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FOLIO is a magazine of strange, comic, and strangely comic words and pictures published from 2006 to 2009. For back issues please contact the_folio@hotmail.com.

Issue No. 3, Murder!

Issue No. 3, Murder! - Young Life: A Nathan McMurphy Mystery, Part I

I was reached for the morning I had spent all week dreaming of, the Saturday morning I was to float downstairs mid-afternoon and greet my parents’ cries of “This is how you take advantage of your youth? You’ve wasted the day! Your breakfast, lunch, and dinner’s cold! We were going to take you to the movies but you can sure as hell forget about that!” with a calm, face-to-the-fridge, “Sorry, I dreamt in.”

I was reached for and thrown into the shower before the migrant leaf blowers had even wiped the sleep from their eyes. I reminded myself whilst dressing in yesterday’s corduroys to bring my pillow along so I could continue in the car, but I was called for and forgot. I sat back--my head on the folded-down armrest--watched the dew fly off the window, and called to mind mass homicide(1) .

Weekends arrive and tireless parents are never content to stop moving--they daytrip. Every state park, historical mansion, colonial village, art museum and arts and crafts museum has been trod upon by my parents and me on at least one Saturday afternoon. They were on a college campus kick, visiting every one, doing the same things at each: the library, the galleries, the dorms, the quads, the disparaging comparisons to their own alma maters. The went to remind themselves of the youth they had lost, not my awkward, lumpy, sixth-grade youth, but university youth--lithe, pale, and in all senses upwards.

The general feeling walking amongst such budding gods and goddesses was of overwhelming self-disgust. I, a pustule of a boy, trailed my parents under the age-old oaks and stone halls with all the anger and hatred that seethes from ugliness like the acne from my sweating, rubbing inner thighs. The feeling was not foreign, but was inflamed amidst people on their sexual peak. Had my parents brought me just to inflame me? Had my parents had me just to inflame me? I had to pee.

“Guys! Mom! Can we stop?” I made the plaintive plea trying to catch up through miles of topless volleyball and mud wrestling, careful my volume did not attract attention. Eventually, I did catch up enough to accidentally step on my mother’s bare heel. She turned back fast, her eyes tearing from the pain. She pointed to a three-story Georgian home across the street.

“Piss in there!” she said.

“I think I can hold it.”

“Piss in there!”

I kept the imposing edifice in view as I walked under a banner with strange letters, Greek to me. At the stoop I turned back and saw my parents continuing down the sidewalk. I thought, rather than run after them, I had better pee first.

The door was open. I saw no one in the foyer. I walked down the hall and peered into the keyholes of all the shut doors. Whatever the rooms were--I saw only crushed papers and soiled undershirts-- they were not restrooms. The hall took me to a staircase and, it being my only choice, I took it. I peered my way down another row of closed doors until I finally came upon a toilet. I shut the door behind me, tried to lock it, failed, and went.

It was an old toilet, involving an arcane system of pulleys and chains. I must have pulled the wrong pulley, or perhaps I wasn’t supposed to pull anything, but the box on the ceiling came crashing to my feet, cracking to pieces and soaking my Airwalks. I did my best to collect the porcelain into a neat pile. I turned on the fan to dry the floor and left the bathroom redder than I arrived.

An older boy passed as I stepped into the hall. He was like the rest of them, an inspiration to mannequins everywhere, but he shot me a very worried look. He walked fast, was down the stairs by the time I noticed the toilet water seeping out from under the door.

I heard voices and sirens; they got louder as I got closer to the bottom of the stairs. I wasn’t sure the floor I walked down to was even the floor I first walked into, it held so many people. Most were university youth, others policemen. A band of caution tape blocked off the stairs from the crowd. They must not have figured someone as young as I would have been in the house since I was able to walk quite comfortably under the tape.

Slipping in eye level with the older groins around me, I noticed all were facing the same direction and--slipping in that direction--I found a small clearing in the center of the hall, in the center of which was the body of a young man, alike in all physical respects to the standing bodies around it, but dead. Two policemen stood closest to the body, one at each outstretched arm.

“Do you think it’s another one?” said one to the other.

“There’s one sure way to find out,” said the other to the one.

He knelt beside the body’s chest, to a tear in its sweater. He pulled the tear apart, revealing a wound, and pulled the wound apart. A translucent liquid, bubbled, poured out of the gash and onto the floor, pouring until all that was left of the chest was a standing ribcage. The policeman closed the wound, ordered a bandage, and the leak ceased. He looked up to his partner.

