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, May 7, 2020

27. Healthy Pastry

[The Pfeffer Nuts Doughnut Shop operated on Pseudo-Martyr Street in midtown Donnetown from 1992 to 2003.  For its grand opening, the proprietor, Joos Pfeffer, sponsored a contest for pastry-related poems.

There were only two entries.  The winning poem, entitled "Donuts Go Nuts!", was submitted by 12-year-old Maurice Bundt, who received, and devoured, a free doughnut every day the store was open for its entire existence as a business.

The other entry was sent anonymously and thereby rendered ineligible, but was printed in its entirety in the Dairy & Baked Goods section of the September 20, 1992 edition of the Donnetown Daily Elegy.]

Healthy Pastry

Heaved myself up, unbeached my carcass from the old overstuffed and
Forced myself out the house to take a fucking walk.

Saw a shop I never saw before, and a
Sign, wooden sign, Oldy Timey script, just:

Healthy Pastry.

Boutiquey, boutiquish-looking, so's one looks to see a simpering pun of a name, but no, just:
Healthy Pastry.

--Healthy?  Bullshit, says I, but in I went, and
They were nice, the people there, and they showed me 'round and
There before me, oh,
Shelves of delight, stacked racks, golden flaky crusts and crusty flakey gold, oh and
An orchard, a very orchard, Mister, of aroma.
Perfect yeasty ascension fresh in every inhale and
Flavors in the air I couldn't name, and Sweet Jesus how are they all still warm, oven warm!

Samples crammed in my willing mouth proved the scent was merest hint of a
Taste of Heaven and a Platonic ideal of cream erupting right in my mouth, and
Layers within layers like ranks of a-choiring angels, each layer holding crisp but then ahhhh
Melting like a dream my tongue just had.
--Bugger me sideways, says I.

--Fuck the diet, these people say it's healthy I believe them.  So good.

Three years gone by now, and I been every day,
Healthy Pastry,
Stuffing my maw and it never stops being good and
Whether in truth and in fact it is healthy I don't know, 'cause
I don't live in truth and in fact, no Mister I live in a house with no fucking mirrors.
Ask me why no mirrors, I say 'cause it's not about me.

They're nice at Healthy Pastry always nice and one day they let me look in the back and
No flour no sugar no shortening no oven, so--
Simple they say each Healthy Pastry item is in fact a very large--
I think I hear "single-souled" but then they say, specifically--

That delicious Eclair is a, well, a--
Prokaryote of unusual size.  Unusual.  An unusually macroish microorganism.
Bacterium or Araeum, hard to tell once baked--
Its creamy innards a smooth cyoplasmic mass.

Uniquely unicellular.

--Even yon mouth-ravishing fruit turnovers?  I ask.
Protozoa, filled aburstin' with tiny organelles popping on one's tongue,
DNA nucleus crunchy like pine nuts, and
Those plump red currants?  Mitochondria.  They're good for you, they say.

Fritters?  They are amoeba.  So simple, so damn good with morning coffee.

--How?  Ask I once more, regarding this time the absence of an oven.

Each--ah--pastry is ... harvested, they say.  Harvested wriggly, harvested healthy--

(They say healthy a lot at Healthy Pastry, it's like a religious thing I just now notice)

So, they say, we have, say a healthy--pastry, ah, thing and we
Take the thing and make it feel loved, right.
Loved and special and safe.  Like if you ever felt that way even one time, you know what it is.
Awash in love, yeah, a-basking in that glow, tender devotion & all.
Long enough to maybe believe it.

Then, they say --
Well, we just take the love away.

And the thing doesn't know what it did wrong and it
Grows feverish thinking in circles and the fever never breaks and
Each thing, each thing, in its fever, it--
Bakes itself.
To a doneness.  In like a minute.
Cilia crisping away and semipermeable cell membrane golden-brown, mmm yes and
If you eat it still warm its soul slides straight down your gullet.
They say.

Single-souled.  One good mouth-filling soul.  So good.

But plain old people, now, they say
(Yes they tell me all this, the Healthy Pastry crew, they won't stop talking now the cat's out)
People now, Sir, they have many souls, many apiece, lotsa itty souls, itty bitty but only
In the cardiac muscles, the fibers, the very heartstrings.  The old love-a-dub, you see?
Soulful cardiomyocytes by the millions.  At birth, that is, they say.
In the babyhood.  Brand-spanking, yes, but, but--

Thereafter, soon after, the wee little souls die off, continuous,
Bit by bit by cell by mitosis by merciless time--
And by 40 years of age.  Or so.  They are gone.  Leaving us.  Leaving: Us.
Soulless we.  We the dear departed, Sir.

