Operation Necro Larceny

The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance it has to any people, living or dead, and especially dead, is regretted.


 

for my friends, the Particle Man and the Pedantry Technician

 


It all started with a story.

For some writers, so I’ve heard, the research comes before the writing. I suppose I’m the other sort of writer. I use fiction as a way to determine what I find romantic, what philosophies I wish to follow, what, in short, I wish to do with my life. As such I often find that fiction precedes fact. That’s at least how things worked out this time around.

At the beginning of the summer, my third home from college, I wrote a story called The Glow in the Vault. It is an homage both to one of my favorite childhood writers, H.P. Lovecraft, and my hometown, dear little Kennebunkport. In the story there are plenty of references to Miskatonic University, shoggoths, Wards and Whatelys and Waites. But likewise I bring Kennebunkport and its quirks and charms to center stage. Kennebunkport is truly the star of the story.

It was a great deal of fun for me to view my hometown through the Lovecraftian lens, to see in it all the possibility that H.P. saw in Providence (to say nothing of Arkham). Seeing the familiar through a stranger’s eyes is one of the best ways to appreciate what would otherwise be passed over without consideration. It certainly gave me a perspective I had never had on Kennebunkport, and its possibilities.

One of the main characters in the story is the brilliant and slightly gothy Teddy Teller.  To me, he is all the potential of Kennebunkport. In my story, he made a name for himself in his younger days with his penchant for bacchanalia and black magic. He used to love indulging in strange drugs, black robes, incantations, and all the trappings of the black masses of old. He especially liked getting cheerleaders to participate in his rituals. Particularly the parts that involved wild sex.

I made the character up from whole cloth. I don’t know anyone so interesting, so brazen, so motivated – whatever the nature of his interests, or the quality of his motivations. Certainly I knew nobody like that in high school – few enough of us had the will and self-confidence to dislike the popular trends in music, let alone to orgy under the stars! But of course he was romantic to me, not because he did exist, but because he could exist. If a character is so powerful, so anything, that they are unrealistic, they inspire me little. But to have a character who simply makes better use of his time than I, that is what inspires me to, and guides me in, the better spending of my own hours on this earth.

I couldn’t find any takers for such Aphacan revels. Kennebunk is no Lampsacus. A town of buoys and seafood shacks does not lend itself to getting painted red. But there were other facets of the story which I might follow. To take advantage of the town around me. To see it with the eyes, not of a native, but of a foreigner. To appreciate it. To make it my own.

Teddy Teller had gotten a name for himself in his youth, based upon his penchant for such gothick games. Particularly as many of them involved cemeteries. In the story, he had earned the sobriquet The Guy Who Robs Graves.

He liked stealing headstones to add mood to his masses. It’s all about the mood, after all. Without the right atmosphere there was no way he was going to convince the captain of the cheerleading squad to bend over. But bending over a bed and bending over an altar are very different things. In the ritualistic aspect of such necromantic fucking there lies the illusion of societal acceptance. It’s much easier to bite the headstone than the pillow. So he robbed some graves. For Teddy, perhaps even for his cheerleaders, it was worth it.

It was an easy bit to write. I know the Kennebunk graveyard very well. It’s one of the few open spaces in Kennebunk where one can go and chill for a while. A beach town really only has one public space: the beach. If you want to meet up with a friend somewhere that isn’t the beach, you better be prepared to lean against a headstone and put your feet up on a burial mound. Otherwise, you’re going to the beach.

After I wrote the story, I found my interest in the Kennebunk cemetery quite refreshed. I visited it many times for solitary rambles. These gave me some of the only sun I got during the entire beginning of the summer. It’s not exactly a vital spot to go a flaneur, but it’s something. Anything is something when you’re a writer, so long as it involves sunlight.

