

If you want self-confidence, and if you want to live, just don’t take part in anything dangerous. Exercise moderately, not to the point of working up a sweat. Drink a little if you want, just make sure you nurse the bottle along so you’ve drunk one whole bottle over a period of three or four years. Do everything with such discipline and reserve, and you could be like me, living till you’re old and gray, losing your memory, and wondering to yourself — with no survivors around to remind you — who am I and why am I here?

We’re looking today at a full scale bacchanalia. A long table and enough ugly ass characters lost in reverie and drunkenness to the point that they’re not going to make it. Yes, some will make it. For every party like that, there’s always survivors. Giving hope to other idiots that it can be done. Instead of what should happen, which is that the sky would open, a beam of light coming from as many directions as there are people that would lift each one up to the ceiling and give them a stern warning: “If you want to live, you need to settle down. Your place in life is to exercise moderation. Going whole hog is for hogs, not men. The things you are laughing at hysterically are not objectively funny. You see your mate drooling. Or passed out. That’s not humorous, but detracts from his worth in your estimation and makes you look bad. You need to shut the hell up, get back in line, and march it out of here single-file, one by one, or you'll be judged harshly and put in your place.

Then whoever’s left witnesses the spirit of Carrie Nation, well-known enemy of drinking and carousing, stepping in and breaking every one of those rotgut bottles against the sidewalk, overturning the tables, and airing the place out. With each of the merrymakers sat down in a stern place and given the talking to of their lives. If you want to live, here’s how it’s going to be done. 1, 2, 3. Any questions? Hearing none, you’re off to home. Do not stop anywhere for a nightcap. We will know about it and we will destroy you.

Well, you know this crowd. No self control. They’d rather die crooked than go straight. And that’s exactly what happened. A candle was overturned and burnt the place to the ground. Those who survived the longest, their eyes bulged out and it was a hideous sight for the poor guys who cleaned it up. In fact, those guys were so repulsed that they also went out for drinks, became alcoholics, and died later in the early morning hours. The funeral directors for those guys also became disillusioned, took up drinking, and a little bit of dancing. It was disgusting.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Buy Little Timmy A Hotrod

 Part 22 of 31
They Found Another Body

I’m civic-minded enough to say it and believe it, It’s in all of our interests that we somehow reduce juvenile delinquency. (The other juvenile thing we’re bitterly opposed to is juvenile diabetes. It’s well and good to oppose diseases, I suppose.) But it’s mainly well and good to oppose the disruptions to families and civic life that comes from kids stealing and whatnot, racing cars, setting fires to schools and places of worship, and whatever else they do.

It’s been a while since I was a juvenile but I know the temptations they have to cause trouble. Making trouble for others and themselves. The way they tried to tamp down those activities when I was young was with youth hangouts. Go there and they have a couple pinball machines and jukebox. You’re watching some guys play the pinball machine, and you put a quarter on it and wait your turn. I remember one time a guy with one arm was playing pinball and he got pissed off about tilting it and smashed his one hand through the glass. A good way to lose the other arm, but he came out of it OK.

Did I ever get in trouble as a juvenile? Not really. But those were good days. The only video cameras in existence were test models that TV stations had, each costing thousands of dollars. There was exactly ZERO video cameras in general circulation. So if you did something horrible, it was their word against yours. Naturally if the police swooped into the building from the skylight on a rope and caught you red-handed you had to answer for it. But they were usually at the cafe or sitting in the parking lot flirting with the girls, leaving the town wide open for rampant delinquency.

I have some pointers for juvenile delinquents. If you’re going to be a hardened badass, it still pays to have plausible deniability. It'll go better for you if you are kind, thoughtful, and clearheaded. Avoid drugs, drinking, and staying out late. If you want the perfect cover, don’t go with girls that eat crackers in bed. Why? Because if they’re dumb enough to do that they’ll also be careless in many other ways. As soon as the police put the clamps on them, they’ll have the scoop on you. So your cover's blown, thanks to one squealing stupid so-and-so and her crackers.

Juvenile delinquents have something else they’re prone to. Death. They get the sense that — being young and completely stupid — they’re immortal, “Nothing can touch me.” So they’re doing stuff like racing their cars toward one another and seeing who'll be the first to swerve. Not a great idea. The only reason I'm here today is because we couldn't afford a good car. And I'm grateful for my continued poverty, because it's allowed me to live a long pointless life. But survival is its own reward, I've heard.

The only payoff I can think of for dying early is how beautiful it'd be to have the gang gathered over your grave, smoking cigarettes and thinking about you, then tossing the butts over you. And accidentally melting the plastic flowers. But the huge downside is you're out of sight, out of mind, forgotten, all because you didn’t swerve. Still, statistically, some folks are going to die. It'd mean there was a terrible conspiracy if they didn't.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

His Last Day In The Desert

Wouldn't this be a drag?
Part 21 of 31
They Found Another Body

There’s something about the human mind, always thirsting for knowledge, always exploring, looking to see what’s beyond the next horizon. Which I discovered a long time ago when we were out horizon hunting; what’s over the next horizon is always the next horizon. Nature has ‘em lined up as far as the eye can see, then farther. Everywhere you go it’s the same old thing, underwater, cross country, interstellar space. In space it’s freaky, you get somewhere, take a couple pictures, then you’re off to the next place, 4 million years in the future. I can only imagine the deep depression of people spending multiple generations -- a thousand generations! -- in a spaceship. Heading light-years away, how horrible.

