A story about two men with intertwining destinies, an immoral tale.
There was a story I would tell. It was in a way a dream. It opens in the courtyard of the principal mansion- one of several in a network of interconnected houses- a place of exquisite luxury and burning ambitions. The attic houses an old grim master of ceremonies, the owner and master of all we can see, who broods over a pipe and an old demonic book. After the initial shock from the opulence of our surroundings wears off, we realize a peculiarity in the aesthetic achievements of these grounds. Quietly and neatly sown into the splendor is an obsessive integration of childhood themes into everything. The spiraling staircases integrate nutcrackers into the railings, the stained glass artistry on the windows depicts toy soldiers, and the persian carpets integrate that clumsy combination of geometric figures in yellows, blues and reds often made for children- only in this case, it is done almost imperceptibly, in great taste, and so subtly as to be noticeable only in moments of quiet reflection. It is in this way that all objects in the mansion are in one way or another impressed with the patterns and themes of childhood- even silver spoons in the kitchen, one might add, have been adorned with prints of toy cars.
It would not be wrong to call the whole thing morbid; in its attempt to raise the imagery of childhood to architectural subtlety, the result was closer to a mausoleum than a museum, and as such, one had the feeling of being surrounded by a dead childhood petrified into the walls and furniture (a very bizarre feeling indeed). This visual madness was accompanied by an eerie soundtrack: if one stood quietly long enough the only thing to break the silence would be the clunking sound of a toy train in passing. Often, but not always, it would whistle out steam in a shrill cry of both old and desperate timber. This toy train, like every other detail in the mansion, was no ordinary object- it was part of the most expensive and expansive train set the world has ever seen.
If we were to follow this train we would watch it pass under toilet seats and over claw foot tubs, through little tunnel holes in the wall and across sprawling lawns- its wheels spinning and that steaming head pulling that tremendous metal snake the length of a school bus along- behind moss covered pond rocks and under singing marble fountains, in and out of studies and above dusty book stacks in the grand library. Eventually, it would cross a small pine forest and pass through a small cottage at the peripheries of this billionaire's property. This is where the train control room was and where its controller, Old Sam, lives with Dog the Peacock.
A tea pot whistles above an old iron stove. The cottage is dark, cobwebbed, dusty- an abyss of small things, a time capsule heavy with old air. Old Sam is some kind of slave- he carries a wrinkled countenance like a child carries his favorite blanket. His black beady eyes are sad and glitter but they are also impenetrable like two obsidian disks. His fat fingers are like a gentle giants'- used to wrestling with a world much smaller than his own, made for smaller beings. Old Sam has been doing this for ten years, chained to the center of the house so that he may move freely throughout but not escape the house itself. Making sure the miniature train runs smoothly throughout the day has been his only duty- his curse- and Dog, a four year old peacock, is a new arrival. Unbeknownst to Sam, Peacocks have become very fashionable at parties thrown by the ultra wealthy; this one snuck out of the party and found an awkward friend, some respite from the madness, and an eventual home. Ever since, Sam has been cooking for two.
Sam had grown up not far from where he lay in chains now. He enjoyed a relatively happy childhood provided by hard working parents of a good nature but modest means. His father worked as a gardener and his mother as a cook for a wealthy family in the same town. His father would bring back sweets when he got home and his mother enough fresh bread or beans to complement whatever else they were having that night. Sam was a good student and wanted to be an astronaut. He had spent every summer with his grandparents in a small southern town surrounded by a vast mangrove and a colorful cast of friends. His grandmother had recently gotten sick however, and it was on this his sixth summer that he would spend his days at his parent's workplace: the Al-Barud Estate. It was here where Sam's life would clash with another child's, and be irrevocably chained to it forever.
