Sunday, July 20, 2008


So I used to live in a tiny crappy rental house with Kyle and Brian. It was the only house that we could find to rent because as college kids, we were bound by our college kid duty to trash everything in sight. Our landlord, Ol' Crazy Ben, was not bothered by this impending demolition of his house, however, as evidenced by his willingness to rent it to us. We have reason to believe that this is probably because he was perpetually high.

Our rental house was on a busy street and it had a porch. It was a pretty good sittin' and watchin' porch, so we built a bench for it. We also kept a bucket of pinecones on the porch for one of our favorite pastimes, Plankball, which, um, involved having lots of pinecones in a bucket. Also we used the readily accessible bucket of ‘cones for throwing at stuff, like each other, or our occasionally operational van.

One day in addition to the bench and bucket of pinecones we found two bottles of beer and a hand on the porch. Wait, that didn’t sound dramatic at all. One day our socks were blown clear off with amazement and fear at the discovery of two bottles of beer AND A SEVERED HAND ON OUR PORCH! HOLY CRAP!!!

Okay, so it turns out that it was just a mannequin hand.

One of the bottles of beer was Corona, and the other was an unmarked brown bottle. Being that we were not yet of legal purchasing age, the fact that it was unmarked and came from an unknown source did not deter us from pounding that thing straight away. The booze was good, all the more so because it was free. It also helped calm our frayed nerves from the sight of the horrible severed hand!!! mannequin hand.

What compels a person to leave a mannequin hand and two bottles of beer on someone’s porch? Was it a warning? IS SOMEONE GOING TO CUT OFF OUR HANDS?! We had a mystery, and being that it was a weekday, skipping class was in order to try to solve this mystery. Also, solving mysteries requires a lot of brain power so we fueled up with a big pile of bacon before we set to work.

The first step to solving a mystery involving a mannequin hand is to pull your hand into your sleeve and put the mannequin hand there instead, and then pretend to cut it off. This is most effective with various household implements, like novelty baseball bats, remote controls, and spatulas. This helps you get into the mindset of the mannequin-hand-abandoning culprit.

Hours later we were still no closer to solving the mystery, and we were running out of things to cut the hand off with, so we got ready for our weekly dealer’s choice poker game. This poker game tradition involved dragging the kitchen table into the living room and putting a tablecloth on it and sitting around, waiting for other people to show up with various containers full of change. Kyle had a flower pot full of change that even had a fake flower in it to complete the illusion. I had a soup can. That is how I roll. I don’t remember what Brian used to hold his change, so in my mind I like to think it was a sock, so just in case we got out of line he could whack us upside the head with a sock full of quarters. [update: it was a Crown Royal bag.]

This dude Rowan just held his change in his shirt and then dumped it all over the table when he arrived. That guy is a step and a half below soup can. He brought beer, though, so I guess one can partially forgive him.

We realized that poker would be an excellent opportunity to grill our friends about the mannequin hand. The plan was simple-- just stare until they crack and spill the beans. All of our questions would be answered; Why did you leave us a hand? Do you think we stole something from you? Are you trying to tell us something? What’s the deal with that freaky unmarked beer? Do you have more? What other female mannequin parts do you have? Wait, don’t answer that. When did you leave us this cryptic message? What were you doing up before noon?

Well, the staring didn’t work so well. Not even a single trembling drop of sweat was produced by our furious gaze. Plus, all that grillin’ made us thirsty and sober so we got right to work rectifying that. Maybe we just needed a mental break to let the facts sink in.
  • Fact: A mannequin hand was left on our porch.

  • Fact: Beer is delicious.

  • Fact: None of our friends even twitched at our bad cop/bad cop/bad cop routine.

  • Fact: Rowan needs brake pads. You can hear them grinding for blocks.

  • Fact: Hey, Lorney brought cookies!

  • Fact: Where’s the rest of the mannequin? Oh no, has anyone been to the back yard yet today?! What will arrive tomorrow, a bloody mannequin head?!

  • Fact: It’s my turn to deal.

The best dealer’s choice game ever is, of course, Follow the Chicago Baseball Bitch on the L-Train from Omaha to Dayton. It is a quaint little split-pot 7-card stud game we painstakingly developed where all 3’s, 9’s, and Q’s are wild, plus whatever card immediately follows a face-up Q, plus all those of the same rank as the card following the Q, plus the highest card or lowest card in your hand, and, uh, 4’s get you a new card. I think we also had to pass 3 cards to the left, and there might have been 4 community cards and diamonds may have also been wild. Anyway, the pot was split between high hand, low hand, and possibly whoever had the lowest spade. It is also called “give each other some nickels”, or “Derek refuses to play this one”.

