by Charles M. Bonanno
©2000, 2001 Charles M. Bonanno -- all rights reserved
As I crossed the line between Never-Never Land and consciousness, a most familiar sound made itself known: the whine of an electric drill boring through T-bone -- nothing unusual and hardly something that bothered me anymore, although why Doc would need to make another hole in my well-ventilated cranium was a bit peculiar. Even more peculiar was the fact that I couldn't feel the drill bit vibrating my entire skeleton.
Opening my eyes, I discovered I wasn't the one getting punctured this time. With its scaly body securely bound to an operating table, just an arm's length away, I watched as Doc did his "thing" on that ugly croc. Man... was it gross. I'd never seen him working on someone else before.
With a precision that was truly breathtaking to behold, his aged hands held the tiny drill rock-steady as he bored a series of tiny holes through the sedated croc's flat skull. There was practically no blood as he swiftly filled all the openings save one with miniature golden plugs.
Just before closing the last opening, he jammed a tiny glass tube into the hole and extracted a few brain cells from the reptile's head. What happened next was no surprise. I watched with growing anxiety as he turned around and walked towards me with another empty tube in his hands.
I'd barely gotten an, "Is that really necessary, Doc?" out before I felt him yank a plug out of my head and repeat the extraction process. I'm sure glad his wacky juice made my brains cells grow back so fast; otherwise my empty skull would've only have been useful as an ashtray by then.
Damn it! Why'd I have to bring "that" up? Man, I'd kill for a smoke!
I know it's all in my head, but I still spend a good portion of each night watching the stars and dreaming about a cool, smooth, filtered, refreshing menthol. After all this time, you'd think I would've gotten over them by now.
Anyone of youse guys got a... Oops! Sorry! My mistake! I haven't seen anyone light up since I got here. Oh well, just another one of my bad habits coming back to haunt me. I might as well keep going.
No sooner had Doc finished mucking around with us, he dumped the samples into a couple thermos bottles and he raced out of the operating room like his tail was on fire. You'd think he was working for my old HMO. If I didn't know better, I would've guessed that he was trying to beat the clock and go golfing.
The door had barely locked behind him when the croc opened its eyes and began to fight the straps. Knowing exactly how it felt, I put aside my personal dislike for its appearance and good-naturedly commented, "Don't worry, ugly. You'll get used to it after a while." The only reply I got was a deep rumbling hiss, and a thunderous clap of tooth-lined jaws.
"The same to you buddy! I hope Doc makes a brief-case out of ya!"
We must've kept this routine up for over an hour. I'd make some derogatory remark about Lyle's species, and he'd respond by flicking his tail or snapping his jaws at me. Whenever the sound of my voice was insufficient to provoke a response, I'd shake a bound hand or foot to regain his interest.
Childish? You bet! Just ask anyone who's been locked up for any significant amount of time; it's always the childish games that are the most entertaining over the long haul. I'd just made a rather witty comment about how many shoes and wallets his mother had been turned into when Doc walked in pushing an equipment cart.
"Who are you talking to?"
"Nobody. You know me, Doc. I've got this bad habit of talkin' to myself."
As he mumbled quietly to himself, I overheard Doc say, "delusional state increasing," as he penned a few sentences in his ever-present clipboard.
Delusional? Me? Brother, talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
"So what's the deal, Doc? You gonna work on me today, or can I phone out for a six pack and a pizza?"
I might've well have been talking to that smelly croc. I doubt if he heard a single word I said. Ignoring me completely, he must've spent a good half-hour examining every square inch of the croc's scaly hide and skull. You'd think he was looking for the winning lotto number. Anyone else watching him in action would've guessed he was planning to cook that repulsive swamp critter for dinner.
Feeling deeply insulted by his lack of interest in yours truly, I began to yell, "Yo, Doc. Remember me, the human flatworm? I've got rights, ya know!
"I was here first! Why don't ya play with him after you're finished curing me?"
Without turning around, Doc stood up and said, "That's what I intend to do, Mr. Morton."
The room began to echo with the sound of clinking metal and glass as I watched him reach inside the cart and organize its shiny contents. My curiosity was soon rewarded. After slipping an even heavier pair of insulated mittens over his suit's rubber gloves, he carefully lifted a large metal container, overflowing with white vapor, and set it atop the cart. It was easily large enough to hold the decapitated head of an unlucky young crocodile.
