A Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Job, PART 2: If The Dead Could Speak, They’d Say “F^<K YOU!"- So I'll Just Say It For Them

Death is cool.  I get it.

When I first started as a medicolegal death investigator, I was giddy with amazement at everything I was suddenly seeing and doing. It’s normal to catch a couple Gs when you first enter the world of law enforcement, forensics, pathology etc.  One minute you’re watching it on television, the next you’re crossing the crime scene tape and you’re inside the scene. It’s fucking wild. How did this happen? I remember the first time a police officer said to me, “Well, what do you want us to do? It’s YOUR scene,” I was terrified and elated.  I was the real deal! I was in charge!  I had the lead in the school play! I was sitting with the cool kids at lunch!  I had the inside track on everything and I couldn’t WAIT to tell everyone every last detail so they’d all know how awesome I was.

You guys wanna hear about my latest decapitation?”

Of course, that’s exactly the problem. I wasn’t awesome. I was an asshole who thought she was awesome. I was working an internship at a medical examiner’s office. I was high on my own, newfound knowledge and I was keeping a blog that was WAY more inappropriate than this one- a blog that was found by my internship preceptors and almost cost me my career before it even started. I hadn’t learned yet.

“Learned what,”  You ask?

Learned that people are awful. I’m frequently awful. The world is a trash-fire and there are certain things you

JUST. DON’T. DO.

…Like divulge details regarding people’s identities and deaths. Sure, I tell you a lot in this blog, but I certainly don’t tell you everything.  And the stories I DO tell you are mostly true. But some aspects have been shifted around just enough so my dead folks are safe and my identity and location aren’t obvious.

Oh, wait… you thought “Grace Baudino” was my real name? That’s adorable.

And I think, therein lies the crux of the matter.  You’ll notice I referred to them as “my dead folks.”  They are. They’re mine. Their stories are in my hands.  It’s up to me to see that their truth is told. I know these people. I know them more than their own families sometimes, more than the pathologist who will literally pry their brains out of their skulls.

I hold their faces in my hands and look in their eyes. I stick my fingers in their mouths. I squeeze their chests, feel their bones and run my hands over stretch marks and fat rolls that they’re too ashamed to show anybody. I pull their clothes off and document their pubic hair and nail polish. I rifle through pockets and cell phones, reading their text messages and suicide notes. I root through their bed-side tables and refrigerators. I find their drugs, their guns, their porn, their bottle of vodka they stowed under the bathroom sink.

I find hidden cigarettes when they told everyone they quit. I find positive pregnancy tests buried in bathroom wastebaskets. I even water their plants sometimes.  I’ll feed their fish and make sure animal services is coming to pick up their cat.  I’ve cried over some dead people because I was so heartbroken I would never get to meet them. I’ve hated others. But they’re all mine and I’m NOT SHARING THEM.

That sounds weird, let me backtrack.

At the beginning a death-investigator career, the dead are just a means to an end… an opportunity to have a new, cool story to tell. The weirder, the better.  Each case is nothing more than another stage, upon which to prove yourself. It’s fun, exciting and very SENSATIONAL in the truest sense of the word. But around year 7 or so, the varnish has all worn off your glamorous job and you really start seeing the deaths… like… you’re not just recording them anymore. By the time you’re broken in a bit, you don’t have the same frantic focus that you had as a rookie. Once you stop worrying as much about what you’re going to miss or screw up, it frees up bandwidth for you to really start seeing your decedents. They’re suddenly people again. At least, that’s how it went for me.

Of course, the problem is, you realize other people are “seeing” them too… and not in a good way. I feel about my dead people the way folks feel about their siblings.  I might get angry at how inconvenient they are. I might make fun of their home décor. I might roll my eyes with exhaustion and disdain and make snide remarks to the cops… but I’ll be damnned if I’m gonna let someone else do it. Furthermore, I’ll be damnned if I’m going to tolerate people treating a death scene like it’s a live-action episode of CSI.  If you want to see a show, go flip on Investigation Discovery. This isn’t the Roman Coliseum in 100 A.D.  People aren’t dying for your entertainment.

But we’ve lost track of that somehow.  We’ve all been given some weird entitlement serum and believe we have a right to witness complete strangers’ most intimate, traumatic and painful moments. Real life is nothing more than hi-def reality television… and it’s grotesque. To me, asshole spectators staring at a mess of blood and carnage is even worse than people thinking they have the right to see other people naked.  The entire nation has turned into a carload of drunken douchebags, yelling “show us your tits!” at every woman they pass on the highway.  Except they’re yelling, “SHOW US YOUR GUTS!” and they’re not even going to toss you a shitty string of Mardi Gras beads.  They’ll just yell, “The public has a right to know!” and mother-fuck you on social media if you suggest they’re in the wrong.

