October 12, 2010


1911, Osage Hills, Oklahoma

A miserable failure again, and now a pain running through his body that would lead him to his end, Elmer McCurdy thought about the boy who had left the barn.

He’ll remember me; he’ll remember I wouldn’t surrender, dying like a man, what else can I do, my choice, no choice.
Lying in the hay facing up, the empty revolver in his hand, he listened to the cracking and splintering of wood as the men outside fired another volley at the barn.

He was told he’d turn to the lord. All he could think about church was the man who played the piano. The piano player, thin, with delicate fingers, black hair slicked back. Always staring at Elmer, his eyes filled with pity, and something else, something that made Elmer angry. He remembered a song. Had the man played it?

Tis but a little faded flower,
But oh, how fondly dear,
‘Twill bring me back one golden hour,
Through many, through many a weary-
I would not to the world impart,
The secret, the secret of its power,
But treasur’d in my inmost heart
I keep my faded flower, I keep my
faded flower.

Yes, he remembered the song. He felt his body going numb and a spreading dampness across his shirt.

More prized, more prized than jewels rare,
A faded flower, a broken ring,
A strand of hair.
‘Tis but I little faded flower,
Once the fairest flower in May,
it brings me back my childhood hours,
Through woods where oft I cared to
But years have passed, and I have known,
Youth’s day-dreams, youth day-dreams fly
Just like this little faded flower,
That pine and pass away, that pine and
pass away.

1976, The Pike Amusement Park, Long Beach, California

He broke it while clearing the light cables. At first there was dread; just the thought of having to inform them about this. After all it was not the first time it had happened to him, and the thought of not getting on the set next season for this show was an awful, sinking feeling. Shit, insurance would pay for it, but,,, it was not only a decent job, but it always stirred people in an amusing way. His little nephew asked him once if Lee Majors could really jump that high. High? Editing, editing!

Well, maybe he could glue it, or if he were lucky it might just sort of stick back on. Standing beneath the damaged figure, he scanned the dark floor of the funhouse for the hand he had broken off. There it lay next to the haunted house’s picket fence. Picking it up he was struck by how light it was. In the dim light he attempted to stick it back on the wrist of the figure.

He looked at the face of the “hanged man”. Old papier-mâché. Placing the hand against the wrist he knew it would not just stick back on. He observed the break closely. The tattered cracked edge showed the strata of years of paint, day-glo yellow, red, green, blue. Within hollow part of the break there was no wood, or chicken wire. There was something else – a growing horror accompanied the realization that it was bone.
There he stood, not yet knowing he held Elmer’s hand.


Once the police investigation, and the media attention subsided, Elmer McCurdy was finally buried in the Boot Hill section of the Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, Oklahoma. For over sixty four years his body traveled from one carnival exhibit after another, no one knowing who or what he was – a dead body that had in fact been a dead body.
No one remembers Elmer alive.
Now only a few remember him when he was dead.


1999, September 2, Jericho Long Island
Thirty years in the darkness, dead still, mother and child waited.

1972, October 29, Jericho Long Island
In the early evening standing outside by the sliding glass doors Howard Elkins overlooked the backyard.
Not long ago, he thought to himself, there seemed more space, the shrubs and trees were a bit smaller, many hadn’t been planted yet.
Now the house was sold. Melrose Plastics was sold. There would be no more artificial plastic flowers. No more Reyna.

He was leaving for Florida in the morning. He was leaving his secret, but for how much longer he wondered? He would know when it was his time.
He remembered the night his wife was visiting a friend. How he struggled from the back of the station wagon to these glass doors. That night three years ago he was covered in sweat, and still had a distance to roll.

1999, September 3, Jericho Long Island
It was bad enough he had to roll it all the way out to the curb. Now to make the situation worse, the garbage men had not taken it away. Most likely because of it’s weight – or perhaps the garbage men believed it was toxic waste.

Frustrated, and just wanting to be done with the house sale, Ronald Cohen stood on the sidewalk looking over the rusted metal drum.
He had placed on the ground before him trash bags, a hammer, a crowbar, and a screwdriver. The drum had been removed from the crawl space beneath the house only a few days before. It seemed to have been there for a very long time, and now the new owner insisted that he get rid of it.

Not quite sure if it would help the matter, he believed that emptying the barrel might expedite it’s departure. With some difficulty he pried the metal lid off the drum. As he had guessed, there was no liquid inside. Instead, there were beige plastic pellets, and to his annoyance, another barrel not far below the pellets.

The inner barrel was blue plastic. Awkwardly Ronald lowered the metal drum onto its side. Pellets spilled out onto the sidewalk and into the gutter. “Great, just great,” Ronald said to himself. Beginning to breath heavily he lifted and tilted the metal drum. The blue inner barrel slid three quarters of the way out.
Moving to the other side Ronald hunched over and pulled the inner barrel further out. He noticed its lid was partially pulled off now. Ronald straightened himself and moved to see if he could tell what the contents were. In the blue outlined gap he saw a shoe and something grayish brown. For the first time in many years sunlight lay upon Reyna’s hand.

Ronald stood there, frozen in shock, listening to his own breathing. At his feet amongst the pellets lay a thin haliogen-green plastic plant stem.

1999, September 7, Garden City, New York
The dead women had been in the rusted 55 gallon drum since 1969. With the body were an assortment of objects; a ring, a locket, an address book that no longer could be read. Held within the woman was an unborn child.

The police would soon identifiy the woman as Reyna Angelica Marroquin a former worker who assembled artificial flowers at the Melrose Plastic Company.

The police had taken DNA samples from Reyna’s unborn child. They believed this would help determine who the father was.

1999, September 10, 1pm, Boca Raton, Florida
Howard Elkins felt sensitized by purpose. He put the car in park and turned the ignition off. His fingers lingered on the keys in the ignition, there was no point in removing the keys, they’d be there for his wife. He felt stupid for a moment as he caught himself thinking how good this conscientious act was.

Turning his head he saw the plastic bag that covered the barrel of the shotgun lying across the back seat. He let go of the keys and let his right hand rest on the passenger seat. The velour of the seat felt comforting. He then looked down. There beside his hand was the plastic wal-mart shopping bag. Inside the bag were two boxes of shotgun shells. “It was odd” he thought, “Why did I buy two boxes when all I need was one shell?”

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