“Yup,” he said. “It’s Pellegrino.”

I remembered my parents. I slipped my way back to the front door, feeling like a snorkler caught in so many jelly fish he didn’t know which way was surface. I found, after finally making it to the front, my problems of navigation were caused by the sudden fact that no light was coming from the open doorway. The bright Saturday daytripping weather had turned. It wasn’t raining, but the sky was so overcast one couldn’t help but imagine it was.

Having set off in the direction my parents walked off in, I was admiring a marble globe outside the planetarium when a very fat woman intercepted my path and grabbed me by the neck. Her apparel was as one would expect from a fat woman: sweat, and too small. The only remarkable characteristic, aside from the violent greeting, was a silver, shoulder-length wig, too silver to pass for real and yet even too silver to make for a sensible costume. I paid enough mind to what she was saying--though the dried Chef Boyardee in the nooks of her lips was distracting--to at least hear, in a nasal British, “Very like a murderer to calmly leave the scene.”

Despite my loudly-stated intentions of finding my parents, the woman in the wig turned me around and carried me back to the old Georgian house.

to be continued…

Issue No. 3, Murder! - Footnote #1, Nathan's Fantasies

A child is asked, “Would you ever like to kill someone?” The child rolls his feet to their sides and pulls on his fingers. “Sure.”

The secretary’s long, auburn-dyed hair was pulled and taped to the front of her desk, the secretary lying face up on her blotter. A pair of scissors were taken out of her pencil jar, raised with both hands and driven into her forehead, then again between her eyes. Her cheeks, her nose, her mouth were stabbed. A family member later called to identify the body said the face was nothing more than “a bowl of marina sauce,” although her blouse and woolen skirt ended spotless.

I watched the tiny, white waves cover the toddler’s face. His mother punched me in the gut and dove into the hot tub after him. I was expelled from my hotel.

The living tend to blend in, except when they’re ripped open. Blood lets everyone know that living is something different.

Issue No. 3, Murder! - Rigor Mortis

Issue No. 3, Murder! - Young Life: A Nathan McMurphy Mystery, Part II

The crowd in the hallway was as I left it. Wig Woman pushed me through, carrying me right back to the policemen over the body.

“Here’s your suspect, boys,” she said. “Caught him fleeing the scene.”

“Mindy, why don’t you just go home?” said one of the policemen.

“Here, tell ‘em where you were five minutes ago.” She bumped her hips into my head.


“Come on! Speak up!”

“I was in the bathroom…upstairs. I had some trouble with the toilet.”

“With the toilet?” asked the policeman.

“It’s true, sir! Look at his shoes!” A lesser, younger officer piped up from the side. “There was water everywhere.”

“Hmmm.” The policemen started think. “Water, huh? Well, we’ll have to take you in.”

Mindy grinned at me.

“Can I go tell my parents?” I asked.

The policeman thought again. “Ok, but come back.”

I retrieved my arm from Mindy’s love handles and turned to leave--but stopped. “Couldn’t that be a calling card?”

I pointed to a corner of paper sticking out of the body’s pants. The policeman bent down and pulled from the victim’s key pocket a small black and white photo. He handed it to his partner.

“Look’s like that cat’s got homocidal tendencies.” He turned to me. “How did you know to look there?”

“No one puts anything in their key pocket. Any bulge is suspicious.”

He handed me the photo. It was a portrait of a young, Hispanic man, the victim’s age, a ripped, denim jacket over his bare chest, a knife in his hand, his mouth sneering at the camera.

“Good work,” said the policeman. “Good work, indeed. How would you like to help us out a little?”

Mindy protested. “Sarge! He’s no detective!”

“Mindy, go home!”

“He’s too attractive, Sarge!--”

“I’m too what?” I said.

“We could sure use another hand.”

“He’s bait at best!”

The detective ignored her. “Where would you like to start?”

I decided to tackle the victim’s classes first. It would take a week to visit all of them so the police gave me a room in the old Georgian house--which I later learned was a Christian fraternity--to sleep and work in, provided I help fix the toilet. The other residents were not very useful. They had spent so much time trying to look like one another and succeeded, that they were all too afraid they’d be next to even be seen with me. They never left the house, only left their rooms to silently pass into another, throwing me sly, knowing looks as they went.

I snuck into the back of a full lecture hall and heard, “Structural narratology(2) …” The professor meandered from there and dismissed his class, half of which immediately swarmed him with bodies and questions. I waited a half hour for my turn.

