Onion & Reginald Blisterkunst, Ph.D.
is a sequel to Reginald Blisterkunst's Among the Remembered
Saints: My Life and Subsequent Death, which was originally
serialized in WAG.
Readers who prefer to begin at the beginning may read
the first book by clicking here.
Garden of Bones
For April, it's surprisingly warm, and I pass a gloved
hand over my forehead before driving the shovel's tip
into the dark soil. It slides smoothly for a moment and
then clicks hard against something hidden. I try to work
the shovel tip around it, but it's large and I finally
get down on my hands and knees and pull up whole handfuls
of soil until a stack of mottled yellow bones gleams below
me. One, I must admit, seems to be a shoulder. Another,
an elbow. But of course, looks are deceiving.
Later, after turning
the soil over so that the rich, wet soil underneath is
turned over to dry in the sun and await new plantings,
I carry the bones upstairs to the bathroom and inspect
them. While I'm scrubbing the mud out of what looks like
the cracked cap of a femur, Woody appears downstairs and
—Up here, I
say, still scrubbing nonchalantly. In the bathroom. Come
Clump, clump, clump
he comes, obliging; momentarily, he appears in the doorway
Cindy, is it?
I say, setting the femur down and taking up the elbow.
I found them out in the back yard and they look quite
old. You've seen her recently, haven't you?
—What? he says,
not hearing. He sticks a finger out gingerly and nudges
I say. It's dead.
—Do you think
I say, holding the shoulder to my lips and blowing dirt
off with a short blast of breath.
man! How can you even touch them?
actually, I say, massaging the curving bone. They really
weren't that deep underground, by the by. You should see
what you turn up in your own yard.
He stares a moment longer and shakes his head. Look, anyway,
I came over to tell you I talked to McCratchett and he
wants to see some of your work.
—Mind if I
use your phone?
—Mi casa, su
I leave the bones
to dry on the sink and follow Woody next door. McCratchett
picks up on the first ring, sounding paranoid.
—How did you
get this number?
gave it to me, I say.
—He did, eh?
How do you know him?
—We were roommates
in college, I say. He was the best man at my wedding.
I live next door to him now.
—Uh huh, the
man says, wary. So you're married.
I say. Trial separation.
like family men working on the staff. Too dangerous.
—Is it? I shoot
my eyebrows up at Woody, but since he can't hear the other
end of the conversation, he merely offers a confused look.
be, McCratchett says. Can be very dangerous. But
I need to see some of your work first.
—I'd be glad
to bring something to—
—Good, he says.
See you in fifteen minutes.
I change my shirt and pick out a few book reviews I'd
gotten published in small literary reviews. Then I drive
across town and end up getting lost in an alley full of
broken vodka bottles. Finally, I stop to ask directions
from an old lady pushing a shopping cart full of aluminum
cans. When she hears me say WAG she shrugs and points over her shoulder. I follow her
gesture and find, at the end of it, a small white building
with a rusting sign on the front door announcing, in crazy
letters, the auspicious offices of WAG magazine. I thank the old lady and climb out of the
I bang on the door
for two minutes before McCratchett appears and pulls me
—Yes, I say.
He glances up and
down the alley and locks the door behind him. I follow
him through a length of dark, musty hallways and we emerge
in a cluster of small rooms.
—Here we are,
he says, after walking into the closest room. Let's get
the formalities out of the way, shall we? I'm Bob McCratchett.
We shake hands and
after he draws his hand away, he glances at it and notices
a film of dirt.
I say, brushing my hands over my jeans. Sorry.
He smiles, nods benignly.
yet, I say.
Another nod and then
a moment of dead, uncomfortable silence.
bones, actually, I say, to fill the void.
—Yes, um, bones.
—And you live
next door to Arbunkle?
I nod my head.
—I used to
be an archaeology major, I say, trying to make light of
it. Brought back a lot of memories, you know, brushing
the dirt back, seeing a tip of white, brushing some more.
Quite enjoyable, really, burrowing underground, you know.
and swings himself heavily forward until his elbows rest
on his desk top.
four unsolved murders in your block alone in the last
two years. I'd suggest you call the police.
I smile, for lack of something better to do. I'll do that.
He scowls at me,
suspicious, and then demands to see some examples of my
work. I hand over the book reviews and he scowls at them
I start to protest
but he holds up a hand.
at a few back issues to get the feel for our voice, he
says. Welcome aboard.
He stands up and
we shake hands again.
you on the Dick Watch, he says.
—I beg your
—I said, I'm
putting you on the Dick Watch. You know, our column on
Dick Armando. Venerable anchor of Channel Blip News? You
of course. Dick Armando. Sounds like something
obscene in Portuguese, haha. That should be quite enjoyable.
He gives me a flash
of what I swear looks like a smirk and then he nods at
—I'd call the
cops pronto pronto, by the by. If for no other reason
than that you don't want to be held liable for murder,
should the bones turn out to be—
—I will, I
promise, skirting out of the office before he can finish.
take any crap off them, he calls after me. Call me if
you need a lawyer.