"Don't look now, Lyle. I think you're in trouble." I thought happily.
With past experience as my guide, I expected to see my slimy competitor for Doc's attention come to a rather grisly end. While I didn't look forward to having that disgusting looking croc's memories taking up permanent residence in my brain, I considered that stomach wrenching prospect a small price to pay to get back on the fast track for a permanent cure.
You'd think I would've known better by then.
Satisfied that my assumptions had some basis in reality, I should've just laid back and caught a few winks. As it was, I'd watched Doc in action way too many times already. Seeing yet another lab specimen, even if it was the largest one to date, bite the big one was hardly something worth writing home about. Besides, my butt was freezing.
Relieved that things were finally going my way again, I made a terrible mistake. Rather than screaming for someone to raise the thermostat before I froze solid, I gave into my growing curiosity.
"Why ya #%(@-ing around with a dumb lizard for? Are ya planning to cook 'em? Someone once told me they taste just like chicken. Besides, I thought you were into things smart enough to chase cars!"
To my surprise, he took offence. After months of endless insults, off-colored puns and name-calling, he finally got upset 'cause I'd insulted a scaly creepy crawly with the intelligence of a doorknob. One look at his military parade rest stance told me everything I needed to know.
Oh, great! Now I was gonna freeze my cojones off and get lectured to!
"I'll have you know that Crocodylus acutus is one of nature's greatest creations. It is not a 'dumb lizard'. Two hundred million years. Do you hear me? They've been around for over two hundred million years. Lyle's ancestors reached the pinnacle of evolutionary perfection long before the first dinosaur thought it was a good idea to walk on two legs. Now, sixty-five million years after the last dinosaur went extinct, they're still crawling around practically unchanged. Do you think the screwed-up human species has any chance of lasting that long? Well, do you?"
Anyone else would've long ago learned to keep his big mouth shut, but not me. Just call me a glutton for punishment. Like many people whose folks did the Ellis Island routine, I had tried to check into my family history once. I kinda lost interest when I found out how many vowels and consonants some underpaid civil servant had chopped out of our name to turn it into Morton. However, I'm pretty sure about one thing: somewhere in Sicily, people are still wondering what happened to a family famous for producing village idiots.
"Ow!" Thinking fast, I decided a stab in the dark might work. Heck, it got me through high school.
"Exactly! Lyle's kind can't be improved. In both design and complexity, their hearts are far more sophisticated than those of any other reptile, or mammal for that matter; and their immune system makes anything we have seem like a bad joke."
Call me stupid. Call me a moron. I just couldn't help myself. "Yeah, and it'll take 'em another sixty-five million years to figure out how to take a whiz on a fire hydrant."
The expression on his face finally registered in my brain and I got worried at last, "That's it. I've crossed the line. I'm toast. He's gonna pound me through the operating table."
As my entire life flashed before my eyes -- and I've got to tell ya the camera work sucked; not once did it get my good side -- I bid a fond farewell to this world and prepared myself for entry into the afterlife in the most painful, and ignoble, manner imaginable. However, Doc's reply to my mistimed joke caught me completely by surprise.
Like a third-rate magician working the pre-school birthday party circuit, he reached into the cart with an exaggerated flourish, but instead of yanking out a white bunny to delight screaming snot nosed five years olds, he grabbed a fistful of fingerprint smudged x-rays and waved 'em in front of my face.
I had no problem recognizing most of them as pictures of my own brain. Believe me, when you've been shown pictures of something that looks like road kill, there's little chance that image will fade from memory any time soon, but it was the images of someone else's innards I found most interesting. Far in the back of a set of jaws that must've contained about a zillion and one teeth, a tiny reptilian brain perfectly matched the mashed broccoli I knew my brains resembled. In fact, that tiny brain didn't seem to be all that tiny.
Looking back nearly four decades with the photographic memory Doc's "Kool-Aid" had given me, I could easily review every word my high school teacher, Mr. John "They'll Never Smell the Vodka on my Breath" Vale had ever spoken. I particularly enjoyed remembering the countless times he'd condescendingly compared inferior reptilian mental capabilities with those of the superior mammal. It's a shame his liver crapped out long before he got a chance to see what Doc had been up to. I'm sure one peek at Lyle's bulging brain case would've made him give up the sauce for good.
