» Posts in Mystery
January 22, 2011
If you have friends, as I assume some of you do, then you know that nothing beats playing existential head games with them. Here’s an example. For the last five or six years, I’ve been telling one pal of mine that his job, his friends, his family – his entire life! – is one big ruse, set up from the moment he was born for a singular purpose. To pants him. None of us really like him and none of us are really the people we say we are. We’re all just actors employed to orchestrate the finest, most embarrassing pantsing in history, one that will leave him so full of shame that he will likely lose the confidence to even speak to another human again.
He, of course, can’t know when this pantsing will happen. Could be next week. Could be fifty years, perhaps at a family reunion, where dozens of grandkids will point and jeer and revel in his waist-down nakedness. That’s the beauty of it. The anticipation, the butter-thick air of tension that will envelop his entire life. I assure him that I’m his only true friend because I’ve revealed this truth to him. And he laughs as if I were joking, though I know I’ve hit a nerve. Because deep down he must wonder. Especially if he’s reading this now…and tightening his belt…
I know, I know. Sounds very Truman Show. Or The Game. But, if this premise were to hit the big screen (my email address is below, Scott Rudin), I think it would have more legs than those tired old hack jobs. Just imagine the trailer:
INT. CLASSROOM – DAY
Fade in on a math class full of grade schoolers. A TEACHER writes an unfinished equation on the blackboard. YOUNG JACK raises his hand.
Jack. Come on up and show us.
Jack stands from his desk. As he makes his way to the blackboard, a GIRL in the back row pantomimes a downward yanking motion with her hands. The teacher shakes her head subtly and mouths a silent “Not Yet.”
BOOMING VOICE: Prepare to be shocked.
EXT. FOOTBALL FIELD – NIGHT
A roaring crowd. TEENAGE JACK barrels down the middle of the field, football tucked under his arm. When he reaches the end-zone, he spikes it, and does a wobbly kneed touchdown dance. As teammates swarm him, the QUARTERBACK gives him a hug, but then inches his hands down close to Jack’s pants. Before anything can happen, the RUNNING BACK pulls the quarterback to the side.
Chill, Peyton. No greenlight yet. Besides, that’s lyrca.
BOOMING VOICE: When you see the film that made them faint at Cannes.
INT. CONVENTION HALL – DAY
MIDDLE-AGE JACK, wearing a suite, accepts a trophy from an OLDER GENTLEMAN at podium in a jam-packed Las Vegas Convention Hall. Jack shakes the gentleman’s hand and steps up to the podium. The gentleman looms nearby, his hands trembling in anticipation.
I have to say, this is really unexpected. And to have my family here makes it all the more special.
JACK’S WIFE, sitting in the front row, smiles humbly. His KIDS give the thumbs up.
I can’t think of what would make this day better. I don’t know if I even deserve this…
Behind Jack, a giant screen suddenly displays a message to the crowd: ABORT! SUSPENDERS.
The crowd lets out a disappointed groan. Jack’s Wife can’t help but shake her head. The kids mumble something under her breath. Jack lights up, misunderstanding.
Okay. Maybe I do!
BOOMING VOICE: But please…whatever you do.
INT. BEDROOM – MORNING
OLD JACK stands at his dresser.
You know what, honey?
BOOMING VOICE: Please don’t ever reveal…
QUICK MONTAGE: A barrage of images, Jack’s seemingly normal life flashing before the viewers eyes. Creshendo of music.
BOOMING VOICE: The horrible secret of…
INT. BEDROOM – MORNING
Jack opens his dresser drawer.
I think I’ll wear sweatpants today.
TITLE CARD: THE PANTSING
October 22, 2010
Rarely does a photograph inspire me as much as the jaw-dropper above does. I found it at the Huffington Post, which in turn snatched it from what I assume is Trent Reznor’s Polaroid collection. Actually, I don’t have a clue where it ultimately originated, nor do I want to know. Because the primary source can’t possibly live up to my imagination.