Crawling through the desert would be like that, and even though that's an earthly thing it's still beyond what I’d allow for myself. Daily life is bad enough, I don’t want it any worse, putting the pedal to the metal of desperation, crawling like a baby across the hot sands, watching like a hawk for the albatross or whatever's out there just waiting to pick the meat off your bones. The best thing you could do is get on one side of a big rock, then let the shadows give you some shade. Keep a rock between yourself and the sun, hopefully with a canteen to sip from every few minutes so you wouldn’t have to die till tomorrow. Then traveling at night. In this scene he seems to have collapsed on top of a rock, maybe the hottest spot there is. And perished. Just as well, unless he just missed civilization by a bit.

Death is an interesting thing. It’s always watching for us at the extremes of life, then it springs like a trap. This guy in the desert, he thought he was up for real adventure, something to tell his grandchildren about. Or it could’ve been he wanted to write an article for an outdoors magazine about how to survive the unsurvivable! I’ve listened to enough warnings about the sun and a summer day and hydration and sunscreen, and on and on and on … that I know the real purpose of life is this, hide somewhere where the weather’s perfect lest you die.

So I stay in a lot. We used to worry whether we had a tan, all that. No more. The house is shut up, the fans are on, sometimes the AC. If it weren’t for dogs not knowing how to use the bathroom we’d never leave. You can have your groceries delivered now, which they did 100 years ago but we got away from it until relatively recently. But we always want to go outside. I don’t know why entirely. Gives us a little break from the same four walls probably. Just like being in prison. If you were in prison, you’d say, “O to crawl across that field!” And that would indeed be a pleasant break. “Or that desert. How much better my crime would’ve been to make a heist on a plane, then parachuted into an endless hot desert!” Just the ticket.

Another thing I don’t know about life is how long it takes to die in the desert. We’ve seen so many cartoons of the guy crawling across the desert, but they never answer the questions we’re really interested in. We always see skeleton heads as one of the desert props, but we don’t know the timetable on death and becoming nothing more than a skeleton head. They could’ve covered that in school but they didn’t know either.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

On Ding-a-Ling Mountain

Part 20 of 31
They Found Another Body

The higher you go in mountains like that, the thicker the gravity gets. You start out at the bottom, everything’s perfectly fine. Each foot feels it’s usual weight, your shoes are comfortable. You feel you can survive, and if business is good at Acme Explosives, thrive.

An order came in for a standard explosive, about yea big, close to a breadbox but not quite, just perfect for offing underlings, hangers-on, aides-de-camp, ladies in waiting, and even your own mother if she gets lippy. This isn’t how I think. My mother never got lippy, but naturally had she the shopkeepers would've had something for me.

But this order had to go to the Hall of the Ding-a-Ling Mountain King, pretty high. Up there. You start walking those steep trails and anything can happen. One slip and you’re— I don’t even want to think of it. The trails are carved according to a standard, right? If the trail weren’t passable, could it even be called a trail? And yet in a mountain there’s going to be many incongruities at the tiny level and even bigger. Which is why they say if the mountain won’t come to Mohammad, Mohammad has to go to it, and that tradition’s continued uninterrupted since the last molehill formed by continental drift.

Acme Explosives. Acme’s had a pretty good safety record. It’s a Mom and Pop place that uses the skills of mountain dwarfs, townspeople, and delivery girls. They haven’t had 40 accidents in the last year. They've got it down to a decent science, where they can honestly claim, “If Acme doesn’t get you the bomb the first time, we try again.” That’s a great policy, and if you stick to it, [BOOM! A dwarf just lost his hand] you’ll be in business as long as life and limbs hold out.

OK, the Ding-a-Ling Mountain King, whose insanity has a little bit to do with this episode, put in his order, and then it was up to Acme to get it there. This was before drones were perfected, although, see that bird? That’s a prototype drone almost mocking the delivery girl (“Someday I’ll have your job!), but at that stage of development the drones could barely carry an explosion the size of a walnut without killing people.

So here she comes — Amber, in every way better than a drone but for the gift of flight — with a major explosive in her granny pack. Just a few more steps, then around this particular crest, then down the other side slightly, then back up, the craggiest most dangerous place, lots of loose gravel, loose rocks, places non-drone birds have pooped and made slick, etc. It's called Danger Pass.

She finally made it through Danger Pass and was just about to come to the Mountain King’s gate when the prototype drone went wacky and began diving at her, making things very uncomfortable. Three steps forward, ten steps back. The drone backed her up something fierce. You ever known someone who backs their work obsessively up on a computer? It was like that. She was so backed up even Metamucil wouldn’t help.

Finally — O God, turn back the hands of time that this might never have happened! — in desperation, Amber ran and her foot slipped, her shoe broke down, the heel went askew, a nail went in her heel and at the same time she tripped, landing full force on the granny pack. The gravity couldn’t have been thicker, Bigfoot-belly thick. She lay there sweating for a few seconds thinking, “I’m going to be all right—-“ when she was gone! The bomb went off and blew half the mountain to smithereens, the drone prototype to kingdom come, and Amber to memories pressed between the pages of my mind. There was nothing left. If you didn’t know her by then, you will never never never know her now.

But enough sadness, we’re looking on the bright side, a brand new job opening at Acme.

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.