Jesus F., how to follow that, right?
--So (say I) ... That there pastry, then, I ask ... Is it healthy for real, ask I?

Well Sir, it was when it got here.

--Something, I said, oh, something
--Well, some ... thing must be done, this is a -- oh but this is a sin, I am sure?

Oh, Sir.  What a little word to make a fuss over.  And you with such a tooth for the pastry.
Won't you look at this sweet beignet?
Pooft!  Powdered sugar in my face, eyes snapped shut!

Eyes sprung open, staring shocked in my sugared face, mimelike white and aptly silent because
I see I stand alone upon an empty plot,
A vacant lot,
A voidy shop-sized square of ground.  Layer of ash dusted all over like sugar.

And a sign.
Sign says:

Formerly Healthy Pastry.

And I think they've corrected it in regards to descriptive properties but
Then I think not.

I think I gained a fifty-weight of blubber and
I think I lost something I can't see how to put a number to and I think
The whole goddamn world's a bathroom scale can't wait to weigh me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

26. Joris o' Lantern

[Excerpt from Deaduns: The Donnetown Devil and Other True Spooks of the Southeast by Rutger Frears (Barrow Press, 1989)]

My "uncle", Thoomas Bosch, utterly unsentimental when it came to human remains, was curiously ceremonious about his annual Hallowe'en Jack o' Lantern.  Not only did he make the candles himself, but on each pumpkin he delicately carved upon it (using some of the same instruments he used at Bosch Funerals) a human face, paring the pumpkin walls so thin that the candle's light would make the face glow with startling realism.  He did this each year from the late 1950's until his disappearance in 1978.

Each face was that of a recently deceased Donnetown citizen.  Six-year-old Simoen Joossens trudged up the steps one Hallowe'en, plastic Fred Flintstone mask on his face and paper shopping bag in hand, ready for his Bit-O-Honey (the only kind of candy Thoomas ever gave out).  Having gained the porch, Simoen came face-to-face with, so he thought, the glowing yellow ghost-face of his father Joris, who two weeks earlier had died in a golf ball-washing accident.

Simoen rang the bell, recited the traditional request-cum-warning, received his candy from Thoomas, and thanked him for keeping his father's soul in a pumpkin. Thoomas explained that there are no souls, and people simply cease to exist, like a candle flame.  He illustrated this by snuffing the candle in the Joris o'Lantern.  The smoke made both him and Simoen sneeze together, and then laugh together.

The next morning Simoen came back to visit, and together he and Uncle Thoomas buried the Joris o' Lantern in the back yard.  I (ten that year) was there, as I was every All Saints' Day, eager to wield the shovel.  I couldn't wait, every year, to get those things in the ground and out of sight.  I knew that not only was the carved face that of somebody who'd recently passed through the funeral home -- a sort of vegetable death mask -- but that Uncle Thoomas made each lantern's candle using body fat from the same person.

This made me worry that the buried pumpkin, bearing a dead man's face and saturated with his remains, would somehow be magically reanimated and rear out of the ground the next night seeking some kind of supernatural justice.  But with one exception this never happened.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

25. Confessions, Miscellaneous.

[From the anonymous confessional feature ("Father Bot") on the Donnetown Daily Elegy's online edition (briefly named "Donneline Today!").  Raw transcript.]

I don't live in your town, wouldn't leave this here if I did, and I don't expect any facility in your area could support the level of biomedical research and experimentation I've been doing.  So I've been trying for most of my career, and I mean my real career, not the facade seen by my colleagues and the journals and that PBS show, my real career, so most of it I've been trying to perfect something that will kill specifically H. Sapiens and not any of the other animals, the nicer animals whose planet we're savaging.  Killing everything that breathes is easy, you wouldn't believe how easily I could make that happen, but: no.  Narrowing it to vertebrates, then to mammals: piece of cake, you see how I'm going further out on the genetic branches.  So, well, I got it down to primates, I shit you not, nobody would've believed it except my partner, research partner, well, life partner too, he got cold feet and he's not with us anymore.  Cold feet about the work, not about marriage or anything.  Damnit, no, my mother's not here, I don't have to keep making excuses.  No more excuses, Linda.  So, primates, great, but frustrating, I'm so close to having the world I want, that's a world that's just me and my animal friends, but no, I keep hitting a wall, it's crazy, I've murdered thirty-eight Rhesus monkeys so far and I cannot get the damn thing more specific than Catarrhini, that includes not just the anthropoid apes but Old World monkeys.  Thirty-eight dead monkeys, every one had a face and a name.  [38 second pause.]  Not good enough, not yet, it has to be perfect so, next time you see a macacque or a gibbon or a baboon or a bonobo  you kneel down and thank them for how you're still sucking air, Asshole.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