I like to think that the photo was found some years ago in a dented metal lunch box, on the backseat of an ivy-hugged T-Bird, which was parked alongside an abandoned hunting cabin in the north woods of Quebec. I like to think that there was a journal enclosed in that lunch box as well. I like to think that the journal starts out innocently enough, with tales of teenage optimism and lumberjacking aspirations. I like to think that a man named Pierre Beaumont enters the story at a certain point and he has the laugh of a magpie and he carries a jack-in-the-box that he’s always cranking, though the thing never opens, and when the young author asks him if it’s broken, Pierre simply puts a finger to his lips and says “the trees will drink our secrets.” And I like to think that on a night of sleet and whiskey, the author boards a canoe with Pierre and the two go in search “The Norwegian,” a notorious hermit who is said to possess a radio which is perpetually tuned to the sounds of woman washing their feet, but they lose their way when they flip the canoe, then decide to follow an albino fox through a dark hollow, at which point they come upon the fore-mentioned hunting cabin. Then I like to think that the journal changes, and mutates into a series of sketches and scrawls, of riddles and limericks, which appear to make no sense at first, until paired with the photograph above, and then a foggy portrait of an endless evening emerges, of a burlap sack full of masks, of a victrola, of a boy sewing his own eyelids shut and clapping on one and three, of a meal of mutton and Tang, of a game of William Tell, of a moonlit tango which makes the men blush with jealousy, of a hissing teapot, of third-degree burns, of a monkey with a shaved head and lobotomy scar, of a old man who speaks through a hole in his throat and says, “when I was just a boy my father took me to the fish market and we bought the largest fish they had, a five hundred pound marlin, and when we returned home, my father burned my bed and all my linens, then he sliced the marlin lengthwise with a letter opener and he told me that I was to sleep inside of its belly, and so I did, for fifteen years, just me and the marlin and the moonlight, and I was okay with this because I was boy and boys don’t know what life is supposed to give them next, and what life gave me next was a bear, a snarling, drooling, furry beast who stole the marlin and me and took us to a cave and in the cave there was a bucket and in the bucket there were marshmallows, and as the bear ate the marlin, I ate the marsmallows, until my stomach expanded and rounded me out, causing my body to roll down into the caverns and onto dark underground river, in which I floated for a while, both afraid and delighted, until I reached an opening and poured out into the Rainforest Cafe, where they were serving Rumble in the Jungle Turkey Wraps, and I ordered one of those and a nice cold sarsaparilla, and I waited for the judgement, but the judgement didn’t come, no, the judgement never comes, and I learned that the hard way, just as we’re all learning that now, deep in the gut of the world, and it’s times like these that I wish, I pray, my friends, with every bit of bone and bile in my body, that one of you kind souls remembered to bring a camera, cause we really should capture this moment…“
September 17, 2010
Let’s talk about Germans, why don’t we? We haven’t in a while. It’s time.
Fun fact about Germans: They have an uncanny ability to find dead bodies in hotel room mattresses!
Check out the provided Snopes link. It’s a fascinating, if macabre, discussion of an urban legend. As the story goes, a couple checks into a hotel room, settles in for the night, only to find the room has a funky smell to it. They pay it no mind, and hit the hay. The next morning, the smell is worse. A call to the front desk, and up comes an amply nostrilled bellhop. He sniffs around for a bit and decides the bed is the culprit. Flips the mattress. Viola! Corpse.
Thing is, this isn’t an urban legend. It’s happened a number of times in the U.S. of A. What’s curious, however, is that in three of the incidents, it was German tourists who discovered the bodies. Marathon Man fans are bound to raise an inquisitive finger and clench their molars, but I don’t think there’s a conspiracy afoot here. I just think Germans have a natural ability for sniffing this stuff out. I mean these are the people who brought us Scorpions, after all. They can always find something that stinks. Zing!
All kidding aside, I beleive we need to test the theory out. I’ll send the idea to Mythbusters post-haste. It should be simple enough. The mustachioed Mythbuster can murder the red-headed one, stuff his body under a Serta Perfect Sleeper, then send someone as American-as-Isalmaphobia into the room. Ron Howard should do. Start the stopwatch and see how long it takes Howard to find the body. Then repeat the experiment, swapping in Werner Herzog for Howard. If Howard finds it quicker, then the myth is officially busted. If Herzog wins, well, then I’m dispatching someone pasty and lederhosened into every Comfort Inn before I let them swipe my MasterCard. Compare me to the Princess and the Pea if you like, but a fellow expects certain things from a hotel mattress:
- Clearly marked headstones
May 4, 2010
I write this post with some hesitation. First off, the question in the title is not my own. It’s a search term that someone used to click-through to this blog. But my hesitation doesn’t arise from a fear that the quesioner might be reading the blog now, because I didn’t provide the type of information he or she seeks. They saw that I deal in pure ridiculousness and vowed never to return. The reason I hesitate is because it makes me sad. Every time I think about it. Writing about it is worse. It causes me to imagine two scenarios:
1. A boy has just started dating his first girlfriend. He adores her. He stays up late, writing poetry about her. He even imagines marrying her some day. But he’s not quite ready for that. Kissing comes first. He meets her somewhere quiet – a park, maybe a trail behind the school that leads to a creek. They hold hands. They sit on a rock and try to kiss. Their teeth crash together. They give it another go. It’s soft and sweet and not what either of them imagined. But it’s nice. They haven’t told anyone about their relationship yet. They like to imagine that their love is star-crossed, that their parents wouldn’t approve of something so intense and true. It’s all very Alex Chilton. The next day, the boy goes to school. He’s beaming. He’s not one to kiss and tell but he tries to steer conversations to his new girlfriend. He expects his pals to say things like, “she’s the greatest girl that ever lived,” or “she’s what rainbows are made of.” Instead they say, “That girl? She’s ugly. Even uglier than Penny Dobson.” It would be an understatement to say this deflates the boy’s sails. He wonders if he has to end it now before anyone finds out. But he’s not going to jump the gun. He’ll do his research first. He consults Google. He starts by searching “Are Any Girls Uglier Than Penny Dobson?” Not very helpful. So he goes general. “Are Some Girls Uglier Than Others?” The Indubitable Dweeb provides little help in this department, but other sites lead him down a rabbit hole to disillusionment and heartbreak.