Well, after a couple hours of relaxing our brains and challenging our livers instead, we kicked everyone out and went to sleep. Actually, that’s a lie. After everyone trickled out to go to sleep, we stayed up to harvest mystery clues from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, which came in on the only channel we got on our trusty television, Glowbox. Glowbox never lets us down, and this was no exception. Of course! Someone must have been developing some Lost World fan fiction footage where a dinosaur rips the hand off of an Amazon woman! They must have gotten a little carried away and lost track of the hand! And the beer….well, that was probably Karma. Satisfied with our detective prowess, we went to bed. Well, after we played some Starcraft.

The next day we awoke just in time to hit the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at Godfather’s Pizza up the street. Amid the hunger and hustle to find our shoes and stuff, we let the mannequin hand slip quietly from our minds. We were just about to leave when we spotted the mannequin hand waiting dramatically in our entry way. A torrential flood of fear and poker-night-induced headaches swept through our now-troubled minds. Well, maybe not fear per se, but definitely some sort of troubling emotion. Some sort of headache-like emotion.

What we had deemed a distantly plausible explanation the night before now seemed hollow and lacking even the slightest hint of rational thought.

We cautiously opened the front door but found the porch devoid of additional cryptic warnings and free booze. There would be no new clues to mull over this morning.

[insert three centered asterisks to indicate the passage of time]

* * *

[good job with those asterisks]

Well, no new clues were revealed that morning, or evening, or the next day, or even the next, or later the next week. Or month, even, really. The sun arched in her time worn groove. Leaves shot out of branches, browned, and fell. The minute hand stood still, while the hour hand raced by (okay I stole that from crazy accordion dude who was at Bumbershoot that one year). Slowly time buried the mystery, and the mannequin hand was incorporated into our catalog of randomocity, and we used it in an art project, and we ceased to remember its tumultuous and mysterious beginnings.

Then one day Ol’ Crazy Ben was over poking around for some reason and he very slyly, or I imagine he felt like he was being very sly, began dropping hints like “hey guys can you give me a hand with this?” or “do you think you have a handle on this?” or “so do you guys like homebrew or what?” Being that Ol’ Crazy Ben was prone to blabbing on and on about stuff, and that I’m pretty sure that putting up with him was a component of our lease, we met these statements with the same blank stare we always gave him. “When is he going to leave”, we all thought as our eyelids drooped uncontrollably.

Ol’ Crazy Ben, perhaps slowly beginning to realize that his cleverly crafted joke was being unintentionally stonewalled by his bored and sleepy tenants, pushed on.

“Man, I’m aching”, he said, leaning slightly and putting his hand on his hip in an exaggerated theatrical portrayal of a sore back. “Man I’m Achin”, “Manemachin”, “Mannechin”, “Mannequin!”

He mouth was moving but all we heard was the slow motion drone of the cars on the street, and the wind above, and a pinecone falling. I can’t wait until Ol’ Crazy Ben leaves so we can play Plankball. Eyes…falling…so….sleepy…Ol’ Crazy Ben…so…crazy.

“I left you guys a mannequin hand and some beer. Didn’t you get it?” He said at last, losing patience and his morning buzz probably wearing off. I guess we had ruined his joke. He looked kind of put out.

We were shaken out of our inane-rambling-induced daze by the annoyance in his voice. We stood rooted to the spot, trying to figure out what he was talking about. Then the mannequin mystery of yesteryear came rushing back to our minds.


We stood there holding our breaths, hoping our hastily assembled response would satisfy our landlord. I tried to smile a little. This was just as awkward as when he accused us of growing pot in the basement and was disappointed when we showed him that we weren’t. But really, who leaves a mannequin hand on their tenant’s porch and then brings it up in riddle form LIKE ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER?

Ol’ Crazy Ben was evidently happy with the response, however, and he chuckled as he turned to putter back to his minivan and drive off into the sunset. Well, he drove north, so I guess he was actually driving off NEXT to the sunset. Well, if there was a sunset. It was only noon at the time.

[next time write a story with an ending]

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