24. Scrawled on Memo Line of Giant Novelty Check Presented by Blackgall Creamery to Diluvian Street Firehouse Rebuilding Fund Dated 12/25/1985

Dead have outnumbered the living for a long time. Dead float all around unseen, smoke rings in fog. Dead watch, uncountable veiled eyes see your bloody birth, see you grow, struggle, restless and noisy, see you finally lose all to pitiless years and fall into silence. Dead watch.

Dead follow you out of the womb, into the ground, pallid balloons on spidersilk strings.

Dead see you the living and see a breeding herd for more dead. Every blood-warm squalling baby is dead-in-waiting, heir to a few quick years of hot thrashing life before endless echoless After. Watching.

We see you.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

23. For Ice Cream

 [Statement of Gerrard Hubin.  Written by Hubin June 24, 1985, James County Police Headquarters interview room.]

Cops told me, said write down what I did, and looks like they want to watch me write it down, but I put my left arm curved around the paper so they can just wait till I am done to see what it is.

When I was little I wrote with my left hand and Father Pfeffer made us write with quills and inkwells.  My hand would always get in the wet ink and Father Pfeffer tied it behind my back with the strap and made me learn to do it right with my good right hand.  I use pencils now, I like the big fat ones you can hold easy, but I still use my good hand and do it right.  My bad hand I keep in my pocket except when I'm writing and then it holds down the paper and wants to write but it can't.  It wants to do things all the time.  Sometimes I feel bad inside and the bad hand keeps shaking and grabbing and I have to strap it up and make it go to sleep.

So here: I sold ice cream without a selling license.  Blackgall Creamery fired me out of my job, so I went and sold ice cream which I made myself.  Why I'm here is, I have no license to sell ice cream.  So sure it's a ticket or worse.

I sold ice cream at night to people when they were asleep in bed, and I have no night business license.  I maybe came in their windows, except for Mrs. Wissel who didn't lock her door, but the others it was windows.  No license for that either.

Fat cop keeps looking at the big mirror.  That can't be pleasant.  He came to the house and got me, I tried to fix up the ticket with free ice cream, I thought it would work, it didn't work, he said no and called me wise-ass.  He doesn't look like a man who ever turned down ice cream before.

Smooth dark ice cream, Red Raspberry Black Cherry.  First I went to Mr. Voordts house after he fired me out of my job and I felt real bad, and I stood outside the window a long time and it got more and more bad and then I think I unbuckled the strap on the bad hand.  Pins and needles but it was strong and went to work right away.  I sold Mr. Voordts a great lot of Red Raspberry Black Cherry, and then also I sold some ice cream to Mrs. Voordts because she woke up.  All of the ice cream melted red.

Some other people too, I felt like I wanted to move some more of the Red Raspberry Black Cherry while it was still dark, so I went down the block, to Mrs. Wissel's house and some others.  Every time I sold it the ice cream melted red and it spread out red on the floor, and they got down in it laying down.  Or they got down first and laid down on their lying faces and then it spread out red on the floor.  I'm not super good at remembering stuff.

But they folded up when the bad hand went to work and went down for the count alright.  But I felt a great deal better after that and I put the strap in the donation box at the church on my way home.

The main thing is, I have no ice cream license, therefore cops came and got me and they are watching me write this and I know I write slow but steady and they can wait, and now I'm done.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

22. TGIF

[Clipping, Donnetown Daily Elegy, Friday, March 28, 1986.  Headline: "Mayor Bundt Announces Resignation".  Subhead: "Federal Indictments Expected".]

[Following, in its entirety, is Obert Bundt's final official statement as Mayor.]

I don't deserve this.  You people do, that's for sure.  It's not for me to judge, but you will be judged, that's one lead pipe cinch.