When Sam first walked past the gates into that sprawling estate he was mesmerized. A long winding road lead up to a mansion that looked as if it had been pulled straight out of a fairytale. The little sinuous yellow road cut through rows of king magnolias and weeping cherries, giant oaks and sculpted rose bushes. Everything rang with the songs of birds and crickets and mad combinations of stained glass chimes played songs to the wind. It was very much like entering a pleasant dream. Sam's father was to clean the various fish ponds today so Sam was to keep to himself, try to stay out of the way and out of trouble. With his father off cleaning a distant pond, Sam explored this magical expanse and soon found himself going into a small tunnel that lead him under the mansion, into an enormous storage room.
The room was more like a warehouse. It was a graveyard of unwanted and forgotten objects: old toys and rusted paint cans, a worn out wooden boat with a thousand dead lady bug carcasses in it, dusty paintings with broken frames, dated collections of National Geographic stacked on top of each other, and a dozen or so cracked aquariums. As Sam explored this flotsam from another age, he began to feel strangely self conscious, as if someone were studying his every move. He heard the sounds of cardboard being ripped. The adrenaline from pure fear began to heat his body as confusion rang in his head and strange monstrous sounds called out from the dark corners of this underground maze. He suddenly ran desperately tripping over old boxes as an angry hissing sound gathered speed on him until he was on the floor and the thing was almost on top of him. Then it stopped hissing. It was laughing. It was a young boy standing over him laughing maniacally with a red bat in his left hand.
That boys name was Omar. Omar and Sam would be inextricably tied after the events that occurred on that summer of 1958. The painful details of their relationship are perhaps too dark to fully explore, but suffice it to mention one incident in particular.. After having spent the summer entertaining himself with the freedoms afforded his cruel nature by his power over Sam, Omar began to move on from simple games to complex systems of torture. Sam's silence was guaranteed by both his nature and his social rank (as well as fears of possible repercussion were he to speak ill of the child); he would increasingly dread his days spent alongside this cruel friend, hoping one day they would end, carrying this burdensome task much like old miners bear the heaviness of their labor with silent despair.
It was a day like every other: the cloud shapes formed into gruesome beasts as Sam and his father walked past the heaving gates of the Al-Barud Estate. A snarling cloud dragon was eating its own tail as Omar's german shepherd followed them both up the hill barking hysterically, as he had done the day before and the day before that. Sam met Omar in the Mansion's front courtyard, and from Omar's intense piercing eyes and his slick smile Sam knew Omar had plans for the day. Todays game of russian roulette was to be played with an expensive toy train set Omar's father had had specially made by a famous swiss clockmaker. The set was impeccable: a designer 1920's French miniature replica made of steel, iron and gold it was painted by hand and weighed as much as a small pony. The object of the game was simple: untie the doll from the train track before the train bursts through the tunnel. The complication was that the players hands were to be voluntarily tied to a heavy brick, forcing them to remain on the track until their objective of untying the knot and saving the doll was surpassed. Whoever wasn't playing was to stop the train before it came out regardless- the game was devised to create the exhilaration brought on by fear, and anyways, neither of them wanted to get in trouble for playing with an expensive gift that belonged to Omar's father (not to mention the fact that the set was in Omar's father's office, which was completely out of limits). And so it was that the game began, and the knots (tied by the opposing player) became increasingly complicated. It wasn't long before Omar used Maria the housekeeper's call to dinner as an excuse to run out of the room as the game was progressing to answer. When Omar came back, the scene was much different to how he imagined it: Sam lay palid and fainted on the floor with his hands covered in blood, his pinky finger severed off and stuck under the bloody toy train's caboose.
Many year's later Sam would snake up the ranks of society through his rigorous work ethic and end up the master of a handsome fortune as a blue fin Tuna tycoon. He had never fixed his finger- -every handshake till his very death would remind him of the pain and agonies suffered by the powerless- but it was this very missing finger, also, that lead him into the fishing business. Having realized that fishermen throughout the world were not strangers to missing a finger or two inspired confidence and cemented a bond with those who would labor for him.
