Tag Archives: Author James Secor

Life or Death by James Secor

 

Edgar Allan Poe, it is said, would read the news, the scandal sheets and even the Federal Register looking for stories. Today, we have the Internet, which can be an amazing scandal sheet. But sometimes there’s just news, weird news, stupid news, horrible news (the norm). And this story came via a news outlet. I just left out the hook. I also colorized the story. I intended it to be a horror story but something happened along the way. The ending was intended, though. A kind of, “and then this happened,” as with children telling what happened.

And then, in a story the following day, I ran across another graveyard item. It is now being written on the dining room table, listening to Memphis Minnie. This one, upcoming, is intentially absurdist. Life or Death was not intended so. It’s just. . . something got hold of me. . .

 

stella pirella deirdre webb's headstone modified Jim Secor

Life After Death

by

James L. Secor

 

Imagine your most fervent wish came true. Immeasurable bliss. Of course, for appearance’s sake you’d have to withhold public displays of joy and thanksgiving. Perhaps not so difficult to do, as the wish was also secretly held. But sometimes the inner workings of human nature have a tendency to work their way up through layers of consciousness and self-protection to appear unbidden and miraculously into the public domain. Then, you just make excuses for your ill-got behavior, explaining it away, if, indeed, your sentiments are not in agreement with others. Which, of course, they are not for this story. For this story is about wishing and repercussions.

Roxanne was a strong woman with dearly held beliefs. However, her mother-in-law was a domineering bitch. Though Roxanne was able to keep her at a distance—Roxanne and Will lived elsewhere—but Mama Stella Pirella Deirdre Webb insisted on daily phone calls to “Billy.” Whenever anyone is trying to control you, they will lie. Inevitably. Although Will knew this, knowledge seemed to be on the back burner whenever Mama Stella called  “Billy.” The word “Billy” was a button pusher. Will did not whine on the phone but he was acquiescent. A mama’s boy yes man. Not that, at this distance Will necessarily did his mother’s bidding but he did mention it. Whenever. And whenever Mama Stella visited, more often than necessary or welcome, adjustments of a sort had  to be made in order, as Will or “Billy” had it, to keep her, if not happy then moderately content.

During one such visit, Roxanne and Will sat in the kitchen, a late night moment of togetherness.

“What do we need with servants?”

“We’re rich enough, Rochester.”

“Why do you insist on calling me that?”

“Because I can’t live without you.”

“I might as well be Jeeves.” Roxanne’s dish washing become noisy, water sloshing about.

“I have Mama for that.”

“Ain’t that the truth!” More sloshing.

“Don’t be too hard on her, Rochester.”

Roxanne rinsed her hands and turned to face her husband, wiping her hands on a bright flowery tea towel.

“Surely you’re not conspiring to have her move in here? I’ll have to buy another oven to cook in.”

“Why?”

“She keeps her Zinfandel in the oven.”

“Oh, yes. I forgot.”

“How could you?!”

Will shrugged. Then, “Where’s she keep it when she’s here?”

“Writing desk drawer.”

“You’ve checked?”

“In a manner of speaking.” Roxanne sighed. “Warm wine!”

A sudden creaking from upstairs cut short the conversation. Quietly they listened to the wandering sound. That could only be Mama Stella. Mama Stella with a tank full. Roxanne looked at Will.

“Beer?” Her voice was unnaturally loud.

“Yes.”

“Val-Dieu?”

“A little bit of God from the valley can’t be bad.”

“Let us hope so,” grunted Roxanne as she took the beer from the fridge. She went in search of appropriate glasses. Not a search at all, as Roxanne was rather OC about her kitchen.

A pop of the cork and a scurry of creaking from above greeted Roxanne’s return to the table. Will poured, careful about the head. Not an  easy task with Belgian beer.

Roxanne drank her way through the foaming head, pulled away with a bubbly brown moustache and smiled. She refilled her glass.

“Funny how she can drink and wander around a strange house and not meet calamity.”

“Calamity Jane.”

“Why do we have to do things her way?”

“Only when she’s here.”

“Bullshit.” Roxanne took a long swallow.

“Well, alright. But it keeps her under control. . .somewhat.”

“Somewhat. No truer word. She’ll probably rise up to make sure she’s mourned and buried just so.”

“You’d like that?” Will looked at her over the top of his glass.

“God no! The thought of your mother rising from the grave is too frightening for words.”

“Yes. I think you’re right.”

Will and Roxanne laughed heartily, requiring  more ale to mellow this world they’d conjured up.

“I don’t think you’d know what  to do without her.”

“Lord give me the chance to find out.”

“This is my mother you’re talking about, y’know.”

“Exactly.”

“You really wish my poor mother dead?” asked Will, holding his glass up for more.

“We could travel without your mother.”

Will took a long drink.

“She is still my mother.”

“Impotent dreams.” Though Roxanne wished they had children so a toy could be left on the stairs one night.

When it happened, it wasn’t via misplaced toy. Where  would she get the children? There was only Will and he was doing something wrong, not to have given his father a son; but for Mama Stella, it was all Roxanne’s fault. The snide comments irked both Roxanne and Will. All the more reason for short, well-spaced visits. And, of course, Will was not assertive—or perhaps reckless?–enough to reprimand his mother, as it were. Set her straight. Or, more upsetting to Roxanne, not defending his wife or his marriage.

When mother was out of the picture, Billy as a different person. Billy was Will. Sometimes willful. Which made the marriage exciting.

So, Roxanne spent a good deal of time dreaming of ways in which Stella Pirella Deirdre Webb might meet her maker after each visit, and, for that matter, before, at the phone call announcing her intention. Toys on the stairs was the least offensive, as was a drunken stupor fall, even though Stella did not drink so much in quantity, just whenever. So she had good tolerance and never stumbled. Still, Roxanne’s fantasy was a good one, though not the most shining. Roxanne was very creative.

When it came to pass, Roxanne’s fantasy deaths for Mama Stella could never have matched her mother-in-law’s true demise. The accident was rather inconsequential. She hit her head on the stove reaching for her Zinfandel, which had somehow worked its way further back on the middle rack than it was accustomed to be stowed. She hit her head on the door, bounced off the stove door and fell heavily on her nose and forehead. Estella Pirella Deirdre Webb lay on the kitchen floor all day and night holding her Zinfandel, which had not broken, when Mr. Webb returned from his business trip. She lay there awhile longer until her husband could gather his wits  to call 911. At which point he became suspect in a suspected spousal death. His alibi panned out and the accident was officially declared an accident.

The church service, the viewing and the graveside epistolatory diatribe went without a hitch. The perhaps excessively tall and ornate headstone was placed and life went on.

On the seven week, 49th day, anniversary of Stella Pirella Deirdre Webb’s death, when the dead person’s soul is supposed to take on a new form, the family gathers to say good-bye, for it is all over. Truly and forever all over.

Roxanne and Will went to Mama Stella’s grave to lay their gift of flowers, a beautiful large gathering of Queen of Hearts, a large red-almost-to-black bulbous flower flaring out from a green centre, like great lips ready for a kiss. The opening in the shape of an upside down heart. Silky and slim. Biological name Nepenthes robcantleyii. Roxanne had chosen the flowers, making sure they were potted so they would not die quickly.