"Well, Mr. Morton? Don't you have anything to say?"
"I sure do. You've got more wrinkles on your face than Lyle has on his entire body!"
"Okay, okay, that hurts! You're right. Croc's are great."
"Very good, Mr. Morton. I'm glad we're finally seeing eye-to-eye, but to be perfectly honest, I didn't have much choice. Lyle is practically the last specimen of any significant size that I have left."
"Really? What happened to all them animals those two dip-wads carried down the stairs a couple days ago?"
"Nothing that should concern you, Mr. Morton, but we had a little -- accident -- yesterday while prepping a Doberman. A container of unrefined product leaked and it contaminated the entire specimen enclosure."
"So? Big deal. Get a mop."
"I wish it were so simple. With the exception of the bird and rodent specimens, all of the larger warm-blooded specimens are defunct. Fortunately, everything else is still doing quite well. Not a single cold-blooded animal seems to have been affected. Now don't be alarmed, there was no danger. Nothing escaped. The entire room has been sterilized, and all the bioactive remains have been destroyed in the acid tank."
"Nice stuff ya cooked up there, Doc. Ever though of opening up a restaurant?"
"Very amusing, Mr. Morton. As soon as I perfect my formula, all the tanks will be neutralized. Without the catalyst the contents of those containers will be as safe as city tap water."
"And exactly how long has it been since ya drunk any of that 'safe as city' tap water, Doc?"
"Very amusing again, Mr. Morton."
At this point I should've taken my own advice and called it a day. With any luck, I might've awoken inside my cozy, and warm, cell long after Lyle had bitten the dust. As you can probably guess by now, there was little chance of that happening. Hoping to speed up the process, and clearly not thinking about the consequences of what was bound to happen -- like I'd done that even once before -- I spoke three words I usually made a point of never saying in Doctor Merit's presence.
"What ya doing?"
"I've re-keyed the bipolar transference protein pair bonds to match the genetic characteristics of a specific genotype."
To which I replied, "Duh?"
"I've changed the formula. Its bio-reactive properties are limited to a specific genotype."
To which I replied in my wittiest tones, "Huh?"
"Perhaps you would prefer the layman's version?"
"Fire away, Doc."
"It only works on reptiles. To be more specific, this new formula only works on crocodilians like Lyle."
"Jeez, Doc! Don't tell me a little -- accident -- is stopping ya from filling your skull with doggie thoughts! I was kinda looking forward to seeing ya sniff my butt or hump my leg!"
Before he could slam the clipboard down upon my crotch with a force equal to the meteor that destroyed the dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago, the door swung aside and Smiley walked in.
Talk about being saved in the nick of time!
"Doctor! Doctor Merit!" Flea Brain screamed from behind the enormous television set he was carrying.
"Can't you see I'm working? Go away!"
"Doctor Merit no wants TV no more?"
Turning around for the first time, Doc took one look at the monster television set in Smiley's trembling arms and hung his head. I couldn't quite catch what he mumbled from within his airtight helmet, but the words "ass-something" and "mother-something" where repeated several times. After a minute or so, he finally looked up ago and pointed a gloved finger at Smiley.
"What. Is. That?"
"Doctor Merit no remember?"
"Doctor say Vincent bring portable TV down to laboratory."
"Does that look like a portable television set and does this look like the lab?"
Answering two questions at once was clearly beyond Smiley's capabilities. As he struggled to decide which to answer first, he nearly dropped the huge set as he examined it, and the room, before replying. Growing more agitated by the second; it wasn't long before Doc yelled back.
"That is a twenty-two inch color floor console and this is the operating room!"
"WELL?" Doc's screamed back as his fist crashed upon the operating table less than an inch from my fragile skull.
Smiley just stood there with the television set in his arms. Slowly, with the speed you'd expect to see a mildew crawl up a bathroom wall, his brow wrinkled in thought. As Doc hummed angrily, like an overloaded transformer, I watched and waited for him to explode into action. It didn't take all that long.
I'd known for some time that Doc had a sword hidden within his ever-present walking cane, and I truly expected to see Smiley get sliced n' diced into a large pile of bite-sized chunks. Just as Doc's fingers began to twist the cane's handle, Smiley's eyes flew wide open as if someone had jammed a two-twenty line into his Fruit of the Looms.
