were sitting around one day, we were drinking beer and smoking hash. It was summer. It
was Saturday. Saturday morning, to be exact.
was back in the day, of course. In the early eighties. But I remember it was summer because we were smoking hash. Usually
we smoked pot. Sometimes, in the summer, there was a dry spell. You couldn’t
find a nickel bag of skunkweed if your life depended on it.
we smoked hash. We were drinking some kind of hellish brew, and talking about cartoons. Hong Kong Phooey. Josie and
the Pussycats. Scooby-Doo, of course, and George said, I don’t get it. Is Shaggy supposed to be a stoner. Why does Fred have an ascot. Velma. Is she gay,
or what. George was the intellectual in the group.
somebody—Kelly or Joan—somebody said, why don’t we drive around in a mystery-solving van. With a mystery-solving dog. And solve mysteries.
Duh. For starters, we don’t have a van. Some smartass in the group said that.
or Joe or somebody said, and we don’t
have a dog. But we have a haunted house like on Scooby-Doo. That place on
Evergreen. It’s just a couple of streets over, and nobody’s lived there for
was an old bungalow-style house, probably built in the early twenties. An
elderly couple had lived there. And died there. That was all we knew at the
time, but it lent a certain eeriness to the stone and canopied home. That’s it,
we said. That’s our haunted house.
the plan was, everyone would bring a sleeping bag and a flashlight. We’d drink
cheap beer, smoke some hash, maybe get a pizza. We’d see what happens in the
night, in a house where people had died.
should pause here for a moment to make something clear. You might be wondering
how grown people—even beer-guzzling, hash-smoking grown people—could come up
with such a half-baked idea.
our defense, we were only eighteen, and it was
the early eighties. A far more innocent time, and we were the children of a twilight land between Vietnam and Iraq. Life stretched out before us like a line at the DMV. Our battles were
already fought, there was nothing to die for anymore. We were aimless and we
were vacant. We were blasé, and didn’t know why.
what spurred this venture on was ill-defined, at best. But at its heart, the allure was
simply that there was a goal and there was a purpose. Feeble as they were.
it. That’s my defense.
back to the story.
We gathered there at the bungalow. A side door had been left open. It was
around ten and the house was empty, except for the sound of our footsteps. There
were echoes, and we heard creaking, and I don’t know what we expected. An apparition,
with pale green chains perhaps, and its head in the crook of its arm.
was spooky. At first. Then a few hours passed and zoinks—this is your brain on drugs. We had failed to factor in
our short attention spans.
packed our things and left. A few weeks later, we were sitting around, doing
the same thing as before. Somebody—I think it was Ed—said, hey. Listen to this.
story was in one of those little community newspapers. It was about a house that had just been sold. There had been some difficulty finding a buyer,
because of the tragedy.
and Doris Rothman had lived there since 1949. They were robbed at gunpoint, shot
and killed in their home. Leo was 76 and Doris was 74. The Rothmans were
beloved figures in the neighborhood.
it was. Our haunted house. The stone and canopied bungalow. Where we smoked a
little hash, drank a beer or two and left, and never saw the ghosts we didn’t
believe in anyway.
were lucky. God looks out for fools and drunks. We were both, and we had as
much right to be there as the men who came with guns.
was someone’s home. Where they marked their children’s heights on a door frame, and argued about why the water bill was so high. Where there was an old trunk in the basement for his girlie magazines and a cabinet upstairs for her china. Where they made love and popcorn balls and watched
the world go by.
didn’t think about things like that. We were the recipients of a largesse. We
wandered without yearning through a Hanna-Barbera world.
days, I don’t drink. I don’t smoke pot, and I don’t smoke hash. I watch the
news instead of cartoons.
This just in.
were sitting around one day. David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez. It was February, 2018. Valentine’s Day, to be exact.
was Parkland, Florida. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. It was 2:21 p.m. Emma was in the auditorium and David was in class when the fire alarm went off.
In the six minutes that followed, Nikolas Cruz killed
14 of their classmates and three of the school’s staff members. Seventeen
others were wounded.
or Emma or somebody said, why don’t we start a movement. Why don’t we stand on truth and speak, as if our lives depended on it.
So they did. They organized and held protests. On March 24, 2018, in
Washington, D.C., Emma Gonzalez spoke at the March for Our Lives rally. More
important than what she said that day is what Emma didn’t say. Shaved head and
all five feet and five inches of her, in front of the television cameras and a
thousand million people and God and everyone, Emma Gonzalez stood for a full
said nothing. A silent tribute to the fallen.
was awkward and uncomfortable. It quickly became excruciating. Emma Gonzalez stood
with perfect grace through every second.
Emma and her friends have a mystery on their hands. No time for idle speculation. Fred's neckwear. Velma—gay or straight. Why people kill each other.
They line the road from Columbine to Marjory Stoneman Douglas. They have seen death and smelled it, and it doesn't matter why.
The mystery for
them is when this episode will end.