With the birds chittering away, Roxanne bent over and placed the over-sized pot at the foot of the headstone. The marble edifice fell over and the bronze angel mounted on the beveled carved rays topping the black stone clouted her on the head and killed her. And then it was very, very quiet in the cemetery.

 queen of hearts

 

Bio: Jimsecor is surviving in Kansas under the Brownback Horror and the first rain in a long time. A former student from China came by for a visit; he’s now teaching in Chicago. His new hip is coming along, though slower than he’d like. He is now at Covington’s Who’s Who but otherwise an unknown celebrity with publications here and there, in 3 countries, and some theatre production in China, where he staged an all-female Lysistrata that passed the gov’t filming. He thought it was nice that he remained a good boy; in the US he’s not so good, I think is the way to put it. At least, he’s very outspoken, including over Obama’s not reading Lupeé. Jim can be found at Linkedin and, via Minna vander Pfaltz, at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com. And can be reached directly at hellecchino@eclipso.eu.

 

Lupee Plays the Drums by James Secor

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Lupée Plays the Drums

After closing time, John and George sat in Gilbert’s sandwich shop munching on salty shakes and drinking beer in the dim light. On and off, they stopped chatting to watch the late night crowd straggle home. The crowd of just an hour before was quite thin, as much because of the hour and because of the cold. Everyone was bundled and muffled against the bitter wind blowing off The Mersey.

“It’s a pity at this time of year,” said John, his eyes following people down the street to the square.

“The world is cruel,” said George. “Everything’s money now.”

“Service is all gone to hell,” echoed Gilbert. “Any more, John?” Gilbert drained his glass.

“I put it in your cooler.”

Gilbert made his way behind the counter. “Anyone else?”

“Need you ask?”

“My mother trained me well.”

Gilbert returned with three bottles.”

“You didn’t open them?”

“You palsied?”

“There goes Robbie,” said George in an off-hand manner.

John and Gilbert looked up.”

“He don’t look too good.”

“Would you, John?”

“We’ll lose a lot of business when he goes.”

“You said a mouthful, Gilbert.” George raised his glass and drained it. He popped open another bottle. “Have we to just sit by?”

“What do you propose?”

“We’re not his only friends in this area.”

“The whole block,” said John.

“The whole block,” echoed the others.

They were quiet awhile, sipping their beers, each lost in his own thoughts.

“We could throw him a party…”

“Oh. Great idea, George. Just what he needs. A going away party,” snapped Gilbert.

“Come as you are, eh mate?”

“No, you mindless bastards.”

“Here. Here. We both have fathers, George.”

“And we know who they are.”

“A sort of welcome back party.”

“One man’s lost his life, Gilbert. The banks have given it to him.”

“If he can’t pay it off.”

John and George stopped, glasses part way to their mouths. They turned and stared at Gilbert.

“Give him some food from our shops for Christmas and donate to the cause.”

“We cater?” asked John and drank.

“Not just us. All ten of us.”

“Not all of us sells food.”

“So much the better. Little mementoes.”

“And money,” added George.

“And money.”

John emptied his glass and poured another, very slowly. “How much does he owe?”

Gilbert cleared his throat. “£1000.”

“And they’re closing him down for that?” Gilbert nodded. “Bastards.”

“He’s got nothing to fight with?”

“He’s not had such a good year, then?” John proffered.

“None of us had. But he’s been hit the hardest.”

“Has he lots of stock left, Gilbert?”

“Sure enough.”

The three men sat quietly drinking their beers and watching the people pass by.

“Winter’s a bitch,” complained George. “You can’t see if the girl’s worth it.”

“You’ve been single too long, George. You need to find one to marry—and quick. Your face is starting to get creased.”

“Why’d I want to do that with a bird? She’d turn dowdy in no time.”

Laughing, Gilbert rose. “Now that calls for another round,” he said topping his hooting companions.

“Just two, Gilbert. We’ll split.”

Gilbert brought the beers, popped them open and poured.

“A Christmas party, then?”

“All of us? All ten of us?”

Gilbert nodded.

“And food?”

Gilbert nodded.

They drank.

“How do we find out what they need? In the way of food,” said George over the rim of his glass.

John leaned in. “Now, there, George, is why you need to be married.”

“And why’s that?”

John and Gilbert chorused, “Women talk.”

* * *

Christmas Eve was unduly mild, considering the weeks leading up to the high point of the holidays. Everyone on the block closed up shop early, wished Robbie a good Christmas and followed their friend with concerned looks. Robbie looked none too happy trudging down Slater St. on his way home. His friends shook their heads at the beating a good man could take in this world .

The men meandered down to Gilbert’s. The women had already arrived leaving little room to manoeuvre between themselves and the baskets of food and wine. George, with no woman to gather, showed up with a half haunch of ham smothered in pineapple and cloves from the smell that blew in the door with him…and an over dressed woman in gaudy clothing. All cleared their throats but they should have known.

George liked tarts, they did not last long and, therefore, did not tax him.

When they were all ready, they trooped through the early evening to Robbie and Sheila’s. The group of 20 were loud, raucous even, and the enthusiasm did not lessen when they knocked on the door and pushed past the astonished couple.

Before the evening’s feasting began, Gilbert stood and made a little speech. He produced a small barrel, put his £100 in it and passed it round. When it came back round to him, he capped it and handed it to Robbie. Robbie was speechless, Sheila cried.

The remainder of the evening was joyous and left a warm feeling in the heart of Robbie and Sheila. They sat for a long time at the empty table. The friends had cleared up the mess. This was an unforgettable Christmas Eve.

Robbie and Sheila were suddenly alone in a great silence once the raucous friends had left for their own homes. Robbie shook his head as he closed the door behind his guests.
“Surely we are blessed, my girl.” He sighed. “With such kind, thoughtful friends, this will be a good New Years. After all, the bankers will have a hard time when I give them this!” said Robbie.
Husband and wife laughed. They hugged each other and kissed. Holding each other and almost in tears, Robbie and Sheila sat quietly looking at their barrel of good fortune.

“Shall we open it, then?” Sheila asked.

“Shall we?”

Robbie set the barrel on the table, so thankful to have such good friends. It rattled a bit. Some of the guests had given coin: “Give the bastards a hard time having to count their bad wishes!”

Sheila opened the barrel.

Both looked inside.

The barrel was empty.

* * *

“Why is it, Lieutenant, people do their dirty work at such times?”

“What such times, D?”

“Holiday celebrations.”

“Some people have nothing better to do than make life difficult for others.”

“This is a bit on the far side of difficult, if you don’t mind my saying so, sir.”

“I do not.” Lupée was silent for a moment. “It goes double, I’m afraid.”

“I was at my mum’s.” Lupée said nothing. “She’s not happy with my being a cop.”

“You’re not a cop. You’re a detective. Big difference.”

“Not for her. She’s sure I’m going to get shot. Anxious and worried all the time. Sometimes it’s all I can do to be with her.”

“It’s why I’m no longer married. When I came on the force, I started as a copper. She wanted a man she could be sure would come home every night.” He turned down Seel St. “I was shot at once. I think it would be best that we park here. Artists and low-lifes. Neither have much use for our kind.”

“Even the shopkeepers?”

“They cater to the artists. End of co-operation.”

“And here we are protecting them!”

“Sometimes, D, you are so naïve. It isn’t as if the police are angels. The bad cases give us a bad reputation.”

“Class prejudice?”

“Touché.”

“How long will we be sitting here, sir? It’s getting a bit cool.”

“Yes. I suppose it is. I’ve got to drum up the courage to get on with this one.”

“Courage?”

“Wrong choice of words. Robbie and Sheila Collingsworth are old friends. Very good friends.”

“Distance.”

