At the round earth's imagin'd corners

At the round earths imagin'd corners, blow
Your trumpets, Angells, and arise, arise
From death, you numberlesse infinities
Of soules, and to your scattered bodies goe,
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow,
All whom warre, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despaire, law, chance, hath slaine, and you whose eyes,
Shall behold God, and never tast deaths woe.
But let them sleepe, Lord, and mee mourne a space,
For, if above all these, my sinnes abound,
'Tis late to aske abundance of thy grace,
When wee are there; here on this lowly ground,
Teach mee how to repent; for that's as good
As if thou’hadst seal'd my pardon, with thy blood.

-- John Donne

Thursday, December 16, 2010

14: I Shall Whip They Ass

The Weird, The Wild, The Southeast: a Tourist's Guide
by Jonas Birdsong
(Copyright 2006)

[From the chapter on Donnetown.]

Diederic van den Dorpe never spoke of his family and life back in the Low Countries. He was known to refer to his landing in America as his "rebirth". In 1670 he married an English girl, Reformation Bannister, and by 1690 they had their own family: daughters Restoration and Prudence, and sons Dierick and Dwight.

November of that year brought two unexpected arrivals: a charter from King John II recognizing Donnetown as part of the English colony of Virginia; and, among the new colonists, one Lodewijk van den Dorpe, the younger brother whom Diederic had left behind so many years before.

Lodwijk arrived with no prior notice; it was by sheer happenstence that Diederic and Reformation were at the docks, awaiting a shipment of wools. Diederic (now about 60, but vigorous and opinionated as ever) was holding forth from the Carte of Governance (still pulled by his donkey Libertine, now well past his prime).

Reformation, serving as she had for many years, was busy with her pen, ink and notebook, recording the matters of the day brought forth by various citizens. It is because of her habitual thoroughness that we know of Lodewijk's first words upon arrival on the Donnetown docks.

Lodewijk was a stocky, red-faced man five or six years younger than his brother. Reformation, in a letter to her sister, said that she could scarcely imagine him as the slight, sickly boy he'd been when last the brothers Van den Dorpe had seen one another.

Nevertheless, when Lodewijk strode into the crowd surrounding the Carte, and stood directly in front of Diederic, thumping his walking stick on the wooden boardwalk, Diederic paused in mid-speech -- a thing seldom seen.

Mein Gott, is het minn broer? he cried, forgetting, in his astonishment, the English he always spoke in public.

Lodewijk's face, according to Reformation, "pass'd through Smiling Joye, Tears, and Very Terror and Confusion," arriving apparently at the Shores of Rage, for in answer he shook his stick at Libertine (inoffensively chewing on a carrot) and bellowed in imperfect English, "I shall whip they ass!"

Saturday, July 17, 2010

13: Fire and Water

[Gretel Bosch; fourth entry.]

May 28, 2006

I would guess there's a certain official embarrassment present whenever a fire station is burned down by arson. (And how often can that possibly happen?)

Of the town's three qualified arson investigators, two died inside the Diluvian Street Firehouse. The third, Dirk-Pieter Blackgall, declared it an accident, and released a report presenting what some felt was an implausibly complicated narrative. Then-Mayor Calliope Geert called it "a bizarre fantasy describing a whimsically sustained and politically convenient freak accident". (But only in her private notes, which I've got in front of me.)

Since it's just me and me here, I'll never bullshit, lie, evade or prevaricate on these pages. I'll probably never be entirely sober, either, unless they stop making Scotch.

So this isn't verified fact, just my private theory: I think Blackgall arranged for a small fire in the lockers at the station; some simple timing device. How would he know a trainee would unlimber the nearest hose instead of using an extinguisher? No idea. But I'm close to 100% that the main fire was ignited by six kilos of sodium hydroxide pellets reacting exothermically with the water. I think it was six. That's the figure I remember.

I was already packed for my vacation, but forgot all about the Paris catacombs when I heard about the fire on the radio. I could hardly wait for Dorn to do his autopsies and let me collect the bodies (most of the guys at Diluvian were pre-arranged with us; Bosch & Sons always gave a great discount to firehouses).

DFD Lt. Briden still had a tempered glass butt plug in his half-cooked rectum when I got him. I think that's when I began to suspect M.E. Dorn was getting sloppy in his old age.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

12: Quiet Interlude

June 15, 1985

Hey, Bro. B.R.O. Whoa. Whoa is all I have to say. Wowie. Those 'ludes you sent are fucking great. I wish everybody I ever said anything mean to would come in here and sit in my lap. And some Kool-Aid.

