This is day 30 of 30, the last of November’s daily story project. It’s interesting how creating poetry differs from prose. In some ways, they are opposite processes.

Doing a poem a day in April drained me. Doing a story a day has inspired me to write, not only when I don’t feel like it, but especially then.

Writing stories is time-consuming but easy. It’s a matter of opening the hatch and dipping into a swift-moving current filled with bits of reality, broken pieces of dreams, and swirls of personal experiences. It’s there in varying concentrations.

To mix metaphors, think of waking up your comfy sofa, and finding yourself in the middle of a carnival in a town you’ve never been. Now sort and put aside until things begin to make sense. The stuff that remains is the story.

Poetry, is self-therapy. It’s waking to a lack of sensory experience. No carnival, no non-carnival. Just life and a blank page. Ask yourself how that blank page makes you feel, then write it down. That’s my poetry.

For the past 30 days, I’ve used you as my beta readers. For that, I’m grateful. I mean I’m sorry. There’s no way I could refine ideas into finished stories every day, so I posted them in varying degrees of completeness. As Alison Wonder may have said, “That is as OK with me as it is OK with you. OK?”

I’ll be back soon to uncover mysteries and create new ones through words and images, including a series of image-based stories about a nearly fictional but almost-real town and its few remaining inhabitants. Think Lake WobegonTooFar.

And as always, I threaten you weekly podcasts.

Let’s close out this month by wrapping up Evelyn’s tale. For previous posts related to this series, check out: Number 12, The New Life, The New Morning, and The New Twelve.

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The New End

“Who found the body?”

Detective Murray and the hotel manager stood at the entrance of Room 721 of the Governor Clinton Hotel. The detective pulled out a small notepad and a stubby pencil with bite marks on the end and began scribbling notes and observations.

“One of our cleaning staff,” the manager said. “The maid knocked several times and announced herself. She got no response, so she used her master key to gain access so she could start cleaning.”

“Sounds like standard practice,” Detective Murray said.

“It is. The maid opened the door, went in, then ran downstairs to get me.”

They walked in. Jazz was playing from a small radio, but the volume was low. “The radio was already on,” the manager said.

“Was it at this volume?”

“From what I’ve been told, members of my staff have touched nothing but the doorknob.”

“When I dust for fingerprints, where will I find yours?”

The manager thought but didn’t say anything.

“We’ll talk later. Anything else?”

“No, not that I can think of. Oh, here.” The manager handed Detective Murray a note card. “It’s her registration card.”

The name on the card read, “Doe, Jane”.

“So she even checked in as a dead body. That’s all for now.”

He motioned for the manager to leave but he stayed. “I investigate in privacy, so beat it.” The detective had a reputation for giving more respect to victims than the living.

Detective Murray began performing a slow methodical scan of the room, taking mental inventory of items and their placement. A small brown suitcase was open on the table, all items neatly folded and arranged, even underwear.

There were two wine bottles on the nightstand, one empty and the other half full, or half empty, depending on perspective. Only one glass, a generic hotel drinking glass. There was what appeared to be smudges of red lipstick several places along the rim of the glass, which was also half empty or half full.

Murray realized that he had never heard the door close. He turned to find the hotel manager still standing there, staring at the body on the bed.

“What’s your problem?”

“I’m sorry, but she’s the first dead person I’ve seen. I mean, that wasn’t already prepared and in a coffin.”

“Listen, I can’t conduct a proper investigation unless –”

“I’m going, I’m going,” the hotel manager said, but he didn’t move.

“At least tell me what I’m looking at. Is this a homicide or suicide,” he said. “When my wife asks about my day and I tell her this, which I can’t not, what do I tell her?”

“Well, without the ability to investigate without being interrupted, tell your wife you saw what appears to be a suicide.”

“Suicide, suicide.” The hotel manager repeated the phrase, trying to push it into his reality.

“No, you saw what appears to be a suicide. ‘What appears to be’ is the key phrase. I use it a lot in my work, and lately, in my personal life. It covers all my bases.”

“How many have you seen?”

“Lost count. I kept a running total at first, but at some point, it became meaningless.”

“Does it get easier?”

Detective Murray shifted his stance, removed his cap and scratched his head. “Yes and no. It gets, not easier, I don’t know what a better word is, it never gets easier finding bodies, I guess I just get used to it.”

“I bet.”

“And it’s harder, because the more I see, the more I think about the families left around to pick up the pieces. Now, scram. I need to get busy here.”

“Sorry. Thank you,” the manager said. For some reason, just as he closed the door, the hotel manager said, “Have a nice day”.

Detective Murray returned to his investigation, absorbing all pertinent detail and ignoring the rest. He performed vertical scans, from floor to ceiling and back down with a flashlight.

Along the carpet, he made back-and-forth scan patterns. The detective shined his flashlight at various angles across surfaces, including the body, looking for evidence of foul play. He found none.

Murray walked around the bed, from one side to the other, then back again. The victim was lying crossways along the width of the bed. The bed was still made, the covers firmly tucked between the mattresses. The body appeared to be that of a young woman, maybe mid-20s.

She wore a black dress, a pearl necklace and matching earrings. Her feet dangled off the other side, black high-heeled shoes still on her feet.The woman was on her left side with her right hand tucked under her cheek. Her right  arm was straight, forearm off the bed, as if pointing toward the window.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were sleeping, Murray said. He saw a small brown bottle of prescription pills on the night stand. The bottle was empty. He read the label. It was a prescription for sleeping pills for a Mrs. H. McHale.

Next to the pill bottle was a piece of hotel stationery. Detective Murray read what first appeared to be poetry. After re-reading it, he decided it was what appeared to be a suicide note.

To my mother and father, alive or dead, heaven or hell, I’m sorry.

Cremate this one without hope of celebration.

My life is a circus, a bizarre parade.

And I’ve got clown tendencies.

Love and loss,

Most Beautiful

Below her outstretched hand, a pen had succumbed to the persistence of gravity, and had fallen onto the carpet. He collected the pen and would dust for fingerprints, to be sure.

A small amount of ink had oozed from its tip. On the carpet, directly below the woman’s fingers, was a small black dot, a permanent stain.

Detective Murray pulled the corner of the bed spread free, and draped the corner of the cover over her face, out of respect.

“Rest in peace, Miss Doe, or Most Beautiful, if you prefer.”

As he adjusted the cover over the head of the dead girl, Detective Murray had unknowingly stepped on the carpet stain with the toe of his shoe, grinding it deeper into the fibers of Room 721.

—  The End  —

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Afterward

I often think about Helen, and about her need for medication, and her need to blot a stain from her life.

I often think of Evelyn, and about her need to find peace, and her need to rid the world of what she perceived to be The Most Beautiful Stain.

But I never ever think of Vincent, or his needs, assuming he has them.

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