Jun. 1, 2010

The Murder Suspect, Moments Before He is Confronted by Police

by David Starkey

He sits in the driver's seat of a borrowed
Corolla, Red Sox cap tilted low over
his anguished face. Across the street, two cops
huddle together, whispering, gesturing
once in his direction—yet he can't find
the will to turn the key and pull away.
In the passenger seat, a Styrofoam
container of half-eaten beef chow mein,
cold rice stuck to the tines of a plastic fork.
The backseat is piled high with clothes.
In the glovebox, a loaded .38
snubby and half a box of cartridges.
He cracks the window to better hear the swish
of willow branches in the November wind.
There's a gingery taste on his mustache,
and he wipes it with his sleeve as a blast
of heavy metal erupts from a pickup
rumbling down the street. His fingertips
tingle—probably with cold, possibly
from something else. There's a needling twinge
above his heart, a flash of memory:
purple blouse, a braid of golden hair, a splash
of crimson on gray tile. The cops begin
to saunter over. Then, as he reaches
down, fumbling for his pistol, they run
toward him, guns drawn, shouting out his name.

"The Murder Suspect, Moments Before He is Confronted by Police" by David Starkey, from A Few Things You Should Know About the Weasel. © Biblioasis, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of novelist Sheri Holman, (books by this author) born in Brooklyn (1966), author of The Dress Lodger (1999)and The Mammoth Cheese (2004).

It's the birthday of the poet who wrote: "I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky / And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by." John Masefield, (books by this author) born in Ledbury, England (1878).

It was on this day in 1809 that the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (books by this author) published the first issue of a philosophical periodical called The Friend. When he collected issues of The Friend into a book, he subtitled it: A series of essays to aid in the formation of fixed principles in politics, morals, and religion with literary amusements interspersed.

For the first issue, which was published on this day, Coleridge spent a couple of paragraphs apologizing for The Friend and saying how hard it was to live up to the standards of similar periodicals. He wrote: "Excuse me therefore, gentle reader! if borrowing from my title a right of anticipation, I avail myself of the privileges of a friend before I have earned them."

To save money, he wrote, edited, and published it himself. He put together a list of more than 600 people who had apparently signed up to subscribe. But he was charging more than £2 for a year's subscription, and he had sent out about 20 issues before he collected payment, at which point it became obvious that most of the people on the list were not actually going to pay £2 a year for The Friend. Some of them had been pressured into signing up, while others happily signed up their friends or acquaintances, who had no intention of paying for a weekly intellectual essay. It lasted for less than a year — the final issue came out on March 15, 1810, after only 27 issues.

It's the birthday of actress Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jean Mortenson in Los Angeles, California (1926). As a chil, she was passed around between her mother and a series of foster parents. Eventually, she wound up with her mother's friend Grace McKee, who worked in the movie industry. Grace worshiped movie stars, and she told Monroe that she would be a movie star herself one day. She taught Monroe to act like the women she saw in movies; she took Monroe to beauty parlors, she dressed her up in fancy clothes, and had her practice smiles and pouts in the mirror.

After Grace McKee got married, Monroe had to live for a while in an orphanage, and at night she would stare out the window at the water tower of RKO Studios. She spent the next several years moving from house to house, living with various distant relatives and friends of the family. She told children at school that her parents had died in a car accident.

After she went through puberty, her clothes were much tighter, but the family she was living with couldn't afford to buy her new ones. Walking to school, men started honking their horns at her and waving, and she'd wave back. She said, "The whole world became friendly." To avoid returning to an orphanage or another set of foster parents, she was married at 16 to a man named James Dougherty.

During World War II, Monroe got a job at an aircraft factory called Radioplane, where she sprayed glue on fabrics and inspected and folded parachutes. She was working at the factory when a group of photographers showed up to take pictures of women working for the war effort. The photographers noticed her right away, and they persuaded her to become a model. She bleached her hair and began to appear on the covers of magazines.

She got her big break in the musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Everyone had been trying to sell her as a "love goddess," but it turned out that she had a gift for comedy.

She died just nine years after that first big success, but her life has been an inspiration to many writers. She has been the subject of more than 300 biographies, including a partially fictionalized biography by Norman Mailer. The poet Sharon Olds wrote a poem about her death. In the novel Motor City (1992), author Bill Morris wrote a fictional version of her wedding day with Joe DiMaggio. Joyce Carol Oates wrote the novel Blonde (2001) about her, and it was nominated for the National Book Award.

Marilyn Monroe said, "I don't want to make money, I just want to be wonderful."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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