But the Kennebunk cemetery is more than just a house of the dead. It is history, if not come alive than damn near. The gravestones there are many of them hundreds of years old, some going back to the 1700s. Some are intricately carved with all the care of the bygone religious ages. Some are simplistic, almost amateurish, betraying all the Puritanism that resulted from a rough colonial existence which could produce no better. Taken as a whole, a trip to that cemetery is a stimulating experience. All the more so when my mind was already filled with the romantic associations of my story, only the least of which involved sleeping with hot teenagers.

And it occurred to me, one day, as I wandered between those rows of marble: why couldn’t life imitate art? What did Teddy Teller have that I didn’t have? Why couldn’t I steal a gravestone for myself?

It was such a common device in the story that it had become a leitmotif. And I am a terrible fanboi; I enjoy paying homage in life to those little quirks which reoccur in the stories I read. It reminds me to follow the examples set by those characters. It is a symbol. Rather as a person might tonsure their hair, or wear a Star of David, or face Mecca, or carry the Little Red Book.

And, yknow, it was a long summer before me, in desperate want of flavor. What could be better, than to rob a grave?

From the moment this idea occurred to me, I knew that I would see it through.

 

At least I know myself that well.

God help us all.

*** *** ***

 

I made this idea known to The Particle Man some few days later. He jumped at it with an enthusiasm normally confined to starving pandas being let loose in a bamboo grove.

It wasn’t just the fact that this project would cause us to end up in possession of a gnarly old headstone. It was the planning of the operation that would be fun. It would require forethought, strategizing, deft execution, and courage. It was just the sort of use for our energies which would challenge us, the overcoming of such challenge being the way that enjoyment is produced. Of course our energies might have been better expended on something less felonious. But we were stuck in Kennebunk. We couldn’t think of anything else.

The Particle Man and I walked through the Kennebunk graveyard many a time, discussing the matter at hand. The logistics were difficult. There was no place to park near the graveyard at night that would not arouse suspicion. The older headstones, which were both the most interesting to look at, and by coincidence the smallest and easiest to take, were located right near the road. Next to a church. Directly across from the police station. During the day you could see right into that part of the cemetery from the road. At night the lights of cars shone on you directly from two angles. It was situation designed to frustrate.

We were also handicapped by time. The Particle Man worked from before noon to past midnight six days a week, and on the seventh day was barely awake enough to open a can of Red Bull. We could only get together to plan the robbery on rare occasions, and making a time to execute the thing was almost impossible.

We had to resort to discussing it, sporadically, over the phone. We didn’t want to call the thing by its true name on an unsecured line. Especially as we might be overheard by our respective parents at either end of the line. As such, we came up with a code phrase to disguise our intentions. Or rather, I did. I may have been drunk at the time.

We called it Operation Necro Larceny.

I was definitely drunk.

May came and went, and June was passing us by. We were still bogged down in logistics. We still had no grave stone.

 

*** *** ***

 

It was late June when The Particle Man’s ladyfriend, CatMadam, was coming to visit him. She was only going to be in town for a few days. But by all reports, she was awesome, and so I decided to cockblock them with abandon if it meant I could secure more moments of their respective awesome company.

The Pedantry Technician seemed to have similar thoughts on the subject, because about 20 minutes after he heard she was in town, he was on a bus headed for Kennebunkport.

It was an excellent visit. I was very glad to meet the lass, and it was lovely to see the effect she had on The Particle Man. Also, it got The Pedantry Technician to get off his ass and come visit me, which due to our respective penury could happen none too frequently. The weekend of her visit was magical. The four-way cuddling was also excellence itself.

It turned out that CatMadam is by way of being an archaeologist. She is also, in general, the mistress of the archaic and romantic. Kennebunk, as I began to appreciate as I wrote The Glow in the Vault, is full of hoary motes of historical interest. We took CatMadam on a tour of the great old houses, of the scenic points, of the beaches and the bluffs and then more beaches and, hey!, yet more beaches! Finally we were left with only one more point of local historical interest. We took her to the graveyard.