At the age of 68, and with a net worth of over 100 million, Sam bought the mansion where his father had labored throughout his youth. He remodeled it to integrate childhood themes into its luxury (having been bereft of it as a young boy), and he had a shed built in the forest as a control room for the massive train set, whose journey covered every acre of those private grounds. He hired two sri-lankan guards named Hasun and Sajith and taught them how to run the train set: 12 hours a day each at eight times minimum wage, it was a good gig.
Three years after old Sam had settled in he grew increasingly dissatisfied with this conquest. It was as if he had spent a lifetime chasing the wrong thing. As he looked at his robed reflection in the lion mouth mirror of his bedroom bathroom one morning, he surveyed his grey hair, his sunken eyes with crows nests under them, his yellowing and crumbling teeth, his patchwork of angry wrinkles, his red and porous drunkard's nose. If he wanted true satisfaction, he would have to put it all on the line and do what he really wanted. He sent off his wife on a six month sailing trip around the horn of Africa, he sent enough money to all his offspring to keep them at bay for at least a year, and transferred temporary power over his businesses to his trusted friend and top accountant. He fired Hasun and Sajith with a year of severance pay, he made a few calls, and by night time, he was sitting in front of an elaborate chest bejeweled with precious stones and arabesque patterns. He opened it to reveal an old man in fetal position, tied down and sedated: it was Omar Al-Barud.
Omar, after having spent a lifetime squandering his inheritance on wine, women and travel woke to find himself in a shack in the middle of the forest chained to the floor, with just enough chain links to move about the cabin. It was like some strange nightmare: the last thing he remembered was reading La Jornada newspaper in a popular cafe in the plaza of Oaxaca City. Now this: a beautiful cabin decorated with a hunting theme, a chain on his ankle, and some kind of technological smorgasbord. When Sam walked in through the front door with a tray of food, Omar understood. For a long month he made sure the toy train set ran smoothly, that it stopped at the right miniature train stops, that it whistled every once in a while, and that it came and went on time. Failure to do so would deprive him of food privileges.
It was not before long, however, that the silence between both men grew too heavy for Sam. After a night of violent drinking, Sam came into the cabin with a bottle of whiskey and recounted his long road to success as if to a long lost friend, except that he drank alone and with a man in chains. It was a matter of pride, a need to exact revenge where it mattered most; the ego. Omar listened intently, while Sam drank the bottle and fell asleep. When he awoke, he was wrapped in chains and Omar, who was decidedly stronger and in better shape, had somehow gathered a rock and was braking the chain. Three days later Omar would be sitting in the mansion library, smoking a pipe and reading a priceless leatherbound copy Count of Montecristo while Sam ran the train set- failure to do so would be punished by removal of eating privileges. The last memory either man would have before their death would be that of an exquisitely designed miniature train set passing through their lives with a whistle and the clickety clack of its wheels before disappearing for good.
About mysterious creatures and man's desire to cash in, a moral tale.
It all began when my best friend's father died. He was an old wise man with whom I shared a strong bond. I would often go over to my school mate's Olivier's house just to listen to his old man tell stories. He was a grand tall tale spinner, and the most entertaining man I had ever met. He loved nothing more than to sit on the edge of his sprawling balcony, sunk over a rocking chair, telling stories over a cigar and bourbon with good company. The truth is, he was happy to tell a story even if the company was not great, just as long the bourbon and cigar were at his side, he could often be overheard recounting his colorful histories to nobody in particular except for Macavity, his big, lazy-eyed Maine-coon, dozing off on his lap.
So it was a bit of a shock to me that when Oliver's father passed away, he had willed his cat to me. A week or so after the funeral Olivier knocked on my apartment door- I was in college now- and told me that his father had left Mcavity for me. He shrugged it off as if to say, ''my father was a strange man...live with it', turned and left forever. I believe he became the youngest man to break the record for circumnavigating the world on a canoe. I was also told that he drowned in his koi fish-pond while choking on a cornish hen bone a couple years shy of 60. Nonetheless...I digress. May he rest in peace.