“Yes. Perhaps that’s it.”

“Let me take the lead, then. You be my sidekick.”

“As the Yanks say.” Lupée heaved a sigh and smiled. “Bloody rebellious colonists. Look what they’ve done to that country.”

“Look what we’ve done to this country.”

“Yes. Well. Shall we get on with it?”

They walked down Fleet St., took a left at Slater Street and then a right onto Seel Street. About halfway down the street, an alley more than a street, Lupée stopped before a somewhat narrow door. Lupée raised his hand to rap on the old faded wooden door. Sgt. Dumqik stopped him.

“My lead on this one, Lupée.”

Lupée moved back and D stepped up to the door.

Robbie Collingsworth opened the door so quickly he must have been waiting just on the other side. D recoiled.

“Oh, sorry,” Robbie said. “A bit anxious, you see. Hallo, Tones. I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Not exactly the type of visit I’d like to make on an old friend.”

“Right. Come in, then. We’re in the kitchen. Bit warmer there.”

“I’ll get the door, Robbie. Still only room for one in this hall, eh?”

“Cozy, that’s for sure.”

“Makes friends stay longer. Only this time they weren’t such good friends, it seems.”

They mounted the stairs in single file.

“I’m sure it’s not all of them, Mr. Collingsworth.”

“You work with Tones?”

“Yes. Just call me D.”

“D?”

“Her name’s rather embarrassing to her, Robbie.”

“Then why not change it?”

“Mum’s still alive.”

“Look who’s here, Sheila! Tones and some woman detective calls herself D.”

* * *

After they made their report, signed by Lupée to keep the higher-ups believing that everything was going along as it should, with D’s initials as the subordinate, Lupée and D retired to their favourite thinking spot, Renard’s Den.

“What a pleasant change. Warm, spiced wine. Lovely idea. Here’s to you, Lt. D.”

“Wouldn’t that be brevet? Temporary battlefield promotion?”

“I’ll see if I can scrounge you up a few stripes. Your mum will like that.”

“As long as I don’t have to wear a copper’s uniform.”

“At least not in public.”

“She watches the newspapers every day expecting to see her daughter in danger. She tells me it’s my fate to be tabloid front page.”

“Ahh. Fate. Funny thing, fate,” commented Lupée.

“I’m not sure I follow you, sir.”

“Fate we give in to. It explains everything and relieves one of responsibility.” D looked over the rim of her glass as she sipped her wine, breathing in the cinnamon and clove. “Not responsibility to begin with, mind you, but what’s done with it once it comes into one’s life. Fate gives, ever so negatively often enough, a meaning to life.”

“Don’t we all need a little of that?”

“Cynical, D?”

“Catching up, Lieutenant.”

“I see. Well. Fate is the word we use instead of chance because chance, I think you could say, is too unsettling and chaotic for the

civilized mind that likes reason above everything else.”
D sipped her wine, waiting ’til Lupée was drinking, his mouth full, before she spoke. “But, Professor, what of the Greeks? They not only believed in Fate, they led their lives based on it. It was their religion.”

“Yes. I do sound kind of pompous, don’t I? It’s usually you makes such observations, though much more pleasantly.”

“Does wine always give you such a silver tongue?”

“Wine over cynicism. I’m sorry, D. He’s my friend. It’s the holidays. Bastards are ruining it for everyone.”

“Robbie called it fate. His fate,” D reminded Lupée. “As if the theft, the bad friend, was his fault. Fate is a part of him. A person to whom bad things happen.”

“The victim.”

“He’s not.”

“Most certainly not. He works hard. He’s built his business from nothing. No. I think he doesn’t want to admit he has bad friends. That is too much pain.”

“Fate hides many ills.”

“It’s so much easier to lie to ourselves than face an uncomfortable truth.”

“You? You lie to yourself?”

“Every day I tell myself I’m making a difference—at least in this city.”

“And your cynicism?”

“Those are the days I admit the truth.” He finished his wine. “My treat. More of the same?”

“Yes, please.”
With freshly warm drinks before them, D and Lupée relaxed a bit more. They leaned back in their chairs.

“It’s nice. This fire,” said D.

“Mmm. Yes, it is. When I was a boy, we only had a fireplace for heat. Not very effective.”

“I can’t imagine.”

“We spent most of our time in the kitchen. The coal stove was always going so that the room was quite warm enough.”

“Your mum cooked on a coal stove?”

“How else would she cook?”

“Oh. Right. How silly of me.”

“Not at all.” Lupée sipped his wine. “I imagine that’s why Robbie continues to sit in the kitchen. A hold-over.”

“And you, Lieutenant?”

“I’m lazy, D. I go home and inhabit the sofa, hoping someone will magically appear with supper.”

“Never happens, does it?”

“No wife.” Lupée toasted the young woman.

“It’s a good thing I’m not married, then.”

“Perhaps. Perhaps. Some men are more thoughtful, I’m sure. But hard to find.”

“Like a true friend is hard to find.”

Lupée sipped his wine. “Finally,” he sighed.

“How do you judge character?”

“Certainly after the fact is no good.” Lupée shook his head. “They’ll all deny doing it upon questioning.”

“What petty thief admits his guilt?” D sipped her wine. “How shall we proceed?”

“After the boring part?” D nodded. “Not by the book I should think.”

* * *

The invitations from Lt. Detective Lupée went out a few days after Christmas, asking the 20 guests to gather at Robbie’s house the day after New Year’s. A small keg with straps stood to one side of the entrance. Sgt. D answered the door and ushered the friends upstairs to the kitchen where the party had been held. The warmest place in the house. Any house for that matter. Robbie and Sheila were not present. Lupée stood at the far end of the room watching with apparent disinterest as the 20 filed in. They stood around not knowing just what to do.

“Please,” said Lupée. “Take a seat.”

Everyone found a place to sit, looking from one to another uncomfortably. Lupée did nothing to relieve the tension.

“Let me introduce myself,” began Lupée, leaning against the wall. “I’m Lt. Detective Lupée.” He paused.

“Where’s Robbie and Sheila, then?” asked Gilbert.

“They’re off on holiday.” Lupée paused again. “This is a very interesting case, this bit about the missing Christmas money. All we know is that one of you friends is a thief. A traitor, if you will. I think there is nothing more despicable than a traitor. Don’t you agree, Sgt.?”

“Yes, sir. A killer only takes a life. A turncoat steals a soul. As I see it.”

“Well said. Right, then. Shall we get to it? Good. The Sgt. here will take one couple downstairs and out the door. The rest of us will wait here until the next couple is summoned. As the Sgt. dismisses each couple, that pair is free to go and the subsequent couple will be summoned. Understood?”

The group as a whole nodded their heads and murmured assent.

“Excuse me, Lt.,” asked Gilbert. “How shall we decide which of us goes first?”

“Good question, Mr. Dortman. I think we shall do it in good old schoolboy sporting fashion. I have here,” he said, suddenly holding up a hand, “ten sticks each one numbered one to ten. I think that’s pretty clear, yes? Good. Only the men draw.”

Sgt. D led the first couple down the stairs and out onto the street. D stood by the keg, placing her hand on it.

“Mr. Dortman. Your wife will carry this keg while you walk alongside. You will go down to Seel St. where you will see a police officer who will direct you along the square. At Duke St. there will be another officer who will direct you up Duke St. and then you will cross over and up Slater St. to me, at the corner of Slater and Seel Sts. Alright?”

