Murder at the Zooseum

(I’m going to torture you again with a story that appeared on another blog I was writing back in August of 2010.  It’s rather long, over 3,000 words, so I’ll present it in 2 or 3 parts over the rest of the week.  I apologize to those of you that might have already read this one.  I decided to do it, not because I don’t have anything else to write, but because I really like this story and it came to mind this morning.  Not sure why.  Hope you enjoy it.)

A hideous scream pierced the morning air.  It sounded like Connie, and it came from the direction of the shed on the back of the Davidson’s property.  Dan and I took off at the same instant, racing each other to the sound of the scream. Connie was his sister.  I liked her, but she was a girl for one, and we were only nine and a half at the time.  We were also first best friends, and it wasn’t cool to have a crush on your first best friend’s little sister. When we got there, the door to the shed was open, and Connie was standing outside with her hand over mouth pointing.  Not saying a word, just pointing at the door.  A look of total shock and disgust registered on her pasty-white face.  I looked inside first, taking a cautious step forward.

In the dim slivers of light passing through the cracks in the wall boards, what I saw was horrific.  Oh my god, the butchery.  I’ll never forget it as long as I live.  Heads, arms, and legs, strewn about everywhere.  Blood covered the wood plank floor.

The frogs had clearly suffered a horrible death. The snakes didn’t fare much better.  Dead frog bodies were everywhere littered with sections of garter snake. The bull snake was no where to be found.

“Danny, you have got to see this,” I screamed back through the open door. “I don’t see the bull snake.”

When we were kids, there never seemed to be a lack of interesting things to do.  We didn’t have video games, computers, or cell phones and we only had three channels of television, THREE, (Yeah, I know, you’ve heard that all before), but somehow we were always busy doing something, inventing things, having adventures.  I guess if you think about it, our adventures as kids ended up being the video games of the future.  We’re to blame for it.  Kids don’t have imaginations anymore because they don’t need one, we supplied it for them.

In the summertime, we were up and out at sunrise and tried to stay out even after the sun had been down for hours.  Sometimes our moms would forget what time it was because they were involved in watching the Barbara Stanwyck Show or Bonanza.  The rule was you could stay out until you were called in without penalty.

Baseball at the school yard was an every day affair, early in the summer.  We had rafting adventures down the Big Horn River.  We rode our bikes everywhere.  Building soap-box racers and risking our lives rolling them down Thurmond Hill …in traffic, kept our attentions for a time.  We flew kites and played hide-and-go-seek in the dark.  We nailed our sister’s skates to the bottom of planks and invented skate boarding.  (All right, we didn’t invent skateboarding, but we we’re on the cusp.)

We made submarines, and space ships out of refrigerator and washing machine boxes.  We’d steal them from behind the Sears Outlet and Montgomery Ward, and the appliance dealer on Main Street.  They were probably glad to get rid of them.  Our parents, on the other hand, wanted to kill us because the garage would fill up with boxes connected together on the floor.  In time they would be abandoned as we moved on to something else.

We turned the back stoop into a PT boat and played “PT109”.  How do you turn a back stoop into a PT boat?  With a refrigerator box and some imagination.  “Combat” was a big show on television in 1962 and our prized possessions were tommy guns that you pulled back a lever on the side and locked it.  When you pulled the trigger it would sputter like a tommy gun.  If you owned a tommy gun you could play Vic Morrow’s character, Sgt. Chip Saunders. Or you could be the Lieutenant.  They sold entire Combat “kits” at Woolworth’s, which included the tommy gun, a German luger, a grenade, a holster, and some other things.  We couldn’t afford those although we wanted one.  If you had a BB Gun you were just one of the squad or a sniper.  We would kick open garage doors in the alley looking for Krauts and hang out in the trees as snipers.  When you shot someone that didn’t know you were up in the tree, they had to be told they were dead.  Then they were either out of the game or had to become someone else.  Being a sniper wasn’t all that exciting, mainly because no one would agree that they were hit.