We ran between the headstones, discussing their various significances like Umberto Eco meets Indiana Jones. It was a magical afternoon. White magic; it had not a taint of the necromantic about it.

That is, until I mentioned Operation Necro Larceny.

CatMadam objected vigorously to this plan. She is, after all, a worker in the field of history. One might as well recommend metal recycling to a fan of bronze sculpture, book-burning to a reader, or any similar Bonfire of Vanities or the Venerable. When she made her case, The Particle Man and The Pedantry Technician were both forced to agree that graverobbing was in fact more than just sacrilegious, and insulting to the dead. It was also selfish, denying the community a bit of its past to which it was entitled. It was not just immoral, it was unethical. It could not be justified in an enlightened fashion.

Thanks to such hideous women-tricks as logic and reason, Operation Necro Larceny was put on hold.

 

*** *** ***

 

Fortunately I am not nearly so well bounded by ethical restrains as my compatriots. They are Marx and Moses and Mill. They do not act outside of the common good. I am Milton Friedman. I am the common good. I wanted me a gravestone. Even if I had to go it alone.

Some would say this makes me a bad person.

And some would be right!

But some people aren’t going to get a gravestone to put in their living rooms. And then how will they start conversations?

After careful consideration of the matter, it occurred to me that it would be almost impossible to successfully pull off the heist with only myself involved. I needed a second person. Fortunately a friend of mine, LongIsland, was coming up to visit a few weeks later. I would do my best to elicit her help in the matter.

At first she agreed. It seemed like a fun way to spend some time. But the closer the event came, the more she began to object. Not from any ethical position. Solely from fear.

Her fears were not wholly unjustified. It is, after all, a Class C felony to steal a headstone from a public cemetery. People have done time for it. And doubtless their standing in their towns did not improve thereby.

When I drove by the cemetery, she started to get nervous. When it got to be nighttime she was visibly afraid. When I grabbed my duffel bag and put on a black shirt, she looked terrified. I told her, No, it’s not worth ruining your evening. We won’t steal anything tonight.

We had Mekhong Thai take-out on the beach-wall, then went out to Bandaloop and had a few beers. (This is referred to as An Evening In Kennebunk.) Afterwards I was a bit too drink-addled to drive. So rather than leave my car in the Port, to face the malevolent ticketing desires of The Bike Cops, we decided to take a walk to clear our heads before driving home.

We walked through Kennebunkport until we were outside of town, we walked on the sidewalk until that turned into dirt. Within five minutes we were in the countryside. Civilization dissolves with wondrous rapidity in Maine as soon as you leave sight of the ocean.

Suddenly I realized where we were.

Just across the street there was the old Kennebunkport cemetery, a tiny little affair of ancient gravestones and eldritch monuments. I had forgotten of its very existence. In fact, I reflected, it was even more H.P. Lovecraft than the Kennebunk cemetery. It was even more… Teddy Teller.

I grinned that grin that even I have learned to fear.

“Hey look!” I said, pointing across the street. “A cemetery! Let’s go check it out!”

LongIsland went from zero to sober in half a second.

“Relax,” I said. “I’m not going to steal anything. I just want to look around. Do a little reconnaissance for the future. Y’know?”

She grudgingly acquiesced.

We went to the edge of the cemetery and she stopped suddenly. “I don’t want to go in any farther,” she said.

“Sure.”

“I’m superstitious,” she said.

“No problem.”

“It’s scary in there.”

I patted her on the shoulder. “Can I run in for just a minute? I want to look at something. I’ll be right back.”

“OK,” she said, none too thrilled with things.

“Be right back,” I said, and ran off into the darkness.

 

*** *** ***

 

I ran with light feet, my duffel bag thrown over my shoulder and bouncing up and down off of my back. I bounced back and forth between the stones, looking for any of an appropriate size.

At the far end of the cemetery I saw two that seemed small. One was leaning at a fair angle. It seemed loose in the ground.

