the Remembered Saints:
My Life & Subsequent Death
dreams I've come to have, dear reader, since learning
to skirt the ether that separates our two worlds: dreams
of the great migrations—white, brown, yellow peoples,
their own puny faiths supplanted by me, the only man to
cross the line of death with ease—rushing like mendicants
to touch the hem of my fashionable brown trousers and
purchase the mass-produced replicas of my Resurrected
Form that will keep your humble in tall cotton—or
corn, I suppose one might say—for eons to come.
But all for naught. Sputtering, light-dazed heart-brain
grotesquerie, that farcical business with the nose and
ear, and now back here: home again, home again. Over and
over like a prisoner in a black cell moving my hands along
the damp walls, looking for the groove that, gripped tightly
on its right corner, opens again into the lit world. All
the time wondering how I will appear if I ever make it
back, what I will be and how far I will be reduced: Which
way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell: as Uncle Milty said.
And yet the time for my Return is so
ripe! Back in the lit, I've become somewhat fashionable,
academic elder murdered bizarrely in a field of corn,
hints of my homosexuality peeping through the local news
coverage and somehow keeping me from becoming one of the
Tuesday night profiled cases designed to aid the police,
generate communal togetherness and raise ratings to boot.
They play me for luridness, I'm afraid. Imagine their
faces, when I tower over them like some great fleshless
Yet I am none (nor, I sometimes fear,
shall I be). So many once-glad thoughts come here: Spring's
new greens; Fall's smoky smell of decay; the taste of
sipped wine; even the pinprickly sensation of a sleeping
arm or foot. Then, in the darkness, your humble cries
quietly, as men sometimes do when they have only walls
wondering, wiping, and more weeping: am I alone here or
do others weep and wipe and wonder beyond the four wet
walls that contain and conceal me as a mouth does its
tongue? And if there are others: Do we stretch out into
an infinite dimension of hell-purgatory? Do others watch
over us, awaiting the redeeming thought? (Oh let it come
soon.) Or is it merely a cosmic computer glitch that keeps
me here? A divine bug that pins me thus in etherland,
light-years from Paradise and forgotten?
back to our story, in which our hero prowls likewise forgotten.
Up and down the streets, heedless and headless, from one
gear to the next, looking not for a place to shit, but
merely to sleep. And then, as if the Dasher were a trusty
sidekick looking out for his fallen, suffering hero, it
leads him across town and deposits him in the driveway
The Director of Personnel, who at this
late hour, covered in night cream and sleep wrinkles,
does not appeal as much as she once did.
—I um, our hero begins, haltingly,
gawkingly, I wondered if I could sleep here tonight.
Scowls beneath the night cream, one
hand on knob and the other held defensively above it,
to add push to the shove if it comes to that.
—On the couch, I mean, adds Ar.
—What was that business with the
police yesterday? The neighbors are still talking.
—Mistaken identity, Ar says. I
just want to sleep.
And then, with his hands held out in
supplication, our hero returns to the angelic and, finding
her mothering instinct again, the D of P sighs, opens
the door and, as the phone begins ringing shrilly, she
asks if he'd like to join her in a bath. Before our hero
can consider, though, weighing night cream against memories
of unexpected passion, the D of P has answered the phone
and returned scowling because:
—A Detective Duty is trying to
locate you. You're wanted for interrogation. And when
it's done I think you should look elsewhere for a bed.
I've got a reputation to maintain, after all.
Ar, sighing, descending steps: Of course.
Detective Duty (slipping the gold foil
wrapper off a butterscotch candy and staring at it for
a moment, allowing saliva to build, then: pop! Grinning
to himself only, for this is no cop routine, he truly
loves the things; they are, in fact, his first love):
Arbunkle (sickened by Duty's moist lips):
Duty: Let's go (slurp, sigh) over it
Silence while Duty twirls the wrapper,
thoughts on the next one already.
Duty: Where were you when the fag or
rather uh ar um uh...professor died?