“It shouldn’t be difficult. But why are we doing something so…”

“Silly?” his wife finished. “Everyone will be watching. Is it now the police’s practice embarrassing people?”

“Consider this punishment for the theft.”

“We didn’t take it!” snapped Mrs. Dortman.

“All of you are implicated. As we do not know who did the deed, we are punishing the lot of you.”

“I really don’t like it,” said Gilbert.

“Neither do I, Mr. Dortman. But you have no choice. It’s only 25 lbs.”

Sgt. D helped Mrs. Dortman into the straps and sent the couple on their way.

So it went for the remainder of the day. As each couple made its way round the course, the spectators grew in number, as did the catcalls.

The last couple to make the rounds was George and his girlfriend of that night, who complained bitterly.

“This is unbearable! How dare you put me through this, George Crane.”

“It’s not my doing, Candy.”

“Isn’t it?”

“Buck up, my sweet. Putting up with this is far easier than stealing £1000 with people all round.”

“And when I set this keg down, you will never see me again.”

So it was and so it goes.

Unbeknownst to the couples, a little tape recorder was sitting atop the 25 lb-weights. Poor George.

* * *

Lupée and D sat in their customary corner, quieter than usual. The fire crackled and popped. Both held their hands loosely around hot rum toddies.

“I don’t know how many of these I can handle, Lt.” D said, finally breaking the silence.

“Nor do I, D. Nor do I.”

“Which one?”

“Both,” sighed Lupée, taking a tentative sip of his steaming drink. “The rum will force us to leave the cars and our friendly thieves will dampen any scrap of sentiment I might have had for the salvation of humanity.”

“That’s a mighty burden to carry, Lt.”

“What makes you think I’m the saviour of such a pack of venomous black hearts?”

“Oh, dear!” D sipped her toddy.

“You’re the one read the riot act, D.”

“Good dramatic touch, don’t you think?”

Lupée took a long sip. “Christ! Well! That put a little life back in the old windbag!”
D pursed her lips and pumped with her left forearm. She squealed nasally and hummed, breaking into a good imitation of a bagpipes.

Lupée added his voice underneath. Both took heaving breaths and held forth again. It didn’t take long for the barmaid to arrive. She stood silently in the entryway, hands on hips. Catching sight of her, Lupée stopped. D looked up and stopped. Never have pipes come to such a sudden and complete stop.

“If I’d wanted the Black Watch in me pub, I’d’ve invited them, Lt.”

“It’s not the Black Watch, Molly, my girl.”

“I’m not your girl.” She waited. “Well, then, if not the Black Watch, who th’ell are you?”

“Macbeth’s Witchy Watch. Now we’re all come together.” Lupée toasted Molly.

“Double bubble toil and trouble.” D toasted Molly.

Molly waited for the glasses to come to a rest on the small round table.

“Right, then. I’ll bring you a couple more hell-raisers.” Molly shook a finger at the two detectives. “But I’ll not bring me cauldron out o’me kitchen for the likes o’ you two to ruin me with your spells and such.” She turned on her heel and walked back to the taproom, imitating a slightly more wheezing pipes and she limped while doing so.

“If only Shakespeare had had her!”

“Och, laddie! Ye’re doin’ the’auld bird less due than she’s wor’eth.”

“Your brogue is awful, D.”

They both drank.

Molly returned with two more toddies.

“If Shakespeare had had me, he’d a’been writin’ for real women and not prepubescent boys or cross-dressers.”

“Rescued just in time.” D reached for the drinks.

“On the ‘ouse—but only this once, mind you. A girl’s got to have friends, y’know.”

“Ah! Hecuba! Do ye foretell the worst o’ our fears?” And Lupée saluted Molly with his drink.

“If bein’ friends with me is the worst you can do, God give me strength.”

“Here’s to you, Molly.” D saluted Molly.

“And here’s to you two—I’m closin’ up early as me old man’s ailin’.”

“We’ll keep ‘er goin’, Molly.”

“A fine lot o’good I’ll get from two liquored up detectives.”

“We’re not liquored up.”

“No. But you’re sure whinin’.” Hand still on hips, Molly looked from D to Lupée. “Hmm? What is it this time?”

D looked to Lupée. Lupée took a swallow.

“Did you put a little extra into the pot, Molly?”

“I’d take a bit more than a little to make you two to notice a difference.”

“We thank you,” chorused the detectives.

“Well?”

“You know we can’t talk business, Molly.”

“I’m not for lookin’ into your secret book o’ spells.”

“Alright. Alright.” Lupée sipped again. “You tell her D.”

“Right.” D took a long sip. “It’s the Robbie Collingsworth case.”

“Well! It’s about time that someone caught up with that George Crane. What a menace to society that man is!”

“Is that so?” Lupée leaned in.

“It is so. He’s been scammin’ the government and the neighbourhood association for years. Lets an unheated house to oldsters to get the government freebie for central heating. And all these other folk needin’ it be not getting’ it because of Georgey orgey porgey suckin’ up all the funds. He’s the one could give you what a life’s worth. Him and that aunt of his. Blustering snooty know-it-all bitch with a voice a football manager would be proud to own. She foots the upfront costs, George cuts corners and then gets the work done for free. The old tightwad. Th’only thing on that bloke’s mind is money and how he can get it without spendin’ any in the process. He’s not a case of a bad apple, Lt., he’s the bad apple itself. Some people are just plain bad.”

“You think there are bad genes?”

“I do. I do. If they wasn’t, how’d I make any money with a pub like this? You check it out, Lt. Might even run in families. Bad genes.”

“Lupée and I are bad?”

“Some good people like to drink, D.”

“Well, thank goodness for that! I’d certainly not like to disappoint my genes.”

“No drunks in your family, D?”

‘Oh, Lt., lots of drunks. But no bad eggs. Yourself?”

“Worst of the lot.”

“It’s good to know you.”

Lupée and D clinked glasses and drank.

Molly turned from one to the other.

“Let us know when you’re going to close shop,” said Lupée.

“You’re the last lot.”

“Well, then. Shall we?”

Lupée and D followed Molly into the taproom, paid their bill and stepped out into the cool night air. Lupée walked D to her little Cooper, perhaps the only neon green car in the city. They stood facing each other, hands in pockets, breathing into the air.

“Is traitorousness a genetic characteristic, Lt.?”

“Perhaps we should do a little checking into that aunt of his. And perhaps his family. But for another night. I’m frazzled on this one.”

“How’s Robbie doing?”

“The other boys are moving him out of the neighbourhood.”

“I don’t think I could go back into that neighbourhood, either. People knowing I’d been had and the show that was made to find the thief. Bad memories.”

“Recent bad memories have a tendency to obliterate all the good accrued over many years.

That kitchen would wreak of crime and friendship lost. Yes. It would be hard for me, too. A worse crime than a thieving friend.”

They stood silent a moment. D was looking beyond Lupée’s shoulder and down the street that disappeared into the wintry haze of street lamps, thinking of the rich people who had once exclusively inhabited this area. Lupée stared at the sidewalk, the little swirls of design frozen dampness made, beauty in the worst of climes.

“It’s getting very cold out here,” he said. “I don’t know how much longer…”

“What, Lt.?”

“Well! It’s of no consequence. It doesn’t take winter to bring it to light.”

“Is it always this way?”

“Apparently. The raw edge of humanity forever being…” Lupée sighed. “Certainly not caressed.”

“What was once good gets handed down and then run down. Social destruction.” She returned her gaze to her superior. “Why is it the common lot don’t feel satisfied ’til their betters, as they like to call them, are brought low, down to the lowest common denominator?”

