Archives for October 2011

October 31. Cemetery Incident on Halloween.

When she had to mourn her rich husband, Madame Zynovia sought to quench her sorrow by sleeping beside his coffin in the derelict family crypt where the old man lay festering in his shroud. This was Crow’s Marsh Cemetery in downtown Jersey City across from Dickinson High School. In those days the city erected a scaffold for executing criminals inside the cemetery walls, and a  dozen hardened murderers had been hanged the morning before. Needing the money, a young security guard agreed to take the night job watching the corpses  strung up on the gibbet. At midnight, the leaves began tossing and whispering, tormented by an uneasy wind. The young man turned up his collar against the gusting cold for he remembered this was Halloween when spirits climb from their graves and playfully rove. He thought of the bereaved widow in the crypt and felt it would be a good deed to bring her a blanket and share his sandwiches and the flask of good Irish whiskey in his pocket. Inside the stone crypt’s damp and moldering walls, they talked a while and as one thing led to another they consoled each other warmly and passionately against the eerie powers of that desolate night. Hours later, on hearing noises outside the burial vault, the young night watchman jumped up and threw on his clothes. He ran out and discovered to his panic that one of the corpses was gone. He knew that thieves  stole bodies in those days when illegal doctors paid high fees for cadavers they used in sinister experiments. With his job on the line, the young guard ran back in despair to the vault where Madame Zynovia was tidying up, rearranging her mourning weeds and veils, and combing her long black hair, which she hadn’t yet cut in a stylish Louise Brooks bob. She offered her new love the corpse of her late husband as a replacement, thinking to herself that a poor young man is worthier of protection than a rich dead husband any night.  She and the guard strung up the husband’s body on the scaffold very satisfactorily. (After Petronius and Jean de La Fontaine)

Halloween Story

Daisy was told to wait for Father Phlegethon, prince of the underworld’s river of fire and the girls’ spiritual adviser. Ordered to put on a white gown with angelic pin-tucked bodice, for nothing can be so pleasing to a prince of hell as the conquest of an innocent-seeming creature, she waited with folded trembling hands. Cold tears brimmed in her eyes. At the appointed hour the door opened and a somber figure moved stealthily into the room. He closed the door. “Good evening, Marguerite,” he said quietly. Daisy quailed, thinking, He used the name my mother gave me, my baptismal name. The prince smiled, reading her thought. He carried a black  bag from which he took two white candles. They sprang into flame of their own accord. Spiking flames reflected  a dark brilliance in all her mirrors. Tapers appeared elsewhere in the room, illuminated, until there were thirteen. Daisy watched in mute horror, seeing that he’d caused her room to glimmer as if preparing for a black mass. “Time for Latin,” said the prince, “since there is no tongue so expressive as the vulgar tongue.” He parted his rich, curling lips that undulated like twin serpents, and said with a horrible smile as if he hoped to calm her with words from the Mass, “Pax tecum.” Daisy knew it meant ‘peace be with you.’ The words burst  in a blaze from the depths of his widening mouth where Daisy beheld his scarlet tongue of flame, a pointed, flagrant, darting leap of blood-red tongue from the fiery river that bore his kingdom’s name and lived in his body. She pressed her back to the wall to keep herself upright, for she had an affinity for fire and fought to keep from fainting but the flames ate her breath the way fire needs air.       ###


Landmark Loews

Loews Jersey Theatre is so-o-o landmark. Once called “a temple of entertainment” soaring up over Journal Square in Jersey City, this massive cavern with the green marble columns can seat 3000 and boasts an organ that explodes with any kind of noise from orchestras to thunderstorms. Up on the roof, an effigy of Saint George tilts to harpoon the dragon. What more fantasy could any movie-goer want? The glitzy movie palace had its grand opening on September 28, 1929. One month later to the day we Americans had Black Monday, the day Wall Street crashed. Every year around Halloween, Loew puts out its scariest vintage movies, this year, namely, “The House on Haunted Hill” and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.”

Here’s a glimpse of Loew’s Jersey Theatre in 1932, the heart of the Great Depression; ”  Thrilling and operatic, it floats above the Square like a great ocean liner on a midnight sea, laced with chains of light. Between its two towers rises a cupola with Saint George lancing a dragon, to the sound of a mellow bonging clock. Seven blows. The light-studded marquee announces the stars, current and on the horizon: Clara Bow. Marlene Dietrich. Carole Lombard. Jean Harlow. In letters of gold light, the joyful promise shimmers and dances: “More Stars than there are in Heaven!”


Scandinavian Crime

My longterm talk-buddy, Oslo Jim, comes storming once a year out of the northerly reaches of Norway with his saxophone clamped to his back. He opens a bottle of good wine labeled “Cheap Red Wine.” Letting it breathe, he takes out the saxophone and plays a few scales. Between riffs he stops to talk about the newest Swedish and Norwegian crime writers. Energetically he recommends Jo Nesbo’s The Redbreast (a bird marked with the Crucified One’s blood, the book tells). Called an elegant and complex thriller, it begins in 1999 with an American President visiting Oslo where one of his agents gets shot. The story moves back to 1942, when Russians and Nazis are the enemies. Nesbo, whose crime novels and interviews are abundant on the internet, has been called the next Stieg Larsson, a designation he can’t stand.

I search Elusive Moose for the “Top 5: Norwegian Crime Writers” and then the “Best Swedish Crime Novels” for leads. I’m now reading Swedish writer Camilla Läckberg’s The Ice Princess. In 15 below zero weather, Erica returns to her small hometown to find girlhood friend Alex frozen dead in the bathtub, bright blue lips congealed, brittle blond hair fanned out, red blood prettily spattered on the white tile. Promising start.

Words, words, words

Can anything be so tasty as a nasty word? A drasty word? Meaning the dregs, the trash, the refuse. A platter of assorted petite mouthfuls is routinely offered by that most dedicated doctor of drasty discourse, Dr. Reinhold Aman, Texas PhD. Dr. Aman has collected the naughtiest, the wickedest, most offensive uncensored language for our enlightened enjoyment. Editor of the Maledicta Press and publisher of Maledicta, the International Journal of Verbal Aggression, he makes the point that maledicta are bad words that are so good to know, or even just impolite or embarrassing language and there’s nothing too repellent, too politically incorrect to be written about, nothing left out, even the smarmy snickers of medical professionals having a laugh as their sick patients slink out the door.

Copyright 2013 Marcelle Thiebaux