In the winter, we flooded our backyards and had our own ice-skating rinks, we built snowball forts and raged snowball fights for hours until our fingers felt like they were going to break off in our gloves and mittens.  We would climb the snow mountain in the street left by the snow plows and the front loader at the intersection of Brooks and Works Streets.  They hauled all the snow off of Main Street and piled it in the intersections a block behind.  It was a great climb and you could see for blocks up there.  But we weren’t allowed to be up there in the street with cars going by, and we always seemed to get caught.  That’s the route my Dad would walk home from work, and he would inevitably get off early on the days we were climbing “Mt. Everest.”  We never wandered far from home, but there was enough to do in a few block radius, that we didn’t have to.  I hardly see anyone playing outside in the Winter anymore.

Earlier that summer of the massacre, we had used the shed at the back of the Davidson’s property to form a repertory company.  First we had to clean it out.  I’m not sure we ever got permission to use it, but Danny’s mother wasn’t one to stop creative urges in their tracks.  We turned a huge, old dresser on it’s side to make a stage, and hung curtains made from old blankets and rope.  The theater was complete with a ticket booth and folding chairs for the audience.  All things we had found in the shed in the first place.  It had a door and two windows in the front for light. We put together a musical, the five of us, using the lyrics from “Que Sera, Sera” a song from the 1960 film “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” starring Doris Day and David Niven.  I’m not making this up.  We probably had just seen the movie recently at the drive-in, and my mother had all the Patty Page and Doris Day records, so I knew the song by heart.  Besides, all us little boys were in love with Doris Day.

We took the lyrics, “When I was just a little girl (changed that to boy since I was the lead) / I asked my mother, what will I be / Will I be pretty (changed that to handsome), will I be rich / Here’s what she said to me. / Que Sera, Sera,/ Whatever will be, will be….which is the literal translation I guess.  For the uninitiated it sort of sounds like “kay sa raw, sa raw.” We had a bi-lingual production.  Trendsetters.

If you’ve ever heard the song, it has three distinct verses that match three distinct points in someone’s life; when they’re little, when they’re in love, and when they have children of their own.  Perfect three scene musical, chorus in the middle for scene change.  So we wrote the “book,” using the song, and voila, we had our own musical, “Que Sera.”  I still have no idea how we came up with this, but I swear we did.  We had a rope swing hung from the ceiling, we had “trees”, we had costumes for each scene,”casting” found us a couple of little brothers and sisters in the neighborhood for the final scene.

Remembering it now, it seemed like we were in pre-production for weeks, but in reality the show opened and closed the same day.  We generally didn’t stay focused on any one thing too long.  We started preparations, set construction, and rehearsal at around nine in the morning.  We rounded up all the mothers in the neighborhood for the one o:clock show, and fifteen minutes later took the final bow to standing ovations, and closed the theater company.  The next day we had a new idea.

My first best friend and I had been down in the Gully.  Just in case you don’t understand what a “first best friend” is, I’ll throw in here that I had a “second best friend” and a “third best friend” for that matter, and so on.  It was really hard to define, when you’re nine and a half, who your “best” friend really is.  But it was somewhat of an honor to be a “first best friend”, although that designation could change quickly depending on which best friend you were with.  If you slipped up and called your first best friend, your third best friend by mistake, you can see how that might be a problem.

I wasn’t allowed in the Gully, but Danny seemed like he could pretty much go where he wanted, or so it seemed to me then, so I always had to go.  I couldn’t stand there and say something like, “I’m not allowed in the Gully.”  That wouldn’t fly.  They’d say something like, “I’m not allowed to go there either, but I’m going. Come on.”  What can you say to that anyway?

…to be continued.



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4 responses to “Murder at the Zooseum

  1. Great story. My oh my, does it bring back memories–no gadgets to play with, just imaginations and The Big Valley on TV. We must be about the same age. I’m almost 54. I can’t say I ever witnessed a massacre like you described and I’m really glad I didn’t.

    Can’t wait to see where it’s going… You tell a very compelling story, SIr!

  2. charlie

    I thought I was your first best friend???

  3. Logistically, how could you be my “first” best friend? Dan Davidson and I were in second grade. However, as I explained, who your first best friend and your second best friend is would change depending on the circumstances. So, that would make you my first best friend. LOL

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