"Doctor Merit wants TV dinner?
Frustrated to the snapping point, Doc closed the gap between them while repeatedly yanking on the cane's handle. Fortunately, for Smiley, the sword's release mechanism probably hadn't been oiled since the Hoover administration and it refused to budge. Not that it slowed Doc down one second.
Ouch! Even through a plastic helmet that just had to hurt!
Either advancing age had finally sapped Doc's strength below the level required to crack a skull with a blunt object, or Smiley's cranium was solid bone to the core. Take your pick. Personally, I'll cover any size bet on the latter. How about ten-to-one odds, folks? What? No takers? Man! You guys sure are a stuck-up bunch!
Looking around as if searching for where the strange sound had come from, Smiley was as oblivious to the blow as he was to the Doc's annoyed cursing as the old coot examined his cane. Bent into a bow-like shape, it was clearly ruined and Doc wasn't taking it lightly. Pressing a button upon his helmet once more, he angrily screamed a few sentences into the Walkman tape recorder clipped to his belt.
"Note to self: experiment number 2352-12 non productive! Attempting to augment the rudimentary intelligence of a college football linemen is clearly a waste of time!"
After throwing the useless cane into a corner, Doc turned and aimed a finger like a gun at Smiley's face.
"You #$@%-ing idiot! Take it over there," Doc yelled as he turned and pointed towards the laboratory next door. "Plug it in and spin it around so that I can see it from here. The sound won't travel through the armored glass, so turn on the radio intercom and I'll listen in on my helmet speakers. Got that?"
"Okay!" Smiley replied as he squeezed the TV set through the door again and started the short trip to the lab. Just before the door closed behind him, he lifted a hand towards the crown of his helmet-covered head and yelled, "OW!"
See! You guys should've taken that bet! It's hard to believe, but there really was a brain buried deep under all that bone. Strange but true!
Still shaking in anger, Doc turned around and stomped back to the cart. Working with his usual single-minded attention to detail, he spent the next half hour arranging and re-arranging his medical instruments as he slowly calmed down. With one eye glued to the television set, he puttered around while the air-conditioning vent directly over the operating table slowly turned me into a Popsicle. Damn was it cold! Not that I was gonna complain to Doc right then. Believe it or not, even I'm not that stupid.
Growing bored with the entire deal, I closed my eyes and tried to take twenty winks. Just my luck, no sooner had my eyelids slammed shut Doc decided to start yakking. Man, did that guy ever love the sound of his own voice.
"As you are aware, Mr. Morton, I haven't had much success yet with -- higher order -- donor subjects. For some unknown reason, only reptilians react well to my genetically enhanced prions. Any endothermic creature heavier than a few kilos tends to suffer irreversible and accumulative damage to its central nervous structures until it...
"Excuse me, Doc. But... Duh?"
"It rapidly destroys the brain of any warm-blooded animal larger than a possum!"
"Oh... wait a second! I'm warm-blooded and my brain is larger than a possum's!"
"No, it isn't!"
"It's well known that the human brain has a remarkable capacity to survive trauma."
"Sure. Sure thing, Doc! Whatever you say! Keep going!"
"Thank you. As I was saying, popular literature is replete with anecdotal stories of people who've lost huge sections of their brains due to injury or a surgical procedure. Many of these people have gone on to lead long, and productive, lives with only a tiny fraction of the cerebral mass they had before."
"Yeah, I know," I interrupted again. "I've meet a few lawyers in my time!"
"WHERE'S MY CLIPBOARD!!!"
"Sorry! I'm sorry! Keep going! You were saying something about cerebral mass?"
With both eyes still firmly fixed upon the television screen next-door, Doc circled the operating table and grabbed my head in his gloved hands. In much the same manner that a knowledgeable shopper squeezes a melon to check for ripeness before purchase, he absentmindedly began to thump and prod my skull.
"You must understand, Mr. Morton," he started to orate in that pensive tone people assume when they're talking mostly to themselves, "that the human brain is the most complex piece of evolutionary engineering that Mother Nature has..."
"Ow! My eye! Ah... Doc?"
