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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Inspired by Poe—"Taps Tell Tales"

In honor of National Poetry Month coming up, I asked for some topic requests from my followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Earlier, I posted a response/reply to a Frost poem, and now I am following up with a (very) short story, inspired by The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe. Although not a poem, it is in keeping with the overall theme I think so here it is: "Taps Tell Tales" (also suggested by Jessica L.).

“Knock-Knock, Knock-Knock”

And so it was that my two partners and I—aroused in the early morning by similar door knocks, and summoned to our police station for a complaint—came to be with this babbling moron. A man of such quick tongue, he was, that we took several tries to just barely understand that he had awakened himself in the night with a shriek—that selfsame shriek that had brought the local town busybody to each of our homes at this godforsaken hour of the morning. And such a maudlin morning, fairly dripping with the mist of a coming storm front and heavy with heat, that we found ourselves wandering aimlessly behind this idiot, a shortish man of about twenty-eight years but with some disfigurement that I can’t even begin to imagine the cause of—perhaps some disease. Listening to him prattle on about how well-kept the old man’s home was, how precise and irreproachable was the state of his expensive wall coverings, how there were no missing items to account for a robbery—something we hadn’t suspected until he himself mentioned it—how the old man’s visits to the pasture land of his family’s holdings kept him too far and too long away from this unblemished façade of living well. At length, he gabbed about searching the home, about how no thing would be missing from its place, let alone stolen away from the site—since there was no way that any burglary or robbery or other crimes were being, or had been, committed here, with the old man gone away for such a trip.

And after a nearly hour-long diatribe that continued through every room in the home, the man blathered about each thing in the old man’s bedroom, a chest of treasures and jewelry and expensive items set on the mantel of his fireplace. He described every item we encountered with such an elongated and detailed nonsense narrative that I began to suspect that this man, himself, might be a candidate for a doctor’s care—a doctor and a straitjacket, perhaps—and then he had the audacity to withdraw from the room long enough to obtain four creaky, malformed wooden chairs and bid us to ensconce ourselves upon them so he could bend our already misgiven ears even more. I looked, resignedly, toward our police captain—an otherwise impatient and querulous man—whose very look bade me wait, to see what the imbecile would make a clean breast of, since it seemed pretty unimpeachable that he was doing things which would eventually take up residence in his speech. I was quite already tired when I happened to glance through the bedroom’s sole window, to note the streaks of darkish blue were being coaxed into lighter shades, the coming morning desperately trying to wish away our host even from so far away as the Eastern horizon’s first thoughts of sun. It was then, in the barest beginning of morning twilight that I noticed that we hadn’t hardly seen this deranged man’s hands—his talking was always done with a tremendous speed of jaw and eyes, but his hands remained clasped firmly together behind his back, or buried completely within the pockets of his ill-kept, dirty woolen trews: stained as I noticed for the first time with a ruddy brown, seemingly still-wet smear at about mid-thigh—a line across this front, about as high as a bathtub’s rim—and that in addition to hiding his hands he jittered as a man who had taken too much of the snuff box, or whose coffee was too strong. Every sitting moment was accompanied by a bouncing of the leg, or a tapping of the foot—mystery music dancing through this half-wit’s malfunctioning brain and manifesting through constant, rhythmic, beating moments. Moments that tapped out a strangely familiar tempo, one that I couldn’t quite recall but was as intimate ….

Intimate as my own beating heart. The heart that beat in my chest was nearly replicated by this fatuous, puerile man-child’s foot-knocking, as insistent as the coming morning and just as impetuous. And as we were all sitting around, laughing at this fool’s yammering on about this and that, I noted that the very blood of the dimwit’s face seemed to drain, and the tapping of his foot became impossible to ignore, loudly and more forceful it became, seemingly out of all control of the simpleton. Until finally it was almost as if he were now doing it on purpose, an attempt perhaps to distract us from the now gibberish he was speaking—when he suddenly stood and screamed “Villains! Dissemble no more!”—and proceeded to direct us to the dismembered body of the old man, buried under the planks in his own bedroom. At once, we took him into custody as he continued to babble, relating the extensiveness of his preparations and precautions. Hastily, we sped him to the jail, whereupon he broke into a shuddering sob as we shut and secured his cell and proceeded to post a watch: no doubt, he may try to end his own life, as he had that of the old man’s. During his stay with our watch, who carefully took down word by word whatever came from the lunatic’s mouth, he confessed entire to the murder of the man—and, more, set aside his own desires to elaborate on the crime at length. That story now rests in the office of the judicial clerk, where the trial will soon be over.

Hanged, I think, will be the end. Hanged by his neck, till death greets him coldly—and, without knocking.

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