What do you do with a dead body?

You put it in a mystery, of course, and then hope that somebody stumbles over it. However, and there’s always a however, at least there is most of the time; however, if it is a Hitchcock who has you stumble over the body, it will be “The Trouble With Harry”. The trouble with that Harry is that nobody notices the body. When they do take notice, they are not concerned with finding out who did the deed. Mostly they do not want to trip over a corpse. It is such an inconvenience.

There is no chance that the body of Marvin Winkleheimer will not be tripped over. He falls nine floors and thumps onto the awning over the front door of the Westchester Arms Apartments, then bounces off. Considering that his corpse flops onto middle of the sidewalk, it is bound to be tripped over. And tripped over it is by some little old grandmother walking her dog, Mr. Peepee. She lets out a scream and faints and people rush to attend to her with smelling salts. They see Marvin with his Errol Flynn good looks, lying face up. In his left hand he holds a king of hearts, and he is waiting for the cops to show and ask, “Perhaps this was a suicide, huh?”

“It’s amazing that he committed suicide,” Maude Findlay, one of his neighbors in the Westchester Arms Apartments, says when asked by the uniformed policeman.

“People say he had a lot of girl friends?”

“Floozies is what I’d call them. A different one every night.” There was anger in her voice. “Some in the building call him the King of Hearts.”

“Perhaps,” the cop says, “he’d run out of his Viagra and was having a rough time keeping it up.”

“Well, it’s just too bad he fell off his balcony,” she says. deciding to make nice and check her anger. Her voice goes soft. “It must have really hurt when he stopped.” Going through her motherly mind is the thought that standing there in front of her is a nice boy. He would make a good husband for her divorcee daughter. After all, he is not wearing a wedding ring. “You know you should meet my daughter. The two of you would make a good couple.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he says, writing down everything she tells him for his report later. The officer, whose name is George, is having none of this blind date business. He walks away from Maude’s apartment, shaking his head. He just broke up with his wife and is suing for a divorce and is not about to become involved with another woman. Especially one who’s mother is a witness to a crime scene. A one night stand, yes, but he is in no mood for a new relationship. At least, not yet anyway.

But the cops are starting to have suspicions about Marvin’s demise. Things just aren’t adding up to a suicide. Ole Marv had way too much going for him.

“Could Marvin have been murdered?” George asks his partner Ned, who is also getting a divorce. “Everybody says he was a happy man and a good neighbor. Except for a few indiscretions.”

“I sure would like to have his indiscretions,” Ned says. “Guess we’d better contact homicide.”

“Everybody liked him,” another elderly female neighbor tells the lieutenant, standing in her doorway. “He was such a nice man.” The neighbor’s name is Jessica Fletcher. She is a mystery writer and she is “Murder She Wrote” famous.

“Mmmmm,” says Lieutenant Colombo, finishing his chocolate-coated almond bar. He wads the candy paper up and stuffs it into his pocket and wipes the melted chocolate onto the side of his trench coat, smearing it with brown spots. He is the homicide man assigned to the Marvin-splattered-all-over-the-sidewalk case. “Guess he had his troubles though. Jumping off the side of the building like he did.”

“You just never know.” Mrs. Fletcher is grossed out at the sight of Colombo’s chocolate-stained coat and watching him picking at the almond stuck in his teeth.

“You don’t happen to have a toothpick, do you?”

“Yes. Let me get you one,” she says and rushes off into the kitchen.

She returns to the living room with hand wipes and a box of toothpicks in her hands. He is fingering the papers neatly stacked on her desk. She cringes, and runs over to him, almost stumbling as she does, and grabs his hand.

“Didn’t your mother tell you not to touch other people’s things?” She hands him a hand wipe to clean his hands and the box of toothpicks.

“So,” he says as he wipes his hands off, “this is where a world famous mystery writer solves all of her mysteries?” He drops the wipe onto her desk. “By the way, Mrs. Fletcher, my wife loves your books. She keeps telling me that I might learn something from them. So I went out and bought one.” He pulls a paperback book out of his trench coat pocket. “Would you mind signing it?” She picks up the wipe by its edge and puts it into the garbage can by her desk.

“Why, yes,” Mrs. Fletcher says and thinks, “Anything to get you out of her.” She takes the book from the lieutenant and, of course, it has chocolate stains on its cover. As she looks at the book, her hand meticulously avoids the stain. “Oh, it’s The Corpse Danced at Midnight. That one brings back such pleasant memories. It was my first book. Such a hard one to let go of and give to the world. Who shall I make it out to?” She doesn’t know that Colombo is the world famous television detective, who bumbles his way into solving every case he is assigned to, and he does it in ninety minutes too. How could she know? She does not have a television. She has no time for such foolishness, what with all the writing and the travelling and the murder-solving she does.