"...ever produced. Do you know that the average three-pound adult human brain has a hundred billion cells? And, even more fantastic, that these cells or neurons are interlinked in ten trillion ways? It's hard to believe, but many parts of the human brain haven't changed much since before..."
"My Nhosh! You've got your vingers up my nose!"
"...our earliest ancestors crawled out of the water onto dry land. Layer upon layer upon layer, it's grown in power and sophistication as our species climbed the evolutionary ladder. Yet, as far as medical science can tell, only a small fraction of this incredibly complex organ is required to create human consciousness. Many a head trauma victim has awoken to discover that their seemingly irreparably damaged brain has..."
"Ugh! Geh your vingers out of my vouth!"
"...miraculously 're-wired' itself. Imagine their surprise. Despite the loss of major portions of their brains, these victims often find their pre-injury cognitive capabilities unimpaired. With less functional gray matter than it takes to fill a tea cup, they return to their former lives as if..."
"Ha! Ha! Ha! That tickles! Your fingers are in my ears!"
"...nothing had ever happened!
"YOW!!! THAT HURTS!!! LET GO!!!"
"What? What? Did you say something, Mr. Morton?"
"You break it, you buy it! Hands off the merchandise!"
"Sorry. Ah, I'll be right back."
I'd hardly consider that adequate warning for what happened next.
Suddenly, he let me go and my head dropped with a dull "thud" atop the operating table. As stars and even a few galaxies flashed across my vision, I watched as he raced into the lab and squatted down in front of the television set.
Despite the transparent nature of the walls, I couldn't see the screen all that well, but I'm pretty sure from his physical gestures that he wasn't exactly thrilled about whatever the boob tube was showing.
What's that? Are you wondering how I can say that without being able to see his face? Hell, I was only a few feet away, so I didn't exactly need a pair of binoculars like those you've been screwing around with ever since I got here. Besides, it doesn't take a mind reader to figure out someone's ticked off when ya see 'em give a television set the middle finger salute -- you got me? Well? Say something! What's so damned interesting about the Statue of Liberty? Its not like it hasn't been over since forever. You could at least put down that thing and look at me when I'm talking at ya.
Damn! I hate New Yorkers sometime, rudest people on the planet. I travel all the way up here from Florida and this is the welcome I get.
Where was I? Now I remember. What happened after Doc gave the television set "the bird."
I'd barely gotten another round of "piss off the crocodile" going before Doc raced back into the operating room. Ignoring me completely, he set about prepping Lyle for his departure from this world. At least, long, dark and extremely scaly didn't have any hairs on his head, or body for that matter. I was not so fortunate.
No doubt about it, old Doc Merit was one top-notch crackerjack surgeon. And that fact went double if you took his advanced age into account. Nonetheless, the role of barber is another kettle of fish altogether. I'm sure most guys would drop a load in their skivvies if they'd ever seen him coming at them with a straight razor in his twisted fingers.
Still itching from my last -- close shave -- and don't think about asking, I still don't have a clue why he decided to shave me down there, I waited impatiently for my turn at bat. If Doc followed the usual script, he'd inject that poor croc with his high-tech crap and wait for it to take effect. In a just a few hours, his super prions would Memorex Lyle's cigar shaped brain. Faster than you can say medical malpractice, his miracle juice would copy and encode every neural pathway and chemical reaction going on inside that armored skull. All that'd remain would be a careful harvesting of a minuscule sample from his frozen skull and an equally tiny injection into mine.
What could be simpler? In a matter of minutes, Doc would put us both to sleep. There would be only one difference; I'd be the only one waking up. Who knows? If Doc's new-and-improved batch worked as well as he hoped, I might re-live Lyle's entire life from the day one. Not that I'm looking forward to it mind you. As anyone who's more than a little bit claustrophobic will understand, hatching out of a reptilian egg, or any kinda egg, can be -- stressful.
Yep. Stressful. That's rich. I had screaming fits for weeks after I woke up inside that marble-size turtle egg. It took me -- my memory donor that is -- hours to cut its way out of that leathery straight jacket and dig its way out from under a couple inches of sand. If that little newborn turtle hadn't had all mental capabilities of a rock, it would've needed years of psychoanalysis to get over its traumatic birth memories.