On the one hand, I get it.  People are curious and sheltered. I’m not sure about other societies, but in America, we’re cloistered from the reality of death. Death only happens in TV shows and movies, usually to a minor character and usually just to further an inane plot-line. But when death happens right in front of our faces, we’re frozen with disbelief and fascination. What are we looking at?  A summer camp of slaughtered teenagers on a screen is completely different from the caught-breath sucker-punch of seeing an actual person, stripped of their soul. Sometimes, I can practically hear the crackling buzz of peoples’ brains short-circuiting as they attempt to comprehend the fact that a death has occurred so close to them.  I imagine it feels a lot like standing right next to someone who just got struck by lightning. How did this happen?  How did it come so close? Why them and not me?

But shock and awe will only excuse so much gawking.

I remember the first time I really got pissed at a bystander. It was a complicated scene.  A couple had been found deceased in their home, a man and a woman. They were in their mid-50’s, living in the middle-class suburbs: as nondescript as a pair of paperclips living in an accountant’s office. But then they died, and their mauve little cul de sac turned into a glittering circus of red and blue lights.  I had just arrived on the scene and the typical collection of neighborhood busy-bodies were all gathering in the street along with the police cars and a couple of news crews who had decided to make a day of it.  I watched as one desperate housewife approached the crowd, asking what was happening.

“John and Sonia are dead,” came the answer.

“OH MY GOD NOOOOOOOO!” the woman screamed in response. “HE WAS SUCH A NICE MAN I CAN’T BELIEVE HE WOULD DO THAT!”

No one had yet said anything about this scene being a homicide/suicide. At least not officially.  As investigators, the possibility of a homicide/suicide was on our radar.  But we knew better than to say so out loud. Of course, this woman didn’t give a shit about any investigation unless it involved the news crews gathering around to investigate HER… because that’s exactly what happened. Microphones were shoved into her face and reporters drilled her with leading questions about the deceased couple. Beaming with the attention, her performance amplified to Oscar-worthy proportions as she lamented the murder/suicide that had just taken place. What a shame it was! It’s never who you expect! She howled and wept and the cameras ate it up… putting it all on the evening news for the consumption of the general public.

Thing is… it wasn’t a murder/suicide.

Autopsies later confirmed that the woman had died of a stroke. And the man… shattered with grief… had opted to kill himself, rather than live without his wife. Post mortem changes confirmed he had died of asphyxiation approximately a day after her passing.  Of course, it took a couple of days to thread through the whole, tangled story.  But the media didn’t want to wait a couple of days. They wanted to run the story now.  “HOMICIDE/SUICIDE IN SLEEPY SUBURBAN NEIGHBORHOOD!” screamed the headline. And there, on the front page of the newspaper was the “grieving community”… a.k.a. a bunch of dick-bag Karens, carrying on for the cameras.

When the truth came out, the media didn’t bother to follow up or issue a retraction. Subsequently, I was the one who got stuck on the phone with the couple’s son when he called and asked why the world had been told that his father had killed his mom and then himself. I refrained from telling him it was because some deplorable lookie-loo decided to make his parents’ deaths a springboard for her attention-seeking bullshit. I still gave a shit about professionalism and decorum back then. These days I wouldn’t hold back.

I used to try to take it in stride- the staring, the questions and the performative nature of people’s interest.  It’s normal, I suppose. But then I saw a guy lift his child on to his shoulders so that child could get a better view of a suicide victim who had jumped off the 5th floor of a parking garage. Things changed for me. That’s when I started stepping in. I could forgive curiosity. But, I could no longer abide people treating someone’s death as a side-show, or an opportunity… or an amusement.

I began giving lookie-loos the stink-eye when I marched on to a scene, making sure they saw the words: “MEDICAL EXAMINER” printed in big, block letters across my back as I passed them. I willed for my contempt to simply ooze off me with every step. That’s right!  I thought as I passed them. I’m in charge here and I DISAPPROVE of you! But soon I realized no one noticed or cared.

So, I began grumbling insults under my breath… which was a bit more satisfying but still didn’t really scratch the insistent itch of my ire.  In the last year, I’ve begun staring bystanders in the eye and barking, “CAN I HELP YOU?” I’m attempting to draw attention to the fact that they don’t actually have any reason to be standing there watching me pull a crushed body out of a demolished car.

Every time I start shouting at bystanders, the cops titter and exchange nervous glances. It’s like they sense what’s coming, the way animals can feel a tornado coming from miles away. Believe it or not, the cops are better-behaved than I and are far more concerned with upsetting the public than I have ever been.  With the advent of Black Lives Matter, the police in my area don’t attempt to block the public’s view of anything.  It makes sense, I guess. They don’t want to give the impression that they’re hiding their alleged nefarious deeds.

Subsequently, the cops have viewed my devolution into a snarky, confrontational monster with a mixture of delight and terror.  I’ve actually started saying things to people that they only think. And even as they snigger behind their hands, they wonder if my antics are going to get all of us fired.

All I can say is: Not yet.