So Kleug picked Good Friday, my favorite goddamn day in the whole year, to bring the hammer down.  Well that's priceless.  That's my wife behind that, folks, dollars to doughnuts.  Every time, every single time I'd try to talk to her about her useless family, she'd bring out that oh-so-clever question, it'd just float up through the haze of Maker's Mark, she'd say, "How's the view from up on that cross, Obie?"

She said that in front of people, all the time.  Check the reports on those JCPD domestic calls.  Woman had a mean streak.  Made a guy feel like he'd got raped in the heart.

Remember Emergent Occasions Bakery, over on St. Lucy Street?  God, they had some good doughnuts.

I'm wandering; time to wrap this up.  It has been a great privilege and honor to serve as your mayor these past three years.  God bless you all.

No, strike that.  You want an answer, Miriam?  Well, to answer your question, Miriam, the view is just fine!  You look like ants from up here, you and Kleug and that son-of-a-bitch father of yours and all your little cronies and parasites.

I'm not done, it might take more than three days but I'll be back.  All you bastards.

I swear to Christ, I will hijack City Hall if I have to.  I still got a Class A license.

All you bastards.

Monday, September 26, 2011

21: Waterlogged

[Excerpt from Deaduns: The Donnetown Devil and Other True Spooks of the Southeast by Rutger Frears (Barrow Press, 1989)]

A young man never forgets his first encounter with a female ghost.  Particularly when she almost drowns him on dry land.

Wednesday, May 21, 1969.  Commencement Day at PPRU was a sunny one, breaking the tradition of spring rains drenching the heads of graduating students and their miserable parents.  I was one of the hundreds assembled in the Inverted Mound amphitheatre, and was happy to have lucked out on the weather.

We all knew about Marigold Fralinder.  Two months earlier, the 19-year-old Theatre major from Aiken had tied herself to a 50-pound kettle weight and drowned herself in the Girl's Varsity swimming pool.  She delayed Water Ballet practice by an hour, and left behind some terrible poetry and an insufficient number of credits to qualify for graduation.

My alma mater was not the sort of institution that would (either from compassion for the surviving family or in an attempt to avoid bad publicity) award a diploma to a student simply because she'd died.  (They also didn't refund unused tuition.)  So, Marigold went to her grave without her BA.

I was in line behind Roger Forte, waiting my turn to walk across the podium and accept my BS in Redactive Journalism*.  (I'd also taken a minor in Dairy Science; this was a condition of my scholarship from Blackgall Creamery.)  I'd stayed up late, too excited to sleep, and now looked forward to receiving acknowledgement for years of dutiful matriculation.

As my name was called I started across the platform toward Dean Krissgouldt.  I became aware of a misty, shimmering form between myself and the Dean, standing directly in my way.  Stepping up and extending my hand for my hard-earned sheepskin, I found instead that my whole body was at once immersed in cold water, as if I were completely submerged in a cold lake -- or the Girl's Varsity pool at the Anne More Hall of Bodily Striving.

I struggled to speak, afraid to draw breath for fear my lungs would be filled with chlorinated water and I'd drown as I stood there.  At the same time, I heard an odd doleful thrumming in my ears, as if a woman were mournfully keening at the bottom of a nine-foot diving pool.

I knew then, as surely as I knew my own name, that Marigold Fralinder's restless, waterlogged spirit was on that dais, taking her alphabetical place in line and looking to claim the (sadly unearned) diploma that she would be forever denied.

I shoved past the Dean and found myself face-down upon the platform, coughing and terrified, but at least breathing air again.  My skin was drenched, yet my graduation robe was dry.  This in itself provides compelling evidence that my experience was not of this world, but of the next.**

*PPRU does not record ever offering a degree, or even a class, in anything called Redactive Journalism.  Mr. Frears at different times claimed to possess degrees in Veterinary Medicine, Restoration Drama, and Horology.  As all PPRU student records for the years 1968-1971 were destroyed by the late Prof. Jean Oubliette in 1992, we have so far been unable to assess these claims with any certitude.  -- Samantha Mead

**Darren Frilander, who was in line behind Frears that day, gives a slightly different account: "Yeah, that's ol' Rotgut Frears!  I think he'd been up for two or three nights before Graduation, drinking and popping a regular rainbow of pills.  He had this big bowl in his room, looked like a bowl of M&M's.  Uppers, downers, God knows what.  So we were up there waiting to snag our diplomas, and Frears, he was still sweating out vodka, whiskey, hash, Christ, maybe gasoline, and then he had like a seizure or a religious episode or what have you, and I'm pretty sure he pissed himself.  It was awesome.  What's he up to these days?"