Despite the unpleasant prospect of going through all that again, I was nearly jumping with joy. Well, I would've been jumping if I weren't strapped to a half-ton of ice-cold metal bolted to a concrete floor. Soon it would be over. Doc would perfect his concoction and I'd find a way to weasel my way into his operation.
You heard that right. I'd been dropping hints ever since I'd discovered his plans. With a few phone calls, I could have him on speaking terms with the Big Boys up town. Frankly, the goons he'd contacted so far were strictly smalltime hoods. For a nearly insignificant cut of the action, say two percent of the gross, I'd have his entire operation up and running in a matter of days. Heck, I'd even throw in his bookkeeping for free. That is, I would if he'd ever stop running around and get down to work.
I was getting a dizzy just watching him zip back and forth to that damned television set. What's worse, whenever he'd stand still long enough to grab one of his Star Trek gizmos, the dynamic duo would interrupt with some new crisis that their microscopic brains couldn't handle.
After a couple hours of this Chinese Fire Drill, I was so frustrated I would've done the job on myself if I could've gotten loose. It's not like ya had to be a rocket scientist to do it. I must've watched Doc in action only about a gazillion times by then.
Let's see. How did it go? Right! First, ya take a drop from one of the vats and inject it into anything with a pulse. It really didn't matter how it got into 'em, the stuff would wind up in the critter's brain sooner or later anyway. Doc just liked to go straight into the skull to save time.
Then you'd wait an hour or two for the stuff to percolate before decapitating the dying animal and dumping its head into a bucket filled with liquid Nitrogen. That freaky stuff's about the only thing on Earth that'll slow down Doc's revved up prions long enough to get a good sample to mix with his patent pending catalyst.
Last, but not least, YOU SHOVE IT INTO SOMEONE'S %$&^ING HEAD!!!
Sorry. I'm really sorry. I know I've got a dirty mouth. It's just that I'm still a bit sensitive about that last part. Wouldn't you be? Come on, say something! #^$% you! #^$% all of you! I don't need any of you. None of you'd be here if it wasn't for me. If I hadn't have come along none...
Wow! Did any of you catch the size of that fish? Man, what a beauty. I've just gotta do a little fishing before I leave. That sucker looked 'dee-lish'.
What was I saying? Drat! I knew I was upset about something, now I remember. I was saying something about how ticked off I was getting waiting for Doc to get this act on the road. Have any of you-all ever hear the saying that goes something like, "watch what you wish for, you might just get it?" It's true, no doubt about it, folks. I never saw it coming.
To relive the boredom, and to get in my minimum daily dose of "annoy-a-crackpot," I began to whistle the theme song of The Godfather. With my prion-enhanced memory, I could belt out the film's nearly three-hour long musical score without missing a single note. Sadly, my mad-scientist boosted memory did zippo towards solving my innate inability to carry a tune. After a few minutes, even I get tired of listening to my caterwauling.
Damn, I love that flick! What a shame it's a complete pile of crap, but that still doesn't keep it from getting funnier every time I see it. Anyone in the Business can tell ya that Coppola had been taken for a ride. Only a brain-dead low-life Mobster wannabe could've fed him the garbage he put in that movie. I mean, really, dumping a horse's head in a bed, that's so #$%-ing unreal it's just gotta be pure Hollywood!
Wait! Something's coming back to me now. I seem to recall something similar that went down in Vegas a couple years before that movie came out. I'd just started working for my first major Mob client, Don Mario "Crazy Eyes" Crivello, when someone whacked his favorite racehorse, Bubbles. A rival Family had put out a contract on the horse as a warning. Let me put it this way -- Don Crivello's less than subtle attempts to muscle his way into the local casino rackets had been less than well received.
The hitter unfortunately decided to be cute. Instead of just shooting the stupid thing, he'd used his small stature to sneak into the racetrack stables dressed up in a jockey's uniform. Just before they came to get her ready for the next race, he doped her with enough junk to light up the Sears building. The poor guy riding her had his spine ground into dust when her heart exploded and she dropped like a rock midway through the first turn.
Don Crivello lost a freakin' bundle! Something around a couple hundred G's I was told. Not like that bloodthirsty psycho even noticed. That dumb horse's death had hit him real hard. I know ya won't believe this, but that homicidal maniac cried like a baby for a solid week! Then he vanished without a word before re-appearing a few days later with the biggest shit-eating grin ya can ever imagine.