“The lowest common denominator. Yes. I suppose that’s what thievery is.”

“Robbie and Sheila. Poor Sheila. The likes of such good people being trampled on.”

“They’re out of it now. At least externally. They live down that way.” Lupée motioned with his chin, the opposite way from D’s concentration. She turned. “Less showy artists, I think you might call some of that area. Good place for Robbie to be.”

“And Sheila.”

“Forgive me.”

“You know where he’s gone?”

“He’s my friend. Of course I know where he’s gone.”

“We’re not supposed to—“

“One of the most important aspects of this job, D, is building resources. Not only those who can do for you but who of those resources has resources to be tapped if they don’t have the answer to hand.”

“Like a house.”

“For a good price.”

D stepped back and looked hard at her superior.

“There is some sentiment to you after all, Lt.”

“Of course there is…why else is it cynics become cynics?” Lupée coughed. “Would you do a follow-up for me, D? I don’t want to visit my old friend on official business again. The distance, as you pointed out.”

“Yes. Of course.”

“About two weeks’ time, I think.”

“Ever the boss.”

“We’ve work to do in the morning. Family connections and all.”

“Sins of the fathers.”

“You’d be surprised at who the fathers turn out to be!” Lupée smiled at D. “You’re okay to get home?”

“Oh, yes, sir. The cold has topped the rum.”

Bio: Jimsecor is the creator of the Liverpool detective, Lt. Anthony Lupee who has been tasked with solving the odd and mysterious rather than homicides. Det. Lupee~~ awarded Second/Third in P&E detective stories [properly cite this, please]. Det. Lupee can be found at Amazon or ordered directly from XX [you] or from bookstores in your area. Jimsecor, though, can only be found in eastern Kansas with his huge svelte yr old black cat (20+ lbs). a true cowardly lion, and occasionally at Minna vander Pfaltz’s blog:- http://labelleotero.wordpress.com. More directly: hellecchino@eclipso.eu. He is a playwright/director and sometime actor, a writer of award winning tanka, and a teacher; and has produced and published in China and Japan, aside from the States. He took a doctorate in Japanese theatre, performing kabuki, kyogen and noh, and thence studied at the National Bunraku Theatre in Osaka–the only foreigner to do so. He is aware that the web site the FBI, et al, have been directed to is written in Japanese, the translation of which is “you’re a real idiot,” though his language skills have all but disappeared after 20 years.

jimsecor

The Realm of the Hungry by James L. Secor

 

She was a widow, a lady mourning for her lost husband. She cut off her hair, her dress lay loose about her boney shoulders. Perhaps she had grieved too long. She cared little about herself. Or her two children. They were fed. Housed in old clothing. Silent, sullen.

The world couldn’t go on like this. Not forever. For forever is time and time is movement. No part of life is still. Even the mold growing on the stagnant water is movement.

So, it came to pass that the village headman’s son came of age. He was handsome and very well-built. Accomplished. Robust. Desirable. All the girls in the village drooled over him. Giggled, pranced and primped for him.

Despairing of her long mourning, the widow thought she should put it away. So, she said to herself, “I’m tired of mourning. The village asks too much of me, grieving the rest of my life. Caring for children is burdensome. Widow’s weeds aren’t a life. Perhaps, if I paint myself red, the young man will take me as his.”

She went down by the river. The snow and ice made bathing difficult. But she broke through the surface crust and washed away the signs of mourning. Washed off the dirt. By evening, she had painted herself red. She decked herself out so the boy would be taken by her. And so it was; he would have no one but this bright painted lady. With his father’s good graces he wed the red woman, a widow no more, and her children grew cold and hungry left alone. How sad. How sad to be abandoned.

The little girl took her brother’s hand and together went to grandma’s house. Grandma was poor and had little. What did an old person need? Death couldn’t be held off forever. Yet she welcomed her two grandchildren. They were family, after all, and family should be as one.

“Where has mother gone?” asked the little girl, wiping tears.

Grandma sighed, rocked, fed the fire. “I suspect,” she said, “your mother painted her face. Don’t try to find her. The headman’s son has wed her. She’ll not want to be burdened by you two children now she has found happiness.”

The old woman was right. Old people are often burdened by wisdom and the need to speak of it. Sometimes silence is best; words are hurtful.

Down by the river, near a healed hole in the ice, the bereft daughter found the filth her mother had washed off. A second hole, too, was filthy. A third was clean but the ice around was stained crimson red.

So, it was as grandma said.

What could the little lost girl do?

The girl went to the village headman’s lodging and opened the door and there sat her mother at her wedding feast and enjoying the son. The girl walked up to her red-painted mother. She hurled the filth in her mother’s face and said, “Take that! You have forsaken us, your two children, the memory of your husband.”

At once the mother-bride became a hideous and crabbed and bent old woman.

The house was in an uproar. The groom’s father raged. The son did not put away the love for his once red-painted now ugly bride. He believed that his love for her would cure her and she would become young and beautiful again. Love makes the world go around.

Devotion is touching.

But this did not stop him from having the girl and the boy bound and brought to him.

Judgment demanded payment.

“You have defiled this good place, now we must move. You will be left here to die to pay for your sins and cleanse this polluted ground,” he said.

“No,” said the old hag mother. “Take them back to their old lodging. I will take care of them there.” She yanked the crying children to their feet and shoved them to the door. “There is a hidden keep of meat,” she lisped to the little dears, “and a flint for a fire. When I come to stab you, I shall cut your bonds.” And she kicked them out.

The people departed the village for undefiled ground, while the ugly old woman took a spear and went to take care of the children. Shadows cast through the window showed her stabbing the little ones over and again. The ground and the walls grew dark, the stain spread beyond the house.

The children were not heard from again. Grandma died.

The ugly old painted lady and her young husband lived a long, prosperous life of love.

 

 Jim Secor is a satirist, holds a doctorate in play writing and is the author of Det. Lupèe: The Impossible Cases, available to order from most stores.

The Case of an Ape Gone Berserk

The Case of an Ape Gone Berserk:

an “I Was There Mystery”

by

James L. Secor, B.A., M.S., Ph.D., Q.P.Q.

Any PI just out of school could have solved this case but it came to me because the Zoo was my territory. Perhaps this was because of my circus background. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I was there. I had a job to do.

I was called about 6 PM. I was just sitting down to a nice TV dinner, beef bourgoyne with mashed potatoes and gravy, and a can of Hamm’s Special Light Lager when the phone rang. Damn! I thought. Just when Dialing For Dollars was getting exciting. I reached over to the end table and picked up the phone, a red Nextel I took off my belt when I got home. As always.

“Hyellow,” I said.

“Is this Sammy Thimblerigger?”

“Sypeaking. Syammy Thimblerigger in person. Nyot an answering machine. Hate the dyamned things. Whyat d’ya want?”

“This is the Downtown Zoo. We got a problem with an ape. She’s gone mad. Jeez, you should see her! We can’t do nothing with her. We think it was something somebody gave her.”

“Syounds like the yape’s gone berserk. Tried a byaseball byat? Thyirty-four inch signed Reggie Jackson issue?”

“No.”

“Hyow about an aluminum byaseball byat?”

“No. We can’t get near her.”

“You got a case there. They usually respond to this kyind of treatment. Yonly thing they understand.”

“This is a different kind of ape. Baba’s special.”

“Thyat’s what they yall say. They’re all alike. Yan ape’s an ape’s an ape. I’ll be right dyown.”

