POOR ALTHEA’S BOY

A fictional newspaper report

Bronx, New York – Sirens tore through the silence last night as police responded to a robbery on Corsa Avenue, a quiet street of middle class two story homes. 

Police approached eye witness Jasper Gardener who gave this account: “I was out walking my dog when a guy came running down the front steps of this house. He was in such a hurry he practically knocked me down.” When police asked for a description Mr. Gardener said it happened so fast he didn’t get a good look at the guy,  just that he was wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt. 

The homeowners, Carl and Louise Swanson, apparently arrived home from work while the intruder was still inside their home. Tenant Albert Farrell resides on the first floor of the house and was home at the time. When questioned Mr. Farrell replied that he was watching television all evening and didn’t hear anything unusual. The police speculated that the rumbling noise of the Swanson’s electric garage door scared off the intruder. 

“The perpetrator obviously didn’t have much time; only the bedroom was in disarray” declared Officer Ralph Taylor. “He probably knew the Swanson’s regular work schedule and we believe he got spooked when they came home early.”

Officer Mario DeMarco had this to say: “We discovered muddy footprints in the backyard and on the fire escape leading to the second floor. The intruder must have gained access via a bedroom window.” 

When police asked the Swansons what was missing, Mrs. Swanson pointed to her suede coat on the floor. “Look at this” she told the police. “He left my expensive suede coat behind but ripped off the faux fur collar probably thinking it was real fur.” 

When asked about missing jewelry the Swansons said that other than what they were wearing everything was locked in their safe. 

This guy is an idiot and has no idea of the value of things!” exclaimed Mr. Swanson. “Our extensive collection of Lenox and Lladro figurines hasn’t been touched. And that’s not all. Even my original John Lennon cartoon drawing which I bought at auction is still hanging right there. What a jerk this guy is! I’ll bet this was all done by that no good lousy punk Chucky Brown! What a loser!”

The police were well acquainted with Charles “Chucky” Brown, a small time thief who lived in the area with his mother Althea. He’d been picked up several times for petty thefts but was always released. Police never found anything valuable on him; they couldn’t even charge him with breaking and entering.   

A crowd of people had gathered near the Swanson’s house. One man told the police “I just saw Chucky racing down Corsa Avenue. He was carrying a pillowcase and wearing a hoodie.” 

Immediately Officers Taylor and DeMarco jumped into their car and sped down Corsa Avenue when they were stopped by an accident. Getting out to investigate they discovered a bus and a truck had collided. Pinned between the two was the unfortunate Chucky Brown. His run of small time thefts had come to an end. On the ground lay a pillowcase containing a few items, including Mrs. Swanson’s faux fur collar. Charles “Chucky” Brown got pinned last night but not the way the police expected and certainly not the way they hoped. 

Alright folks. The excitement is over. Go on home now” announced Officer Taylor. “Ok, Mario, let’s call this in. And get a squad car to Chucky’s house to bring his mother down to the station. No matter what a screw up Chucky was, he was still her son. Poor woman.”  