Cringe. But already, before our hero
has finished the first sentence—a sentence which
reveals, yes, dear reader, brace yourself: a three-hour
gap in his alibi, enough to drive halfway to Charlottesville
and murder your humble—even before he can unwrap
his second butterscotch candy, our diabetic detective
has slipped into a sugar-buzzed memory of his second true
love, his greatest case, the one that ensures his own
Ferris Wheel Murder
first they think the dripping is a joke: the group in
front of them had been so strange.
Boy #1: Knock it off.
Drip drip drip. Nasty. Squeezing up
against each other on the seat's dry side.
Boy #2: Cut it out!
Attendant gawking up at them snuggling
as they rotate back up; thinking: little faggots.
Car rising above them: drip drip drip.
Boy #1, dunking an index digit, lifts it to the floodlight
at the top of the wheel.
Boy #2 clutching and staring.
Shrieking: Stop the ride! Stop the ride!
Dripdripdripping steady stream now.
The metal seat sounding like a bucket catching rain from
a leaky roof.
This time around, heeding the boys'
screams: the attendant leans hard on the brake; struggles
to line the boys' car up with the unloading platform.
Boy #1 (stammering): Somebody's bleeding
in the car above.
Whirl, squeak, whirl, as the suspicious
car is lowered at a crawl. Whirl, squeak, hiss, rock to
and fro, and then, swinging into the light to reveal...
A single dead man, his throat cut from
ear to ear and a blood-stained Swiss Army knife in his
Boy #1 fainting while, without ceremony,
Boy #2 vomits into the dead man's cupped hands.
Braunschweig (whose name comes from the picturesque German
college town in which his father once strangled three
Jews) is the first cop on the scene.
—We've got a stiff on the wheel,
he tells his radio. Send in homicide and a forensics unit.
Crowds of eager tourists form gawking
clots around the dead man. Braunschweig struggles impotently
to keep them back. Minutes of gasping and elbowing and
then, over a woman's shoulder, Braunschweig sees Duty
pull up on the other side of the fence.
—Over here, waving.
—Right, right. Duty unwraps a
butterscotch, stares at the crowd. Christ. This way?
He points toward the main gate; Braunschweig
nods. The forensics truck pulls into the lot, circles
once and then Chester Bracken, two years away from retirement,
steps out with a large suitcase in his right hand and
follows Duty through the gate.
and around the Ferris wheel goes Duty. Eight years in
homicide and nothing like this ever. His first instinct
murder, of course—but how to cut a man's throat
while he's sitting alone on a thing going around and around?
Duty (to Boy #2): And you're sure you
saw him get on by himself?
Duty: Did he look all right?
Boy #2: They were all—weird. You
Duty (nodding, glancing over at the
line of lunatics detained along the fence): Right. Officer?
Get this boy's address so that we can contact him and
his friend if it proves necessary.
Braunschweig nods and pulls the kid
aside. Duty steps toward the lunatics and then, thinking
again, he leans over Bracken, who is snap-flash-snapping
the body: What do you think?
—Strange wound. See the cut? Bracken
holds the tip of his glasses against the dead man's neck.
Very fine cut. No rough spots. This knife—pointing
at the knife still lying in the man's lap—is sharp,
but I just can't for the life of me see how a guy could
cut his own throat like that. Just can't see it.
—Who knows? Scratches head, lifts
camera: snap. I mean, it's not my department to worry
about these things, but just how would you kill a man
on a thing like this? (Hroooo goes a coal train, below
the park.) Used to run one of those things, Bracken says.
Thirty years ago.
Duty: When can we move the body?
Bracken (setting camera in suitcase,
closing lid): I'm finished. He's all yours.
Duty: Any ID?
—Haven't checked. I'm going home.
I'm off, you know. Eight o'clock.
Duty watches the old man weave through
the crowd while a lieutenant, dressed in a white shirt
and crisp blue trousers and smelling strongly of lime
cologne, weaves a parallel path toward Duty.
Lieutenant: What's up?
Duty: Possible suicide.
—You've got to be kidding me.
—We just don't know yet, sir.
—Well, get somebody in here to
ID the guy, talk to everyone who was on the ride, etc.
—I'm doing that, sir.
Duty watches the Lieutenant retreat
and then, sighing, works his way toward the lunatics.
be disappointed but not surprised, the psychiatrist says,
to discover poor Reggie (yes, the same as your humble;
horrid, isn't it?) had killed himself thus.