Mcavity. I was completely at odds as to what to do with this big, lazy eyed red voluminous fur-ball. He just sat on my table while I tried to finish my Epistemology essay Comparing the Philosophy of Nitezche's overman with modern farming techniques, and stared at me. I had been working for the last week on this essay non-stop and both I and my apartment were in a state of total entropy. A cat was the last thing I needed. And believe you me, it could be easily understood that he felt the same. With a look one could only describe as bored disdain, I could not figure out if it was the lurid state of collegiate torpor that his new surroundings pitifully exemplified or me that bothered him more. But he was a distraction after all, and the clock was fast gaining on me, so I decided to step out and finish my work at a coffee shop- free from both the penetrating gaze of this novel observer and the discomforting feeling of shame that was burgeoning inside of me because of it.
I found a little Korean shop that stayed open 24 hours and served a delicious pork bone soup alongside a bottle of Soju for students burning the midnight oil during the last weeks of the semester. It was here that I decided to finish up my Epistemology essay Comparing the Philosophy of Nitezche's overman with modern farming techniques. It took me all but seven hours and four bottles of Soju to complete. An hour shy of class I packed my things and returned to the apartment, hoping to wash up and sober up a little before meandering through the creeping crowds of zombies to my final destination and resting place- for, no doubt, I would fall asleep as soon as I had delivered this dreadful assignment to its dreadful overlord.
When I stumbled into the apartment I thought I might have mistakenly walked into the wrong one. I immediately jumped back into the hallway and closed the door. But it was unmistakably apartment number 224, and I had unmistakeably noticed a rather large red fur-ball staring at me inconsequentially from what was unmistakeably my desk. So I walked back in and found that my apartment, once a complete disaster zone, had been cleaned so thoroughly that my old dusty Campari prints now shone with a resilient splendor only rarely spotted on brand new sports vehicles. How spectacular! I thought to myself. I must have hired a korean cleaning lady while at the restaurant...what a grand idea! But this was impossible: I was the sole proprietor and current holder of the apartments only keys. How bizarre. I would have to come back to this, so I dropped my books and bag to make myself a little lighter, and left for class. When I returned an hour later, my books had been neatly stacked and my bag hung on the closet handle. There could be no mistake: Mcavity was a miraculous little creature...he was a cleaning cat!
The next couple of weeks I spent exploiting this marvelous talent and testing it out under extreme circumstances. I began with simple tests like spilling ice cream on the floor and rubbing the refrigerator handles with lard and ended up with drastic tasks like splattered wine on the walls and scattered paint on the cabinet doors. Needless to say, there was nothing this miracle of nature could not handle. He was simply born to do this. And so it was one breezy summer day, after having tried every dirty trick in the book that I gave up and fell on my seat panting before this master and looked deeply into his eyes for a clue. I was in search of an idea, a mere fraction of an explanation as to the origins of his feline magnanimity. Instead, all I found was practical advice: as I stared into the deep cool green of those cat eyes two symbols started to rise from those depths as slowly, surely and seductively as an Isaac Hayes tune. And then there they were, glittering on the brim of his eyes kaleidoscopically;
two $$ signs!
The first great idea that came to me was a sure thing. I would breed Macavity with my Marijuana dealer's cat and sell the kittens. Miguel's whole family was into the house cleaning business so it was a match made in heaven. As soon as the kittens were out of the litter they were out working for Ines and the 24/7 Cleaning Cru gathering them four times the pay for half the work. As long as the cats were not under the watchful gaze of any voyeur, spy or observer of any sort-including visual recording devices (Miguel tried desperately to capture the magic so that his youtube channel could benefit from higher viewership)-then these mini tigers were as good and thorough as a Brazillian waxing. Considering that little start a success, I ventured to try my luck at breeding Macavity for other trades. I sold these sanitizing quadrupeds to a variety of eager buyers from crime-scene cleaners (who marvelled at the way their wrinkled faces straightened with time away from the blood and gore) to a variety of Garden Pond cleaning services (who spent their days playing cards in the shade while the little runts did all their dirty work).