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

20: Present Past

[Gretel Bosch; fifth entry]

July 9, 2006

God, this sucks.  Isn't that what the kids say?  This sucks, that sucks.  Alcohol withdrawal definitely qualifies for the category of sucking.  It's actually more dangerous than heroin withdrawal.  I'm tapering off, of course, not going cold turkey.

If I had a subject on the slab right now, I might vomit in his chest cavity.  I never spewed once on the job, unlike all three of my brothers.

But, back home, somebody (probably at least two people) has taken it into their heads to drill a cylinder all the way down through the coffin in Shanie Derfford's grave.  I can only imagine how puzzled they'll be by the sample they obtain.  Of course, being criminals they won't be in a position to use the evidence to obtain an exhumation order.  But in Donnetown, written statutes have often taken a back seat to other interests.  So, it really depends on whom our amateur achaeologists are working for, or whom they approach.

I dropped my subscription to the Elegy years ago.  The only reason I know this even happened is because Shanie Derfford herself called me.   Rather upset.

I told her to lose my number, and hoped I wouldn't remember the call.  But, I did, and it nagged at me.  Hence my current near-sobriety, my tremors, pulsating headaches and cold sweats.  Oddly enough, fear doesn't seem to be part of the mix.  I was only drinking myself to death anyway.  (Very comfortably, too.)

As soon as my eyes and hands are ready for precision work, I'll update and upgrade my body kit.  Then it's off on a road trip; probably my last.  It's been fun reminiscing, but the present requires my attendance.

Friday, August 19, 2011

19: Huck and Jim

[Herbert Sorbet's booze-stained notes, sometime in 1987 (date illegible)]

Biathanatos River -- only maybe 20 miles navigable.  Deep enough, broad enough for two kids on a home-made raft to float in the middle.  Warm dark starry night, lights on the banks distant.  Almost no commercial traffic since Taft administration.

River earned its name in 1699 (? check).  Naked bodies like a raft of logs, moonlight shining on death-bloated white backs.  Davidt Franck (Davey) and Maarten Rooms didn't know anything about that.  D's in History, both of them.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

18: Stone Baby

[Gretel Bosch; fourth entry.]

May 31, 2006

Aggie Kleug was a big woman. I wasn't surprised to hear she lost her life in a three-legged race. Not a coronary, though -- it was another cannon incident. (That was a bad Founders' Day for a lot of people, not just her. They almost stopped doing the Eighty Years War living history thing after that. But the kids loved it.)

I used to like to poke around in there a little. I felt something in Aggie's peritoneal cavity. Do you know what it was? It was a lithopedion.

Sometime during the Truman administration, Aggie'd had an ectopic pregnancy. Fetus died at let's say six months along, based on my estimate. Fetus, too large to be absorbed, was slowly calcified inside Aggie's ample abdomen. Unborn, undiagnosed, unmissed for 35 years while her son Dietger (the one that didn't die inside her) grew up to handle the books at Blackgall Creamery.

I was young and still had ethics. (This was only '83.) I called Vern Dorn, and he came over and smiled like Father Christmas when he saw the stone baby. And nothing happened officially, but he had me put the lithopedion in a box and he gave it to Dietger Kleug.

Dietger took his brother or sister home and had it sawn in two, mounted in clear Lucite blocks. Bookends. I don't know how that could possibly be legal, but in 1983 in Donnetown, if you held the books for Blackgall, you did what you wanted, when you wanted to.

It was just me that day at Bosch & Sons. Papa and the boys were out getting blitzed (I always volunteered to work on Founder's Day. I didn't drink then.) Vern Dorn took my notes and told me not to tell anyone. And I didn't, ever. I had some awe of the M.E. and followed his instructions, right up until a few years later when he was begging me to stop cutting and I didn't stop. But now it's just me and you, Diary, and Mr. John Walker here.

Speaking of diaries and such. Dan Cant's personal journal said the Kleug will was one of the oddest he'd ever seen. No details.

A couple of years later Dietger's internal carotid blew out like a rusty pipe and drowned his brain in blood. I went to pick up the body and sneak a peek at his bisected calcified sibling. I took the bookends down and just let the World Book Encyclopedia spill off the shelf.