“You’d do that for me?” He takes a toothpick out of the box, sits the box onto the desk and starts picking his teeth.

“Of course,” she says, trying to hold back her disgust as she picks up a pen off her desk. “Who shall I make it out to?”

“Well, I am thrilled,” he says, still picking his teeth, studying the apartment room, eyeing the hundreds of books on the shelf behind her desk. “So this is where it all happens. My wife is not going to believe this. She just will not believe this.”

“But who shall I sign the book to?” Her voice rises with impatience.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Detective Colombo says. “You can make it out to my wife.”

“What is her name?” Mrs. Fletcher is frustrated. How can I get rid of this vulgar, vulgar man? I have a deadline and I need to get back to my book and he is so annoying picking his teeth like that and rifling through my papers the way he has. God only knows where those scuffed up brogans have been and they are filthing up my carpet.

“Who?” he asks. He takes the toothpick out of his mouth and it falls to the floor. “Finally. That was one hard nut to crack.” He laughs as she picks up the toothpick with a Kleenex she pulled from a box on her desk. She throws both into her desk can.

“Your wife, what’s her name?”

“Oh, my wife.”

“Yes, what is her name?”

“Mrs. Colombo’s name,” he says, “you want that?”

“Yes, what is her name?” She wants to scream, “You idiot”, but she doesn’t.

Finally he gives up the name. “Just sign it ‘To Mrs. Colombo.’ She’ll get a kick out of it.”

Mrs. Fletcher scrawls her signature onto the page and thrusts the book into the detective’s hand.

He hands it back to her. “’My number one fan please.”

“My God, man, will you please…” she starts to say but holds back. She quickly scribbles the epithet and shoves the book into the lieutenant’s hand. He puts it back into his trench coat pocket.

“Now, if you don’t mind,” she says, pushing him toward the door, “I have a novel to write.”

“I know, you writers have your deadlines.” The policeman, his hands in his pockets, turns to leave.

“That’s right.” She goes to close the door.

He stops and faces her again.

“By the way,” he asks, “you don’t happen to play cards, do you?”

“Yes, I play bridge. Why do you ask?”

“We found this in the dead man’s hand.” Colombo hands her the card found in Marvin’s hand. “It’s a King of Hearts.”

“I can see that, Detective.”

“Call me Lieutenant. You wouldn’t have any idea why a King of Hearts would be in his hand, would you?”

“Not really. We played some together. Even partnered from time to time. He wasn’t very good, you know. But I can’t think why that card would be on him. Unless…”

“Yes?”

“I don’t want to arouse any suspicion. But Maude Findlay down the hall, I once overheard her call him the King of Hearts. You don’t think she had anything to do with his death?”

“Can’t say. I doubt it though. She doesn’t seem like she’d be involved with a sordid thing like this. But they never do seem like the sordid type, do they, Mrs. Fletcher? Oh, well. I have to get back to my paperwork at the station house. You know, there’s always a lot of paperwork when these suicide things happen. More than when it’s murder. Never understand that. Call me if you can think of anything else.”

“I will,” she says.

“You promise?” he says. “Don’t go off and poke your tiny nose where it doesn’t belong the way you do in your books.” He pats his pocket. “It could be dangerous.”

“Oh, I won’t, Lieutenant. That’s only for my books.”

“Well, good day.” Colombo turns and walks toward the elevator.

Mrs. Fletcher closes her apartment door. Then she realizes she still has the card in her hand. She turns the doorknob, then stops herself. She drops the card on the table by the door and returns to her desk and her writing.

She writes, “The woman looked at Jessica, Jessica looked at the woman. “’So, you did….’”

The doorbell interrupts her concentration.

“Oh, shit,” she says. ”Did I just say shit?” She giggles. She never says shit. She is much too too fine a person for that word and so are her characters. Even the murderers. They may do nasty things, but they would never talk nasty.

The doorbell rings, insistent this time.

She rises from her desk and goes to the door and opens it. Standing there is the trench-coated bumbler who had just left.

“Lieutenant, don’t you ever give up and leave a person in peace? I didn’t push Marvin off his balcony, so go away. I have a deadline to meet and you’re intruding with that.”

“Excuse me, madam, but I forgot the card,” He reaches over and picks up the card. “And here it is. But did I hear you correctly. Did you say Marvin was pushed? And off his balcony? I don’t think I ever brought up where he was pushed. Or that he was pushed.”