The whole town is in an interlude. Nothing to report. Oh, the fire house on Diluvian is burning down. That's right, the fire station is on fire.  Fuck a duck.  They're yakking about it on the radio. Most of the guys got out, but all the equipment is in there and they can't get to it to put the fire out.

Oopa-doopa -- there go some sirens. Guess they called the Idolatry Hill firehouse. I love how clearly I'm thinking.

Hey, remember that creamery job? Now they want to add a concealed egress tunnel that can handle a semi. Woulda been nice to mention that before we laid all 1500 feet of wall foundation. On the other hand: ka-ching!

Whoa some more. Man, Jerry, you weren't kidding. Okay, I'm calling Cheryl.

How 'bout you, Dude -- any sign of a girlfriend? Let me fix you up sometime, willya?

Okay, off to the fax machine. Later, Schmuck! -- Mick

Monday, April 12, 2010

11: Let Me Clarify That

"Cinnabar! That's what I meant. Both a mineral and a color."

Finally a smile with teeth. "I like that."

I'm having a good night. It won't last.

A trace of smile lingered around her eyes, but her voice was all business. "You better have a clear head when Herbert comes back out. By now he's found out whether you're a cop or a Fed, or a debt tracer or what-have-you."

Knew it wouldn't last."Guess I'm what-have-you." So what was that about?

"Yeah?" She poured a shot of something dark and took a sip, looking at him. Still like a tiny bit of smile. "Well, you're not a reporter, he would have picked up on that right away."

He had written a list of things not to talk about. This was one of them. "I need an exhumation." He waited for a reaction.

Mathilde pulled the cherry from his drink and bit it. "A wormfood exhumation, or a spiritual exhumation? My mother always said her soul died when she got married and was rotting inside her like a tiny corpse. Right here." She pointed to her mid-torso. "She blamed it for her flatulence."

He didn't know what to say to that.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

10: Horse's Ass

"Just a ginger ale, please." Sorbet was off on a third trip to the john, and Wicket was switching to soft drinks. His head was already spinning after an hour of answers leading to more questions.

"He's not peeing every twenty minutes, you know. He's checking up." The bartender set a glass down in front of him, leaned on the bar and held his gaze. Wicket hadn't looked at her closely before, but had little choice now, with her hazel eyes on his.

"Tourmaline!" Great, shout at her. "I mean, you've got tourmaline eyes."

"No kidding? What color tourmaline?" Her small mouth looked as if a balloon were tugging upward at one corner. Wicket recalled Dan Cant's antipodal demise and was momentarily lost in swirling unease, lust and frantic mental rummaging.

"Ah! Right, tourmaline's not a color."

"It's a mineral." Definitely almost a smile.

"I guess they're hazel then." Cool panic sweat tickled his scalp. Goddamnit, will I ever grow out of this? What does "checking up" mean?

"They are hazel." Smile still at half-staff.

"What's your name?"



"No. It's Mathilde. Let's make that a legitimate cocktail." She dropped a cherry into the ginger ale. "Horse's Ass."

Friday, March 26, 2010

09: Fix-Em-Up Day

[Gretel Bosch; third entry.]

May 21, 2006

Sunday, my favorite. Papa called it Fix-Em-Up Day. If they weren't already mutilated, we'd give them horrific wounds, and then draw names to see who would hone his skills on whom. Pieter took a three-pound hammer to Mrs. Willmont, I drew her name, and that's how I found my joy.

The boys hated to admit that I was the best. Axe murder? No problem. Gouged-out eyeball? Here's looking at you. Testicles torched? Wouldn't show, but I took care of it anyway.

Deacon Spetz's whole face was missing -- I outdid Madame Tussaud with the new one. (Not even to mention routine adjustments, like making Mrs. Baumgartner fit her dress, rather than the other way around.)

That scoutmaster had the opposite problem -- his face was all they ever did find. That was a good hard two-day job. The casket was a surprise for the mourners, and when they saw his face -- wow. The widow dropped dead on the spot. Massive, massive stroke. She'd prearranged, and the Coroner was already there paying his respects to the guy's flesh face glued onto my handiwork. In under an hour she was on my slab and I was giving her the nose she always possibly dreamed of while the pump was flushing her out. Nice.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

08: Third Person

"Everybody's got a point of view, is what I'm saying. Your point of view isn't better or worse than mine, but it's just as important."