2. A girl comes back from a family vacation to Florida. The women on the beaches were like nothing she’d ever seen in real life. Perfectly molded into their bikinis. Tan and TV-worthy. She’s grown past reading Judy Blume and now thumbs through her older sister’s copies of Cosmo. She doesn’t understand all of it, but that’s the appeal. In the cafeteria, she watches from behind her bagged lunch as the eighth grade girls come and go. She gauges their levels of development, imagines them in bikinis. Back at home, in the mirror, she takes a ruler and measures her nose, her ears, etc. She logs the measurements and wonders if there’s some computer program you can enter such things into. Does the data reveal incontrovertible facts? Still, she has a strong sense of what she really wants to know. It’s simple. It’s obvious. She feels almost stupid for writing it, because it’s something a kid would write. But in the back of her mind she thinks that maybe there’s a scientific study that proves conventional wisdom wrong, that exposes middle school cliques for what they are. She goes to Google. She does her search. She finds The Indubitable Dweeb. As she sighs and checks the other search results, her Mom calls her down to dinner. It’s her favorite – tacos. She decides to skip the sour cream this time around.
Yes, those scenarios make me sad. Yet now that I have thought about it more, they also give me hope. Of all the things you could ask the great and mighty Google, that question is one of the most innocent I have ever encountered. And should someone else end up here after searching the same thing, I can now answer that question definitively:
Yes. But, trust me, you’ve never met those girls.
March 30, 2010
I was 19, maybe 20. It was summertime, or maybe the holidays. I can’t be sure. It doesn’t matter really. The only thing that matters is that I was home from college, living in my parents’ house. I had been out for the evening, catching a movie. I returned around 11PM, with a craving for a glass of milk. This was nothing odd. Up until my early 20s, I probably drank a glass of milk a day.
I opened the fridge, and found a gallon container of 2%, with about a cup of milk in it. It was the only milk left in the house and I poured the entirety in a glass. I didn’t take it all down at once, but I held a healthy gulp in my mouth. It was tepid and stale – simply disgusting. As I spit it into the kitchen sink, I had flashbacks to a day when I had swallowed an entire glass of sour milk before realizing what I had done. Nausea doesn’t begin to describe what rampaged through my guts. I was not prepared to relive such horrors, so I promptly dumped the milk down the drain. As I washed the glass and the container, I noticed the expiration date. It had passed two days before. A close call. I set the empty container on the counter as a signal to my parents that we needed to buy more milk, I brushed my teeth, I counted my blessings and I went to bed.
The next morning I woke up and headed straight to the fridge. It was the same as I left it the night before, except for one thing. On the top shelf was a gallon container of 2%, with about a cup of milk in it. I opened it, smelled it, and touched some to my lips. It was tepid and stale – simply disgusting. I looked at the expiration date. It had passed three days before. This was the exact same stuff I had encountered the previous night, the exact same stuff I had held in my mouth, had spit out, had dumped down the sink. That demon milk had been reincarnated.
I wasn’t feverish. I hadn’t sipped a drop of alcohol in days. I had gone to a movie and that’s all. There was no possible way I could have been drugged. I’ve had my share of vivid dreams, but not prophetic ones. This was beyond deju vu. There was only one answer (and no, Matrix fans, Laurence Fishburne had nothing to do with it). I had gone insane. Schizophrenia usually hits around 19 or 20 and this was my first taste of it. It tasted like spoiled dairy.
For the rest of the morning, I sat quietly wondering what would come of my life. This was, quite clearly, a turning point. I chuckle as I write about it now, because I eventually solved the Encyclopedia Brown level mystery. But at the time, it was pure existential terror. Can you guess what happened?