Bruce and the real girl
October 21, 2011 1:50PM
Cameron, Bruce W.
Updated: January 23, 2012 4:20AM
My dog Tucker likes to walk late at night because it is a good way to keep me awake. Apparently the one time I took him for a stroll around midnight represented, to him, a commitment similar to marriage. No matter what I’m doing at 11 p.m. (like, for example, sleeping) he’ll start to whine and make little yipping barks, gently reminding me that I am his employee.
So a few nights ago, I was marching briskly along the sidewalk when I saw, on the ground by a fence, a mannequin — though to me it appeared to be the dead body of a woman. My dog, ever vigilant, noticed nothing.
I stopped, well, dead. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t enjoy encountering corpses late at night. It further seemed to me that the body, fully clothed but with bloodless skin glowing whitely in the moonlight, was probably not there by choice. Either an unfortunate woman had succumbed to illness or murder most foul had been committed and the body dumped near a fence for some writer to find.
I had no phone and therefore no way to report my discovery to whomever it is that takes care of dead bodies — police, street cleaners, recycling companies, etc.
Further, I couldn’t really be sure the person was dead. Maybe she was just sleeping — it was, after all, a time of night when the only people out were those who owned my dog. Maybe she was camping.
I cautiously approached the corpse, thinking that if she moved I would let out a brave scream. Then Tucker saw what I was looking at and immediately went rigid, his front paws extended like parking brakes. He doesn’t like dead bodies, either.
“Come on, Tucker!” I hissed, ridiculously thinking it would be best if I whispered.
He refused to budge. Dragging him, I crept forward, finally putting my hand on the woman’s leg, which was hard and cold with rigor mortis.
What was I doing? I had just touched the victim!
I instantly flashed back to the third grade, when I threw a baseball at the school and it went through a window. The responsible thing to do was to stay and take responsibility for my vandalism, which had been an accident — so I ran away. Ever since then, though, I knew my fingerprints, lifted from the baseball, had been on file. Now when the cops dusted the body for prints, mine would come spitting out of the computer as being the third-grade baseball perp.
“I always knew we’d catch him doing something,” my old principal would say. “Now we’ve got him for the baseball and murder. He’s going to hang for this.”
Tucker was still straining at the end of his leash, twisting and pulling like a kite in a stiff wind. Should I wipe off my prints and flee? Running away had always worked for me in similar situations. Though wouldn’t that be teaching my dog a bad lesson? What was I thinking — I’d never been able to teach my dog any lesson.
In death, the woman looked remarkably peaceful. In fact, she looked like the mannequin she was.
I felt an instant relief. This wasn’t a murder, it was a free mannequin!
Well, I couldn’t imagine my wife being all that thrilled if I brought home a young woman wearing a miniskirt, even if she was made out of plastic. Yet I couldn’t just leave her lying out in the cold — it seemed indecent, somehow. The only humane thing to do would be to carry her back to my place and call the Department of Dummies — which to think of it probably just meant phoning my congressman.
With my dog still unsure he wanted to be implicated in all this, I managed to wrestle the statuesque statue to her feet and was sort of holding her against the fence, trying to keep her from falling over, when my neighbor Mr. Jeffries walked up.
“Evening, Bruce,” he greeted me, halting and eying me as I embraced the mini-skirted mannequin.
“Hi, Rev. Jeffries,” I replied.
I explained what happened, and we had a good laugh.
I just wish he had believed me.
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