I drive home in a growing panic. The bones are still
sitting on the bathroom sink, drying nicely in a swath
of sunlight, and I quickly gather them up and carry them
back out to the yard. After dumping them on top of the
fresh soil and fretting over their fresh appearance—how,
after all, am I to explain my having washed them?—I
walk next door to Woody's house and use his phone to call
Momentarily, a female
cop appears on my porch, smacking gum like she's chewing
found some bones.
Her radio squawks
and without looking away from me she reaches down to her
belt and turns the volume knob down.
—And what sort
of bones would these be, sir?
—I don't know,
I say. That's why I called you. In case, you know...
Another moment of firecracker-chewing and then she says,
gleefully, well, let's see the guy.
I step aside to let
her enter and as I close the door I notice a few members
of the Bare-Ass Rooster Secret Society are congregating
on the corner and staring copward. I swing the door shut
and lock it quickly, which causes the cop to spin around
to me, suspicious.
I say, with an accommodating smile.
I lead her down the
hallway, through the kitchen and out the back door.
The bones, gleaming
white against the dark soil, seem to shout guilty guilty
to the cop as she leans over them. Hungry ghost bones,
—And you found
them like this? she says, incredulous.
I admit. Actually, I washed them.
—Wo, Joe, she
says, straightening up. You what?
I say, smiling.
A stream of perspiration
meanders down my forehead and then suddenly shoots free
past the eyebrow and plummets cheekward.
you do that, sir?
—I used to
be an archaeology major, I say. I didn't think they might
Again without looking
away, she reaches down to her belt and brings her radio
close to her mouth.
—This is 423
requesting back-up at—she glances at her notepad
and reads out my address. And, she adds, you might want
to send the lieutenant around with a Crime Investigations
someone says back over the radio, and she slips the radio
back onto her belt.
—New to the
—Yes, I say.
I used to teach at the university, you see, then my wife
and I separated and I moved here to—
—Do you know
that we have four unsolved murders in this block alone?
She smacks the gum
for a moment, studying me.
—None of the
city's safe, of course, she says. But I'd say you moved
into the butt crack of the worst neighborhood we have,
to tell you the truth.
She looks around
the yard and across the fence to the vacant lot behind
—But at least
you don't have an alley.
—No, I say.
believe the things that go on in the alleys of this city.
Homos and prostitutes and all.
Another bead of sweat
slides down the contours of my cheek.
she says, we chase them for the fun of it. You know, if
it's a slow night. And there they are, running like rabbits
all over the place, you know, and us just creeping behind
them, following them every step with the spotlight and
shouting, hey, is that all you got, mister? I'd be ashamed
if that's all I had to show for my manhood, haha. Stiff
like that, you know. I mean, stuff like that. Did
you hear me? I said stiff when I meant to say—
—Stuff, I say.
Yes, I manage. Quite.
she says, after she stops laughing. I never introduced
myself. I'm Cindy Claire.
she a cop too?
—No, I say.
Before I can say
harpy, a man in a gleaming white shirt and dark,
crisp trousers walks around the corner of the house. His
shirt is so glowing-white and his skin so awe-inspiringly
bronzed that, as the man walks through the glorious sunbeams
shooting through the yard like tilted heavenly columns,
he is like unto a dark god, striding.
I gape, mesmerized,
and then the man stops and rears backwards at the sight
—Yes? I manage.
Do I know you?
—It's me, he
says, advancing once again with his hand stuck out towards
me. Lieutenant Duty. I helped you and Arbunkle find the
couple who killed that man Blister back when—
I sputter, as the bronze god is replaced, upon closer
inspection, by the visage of the butterscotch-sucking
homicide detective who helped get Woody off the Blister
murder charges. Even now, as the light dissipates like
a killed spotlight, the sickly sweet aroma of butterscotch
wafts over me.
quite a tan, I say.
—Ah, it's nothing.
Just back from a cruise, he says, self-deprecatingly.
Weren't you going abroad yourself?
I mumble something
incoherent and look away.
—I see, Duty
says. Quite. Well then, who've we dug up this time?
sir, Officer Cindy says, beckoning.
She passes her hands
over the gleaming bones like she's a game show hostess.
them first, sir, she mutters Dutywards.
He cocks an eyebrow
and glances at me.
—I'd be disappointed
if he didn't, he says.
the Blue Ones. Not Yet.
Fall'n cherub: We're having problems with the hoverers,
cherub: They won't start, sir.
Blister: They won't—damn
it all to hell. Did they charge them up like I told them
cherub: I don't believe so, sir. Should we try an alternative?
Blister: Christ shmist.
Trying to run a goddamn cataclysm and the bastards don't
even....Damn idiots....Let's see. What are we going to....We
really need these things listed on a menu, you know? All
right, here we go: get a few of those bubblehead things
instead. The little gray ones. Not the blue ones. Not
cherub: Very good, sir.
1 | Part
2 | Part 3
| Part 4
5 | Part
6 | Part 7
| Part 8 |
9 | Part