I sighed. No TV. No beef bourgoyne. What could be worse of an evening? So, I lifted my TV tray away, cursing the day I’d left the bargain on the wheeled variety go by, and carried my dinner to the kitchen. I drained the Hamm’s and put the dinner in the fridge carefully wrapped in Best Buy clear plastic wrap. It didn’t stick well. Maybe I’d break down and buy the more expensive brand next time. Be that as it may, I’d be back before too long. “Styupid yape,” I muttered under my breath as I crushed the can and tossed it in the garbage under the sink.

I got to the Zoo in no time flat. Lucky I guess. Hit a pocket of light traffic at traffic time. Even these people should be at home, I thought. What’s the matter with them?

They were waiting for me at the front gate. There was alot of growling and hooting and hollering going on behind them. The Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Secretary to the Superintendent in spine-tingling short skirt, Head Zookeeper, Assistant Head Zookeeper, the Ape House Supervisor and Winkin, Blinkin and Nod the three Ape House Attendant Drudges led me to the screaming meany. The Superintendent, dressed in white linen suit, shouted at me the entire way. The din was unbearable. I was literally deaf by the time we reached the offensive primate.

“Baba is special. She’s one of Koko’s apes. Speaks sign language.”

Yeah, right, I thought. An intelligent ape. A berserk intelligent ape. Sheesh.

We gathered around the eight-foot square cage. As the black hairy beast flung itself, not for the first time, at the iron bars and shouted at us incoherently, pearly whites flashing, we stepped back. She dropped to the concrete floor and began hooing and hawing and making furious hand signals. Baba was clearly disturbed. She beat her chest in cliché fashion. She jumped up and down. She flung herself at the bars again, reaching through and punching a huge undulating fist at us. We took another step back. This was one ticked off simian.

The lot of us retreated to the Superintendent’s office. He sat behind his oaken desk with the burnished gold pen and pencil set and the marble paperweight in the shape of a seated elephant and the glass ashtray that looked all the world like a turtle giving birth. The others took up their respective positions, Winkin, Blinkin and Nod on the fringes, near the door. I sat in one of the wing-back brown leather chairs with brass studs.

“Yokay. What’s the big yape saying?”

“We don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“We don’t know.”
“Hyave you called an interpreter?”

“We thought it best to wait til you got here.”

I knew just who to call. I’d worked with her before. Had several of her cards in my card catalogue at home. She’d had lots of experience with outrage before.

“I know just hywho to call. Lyet me see your phone.”

The Superintendent handed me a 1920’s stand-up job that looked all the world like a giraffe. I dialed the orange and white dialer. Modern kitsch, I thought. A dial pulse tone phone.

“Hyellow. Is Deb Brown in?. . .Thyis is Sammy Thimblerigger. . . .Hi to you too, officer. Heh-heh. . . .Dyebbie old girl. Y-it’s Sammy. Hyow ya doin’?. . . . Syorry about that but they’re gonna hafta fend for themselves. I got a hot one. . . Yat the Zoo. . . .Dyowntown. . . .Yeh. . . .Meetcha at the front gate.” I hung up. Passed the giraffe back to the Superintendent. “Problem solved. Dyebbie Brown is a Level III Interpreter. Shye’s good at dealing with myad people. Yif they don’t cuss too much. Shye doesn’t like signing them words. Makes her hyands feel dirty. Yif you know what I mean.”

They nodded. We waited. I went to the gate. Deb was there in no time.

“Hi, Sammy.”

“Hi, Deb.”

“What have you got?”

“A myad ape.”

“And you need an Interpreter!?”

“Thyis is Baba. Yone of Koko’s breed.”

“Oh. I see.”

Baba was still acting up. She quieted down as soon as Deb started in with the hand jive. After a few frantic exchanges, Deb turned to me.

“I can’t say all that, Sammy. She says she wants George.”

“George is a male?”

“George is a human male. She says she loves him and must have him.”

“Thyat’s disgusting.”

“She says they talked for some time. He said he loved her, blew her a kiss and disappeared.”

“Yand she wants him back?”

“Yes. She says she’s ready to make a commitment.”

“Yokay. Lyet’s go byack to the office. They’ve got cameras. Syee?” I pointed upward and waved.

We got back to the office. Deb and I sat down in the wing-back brown leather chairs with the brass studs.

“She wants George. Apparently some guy came by and made a pass at her. She’s ready,” Debbie reported matter of factly.

“I see you have video camera coverage. Cyan we see the filum?”

“Boys?”

Winkin, Blinkin and Nod departed. We waited.

“They should be ready now. Shall we go?”

The Superintendent led us all to the Security Booth. We all crammed into the small room behind the seated Security Guard in his mauve and blue epauletted uniform. He sat before a wall of 12″ TV screens. TNTC. He pointed to one.

“Dis heah is da ape cage camra.”

“Whyat time did Baba begin exhibiting this behavior?”

“I dunno. I wadn’t on den.”

“Syuper?”

“Winkin, Blinkin and Nod?” he asked in turn.

“About 2 PM,” they chorused in three-part harmony.

So, we had the Security Guard backtrack to about 1 PM. Sure enough, there was a man dressed in blue serge and red tie signing to Baba. Baba became excited. She came right down to the bars. They signed some more. The gent signed “I love you” and blew Baba a kiss. As he turned away, the camera caught a full facial.

“Thyat’s our man! Whyat’d he say?”

“I’m embarrassed to say. But the nicer parts were that he loved her and he wanted to marry her and something about a big banana. He’s kind of awkward at signing. She’s easier to understand.”

“Thyat’s our George!”

“Georgie Porgy puddin’n pie, kissed the girls and made them cry.”

“You’re perverse, Deb.”

“Just a little levity. May I go home now? I’ll send you the bill.”

She left. We got a picture of the perp. I went about my business. I’m a private eye.

To make a long story short, we found our man. Baba was insistent. There was nothing we could do. The long and the short of it is, if you go to the Downtown Zoo, you’ll see Baba and George together at last. George looks a little sheepish, though, without his suit.

 

 

Jimsecor is a long time social activist. As a playwright, he fell in love with Absurdism and this approach to writing has stayed with him. He’s written essays and articles and award winning tanka, become over-educated and traveled the world. His latest work is Det. Lupée: The Impossible Cases. But the very first detective mystery was the above, a flight of fancy. He can be found at home or at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com.

 

 

Literary Misinterpretations and New Insights by James L. Secor

 

Oedipus Rex.

From the first time I read Oedipus Rex all the way through doctoral studies, all I heard was that Oedipus was the tragic hero, the man fated to fall; I heard that he suffered from hybris–excessive, overweening pride–as all the tragic heroes do. (This is, incidentally, not true; the more so regarding Oedipus.)

Oedipus’s hybris? First, I was told that he would not get off the road so a king (any royalty) could pass. Royalty owned the roads. But Oedipus was royalty. No hybris, here. Just a clash of rights. Not at all unexpected that a youth should overcome an old man. It was not out of order for the king’s vanquisher to marry said king’s widow, either.

Second, I was shown how Oedipus’s hybris was doggedly following through to the conclusion of a problem. Intellectual endeavor a bad thing? What a lesson! Especially at a time of high rationality and logical argumentation as found in classical ancient Greece.

Quite a conundrum for me. I simply could not get my head around the problem despite all the information necessary being known, though all the pieces were scattered about.

What set me off on the road less travelled was reading and rereading the myth of the curse laid on Laius: The House of Laius would last no longer than three generations. That is, Laius’s grandchildren would be the last of the line. That would make the children of Laius–Oedipus–the second generation.