I dropped the duffel bag over it until it was covered. I reached down and pulled.

It came right out of the earth.

I grabbed the duffel by its stringed and lifted it up, shutting the bag in the process. I threw it over my shoulder and ran back to LongIsland.

I was away from her for less than thirty seconds.

 

*** *** ***

 

“That was fast!” she said. She had not even gotten to check her text messages yet.

“Yeah,” I said, trying to keep a straight face. “It’s buggy.”

“Can I take your picture first?” she asked.

I was anxious to get away from the scene of the crime, but I didn’t want to betray my anxiety. I resolved not to tell her about my accomplishment until we were far away. Lest she freak out.

I was sure she would appreciate my obfuscation.

I hoped so, at least.

“Snap away,” I said, and we spent the next ten minutes taking pictures next to a giant marble obelisk. The duffel bag lay on the ground, ignored.

Then we picked up and left.

We walked the ten minutes or so back to the car. By the time we got to the edge of the parking lot, my back was killing me. I kept adjusting the duffel, in the hopes of distributing, if not the weight of the thing, at least the soreness it was causing. Finally I aroused her suspicion.

“What’s in the bag?” she said.

Whatever. “A gravestone,” I replied.

The look on her face was beyond value.

I thought she was going to kill me.

Ten minutes later, when she had calmed down, we jumped in the car and drove home.

Operation Necro Larceny was a success.

 

*** *** ***

 

The actual dingus is rather disappointing. It is the least ornate headstone I have ever seen. It has only two carvings on it, the letter E and the letter B. Even by Puritain standards, it is a dull affair.

Yet it is not the possession of the object which ever was the great allure to me. It was the challenge of acquiring it, and the knowledge that I had so acquired. I had walked in the fictional footsteps. I had done something difficult, something dangerous, I had done it. Perhaps it wasn’t the best use of my time. But hey, it’s cheaper than going to the movies.

LongIsland spent the next two days finding new and inventive rationalizations for my appropriation of the grave. I joined her with a light heart. After all, rationalizing is a creative exercise. Done properly, and without seriousness, it can be at least as fun and interesting as robbing a grave.

CatWoman has not yet been appraised of the execution of the Operation. Hopefully this story will find her well… and I won’t soon find her on my front doorstep holding a pitchfork and a torch.

The Pedantry Technician, now that the thing is done, has given me his fondest props for my endeavor. After all, his objections to the thing were of a moral nature. Now that the thing is over, such objections seem irrelevant; the thing has been done, it may as well be enjoyed. Also, he is essentially a Brit. The Elgin Marbles must be in his blood.

The Particle Man told me I acted For Great Justice. That is all I need in the world, to know my life is good.

Now the gravestone sits proudly in my room, off in the corner where I hope I won’t have to explain it to my mother any time soon. I believe that I shall take it to school with me, and fashion it into the world’s gnarliest end table, or the like. Make good on that woodworking class I’ll be taking. My financial aid dollars at work. Glory be.

Maybe it doesn’t make the best bit of thievery. Maybe it doesn’t even make the best story. But I do not seek such justifications for my actions. It was stimulating, it was challenging, it was fun. And most importantly: I did it, and know I did it. If my life is but a series of such knowings, I will know that I have lived a life.

Even if nobody else will know it. When some punk steals my gravestone.

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~ by davekov on 20 August 2009.

2 Responses to “Operation Necro Larceny”

  1. Ah Mr. Kurtz, I can’t exactly condone your actions… but I also can’t help but admire your straight up ballsy-ness. Cheers.

  2. That is very kind of you to say, milady. Thank you!

    (Believe me that I am not so far gone as to think my actions worthy of anything but admonishment. With one exception: the fact that I have managed to thusfar avoid admonishment. Especially of a legal nature. That, I think, it the only praiseworthy aspect of the entire misadventure!)

    Big Love:

    0dk0

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