“Did you know--” I began to ask.

He gave me his office hours and showed a young woman his writer’s callous.

“It’s been like that all week,” I later reported to the policeman. “None of his teachers recognize the boy in the photo. I don’t think that last one ever looked at a male, much less a Hispanic.”

“We’re stuck,” the policeman said.

“We have to start back at the beginning,” I said. “What do we know? The victims are young men. Broad shouldered. Flawless complexion. Blood replaced with seltzer. All killed in the residential area of campus. Ok. What connections does the young man in the photo have to this area?”

I was given an interrogation room in the basement of police headquarters and a long list of possible connections, so long my stay at the fraternity was extended indefinitely. It seemed like everyone who had ever set foot on campus came into the dim, steel room and checked their hair in the two-way mirror--even my parents.

“First of all, I’d like to know why you left without me,” I said.

They gave an apathetic pause before my mother launched into something about my being too gloomy. I let them off the hook but called up to make sure they got a parking ticket on their way out.

I was running out of ideas. I didn’t feel fresh. I had a moment between interrogations to roll up my sleeves and wipe my cuffs across my forehead. Mindy came in and, though I didn’t think I had another one in me, I sighed.

“All right, boss,” she said. “How are we doing?”

“Mindy, you are not a detective. Why don’t you just waddle back outside and help yourself to some donuts.”

She inched her way up onto the doctor’s room white paper sheet that for some reason covered the table.

“I still think I was right. Your good looks could impede this investigation,” she said.

“Thanks, Mindy.” I picked up the interview list and turned to the mirror, thinking if I squinted I could see the policemen sleeping in the other room. I ran my thumb down the page and, to my surprise, printed below my parents’ names: “Mindy.”

“I think it’s in the way you hold yourself,” she said. “No, it’s your eyes. Something in your eyes is very handsome.”

“Mindy, I’m going to ask you a few questions.”

“Come here, I want to see what’s so doggone handsome in your eyes.”

I stepped closer to the table. “Where were you coming from when you met me outside the planetarium?”

“It’s the pupils. Isn’t it? They’re darker than most people’s, aren’t they?”

“Your wig--”

“You know, I don’t tell many people. I suffer from chemo. The hairs fall off with the cancer therapy. Or they will soon."

I had gone too far. My foot slipped into the straps of Mindy’s purse. I knocked it over. A bottle of club soda rolled across the floor and as I watched it roll I could see, in the corner of my eye, her watching me. She lunged off the table, arms stretched to my shoulders and pinned me to the mirror.

There not being much strength in fat, I was able to throw her down. She hit her head against the table, though not hard enough to shift a hair of her wig or deter her from pulling out a penknife. She crawled at me fast but I darted out and locked the door. I ran into the room behind the mirror ready to wail at whoever didn’t think I was worth saving but there was no one in there. I ran upstairs.

“The sergeants want you over on Lee Street,” said the receptionist.

Lee Street was no stranger to police presence, it running through the shady neighborhoods behind campus.

“Keep the interrogation room locked,” I said on my way out.

A crowd like the crowd I first saw in the fraternity stood outside a convenience store. Showing my sheriff’s badge, I slipped my way to the front.

“This was dragged up from the sewer this morning, sir.”

I saw the body of a young Hispanic man, a ripped, denim jacket over his bare, ripped chest. Rats crawled over his legs, but his face--lips still sweetly sneering, eyes open to our faces--seemed somewhat serene, as if he had just been complemented.

“Nothing in the key pocket, sir.”

A rat wiped its mouth and belched.

Issue No. 3, Murder! - Footnote #2, The Professor's Lecture

[Structural narratology], contrary to popular opinion, can in fact have a direct link to the fabula. The reader of mystery fiction can actually solve the case before the detective by critical application of the theory. Intuitive following of shape and pattern, keen observation of the universal laws of beauty, will reveal the murderer. Never deductive logic. Do not spend your precious literary time sniffing around for motivation. It does not exist. Not on the page. Not off the page. Solve the chalked-out shape committed by the writer. Return to your great-grandfather Poe and his friend Dupin: think like a murderer; that is, think like a writer. Auden tells us: “Murder is negative creation, and every murderer is therefore the rebel who claims the right to be omnipotent. His pathos is his refusal to suffer.” Please finish the Levi-Strauss for next week. I hate to, but I will quiz you.

Issue No. 3, Murder! - Lights Out