Is it any wonder Laius wanted no children? Every king wants his kingdom to last forever, no? So, too, the queen.  

Iocasta was Laius’s wife and, therefore, queen. As woman, she would be as nothing without giving birth, her queenship be damned.

However, Laius went to the Delphic Oracle about his off-spring before engaging in babymaking with Iocasta. That Oracle we all know: Laius would be killed by his son who would marry his mother.

Nope. No children.

The problem for the Laiuses was that without children their House would not last three generations. It would be a flash in the pan.

So, Iocasta, before setting out to gain status by getting pregnant, also sought out the Oracle at Delphi. The telling was that her son would live to a green old age. Which means her son will, indeed, live. Green old age? Wise before living a long time; before experience. A youth with wisdom? How proud a parent would be!

Nothing dangerous here! Iocasta’s status and reputation are more important than possibly wreaking havoc, according to the gods. Iocasta is selfish and self-centred. She put herself before all, even the gods. So, she overrode Laius’s oracle by pointing out the more recent and, therefore, more apt oracle. Her oracle.  

At the appropriate time after birthing, Iocasta took her as yet unnamed child to Delphi to have the obligatory blessing and fate foretelling. This oracle was the same as that Laius had received before. To wit: the babe would grow up to kill his father and marry his mother.

Well! This is a horrible prediction handed down from the gods. Ai-eee! What has Iocasta done?! What can Iocasta do to rectify her lack of good judgment?

Here comes real hybris.

Iocasta decides to put one over on the gods. To outsmart the gods. To be better than the gods.

She can solve the problem if she kills her babe. This could best be accomplished by exposure. After dying, the body would be disposed of by wild animals. There’d be no tracing the remains to its parents. Iocasta’s hands are clean.

We know this. Yet it does not dawn on us that not only is infanticide a horror but surely the gods do not condone it. That Iocasta did not succeed is beside the point. Not only did she not succeed in killing her child but she did not succeed in pulling the wool over the gods’ eyes. What is important is that she believes she has been successful. This false belief, gotten to via hybris, is termed hamartia. Hamartia brings about the fall.

By answering the riddle of the sphinx, Oedipus released the city-state of Thebes from a plague. Happy days are here again.

This is past history. But it should not be forgotten. The Greeks certainly didn’t forget. To forget your history is to forget yourself. Very, very foolish.

Now to the play.

Right at the beginning, Teiresias makes it known that there is still a pollution in Thebes. Still. That means this pollution existed before Oedipus. We miss this because we come to the play with a preconception of blame and retribution, a prejudice of interpretation. To the Greek audience this “still” would not have been lost. Even though old Teiresias says Oedipus is the cause. We moderns accept blind Teiresias’s statement as true. Well, the old blind seer has been right every time before, not only with Sophocles but with the other tragedians. The old man has never missed a beat. His word is the word of the gods. But what does he mean by “cause”? It is not possible that Oedipus created the pollution as it remains from before he came along. Therefore, the pollution was not fully purified to begin with and somehow or other its continued presence is because of Oedipus. . .and Oedipus has made it worse.

What is it he has done? And what is he going to do about it?

Oedipus, who has the good of the Theban people at heart is determined to discover what it is he’s done so he can correct his mistake and cleanse the city. What a man!

The first discovery is that Iocasta had a child by the old king and that the babe Iocasta set out to die did not die. This happens early on in the proceedings. Iocasta tells Oedipus not to delve further and she tells him and tells him and tells him–Stop! But Oedipus persists. He must. Thebes is suffering because of him. That is, we know, he has married the pollution and thereby allowed the continuance of the pollution (infanticide) via another pollution (incest), however fated. Iocasta eventually runs off leaving Oedipus to discover that he has married his mother. What kind of monster his mother-wife is!–as he adjudged her at the beginning of the play. 

Iocasta hangs herself.

Iocasta is the tragic hero, the doomed one, fated to fall.

Iocasta is the pollution that still exists in Thebes.

No one is saddened by Iocasta’s death: an arrogant, murdering, lying bitch.

Oedipus and his children are innocent bystanders, as it were. Today, we call them collateral damage, the less to disturb our sensibilities.

This fits with Sophocles’ belief–a cultural given–that when tragedy strikes, the innocent are also adversely affected. Therefore, Oedipus is not the tragic hero. He is the victim. Being the victim who suffers because of another’s malfeasance is far and away more tragic and moving than having the bad guy get his just desserts. We, in fact, applaud the comeuppance of the maleficent.

The lesson, the insight gained from the play, is about the blindness of humanity in the face of the gods–what the Greeks of that time would have called Fate–of the playing out of a purpose larger than humanity’s perspective: we believe (think) we know but, in fact, we don’t.

And we do not stand isolated.

By our misinterpretation, we have missed the play’s intent.

But all is not lost.

This new way to see Oedipus Rex opens up other avenues of sight, shows us a much more human element in the workings of god-given Fate.

Although Oedipus is the focus of the tragedy, it is noteworthy that Oedipus did nothing wrong given his beginnings, his knowledge, his beliefs. Oedipus suffers from hamartia, as does his mother, as he believes something that is not true; though unlike Iocasta he did not do anything and then try to hide it. But, yet, he believes that he has beat the gods’ prediction. When he finds out life, his life, is not what he believes it to be, that he is not who he believed himself to be and that he has not escaped the oracle, he gains insight into life and living and fate; and, to forego any more such mistaken identities, blinds himself. Now, he is what he is. A blind man. . .with a damnable past. Blind because things are not what they seem and he does not wish to be mislead by appearances. Because we tend to judge by appearances. Because he believes it is all his fault and he must pay. Oedipus has, however, become the other prediction: a wise old man while still young.

The fact that he was just somebody in the Theban area is easily extrapolated to. . .just anybody. Everyman. We all stand to fall, as it were, because what we believe may, in fact, not be true. And what are we going to do about it?

Are we going to (continue to) maintain we know it all?

Are we going to maintain, even in the face of the gods’ inscrutable, impossible to fathom knowledge that we know what the gods are thinking and what they want?

This is hybris.

In one way or another, though, we all suffer from hybris of some kind. If we are so proud and sure of ourselves, we are bound to suffer also with hamartia–a mistaken belief about what we assume to be true. Next on the list is a fall. A fall is no more (?) than discovering that everything you knew and held dear and true is delusion. Your learning and adjustment are important.

The closeness of Oedipus’s situation to the average Joe’s, as it were, ought to be enlightenment enough. The tragedy itself, the play, in this light, has a much more powerful effect, a longer “arm of the law.” It means much more than being simply a part of a fateful myth.

We writers often re-arrange myths and legends and folktales to tell a particular story we are interested in, our life view. Unlike Aeschylus, Sophocles was interested in character, and how that played into the great scheme of things. Oedipus suffered but he was not the author of his tragedy; he did not bring it down on himself via pomp and circumstance. He was not due for a fall, for a comeuppance, like his mother-wife.  But is he not to blame? He did not know. In his ignorance is he innocent?  

Now. . .what do you see?

  

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The Case of an Ape Gone Berserk: an “I Was There Mystery” by James L. Secor, B.A., M.S., Ph.D., Q.P.Q.

moustachois monkey

Any PI just out of school could have solved this case but it came to me because the Zoo was my territory. Perhaps this was because of my circus background. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I was there. I had a job to do.