“Oops,” Jessica Fletcher, mystery writer and solver of murders extraordinary, walks over to her sofa and falls down onto it. She is dazed at the information she just revealed to this bumbler of a detective. If she’d only watched “Colombo” on tv, she would have been on her guard.

Lieutenant Colombo follows her into the apartment.

“So you did kill the King of Hearts?”

“Yes, but it was an accident. Such a horrid accident. You see, he had been cheating at bridge. And you don’t do that. You just don’t cheat at bridge.”

“But people cheat at cards all the time?”

“Not at bridge,” Mrs. Fletcher says, her face in her hands. “When I confronted him, he laughed. ‘Don’t take it so seriously,’ he says to me. ‘It’s just a penny ante game.’ That wasn’t the point. It was bridge.”

“You mean, you murdered him over a game of bridge?”

“He cheated and it wasn’t murder, Lieutenant. It was an accident. I was so angry I pushed my umbrella into his stomach. ‘Now hold on,’ he says. But I keep pushing on my umbrella. It was bridge and he needed to apologize. Not just to me. But to all of us who play in the building. So I push more and he keeps objecting. Soon he is through the French windows and out onto the balcony. He laughs and says, ‘You know you should see the look on your face when you talk about bridge. It’s priceless.’ I pushed one last time, thinking this will teach him a lesson. He went over the balcony and that was the last…the last of the King of Hearts.”

Jessica Fletcher looks up at Colombo with tears in her eyes.

“Do you have to handcuff me? I’ll go peacefully.”

“No, ma’am,” Colombo sticks out his arm for her. She wipes the tears from her eyes, takes his arm and stands up. As he escorts her out of the apartment, he says, “This should put you back on the bestseller list, Mrs. Fletcher. But my wife is going to be so disappointed.”

This is a bit of fan fiction, not for profit but simply for the fun of writing it.

Suicide Laws

David crossed the walkway and headed toward the wedding reception. Then he stopped and turned to see a young woman getting ready to jump. That wasn’t good. He was already late for the reception and he had to be there. He was best man.

But he knew he had no choice. He had to stop the woman. If the water didn’t drown her, she would be alligator lunch.

He started to run. The woman climbed onto the railing. She said a prayer, then jumped. David caught her by the wrist.

“Let me go,” she said.

“No way.” David was determined not to let the woman go. “You didn’t make a will.” What the hell did he say that for?

“What?” the woman screamed.

“You didn’t make a will?” He said it again.

“How the hell do you know that?” she said.

David pulled her up and grabbed her by the waist. “Don’t fight me or I’ll knock you out.” Finally, he had her over the railing.

“You’re crazy,” she said as he stood her on the walkway. She pushed him away.

“It’s the law. The suicide’s law. You have to make a will. Otherwise your suicide won’t take and you’ll have to do it again. I know these things. I am a lawyer.”

“I have never heard of such a thing in my life.”

“When you signed the papers and emigrated to this life, you agreed to make a will before you committed suicide. You never read the fine print. That’s the problem.”

She started laughing. She laughed herself onto the floor of the walkway. For five minutes, she didn’t stop. Finally, the last laugh was over. “I’m pregnant, you fool. I’m going to have a baby.”

“Oh, a virgin birth.” David joined her on the floor of the walkway. “That’s definitely not a suicide condition. It’s written in the fine print that absolutely no suicide if it’s a virgin birth.”

“It’s not my husband’s. I’ve been having an affair.”

“You do know the police will arrest you if you commit suicide. It’s against the law.”

“I’ll be dead.” She stood up, dusted herself off, went to the rail.

David jumped to his feet and grabbed her arm. “Are you sure?”

She tried to shake herself free. “Let me go.” David didn’t let her. Finally, she stopped resisting. “If I jump off this walkway, I’ll either drown or I’ll be eaten by an alligator.”

“I don’t think so. You have too much reason to live. So, you’ll start swimming. And you sure don’t look like an alligator snack.”

“What do you mean? I don’t look like an alligator snack?”

“You’re too skinny. Look, I have a wedding reception. Go with me. Afterwards we’ll go to my office and make out that will. Once you have the baby, I’ll help you with the suicide. And I won’t even charge you.”

“For the will?” she asked.

“No, for the help.” David smiled that boyish grin of his.

“I’m not dressed for a wedding reception.”

“If you’re dressed for a suicide attempt, you’re dressed for a wedding reception.” David took her by the hand and headed for the party.

The Curse

In honor of National Poetry Month, I shall be doing my poetry thing each Sunday in April.