One of my most successful markets was in the restaurant business. There wasn't a dish-boy in the city who hadn't heard of my miraculous miaowzers. Everyone from the El Salvadoreans cleaning pupusa dough from their pans to the French chiseling butter from their skillets was most grateful. Most of all, however, the Asians- Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese- these folks were absolutely giddy with my product. They weren't a bit surprised either- many claimed this species of cat was very well known in their continent and in fact had been kept a secret with the hope of facilitating the eventual downfall of Western global supremacy.
It should be noted here that I did place some limitations as to whom I would sell my precious pussies to. I strictly decided against selling to any caucasian man or woman: although I am half 'white' myself and have many friends of that ethnicity, I find the race as a whole to be untrustworthy and generally untrustworthy in the areas of magic and miracle. I also forbade myself from selling these cats to the rich- again, like the previous denomination, the wealthy are, for the most part, a disagreeable and unsavory bunch. They would have either spent too much time haggling over the price or trying to buy up all of the market...and believe you me, I would have not heard the end of their caterwauling had they not gotten their way. So it was mainly to those whom our society has left on the peripheries and lower rungs of its pyramid scheme that I entrusted my talismanic purring-balls. Immigrants, poor folk, children and the handicapped...these are people who I understood as being more likely to coexist with the miraculous without trying to subvert it for their own evil ends. And so it went.
With my clandestine business cleaning up, I left my school dormitory (and school altogether) and headed for the hills. I bought myself a historic victorian mansion and divided my time exploring various toys, amusements, and novelty friendships all of which entertained me ephemerally but did little to crush my ardent curiosity for the mysteries of life...especially the workings behind the universe and the Cleaning Cats. Whether I was building an 800 foot domino maze next to my Guinea Pig labyrinth, practicing archery on fine whiskey barrels or partying on my floating deck (suspended by hot air balloons), I was plagued by the need to know how these red-tailed creatures were doing the impossible.
Just when I was making plans to investigate these hygienic kittens- I had bought the latest in spy technology (nano cam corders, invisible wireless mics, and ultra zoom heat sensors)- the calls began. After repeated incidences, the Cleaning Cru had come to the conclusion that the little bastards were stealing things. They had almost been arrested when an angry customer looked into the back of one of their vans and spotted his great great grandfathers Nazi pocket watch. The same went for various restaurants; at first, stock items went missing from the inventory (butter, milk, fresh herbs), but eventually, plates were being delivered incomplete to their tables (customers were finding their $45 steak and frittes arriving as a half promising stain with a side of scattered fries). Even worse, the city was now devoid of fish-laden ponds. The Japanese ambassador had woken one morning to feed his prized Showa and found his own sad and bewildered expression staring back at him. Worst of all, however, were the Chinese. News had arrived through an anonymous messenger that the Chinese were applying disciplinary measures to these little scoundrels through the harshest of punishments: all cats caught stealing were chopped immediately and served in stir-fry's, soups, or stuffed in dumplings on the same day as the transgression had occurred.
Before long, word of the Chinese method had spread and was now no longer uni-cultural. As my precious little creations disappeared under the blade of a butcher knife or were added to the victim lists of crime scenes, angry customers appeared by the dozens on my quiet estate bringing forth their rage and misery. They came crashing through my doors and windows like Hitchcock's birds and left with my precious possessions slung over their shoulders as they trampled new paths through my gardenias and rose bushes. The brutes! The lowly brutes!