Duty: Thus? (Notebook out, glancing
up:) Were you on the ride with him?
Of course, the shrink says. Just a car
away. I was supervising this rather unfortunate outing,
—I see, Duty says. Halfway through
the group and already he's tired. Hear anything?
—Looking back, I do remember hearing
something like gasping noises, but the mind plays tricks.
Duty: Right. How long had the ride been
going on before you heard the noises?
Shrink: Just a minute or two. I thought
it might be the machine, you see. I thought it was just
wheezing. I hate to think I could have helped, if I'd
Duty: I don't think you could have done
A cop appears, mumbles in Duty's ear.
—Sure, Duty says to the cop, who
in turn signals the EMS people to lift the body onto the
stretcher. You're free to leave, Doctor. We will be able
to reach you at the hospital, won't we?
—Of course. Is there—
No, no, Duty says, stuffing the pad
into his pocket to show the doctor: no problem. Just in
case, you know, he says. If any of the patients mention
anything, though, please give us a call.
The doctor nods, starts to walk toward
the lunatics lined along the fence.
—Oh doctor, Duty calls out. What
was the deceased hospitalized for?
to close-up of Duty in office, sucking on a butterscotch
with the phone crooked between his ear and shoulder, while
in that tinny effect Hollywood uses to signify a phone-trapped
voice, we hear the coroner speaking: Yes yes, the wound
may have been self-inflicted, but not with the knife found
in the man's lap.
Duty: Have you ever seen a suicide cut
his own throat?
Coroner: Heard about once. But it wasn't
this neat. A banker wanted to let his family cash in on
his life insurance before the cops stumbled onto his embezzling.
So he staged his own murder.
Duty (shifting candy from right to left
jowl): How did they break the case?
Coroner: They didn't. The guy survived
and finally confessed.
Duty hangs up, considers the facts.
The dead man apparently had the motive, but he didn't
have the means. If the knife the cops found in his lap
didn't match up to the wound, then it was obviously a
plant meant to misguide the police. But Duty himself had
seen the blood on the blade—
He calls the coroner back.
—Sorry to bother you again; quick
—Did the blood on the knife check
—Uh huh. Sound of shuffling papers
then: Covered with the fresh blood of the deceased.
Duty: How the hell is that possible?
Coroner: You're the detective.
sleep that night, tossing and turning and feeling, as
it always does during the first few nights of a new case,
as if the bed were lazily spin-drifting over the ocean,
the foot rising over the crest of a cold gray wave and
the rest following it in a slick, smooth slide, then twisting
in the basin north south north east under the wave-gray
sky and up and over again and finally: respite, sleep
and even, miraculously, for it will solve the case: a
A spinning bed that, turned on its edge,
becomes a rectangular Ferris wheel; two mice sprinting
the wheel's perimeter, the one behind trying to lasso
the one in front; a vial of blood; and finally, an obese
wife who, though married to the lassoing, psychiatrist-mouse,
is actually sleeping with the pursued, crazy mouse.
morning back to the amusement park, which in the daylight
looks smaller and, without the neon, less impressive.
Once around and then Duty stops at the Ferris wheel. The
blood has been cleaned off the seats and ground, but the
yellow police line is still up.
—Could I help you?
Duty turns, flashes his badge at the
—Thought I recognized you.
Just looking around, Duty says. Have
you ever run this thing before?
Duty smiles and then, taking a length
of piano wire and a butterscotch candy from his pocket,
he utters the most significant line of his career: Find
somebody in the park to ride in the car under me.
then with a sigh our detective is again sitting before
our hero, an hour of interrogation slipped away and his
newest dream—that a two-headed Arbunkle had murdered
me from a wooden plane—sadly unconfirmed, though
not, as you and I, dear reader, know, unfathomable.
—Free to go, grunts Duty,
out of butterscotches and already reaching for the door.
Ar: That's it? You pull me in here in
the middle of the night, ask a bunch of nonsensical questions
and then it's Free to Go?
—ArUmYeUhAh, Duty mutters, giving
his pockets another once-over and coming up candyless.