“Be good to Sylvia. Always,”
Mrs. Plath said to son-in-law Ted.
It was a curse he carried
with him when the tide dragged him
out to sea and back toward home,
a firmer ground from which he drew
his inspiration, and Sylvia did not.
When she died, he became a man drifting,
drifting on a cold-hearted sea
of bad press, his lifeboat leaking.
It was the curse.
Funny how words can wound.
He took them in
day in and day out. One day
his boat sank, and he too died,
the words on his gravestone always to be:
“Ted Hughes,
the man who killed Sylvia Plath,
Poet.”

Hamlet: Gravedigger, gravedigger

Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
Cymbeline, Act 4 Scene 2.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 5 Scene 1. It’s rather late in the play. The groundlings are getting restless. They want to see someone like themselves. All they’ve been getting is royalty, royalty, royalty. Where’s the ordinary guy? Why can’t you put somebody like me in the play? He doesn’t have to be a hero, but at least, give him some lines.

Oh, sure, Will. You gave us some common folk in the guards at the beginning. But this play is turning into an epic. We’ve been standing here for over three hours and there hasn’t been anybody like us after that first couple of scenes. Pretty soon we are going to have to pee. Before we do, we want to see a commoner up there on stage.

Will is always one to accommodate. He gave the groundlings the porter in the scene in Macbeth shortly after Duncan’s murder. Funny scene that one. Important because it relieved the tension. It was a groundling who sold Cleopatra the asp. A couple of Irish cops opened “Julius Caesar”. And need we forget how important Bottom was in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. He’s the one Puck disguised as a donkey. Very funny those scenes.

So you can imagine how restless the groundlings are getting. They like to see themselves on stage. Maybe not in every scene. At least in a few. That’s all they ask. The Bard being the Bard accommodates. Will-ingly.

He throws in the Gravedigger scene. The play could have gone on without this scene. It would have made the play shorter, and that would have been a good thing. However, with death coming down on everybody’s head, some comic relief was just what the doctor order. So we are introduced to the guys who actually do some real work:

The Gravedigger and his friend, Other, are conversing. The Gravedigger was played by Billy Crystal in Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet” and Stanley Holloway was in Olivier’s version. Great comic actor, Stanley Holloway. He played Eliza Doolittle’s father in “My Fair Lady” and sang, “Get me to the church on time”. Stole the show. Robert Armin or Will Kempe, both great Elizabethan clowns, probably played the Gravedigger in Will’s production of the play. Gives you some idea how important Shakespeare thought this scene was.

To open Act 5 with a scene in the graveyard seems an act of genius. Death is everywhere. There is foreboding all over the place. So what does Shakespeare do? He uses that foreboding for some relief. It’s kind of like the jokes between the doctors and the nurses in the Emergency Room. It allows those folks a way to relax so they can do their job.

The Gravedigger, Goodman Delver, is a realist, a reminder of how we all end up.

“Are they going to give her a Christian burial when she seeks her own salvation?” he asks as he digs. Reminding the audience that everybody thought Ophelia was a sucide.

“I tell thee she is,” Other answers. “Therefore make her grave straight. The crowner hath sat on her and finds it Christian burial.” How about that? Make her grave straight. As if Goodman could make it crooked. He probably could if he tried. He is that good of a gravedigger. But why would he?

I find the picture of the coroner sitting on Ophelia’s body funny. But that was the way folks talked back then.

“If she wasn’t a noble woman, there’d be none of that Christian burial-ing.” Even in those days, bribery worked. Somebody greased the palm of the coroner to get the results they wanted. That is what our Gravedigger friend is saying.

“Is that how the law sees it?”

“Ay, marry is it. Crowner’s quest law.”

“If you’re a commoner, that is.”

“There’s one law for the likes of they,” Gravedigger Goodman comments. “And one for the likes of we Christians.” Then he speaks to his shovel. “Come, my spade. There is no ancient gentleman but gardeners, ditchers, and gravemakers. They hold up Adam’s profession.”

“Was Adam a gentleman?” Other asked.

“Don’t you understand the Scriptures? The Scripture says Adam digged. I’ll put another question to you.”

“Go ahead.”

“Who is he that builds stronger than a mason, the shipwright or a carpenter?

“The gallows-maker, of course, Other answers, sure of himself. “That frame outlives a thousand tenants.”

“The gallows only does well to those who do ill.”

“Who then?”

“The gravedigger, that’s who,” Goodman says proudly. “The houses he makes last till doomsday. Now go fetch me a stoup of liquor.”

Now you might frown on the gravedigging business. You say that you would not want your kids going into the trade. Here’s something to think about. Gravediggers always have business. As long as folks die, there is no recession in the gravedigging enterprise. And it pays top dollar. ‘Cause there’s a lot of folks who won’t do it.