Those memories still pain me to this day. Needless to say every little beast was slaughtered the same week I lost all of my possessions to the angry mob. Apart from a few moments of luxurious entertainment, I never gained much from breeding Mcavity. I suppose Olivier's dad had thought it unnecessary to warn me or perhaps had never tried my methods. I never learned the how or why behind this unexpected pet, and never got to keep any of the possessions I acquired from the sale of his offspring. I did learn a marvelous lesson, however, and one I shall keep till my dying day and beyond. And I wrote a little poem:
There, in the winter warmth of the centuries old wooden room, he played the high keys of the piano ever so gently, barely lighted by a lamp, surrounded by an audience of a dozen purring cats.
The Man and The Lion
About how a DCPS teacher taught his first and only natural history lesson
The old, naked man had been playing with the small lion cubs before falling asleep next to their mother belly up like a dog. She did not seem phased in the least, looking onwards, dignified, as she protected her young cubs (and the old man) before a carnival of onlookers. It was three o'cklock on a Sunday at the National Zoo and this was the smallest group to have gathered around the Lion exhibit since the old man had appeared two weeks ago.
Among the children with ice scream smeared on their toothless smiles and their fat midwestern mothers and fathers with ice cream smeared on their toothless smiles and the now bored tour guides with their amazed girlfriends sat Benny and Mikhail on a bench. Just over two weeks ago they had been half-asleep listening to Mr. Thompson, their Natural History teacher, give a lecture about Darwinism to three interested middle schoolers in a class of twenty five at their overcrowded Alice Deal public school. Benny and Mikhail hadn't been particularly bad students, but had treated their many hours in Mr. Thompsons presence with the same lack of suspense many a young man fascinated with erections and their implications had throughout history. Benny's interpretations of those Natural History lectures had quickly injected him with the material necessary to build natural settings for his imaginary romantic outings with Clarissa, the brightest girl in the grade. Mikhail was mostly high during that class, so his faculties were more often focused on staving off paranoia and keeping his sudden desire to cry at bay.
But this silent lecture proved too fascinating to ignore. Mr. Thompson, naked next to the lioness, his work attire strewn across the artificial Serengeti exhibit (his iconic red bow-tie now the plaything of an energetic cub), stared at the two boys with the same passionless expression he had subconsciously exhibited from time to time as he fell silent half-way through a sentence and momentarily exited his body. Everyone had attributed this off beat behavior to his advanced age, and had long lost the excitement to laugh at the suddenness of his momentary lapses, apart from the few interested listeners who grew increasingly impatient with what they found to be an obstacle to a clear and concise informative stream of future test and quiz material. Among this group was Clarissa, the star studentess, who had complained to the principal about what she found to be an outrageous impropriety and a serious threat to her Ivy-beleaguered ambitions.
The old man had recognized the two boys and had flashed a slight smile of recognition as he sat native style, legs crossed, his small belly sagging just enough to cover his pubic hair, giving the scene the air of a primitive man exhibit more than that of an obscene display of confused sadness. The smile he gave was the same kind of smile that two mischievous pupils might give off to each other while they are being scolded for some misdeed or the same smile clever old people with Alzheimer's might give off to a child when they are trying to communicate an awareness of the absurdity of it all with the only other understanding person in the room.
Do you know him? A man suddenly asked. Mr. Thompson was now climbing over the lioness and playfully biting her ear as she lay on her side and gently swatted at him with a friendly paw.
He's our Natural History teacher.
Ah, so you were his students. What grade you in?
The man asking the questions was head honcho for the whole Africa section of the Zoo. He was wearing the same green hued uniforms the other in-keepers were wearing, only he had a different badge, an Australian hunting hat and binoculars around his neck. He recounted how it happened:
Two mondays ago I get a call from Cassie, whose an intern here who helps around many of the Africa exibits and Amazonia exibits. She had come in early to show her boyfriend the cubs, which she should be fired for, but anyways. She says there's a naked man in the lion exibit. I come down and find the cubs playing ripping apart a pair of socks, and then I look and see the rest of a man's clothes all over the place and I thought to myself, my god, someones been fed to the lions. He's nowhere to be seen and neither is Odessa, the mother. Then she appears from inside the cave growling and what do I see being dragged behind holding onto her tail. I couldn't believe it. That fella naked in his birthday suit. We called the fire department and the local police. Couldn't get him. Every time we moved in, threatening to tranquilize Odessa the cubs went crazy and she threatened to tear your old teacher apart. As soon as we laid off she was calm and the whole thing went back to normal. The authorities are wrapped in red tape about it so for now we have to allow for the situation to remain as it is.