The psychiatrist could tell him what the dream meant;
perhaps he should visit him in the morning and ask. They'd
become such good friends after the arrest.
Ar (shouting down hall): Where am I
supposed to go now?
Candy Tabitha's, of course. The ever-willing bearer of
the rock-hards that never sleep: ah, ar, thank God she
says, in the skimpiest of nighties. I've been worried
sick. And so after the nightcap and the shower, having
seen our hero to safe abode if not sleep, I see nothing
for us but to use that most hackneyed device, the slow
such luck for poor Onion Charlie, who lies double-visioned
and bloated with seed beside the menstruating Onion Cindy.
Seen thus in sleep, mouth askew but happily not snoring,
the Onion wife is not actually, in her own way, wholly
awful, but Charlie is too dizzily distraught to notice
or even think: perhaps in sleep, without the gaping, smothering
mouth and the grunting twists she might actually...for
Charlie, when for the first time he slipped his hand between
a girl's legs was, despite photographic preparation, so
shocked by the brush-stiff tuft's cocky effrontery that
he felt, dimly in the twilit churchyard, as if the slippery
cavity should have had its own name, since it seemed to
have its own head of hair. The memory seems to have attached
itself to his fingertips; he shudders secretly at the
thought of having to touch one yet again and silently
thanks his wife for denying him the conjugal yet again,
bone-hard or not.
Onion does not pass the night alone. Through the dim corridors
of sleep, past the dreams of Candy Tabitha and the Mexican
donkey act, flits the mystery fairy, who, through bizarre,
grotesque, and inexplicable means, manages to make the
Dream Candy and the Dream Donkey urge Charlie to:
Riffle the office papers of your humble.
was it I, you ask, who appeared thus for Charlie? I, a
dead fairy, become a mystery fairy? I blush to admit it,
but yes...it was I. Far easier to slip into private dreams,
it seems, than into the shared lit, though I can't be
blamed for that bungled job with Duty, the wooden plane
and the two-headed monster, that was someone even less
skilled, yet, when you consider it, no less concerned
for your humble, perhaps? Is there, then, someone watching
over us after all?
that may be, up with a bang leaps our Onion, dawn-hard
and brow so furrowed with purpose that he is again single-visioned:
first, a forceful, forbidden boinking of the menstruating
wife (who offers merely a stifled deep-sleep yawn) and
then a manly jog-trot into the office, where, senses flushed,
our ransacking New Man finds himself sudden-frighted.
But the building is silent—no fear; it's empty,
he tells himself, not fully fathoming, of course, the
Hoary Head of Formalists' stubborn will to see the Orange
Juice Thief unmasked. And so, like a thief, poor Onion
closes the door feather-soft and slips like a shadow down
the long hall, past the Hoary Head's hidden, purring camcorder,
to your humble's office door, which is strangely unlocked
and inviting. All the while thinking: it's a trap, you
fool, you raped your wife and now you're breaking into
a dead man's—
But already he is inside and searching.
finding nothing. Nada. Twenty-year-old lecture
notes, a few scraps of doodling paper and a single issue
of Boys Talk Dirty. Finding and lifting the last
to the dawn-lit window, Onion gasps and wonders whether
gloves might have been wise. Too late now, of course,
the distinctive Onion swirls smearing the ink over the
Greek boy's proffered buttocks (sigh). Was it this your
humble desired, sending poor Onion on a hapless task,
knowing full well as I must that all the relevant clues
lie not here but at home, all for nothing but the lurid
desire to see Onion thus unexpectedly aroused? For so
he is, dawn-hard again, poor chap, and flipping madly
despite himself. But enough: already like an ether-blown
Puck flits your Humble from Onion to Arbunkle, whispering
into his sated ear:
Riffle the home of your humble.
back again, flit, back to Onion:
Riffle the home of your humble.
So that like two zombies Ar and Onion
(in whose back pocket is concealed Boys Talk Dirty)
gather in the shrubs beneath your humble's back window
and scale wordlessly to the strangely open sill, where
for a moment like scuba divers they sit and breathe and
then, with a gulp, they slip inside and drop like twin
stones into the fish tank beneath.
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