Herbert Sorbet was speaking in equal parts to the bartender (Mathilde Clerval, mixing equal parts orange liqueur and lemon juice) and to his newly-met drinking companion, who had been plying Sorbet with booze and questions for an hour.

Sorbet now turned to directly face this third person. "Your point of view is limited, of course, and it's subjective -- of course. But it counts like anybody else's."

His listener, Bernie Wicket, accepted his sidecar from Mathilde and sipped it quickly to hide a small smile. My point of view is getting subjective and whoozy, he thought. Should have known I couldn't keep up with a 30-year print man.

But the evening was bearing fruit. He had to focus. "How late can you stay, Herb? I'm curious about that Vervoot murder."


"Maybe another time?"

"No, the Cant murder. I call a murder case by the victim's name, not the killer's. Especially when there's doubt." Sorbet looked at his watch. "Sure thing, let's get a table. Got an hour before my AA meeting. I'm a sponsor."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

07: M.D., M.E., D.O.A.

[Gretel Bosch; second entry.]

May 15, 2006

Jesus God, do I hate Mondays. Don't have to go to work, of course, no job, don't need one thanks to Dr. Dorn's custom tummy. And I do thank it every Monday when I get well hammered. God knows I'm not likely to forget how much it looked like one of those goddamn yellow smiley faces. With green stones spilling out like shiny hard vomit. Just a few emeralds a year keep me comfortable.

That was my last bad fit. Episode, whatever.

If County M.E. Vern Dorn had done Dan right, so many things would have been different. You can blame his meningovascular syphilis if you want -- he always had an excuse. He used that syphilis as a crutch. He used his actual crutch as a weapon and gave me a plateau fracture below the right knee and I had to stand up with a splint clamped around my leg and prosect the man's thorax and abdomen. Okay fine, since it's just you and me, diary, I'll say it: I cut him open. I killed him. If I had it to do over ... well, I'd reverse the order of those actions.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

06: van den Dorpe

The Weird, The Wild, The Southeast: a Tourist's Guide
by Jonas Birdsong
(Copyright 2006)

[Excerpt from entry on Donnetown.]

Diederic van den Dorpe led a bizarre life, exhaustively examined elsewhere by people with letters after their names. But all you, the tourist of the odd, need to know is: 1) Van den Dorpe came in 1661 to what was then Virginia, and immediately bought a donkey and a large wooden cart; 2) He founded Donnetown in 1666, the first and only Flemish settlement in the English colony of Carolina (using the English naming style in deference to his poetic idol); 3) He established all essential elements of government in that same wooden cart, which his faithful donkey Libertine hauled all over the settlement thrice weekly; 4) Donnetown did not legally exist until 1690, when for obscure reasons James II granted it a charter.

And, 5), which is the entertaining part. The charter included provisions for "the continuance of such peripatetic governance." To this day, Donnetown City Hall is contained in a 59-foot long semi, driven around the town's single freeway loop by Deputy Mayor Ricky Ticcavi (infamous for responding to irate citizens by parking City Hall in front of their house and leaning on the air horn until they come out).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

05: Everybody's a Critic

[Gretel Bosch; first entry.]

May 14, 2006

This is ridiculous. 50-year-old women shouldn't keep diaries. Can't believe I even still have this thing.

But, there's nobody I can talk to. Telling the truth now would just lose me another family. But holding it in leads to -- what are they called? Episodes. Maybe writing it down keeps me sane. I mean, calm.

I haven't touched a corpse in years. I don't think about what happened. Then I'm browsing in a second-hand bookstore and find this: Alabaster Angel: Yvette Vervoot and Injustice in an American Town.

Good thing Marmot Delacroix is such a bad writer. One printing, and surely nobody read all 858 pages. Jesus, what crap. The book should be called My Sinnes Abound. A Donnetonian would know that.

Ridiculous opening sentence -- must be two hundred words. Talk about missing the point -- nobody was in shock that Rickhauser hit Vervoot with the maximum for misuse of public property. Hell no, they were amazed she'd beaten the Murder One rap.

"Alabaster Angel"; that's hilarious. Ask Dan Cant. She was the "Bone-White Basilisk" in his will, the one that burned when the Diluvian Street Firehouse went up. Nobody knows that.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

04: Plant Cant

[Clipping, Donnetown Daily Elegy, Friday, May 24, 1985; Mayor Obert Bundt's eulogy at funeral service for Deputy Mayor Daniel Cant.]