I couldn't see much internal anatomy; you usually can't. But there was a little round dot of gold showing in the middle of each half. Right in the thorax. I'd guess the broken-off end of a gold hatpin, circa 1948. So we've got a fetus undiagnosed and unmentioned, but maybe not truly unknown.

If you can figure out what the truth is. Shit like that came up all the time on that job, and I miss it sometimes. I can barely cut a stack of pancakes lately.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

17: Core Sample

"I don't mind the heat so much, now it's finally July." Mathilde Clerval took off her goggles and wiped her forehead. "Ninety degrees was just obnoxious when it was still June."

"You mean yesterday."

"Right you are, Toots."

Bernie Wicket looked around. Nobody else was in sight among the stones and monuments at Tolling Bell Cemetery. But, he couldn't help feeling they were a little conspicuous. He'd felt that way ever since they hauled the big motor-driven core sampler onto Shanie Derfford's grave.

"We should be doing this at night anyway. I'm pretty sure it's illegal."

"Hey, the gate wasn't locked."

"I mean it's illegal to take a core sample of somebody's grave without some kind of permit."

"Maybe it is, Baby, but would you rather dig her up with a pick and shovel?"

"No, but maybe I really should try for an exhumation order."

Mathilde laughed. He liked her laugh, a lot, but didn't want to show it at the moment because the situation bugged him. "You really don't think that's a good idea?"

"Baby, in this town? Doesn't work that way."

"That's what I keep hearing."

Mathilde pulled the goggles into place. "Okay, this bastard's going to make some noise." She pulled the line, and the four-stroke engine started. "Let's get it down four feet and core this dead bitch."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

16: The Donnetown Devil

[Excerpt from Deaduns: The Donnetown Devil and Other True Spooks of the Southeast by Rutger Frears (Barrow Press, 1989)]

In 1971 I was in the midst of my postgraduate studies at PPRU. In May of that year, the tracks appeared overnight in the fresh-laid concrete in front of the just-built Cornucopia Market. The store's owner, Marjorie Bundt, insisted on having the affected portions jackhammered and repoured, but before this was done, my contact at the Elegy got ahold of me.

I was down to the place in five minutes. (That first Cornucopia, the chain's flagship store for many years, was a stone's throw from campus. This proved convenient for generations of stoned PPRU undergrads with the munchies.)

I took photographs [facing page] and even got the construction foreman, Albie Grosser, to carve me out a three-foot square piece of the concrete.

Back on campus, in Bosch Perception Lab (in Antoniette Bourignon Hall, before it was moved to its dedicated building off the Quad), I made plaster molds of the tracks. Based on those molds, and as the artist's conception on Page 151 shows, what we were dealing with, what was causing so much mischief in its near-nightly visitations, was a very roughly humanoid creature, one which traveled, with remarkable speed and stealth, by squatting and leaping like an enormous bullfrog.

The indentations in the soft, drying concrete were left by its four-toed webbed feet (digging in as it launched itself with powerful legs), by the grotesquely cartoonish four-fingered pseudo-hands terminating its short forelimbs -- and, surprisingly, by its enormous testicles. The fact that every single set of tracks included these clearly deliniated impressions indicates a ballsack of both heroic proportions and inspiring ruggedness. I always pictured the testes bouncing like street hockey balls in a chamois purse.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

15: Deaduns

[Excerpt from Samantha Mead's Foreword to Deaduns: The Donnetown Devil and Other True Spooks of the Southeast by Rutger Frears (Barrow Press; 1989).]

The previous edition of this work engendered such a flood of letters as rarely befalls a publisher of Barrow Press' modest size. In order to forestall a second deluge, the publishers have asked me to stipulate these points:

1) "Spooks" refers to ghosts, haints, mysterious creatures, or supernatural visitations, and not to African Americans. Rutger Frears' failings did not include racism.

2) Neither Barrow Press, the estate of Rutger Frears, nor I have made or intend to make any legally actionable statements regarding the veracity of any of the accounts of alleged events to be found in this book.

3) Do not seek logical consistency between the covers of this tome. Yes, we are aware that many of Mr. Frear's statements contradict many of his other statements.

4) Yes, Rutger Frears is legally dead. This was settled in May of 1985 in a hearing attended by Mr. Frears' family, featuring testimony from James County Medical Examiner Vern Dorn. This followed on the discovery, in the Cornucopia Market frozen food section, of Mr. Frears' lungs, liver and lower jaw.

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.