NAR © 2020

HEADLINE STORY: AN UNLIKELY HERO

News Report, May 24, 1865 – The day started out as any ordinary sunny spring day in Fantasy Land but by noon the town was in a frenzy for the news was out that 9 year old Mary Andrews had lost her lamb, Snowflake. Mary had Snowflake for only a few months but they had become attached to each other immediately, so much so that he followed her to school every day, even though Mary knew it was against the rules.
Teacher Sarah Johnson had this to say: “Mary’s such a lovely girl and Snowflake is so sweet with his fleece as white as snow. I didn’t mind the fact that the lamb followed Mary to school because she always tied him to a nearby tree but today for some reason he followed her right into the classroom. As you can imagine all the children wanted to do was laugh and play.” Pressed for more information, Miss Johnson went on to say that she took Snowflake outside herself and tied him to the tree but when the children went out to play the lamb was nowhere in sight.
The three blind mice who live across the road from the school became rather indignant when questioned about the incident. “Of course we didn’t see anything, you fool! We’re blind as bats! But we did hear some strange noises near the tree shortly before the children came outside.” When asked to described the noises one mouse said “It sounded like pulling or tugging” while another thought it was more like a snapping sound. The third mouse added “There was definitely a scuffle of some sort. Poor little Snowflake.
Mary’s parents, Abigail and Wyatt Andrews, rushed to the school to console their daughter. Mr. Andrews was visibly upset to learn that the teacher had taken Snowflake away from Mary. “She had no right touching that lamb. She’s a school teacher, not a farmer and has no idea how to tie a proper knot. She should have asked Mary to tie Snowflake to the tree like she always does.”
Moments later Little Bo-Peep arrived on the scene and was asked her opinion on the incident. “Well, I’ve been a shepherdess for a long time now and if there’s one thing I know it’s this: If you leave them alone they’ll come home wagging their tails behind them.”
By mid-afternoon all the town’s residents had gathered at the school and formed search parties to look for Snowflake. Even Humpty Dumpty was there, sad and terribly broken up. In all my years as a reporter I’ve never seen such an outpouring of support.
A new development as Hansel and Gretel just arrived at the school. “Wait! We think we can help!” they cried and tearfully reminded those of us still at the school of their traumatic encounter with the evil witch who held them captive in her gingerbread house. “We all know how much Snowflake loves herbs” Hansel said. Gretel added “They’re growing all around the witch’s house. Snowflake may be headed there. If the wicked witch catches Snowflake he won’t stand a chance.”
With great trepidation we entered the forest and came upon the witch’s house. There she was, all gnarled and bent over, dragging a bleating Snowflake behind her. “Stop!” the witch shrieked, “I’ll kill him right before your eyes!” Suddenly, Humpty Dumpty ran up to Snowflake and grabbed him from the witch’s clutches. Snatching Humpty, the witch cackled “Fine! Take your precious lamb! I’ll feast on scrambled eggs tonight!” and she disappeared into the dark forest with Humpty.
Such an act of bravery by Humpty Dumpty! He was indeed a good egg. 

NAR © 2020

OP-ED: THOSE LEFT BEHIND

Covered in filth and mange, a multitude of dogs and cats that survived Hurricane Katrina were crammed into military vans. Some had maggot-filled sores, broken limbs and infected eyes that burned like a red hot poker. The vans were filled to capacity and it was impossible to tell one animal from the other. 

Those once long-haired canines with soft billowy fur now resembled stone creatures encased in a shell of thick crust.  Scrawny, flea-ridden cats no longer purred contentedly but howled in fear and pain. The muscular pit bulls were reduced to skeletons, the outlines of rib cages and hip bones clearly visible in emaciated bodies. On and on it went, each animal a mere shell of its former self. 

The catastrophic hurricane had ravaged New Orleans, Louisiana three weeks earlier. The relentless rain caused the levees to burst, resulting in extensive flooding. Home-owners lost everything, all their possessions destroyed. Many scrambled to the roofs of their houses in a desperate attempt to save themselves while others tried swimming to safety. Those lucky enough to own a rowboat floated on the flood waters, dragging people into their boats along the way. 

The president declared a state of emergency and the military arrived .. some say too little too late … but they worked their asses off to bring a sense of order to New Orleans. Non-commissioned officers worked side by side with police lieutenants and fire chiefs. Doctors, paramedics and volunteers all worked hand in hand. The levees were rebuilt and people were relocated. 

However the animals … too many to count …  were forgotten or deliberately left behind in the frenzy. When the waters subsided weeks later, they were found chained to fences and porch railings. Others had climbed up trees or hidden themselves away in the attics of abandoned houses. All were starving, sick, in pain and scared. Others struggled valiantly to survive but failed. 

That’s what the military and animal rescue workers found. Helpless, hopeless animals in need of immediate medical care. Who knows what those poor creatures were thinking as they were being loaded into the vans. Could they sense these people were trying to help them? Were they frozen in fear, traumatized by the events of the past few weeks? 

All the dogs and cats were brought to animal hospitals and makeshift triage centers throughout the state. With the patience of Job, veterinarians … many from out of state … treated thousands of animals, gently cutting off matted crusty fur, administering antibiotics and vaccines, providing food, water and shelter, bringing those nearly dead back to life. If necessary, infected eyes were removed and useless limbs amputated but sadly, in the end, more animals were lost than were saved. 

Is human life more important than animal life? As a reporter, I ask: “If you saw an injured animal lying in a ditch, would you help?” If we choose to believe that a Higher Power created all living creatures in His or Her image, the answer is  easy. 

NAR © 2018