Casey and I were taking a break, leaning back in the plastic lawn chairs, catching up after work on a gorgeous spring afternoon, when this little bit of something fell on me. I looked up to see a squirrel hurrying away on the branches. Casey said, “Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to tell you, this squirrel has been carrying around a big bone up in the trees for days, gnawing on it, and making these weird sounds. He dropped it over there. Go take a look.” I did, and there was a long thin bone scraped up with teeth marks.
A week later Casey was pruning some trees along the river. He noticed our neighbor James’ lawn was overgrown, and went to ask if he should mow it. Walking up to the door he saw the mailbox overflowing with letters, packages on the porch, and there was no answer at the door. If Casey had any sense of smell, he would have called the police right then, but he returned to his chores along the river bend. The suspicion that James was dead inside became overwhelming, and he called the police to do a well-fair check.
The door was unlocked. The police loudly announced their presence to James and stepped through. Not a minute later one of the cops rushed out, pale, holding a hand to his mouth, and sweating. The other officer soon joined him outside. Casey overheard them discussing the scene: “I’ve never seen such a decomposed body! The flies are as big as golf balls! The animals must have got him through that open window.”
The coroner showed up to collect the body on her own. She was as sexy and glamorous as any actress on CSI Miami. The body bag she removed was barely the size of a pillow. She loaded it in her red suburban and drove away.
Casey and the neighbors figured out the last one to see James alive was Willow, Debbie’s daughter, as she drove off two and a half weeks earlier en route to prom.
I’ve lived here five years and have never spoken with James, just a hand wave of greeting while passing by his dilapidated home. All the neighbors cautioned me to stay away from him. He was combative, mentally ill, a hoarder, and a loose cannon. He shot off his guns late at night.
This spring James had begun openly sitting on his porch, which was new for him. His regular spot was in his car parked in the driveway, private and concealed, but since Casey had begun cleaning up the green space beside the river, he had come out of hiding to observe the work. Casey spoke with James a couple times and confirmed that he was unstable and threatening. But for James, Casey was his only connection to the world of people, the closest thing he had to a friend, and he was the one to notice James’ absence and speak for him.
As separate and reclusive as James was from his community he is now literally ingrained. His bones were spread throughout the neighborhood by the free animals living here, and his shocking death brought out the last few withdrawn neighbors to introduce themselves and share their stories of James.
Rest in peace, James.
For the next chapter in this story please read A Tear in the Universe of Normal - Oct. 2013. Please be aware, there is a graphic picture on this blog entry!