Several days later, the mystery was solved. Spread across the front pages of every yellow rag on both coasts, especially those already renowned for their questionable sense of good taste, the general public got to enjoy for a quarter a handful of photographs and recorded transcripts that'd somehow disappeared from the LA Times' non-publishable materials vault.
The first picture was hardly newsworthy. With his back to a huge shape hidden beneath a white canvas tarp, LA's well known Chief Clinical Pathologist stood calmly as a female reporter questioned him and took down his replies on a small paper pad.
Clearly, he hadn't expected his comments to see the light of day, nor had he noticed the camera or soundmen standing outside pointing their equipment in his direction. Otherwise, it's extremely unlikely that he would've told the reporter that, in his "professional opinion," the victim had suffocated during a successful suicide attempt.
The reporter's confusion was plain to see in the next photo. How could that obviously four-legged shape have anything to do with a human suicide?
Anyone looking at that grainy newsprint photograph could tell instantly that the object concealed beneath the drop cloth wasn't a human corpse, but most likely a horse, a mule, or some other animal sharing the classic equine body design -- and a rather pregnant one to boot.
With a 'Charles Manson' twisted smirk on his lips, the next photograph showed the soon-to-be unemployed ex-coroner yanking the tarp off to reveal the corpses of a large racehorse and a human being -- or should I say parts of a human being? It's a shame that colored newspaper photographs were rare in those days. There was simply no way to tell what shade of green that reporter's face had become before the next-to-last photo showed her passed out cold upon the tile floor.
Perfectly understandable, don't you think? It's not like any of her college journalism courses could've prepared her for the sight that the last photo showed in exquisite close-up detail: two small human feet sticking out of a dead horse's butt.
Hmmm. Ya know, come to think about it, Coppola made the right choice using literary license. I sure wouldn't have wanted to be the unlucky movie stuntman that had to re-enact that scene -- like there was much of a chance of getting that shot past the censors in those days. But that's showbiz! Now where was I? Right! There I was silently freezing solid while Doc screwed around doing nothing particularly productive.
Silently? Me? Fat chance! "Help! Quack! Someone get me a mouthpiece. I'm gonna sue."
"Ow!" Not exactly the response I was hoping for, but at least he wasn't ignoring me anymore.
"Come on, Doc! How about ya shut off that damned police scanner and get this show on the road? I'm turning blue."
"Really? That's not supposed to happen. Any sign of fur or scales?"
"Ha! Ha! Ya kill me, Doc. I'm #%$%-ing freezing. How about ya turn up that bloody thermostat? I'm not gonna be much good to ya if I die from double friggin' pneumonia!"
"Oh, very well! If it'll keep you quiet!" he snapped back as he stomped across the room in his heavy plastic boots.
In a display of Yuletide generosity that would've impressed ole Scrooge himself, Doc muttered angrily as he struggled against his skinflint nature and raised the temperature about a half degree. The Christmas shoppers slogging through three feet of slush outside must've felt warmer than I did.
Just my #%#-ing luck! Why couldn't I have been kidnapped and become the lab rat of some senile old wacko living in Florida? It's not like I haven't been down there a zillion times. Who ya think delivers all them "special packages" the higher ups think are too important to send via UPS?
That's it! I've just been stuck in the eye with the proverbial last straw. It's getting even time. Let's see how he likes hearing me sing the entire Sound of Music soundtrack -- backwards!
I've been told, repeatedly, and in no uncertain terms, that my singing voice is truly unforgettable -- and it's true. Could you forget something that sounds like a seasick camel upchucking its lunch into a garbage can?
I'd just finished "music of sound the with alive are hills the," when Doc yelled something you can't repeat in sophisticated society and slapped the gas mask over my face. Overjoyed with the prospect of finally getting cured and out of his clutches, I screamed back through the plastic, "That's the stuff. I can take it. Lock n' load, Doc."
Within seconds, the gas had the ceiling tiles bouncing around like waves on the seashore, and a comfortable numbness began to sweep over my body. As the world rapidly faded away, Doc began to move my head from side to side and I felt a strong stinging sensation near my Adam's apple. I had just enough time to ask myself a single question before going completely under.
Why is he shaving me again?