"While Dan served Donnetown in many ways, what he loved most was driving the eighteen-wheeler that houses City Hall. He drove so smoothly that once Councilwoman Bakker broke a few bones stepping outside for a smoke. [Laughter] Look first next time, Sabine!

"Dan's single finest attribute was his honesty. The one time he drove City Hall through a red light, he pulled right over in the Cornucopia Market parking lot, walked to the back of the truck and paid his fine to Arne Smets, the traffic court judge on duty.

"I trusted Dan, both as a colleague and as a friend. So when certain aspects of his private life came to light -- what a recent editorial called a 'dizzying labyrinth of infidelity and manipulation' -- I had to ask myself, 'Was I wrong about Dan?'

"I say no. I prefer to think of the whole thing as a practical joke of epic proportions. If those hacks at Bosch & Sons Mortuary had fixed Dan up enough for an open casket, I bet we'd see a big smile on his face."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

03: Cant be Dead

May 25, 1985

Hey dere, Bro,

Nothing happening here. Nada. Dullsville. Damn, Jerry, you did the right thing blowing out of Donnetown after college. Why did I go into the business with Dad?

Hell, we just nailed down a five-year contract for the defense perimeter at the Blackgall Creamery, but I'd just as soon chuck it and go live the fast life down in Key West like you did.

Remember Dan Cant, let us drive City Hall that time? Dead. Upside-down balloon hanging. Funeral was yesterday. Nice turn-out, and an extra-long coffin -- donated by Galen Regale, used to be PPRU center (you remember that shaman incident). I'll enclose a clipping with the Mayor's eulogy.

Gotta go see how they're coming with the earthworks. Say hi to Nate, I guess. (And I get that having a roommate saves money, but you don't have to hang out with him all the damn time. You're 25, Dude -- 'bout time you had a girlfriend, dontcha think!)

Later, Schmuck! -- Mick

PS: No stamps. Great -- Screw it, Dude, I'm gonna fax this to you at the dental office. Someday all correspondence will be by fax. I'll tape the clipping to the sheet.

02: Alabaster

"That trial was big news in Donnetown all right. First off, it was a woman. Just a second -- two more Cutty Sarks, amigo, we're dry!"

Herbert Sorbet had reported on local murders for thirty years. "Shootings, machete hack-em-ups, the '89 backhoe spree. That pastor decapitating his organist on the church bus. Cyanide gas, drowning granny in the soup, tv in the bathtub. Dough-hooks. Mercury fulminate suppository. Gila monster. Like any small town.

"Yvette Vervoot, now: First she hangs him from a tree, then she ties his feet to a 30-foot helium balloon. 900 pounds of lift. Stretched him from six feet to seven. You practically never see a woman charged with that."

He emptied his glass, chewed on the ice and continued.

"Cool? Cool as a cucumber salad with liquid nitrogen dressing. The sketch artists loved her alabaster statue face. By the fourth week -- and this was a ten-week trial, mind you -- they went from using pencil on brown paper to pastels on cotton, the good stuff. I ask you this: how many days can you hold a poker face? She smiled exactly once. Rickhauser looked her right in the eyes and said 'guilty' and she smiled at him. Hey buddy! Can a man wet his whistle?"

01: A Long Sentence

It was a long sentence, all agreed (once Judge Rickhauser, following hours of deliberation, finally appeared and perched in his chair behind the bench and gazed stony-eyed at the courtroom, looking with his narrow hairless head like a bird of prey, hungry and eager to tear and devour flesh, and spent ten minutes excoriating the defendant, then thirty seconds reading the sentence, flashing an unwonted smile toward the end as he pronounced the word "maximum"); a long, perhaps vindictively long sentence, some said -- including of course Mr. Jawry, counsel for the defense, but also several in the gallery, and even, it was said later -- for it is with the perspective of years, and with the sad knowledge of the momentous events that were to follow (events that no one, not even Dr. Szpetsmund, the prosecution's charismatic expert witness, with his narrow clever eyes and precision of movement, word and thought, and his old-money manners and his degrees from Europe, could ever have anticipated -- events that affected, astounded, even devastated and forever changed all who found themselves involved) that this account is set down -- several members of the jury; yes, an unusually long, perhaps unjustly long sentence.