Hamlet: To Soliloquy. Definitely To Soliloquy

Never was a story of more woe than this. R&J 5.3.
Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form.
(King John Act 3. Scene 4.)

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Act 1. Scene 2. Hamlet is the guy in the room who could use some therapy. Freud would have had a field day with him. Everybody else in the room is singing, “Happy days are here again. “They’re all thinking Hamlet is messed up. All that sitting in the corner and brooding. Such moaning and groaning. None of the courtiers had seen its like. Ever. You’d think there was a ghost running around the castle moaning and groaning.

“Cheer up,” the king says.

“Cheer up,” his mom, the queen says.

“Cheer up,” all the courtiers say.

Even Hamlet’s inner voice says, “Cheer up.”

Still Hamlet broods and broods, and he broods some more.

Hamlet is depressed. You’d be depressed too. With good reason. Your daddy dies and Momsy has to go and marry his brother. Now Hamlet can’t be king. Momsy really fixed that.

On top of everything else, the only girl in Castle Elsinore is Ophelia, and he is not allowed to date her. No drive-in or making out in the back of his BMW. I mean c’mon. Ham is a young frisky guy, with all his testosterone hanging out.

Why did Hamlet have to go and promise Mom and the king he would stay in town? He’d rather be off to Paris and the ooh-la-las with Laertes. How did he get himself into this mess? Oh, yeah. He could never resist his mother’s pretty-please look.

Laertes gets to skip town. What makes him so special? Why not Ham? He mimics Claudius. “Your mother has missed you a lots and I want to teach you the king business.”

One thing is for sure. Ham is not the one in the white hat business. He’s not the one shaking hands and kissing babies. That guy is Claudius. He’s the guy what wants to be liked. All that paparazzi snapping his mug every which-a-way. Let Claudius have his throne. Hamlet doesn’t care. There’s no way he could stand all that attention.

Hamlet steps up to the mic. This is his big chance to get in good with the audience. He had better not blow it.

“I hate Denmark,” Hamlet speaks into the mic. “Why? For one thing it gets friggin’ cold here. I don’t mean the normal winter chill. I mean to-your-bones cold. I can never get warm.”

Bad Hamlet appears on his right shoulder. “Why don’t you go ahead and off yourself.”

“Who the devil are you?” Hamlet wants to know.

“I’m the guy who wants you to have a happily ever after,” Baddie says.

Hamlet pulls out his dagger. In mid-air, Good Hamlet shows up on his left shoulder. “Hold it,” he says.

The dagger stops.

“Wh-wh-what?” Hamlet stutters.

Goodie repeats himself, “Hold it, I said.”

“What do you mean showing up here?” Baddie challenges. “Haven’t you got business elsewhere? Like helping Henry VIII pick a new wife?”

“Nope,” Goodie says. “Got no place I’d rather be than here. Now, Hamlet, put that thing away. You’re going to poke your eye out.”

Baddie puts his hand above Hamlet’s hand on the dagger. “Hold on, fellow. You’re stuck here in limbo already. Why not go whole hog?”

Goodie grabs the dagger above Baddie’s hand. “Hamlet, you know that is a mortal sin.”

Hamlet grabs the blade and cuts his hand. He releases the blade.

“Now see what you’ve gone and done,” Baddie says. “That’s not nice.”

“What’s this got to do with nice?” Goodie retorts. “What we are talking about is his immortal soul.”

Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo appear onstage. Poof! Goodie and Baddie are out of there.

Horatio calls out, “Yo.”

Marcellus and Barnardo do a “Yo” as well.

Hamlet embraces his friend Horatio, then says, “It’s been a month of Sunday.”

“Longer,” Horatio says.

“Whazup?” Hamlet wants to know.

“We think we saw your daddy,” Horatio says.

“I’ve seen him to,” Hamlet says. “In my mind’s eye.”

“You still on that happy juice?” Horatio asks.

“No,” Hamlet says. “I haven’t been able to find a dealer here. My daddy drove them out of the kingdom when he was king. He wasn’t happy that so many Danes were happy. Thanks to the happy juice.”

“We have news,” Barnardo says.

“We saw your daddy,” Marcellus continues. “Or a reasonable facsimile.”

Horatio finishes, “He was a ghost as large as the Eiffel Tower.”

“You saw my daddy? You saw his spirit?” Hamlet’s eyes light up with hope.

“The apparition we saw wore your father’s armor and his visor.”

Hamlet can’t believe his ears.

Marcellus continues, “We have seen it for the last three nights.”

“And,” Horatio says, “I saw it tonight.”

Right then and there Hamlet decides he must see it too. Tonight.

After midnight.