I was called about 6 PM. I was just sitting down to a nice TV dinner, beef bourgoyne with mashed potatoes and gravy, and a can of Hamm’s Special Light Lager when the phone rang. Damn! I thought. Just when Dialing For Dollars was getting exciting. I reached over to the end table and picked up the phone, a red Nextel I took off my belt when I got home. As always.

“Hyellow,” I said.

“Is this Sammy Thimblerigger?”

“Sypeaking. Syammy Thimblerigger in person. Nyot an answering machine. Hate the dyamned things. Whyat d’ya want?”

“This is the Downtown Zoo. We got a problem with an ape. She’s gone mad. Jeez, you should see her! We can’t do nothing with her. We think it was something somebody gave her.”

“Syounds like the yape’s gone berserk. Tried a byaseball byat? Thyirty-four inch signed Reggie Jackson issue?”

“No.”

“Hyow about an aluminum byaseball byat?”

“No. We can’t get near her.”

“You got a case there. They usually respond to this kyind of treatment. Yonly thing they understand.”

“This is a different kind of ape. Baba’s special.”

“Thyat’s what they yall say. They’re all alike. Yan ape’s an ape’s an ape. I’ll be right dyown.”

I sighed. No TV. No beef bourgoyne. What could be worse of an evening? So, I lifted my TV tray away, cursing the day I’d left the bargain on the wheeled variety go by, and carried my dinner to the kitchen. I drained the Hamm’s and put the dinner in the fridge carefully wrapped in Best Buy clear plastic wrap. It didn’t stick well. Maybe I’d break down and buy the more expensive brand next time. Be that as it may, I’d be back before too long. “Styupid yape,” I muttered under my breath as I crushed the can and tossed it in the garbage under the sink.

I got to the Zoo in no time flat. Lucky I guess. Hit a pocket of light traffic at traffic time. Even these people should be at home, I thought. What’s the matter with them?

They were waiting for me at the front gate. There was alot of growling and hooting and hollering going on behind them. The Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Secretary to the Superintendent in spine-tingling short skirt, Head Zookeeper, Assistant Head Zookeeper, the Ape House Supervisor and Winkin, Blinkin and Nod the three Ape House Attendant Drudges led me to the screaming meany. The Superintendent, dressed in white linen suit, shouted at me the entire way. The din was unbearable. I was literally deaf by the time we reached the offensive primate.

“Baba is special. She’s one of Koko’s apes. Speaks sign language.”

Yeah, right, I thought. An intelligent ape. A berserk intelligent ape. Sheesh.

We gathered around the eight-foot square cage. As the black hairy beast flung itself, not for the first time, at the iron bars and shouted at us incoherently, pearly whites flashing, we stepped back. She dropped to the concrete floor and began hooing and hawing and making furious hand signals. Baba was clearly disturbed. She beat her chest in cliché fashion. She jumped up and down. She flung herself at the bars again, reaching through and punching a huge undulating fist at us. We took another step back. This was one ticked off simian.

The lot of us retreated to the Superintendent’s office. He sat behind his oaken desk with the burnished gold pen and pencil set and the marble paperweight in the shape of a seated elephant and the glass ashtray that looked all the world like a turtle giving birth. The others took up their respective positions, Winkin, Blinkin and Nod on the fringes, near the door. I sat in one of the wing-back brown leather chairs with brass studs.

“Yokay. What’s the big yape saying?”

“We don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“We don’t know.”

“Hyave you called an interpreter?”

“We thought it best to wait til you got here.”

I knew just who to call. I’d worked with her before. Had several of her cards in my card catalogue at home. She’d had lots of experience with outrage before.

“I know just hywho to call. Lyet me see your phone.”

The Superintendent handed me a 1920’s stand-up job that looked all the world like a giraffe. I dialed the orange and white dialer. Modern kitsch, I thought. A dial pulse tone phone.

“Hyellow. Is Deb Brown in?. . .Thyis is Sammy Thimblerigger. . . .Hi to you too, officer. Heh-heh. . . .Dyebbie old girl. Y-it’s Sammy. Hyow ya doin’?. . . . Syorry about that but they’re gonna hafta fend for themselves. I got a hot one. . . Yat the Zoo. . . .Dyowntown. . . .Yeh. . . .Meetcha at the front gate.” I hung up. Passed the giraffe back to the Superintendent. “Problem solved. Dyebbie Brown is a Level III Interpreter. Shye’s good at dealing with myad people. Yif they don’t cuss too much. Shye doesn’t like signing them words. Makes her hyands feel dirty. Yif you know what I mean.”

They nodded. We waited. I went to the gate. Deb was there in no time.

“Hi, Sammy.”

“Hi, Deb.”

“What have you got?”

“A myad ape.”

“And you need an Interpreter!?”

“Thyis is Baba. Yone of Koko’s breed.”

“Oh. I see.”

Baba was still acting up. She quieted down as soon as Deb started in with the hand jive. After a few frantic exchanges, Deb turned to me.

“I can’t say all that, Sammy. She says she wants George.”

“George is a male?”

“George is a human male. She says she loves him and must have him.”

“Thyat’s disgusting.”

“She says they talked for some time. He said he loved her, blew her a kiss and disappeared.”

“Yand she wants him back?”

“Yes. She says she’s ready to make a commitment.”

“Yokay. Lyet’s go byack to the office. They’ve got cameras. Syee?” I pointed upward and waved.

We got back to the office. Deb and I sat down in the wing-back brown leather chairs with the brass studs.

“She wants George. Apparently some guy came by and made a pass at her. She’s ready,” Debbie reported matter of factly.

“I see you have video camera coverage. Cyan we see the filum?”

“Boys?”

Winkin, Blinkin and Nod departed. We waited.

“They should be ready now. Shall we go?”

The Superintendent led us all to the Security Booth. We all crammed into the small room behind the seated Security Guard in his mauve and blue epauletted uniform. He sat before a wall of 12″ TV screens. TNTC. He pointed to one.

“Dis heah is da ape cage camra.”

“Whyat time did Baba begin exhibiting this behavior?”

“I dunno. I wadn’t on den.”

“Syuper?”

“Winkin, Blinkin and Nod?” he asked in turn.

“About 2 PM,” they chorused in three-part harmony.

So, we had the Security Guard backtrack to about 1 PM. Sure enough, there was a man dressed in blue serge and red tie signing to Baba. Baba became excited. She came right down to the bars. They signed some more. The gent signed “I love you” and blew Baba a kiss. As he turned away, the camera caught a full facial.

“Thyat’s our man! Whyat’d he say?”

“I’m embarrassed to say. But the nicer parts were that he loved her and he wanted to marry her and something about a big banana. He’s kind of awkward at signing. She’s easier to understand.”

“Thyat’s our George!”

“Georgie Porgy puddin’n pie, kissed the girls and made them cry.”

“You’re perverse, Deb.”

“Just a little levity. May I go home now? I’ll send you the bill.”

She left. We got a picture of the perp. I went about my business. I’m a private eye.

To make a long story short, we found our man. Baba was insistent. There was nothing we could do. The long and the short of it is, if you go to the Downtown Zoo, you’ll see Baba and George together at last. George looks a little sheepish, though, without his suit.

 

Jimsecor is a long time social activist. As a playwright, he fell in love with Absurdism and this approach to writing has stayed with him. He’s written essays and articles and award winning tanka, become over-educated and traveled the world. His latest work is Det. Lupée: The Impossible Cases. But the very first detective mystery was the above, a flight of fancy. He can be found at home or at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com.