What if he gets killed?
Well...the truth is he hasn't. The man thought about it for a minute and added; You know it's the strangest thing, the man being in there has calmed Odessa. As soon as the cubs were born she was lashing out against us and the public, she was charging against the fence and growling at the people outside. We were deciding whether or not to separate her from her young for fear of her losing it on her own. But now your teacher is in there and she's calm as a sunflower in July. He thought about it further and added; its as if having one of us in there hostage gives her comfort that we wont meddle with her young for fear of repercussions. Its a rare and puzzling thing, he concluded, and repeated the phrase a few times, almost whispering it to himself as he walked off pondering the extraordinary matter at hand.
Throughout the rest of the day groups of people came and went. At one point a large Japanese tour came and took so many pictures of Old Mr. Thompson that Odessa got up and placed herself between the group and the old teacher. Enough, she seemed to be saying, have you no shame? Benny and Mikhail sat on that bench till the sun began to go down, the human traffic slowed and the temperatures began to drop. They rolled a spliff and smoked it. At one point Mikhail couldn't help but pull his pants down and moon Mr. Thompson, but neither of them found it as funny as they had anticipated. As they left the exhibit on their way home Mr. Thompson discreetly rained down tears on the Serengeti exhibit floor. That night, the old man's sobs fell on the many differently shaped ears of the Zoo's varied audience, as the men, women and children of the world ate their dinner meals in their heated homes, and the National Zoo's various inhabitants were left alone in their various cages, painted environments and temperature controlled atmospheres.
The next day, as school was being let out, Benny and Mikhail were accosted by a German TV reporter looking to do a story on Mr. Thompsons students and how they were coping with the whole affair. Mikhail was happy to oblige at first, but was immediately rendered shy by the camera.
Please your name and year.
Uh, Mikhail Strauss, um, im in the seventh grade, uh, in home room 201.
Well, okay, thank you. How well did you know Mr. Thompson.
Um, not very well...I was in his class though. A little bit I guess.
Did you ever find Mr. Thompson was acting strange or depressed?
Uh, no. Uh, actually yea, yea he was some times.
Okay. How so?
He just was...its kinda hard to describe. Like he wasn't there all the time.
And the interview continued in this fashion. The German TV reporter was fishing for reports of a depressed teacher, but the various interviewees were inconsistent and absolutely non-descriptive about the old teacher, which only made the reporter more and more impatient. Mikhail was the last interview of the day, she had had enough of american stupidity and complained to her cameraman about American education and its sub-intelligent populace as she stormed off from what she considered a crime scene against humanity.
Benny and Mikhail got on the bus and headed down to the zoo. When they got there, the Lion exhibit had been closed and taped off while some group of scientific looking men and women went about it analyzing the scene and taking samples. They would later learn, after the Washington Post had written an article someone had read and reported back to his son or daughter who reported to a friend and so on and so forth, that Mr. Thompson had been killed. The title of the article read:
The Lamb and the Lion: One DCPS Teacher's last Lesson to his students.
Admittedly, it was an edgy title. The security cameras had recorded the old teacher kissing the lions before walking away and trying to climb out of the exhibit. Odessa attacked Mr. Thompson as he began to climb and killed him with the same grace and efficiency that lions in the wild apply to their deer dinners. Someone in the police department managed to zoom in to the face of old Mr. Thompson as he was about to die, and it was hard to read through the pixelation, but it looked almost as if his expression was one of complete peace and gratitude.