I’m getting closer though. Recently, I had another “jumper.”  An elderly man who was beginning to lose himself to Alzheimer’s opted to walk off the roof of his 6-floor retirement home rather than inflict his dementia on his family.  I find these situations unbearably tragic. I believe our ancestors deserve better than to think self-destruction is their only option once they’ve outlived their earning potential. But this situation was made much worse by the gossiping old biddies who insisted on poking their graying heads out of their windows so they could observe me performing an external exam on the body. Normally, I would have just loaded up the decedent and taken him to a funeral home so I could assess him, but no one witnessed his terminal events and he had been found deceased in the parking lot.  There was some confusion as to whether or not he actually jumped, or if he had been hit by a car as he was walking across the pavement. And since it was a possible hit-and-run, the scene had to remain untainted until I made my assessment.

It was maddening.  I would bend down to palpate the decedent’s head or chest, to turn him over or take pictures of another injury and down came a sinister shower of whispers sprinkling down on me from above.  I would look up to see shades pulled aside or blinds split apart as the community reveled in the latest happening.  I was grinding my teeth to nubs and bristling under the stares until finally I just began shouting up at the windows. “THIS MAN DID NOT DIE FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT! SHUT YOUR SHADES AND STOP STARING!”

I also considered telling them that if they didn’t knock off the gaping I was going to come up there and throw them off the roof as well… but that would have been too far.  As it was, I had a sheriff’s deputy recruit helping me with that scene, and he looked a little worried as I shrieked my displeasure up at the neighbors.  Usually, the law enforcement field instructors like having me on death scenes because I’ll happily babble-on at length regarding death investigations.  This time however, I recall hearing the recruit ask his field instructor if we were really allowed to yell at people like that.  The field instructor said “no.”

That’s not the worst of it though.  The dam really broke a couple of months ago on the scene of an overdose.

I know it doesn’t sound like much of a spectacle.  It certainly didn’t attract as much attention as a 4-car pile-up or a double homicide.  It wasn’t so much that a hoard of lookie-loos gathered around like the witnesses at Christ’s crucifixion. But the situation… this single PERSON… finished me. My public exterior collapsed like a theatrical backdrop, revealing the rusty, crippled machinery that had kept the show running for over a decade.

It was cold, VERY cold. That was part of the problem.  It was also late. At my office we work 48 hour shifts- 8am to 8am two days later.  This was the second evening of my shift and I had been at home getting ready for bed when this call rolled in.  Some guy had been found deceased in the laundry room of an apartment complex.  The death was almost definitely an accidental overdose and it meant a mandatory scene investigation. My abdomen locked up in a painful spasm as dispatch relayed these details. I was tired. I had already been on several death scenes that day and I was not thrilled to add yet another laborious case file to an already monstrous load of paperwork. I ground my teeth with anxiety as I pulled off my freshly-donned pajamas and put my practical business casual back on. Stepping outside, I noted my breath hung in the chilled air as I shuffled to the county truck. I climbed into the driver’s seat and sat there, gripping the steering wheel for a moment, checking the clock to calculate the likely number of hours before I’d be home in my pajamas again… then how many hours of sleep I might still get, provided nothing else happened tonight.

“Fuck.” I murmured.

I heaved the truck into drive and rattled off to a multi-building apartment complex across town.

There was quite the show going on even as I arrived.  I pulled in and positioned the truck close to the death scene which had been surrounded by police tape. But a few yards away from this area, the investigating officers were engaged in a one sided battle royale with some crazy woman. She was wearing ratty pajamas and a pair of flip-flops.  Her hair was twisted into a makeshift bun that erupted haphazard tendrils of hair like an exploding firework.  She was screaming obscenities at the police and stomping around in a fury.  The police, to their credit, looked too exhausted to really get excited about her display.  The officers stood, casually observing the tirade and backing up a step or two whenever the woman’s orbit circled a little too close. One of the officers said something to her and this was apparently the last straw, because she yelled one last expletive and scurried off towards the street. For a split second, I was afraid she was charging into traffic.  But she course-corrected and veered back onto the sidewalk and disappearing into the night.

“What the hell was all that about,” I asked when the cops spotted me and approached to brief me on our situation.

“That’s our dead-guy’s girlfriend.  She lives in the apartment complex down the street.  I guess he was there and the two of them had some kind of fight.  He left and took all their drugs with him.  About a half hour later, someone in this complex comes down to the laundry room to get their clothes and finds our guy, unconscious on the floor, surrounded by scorched aluminum foil and other shit. She’s pissed because we wouldn’t give her the dead guy’s phone.”

-Which made sense.  In cases like this, the phone is often the “smoking gun” and the drug investigation taskforce (DIT) can use it to figure out where and how to contact dealers. Either the girlfriend didn’t want the dealer to get caught, or she didn’t want to lose her only means of contacting the dealer now that her boyfriend was dead. Maybe both.

“So, our guy doesn’t live here? How did he get into the laundry room?”

The officer giving the information, Brandon Ryans, motioned to three young men, who stood at the stairwell of a nearby building.  “They live here. They say the lock has been broken for months. Anybody can get in.”  The three guys were trying to appear nonchalant, shuffling their feet and smoking. But they were watching the evening’s happening with rapt attention… like they couldn’t quite believe they were actually inside the crime scene tape.

“Are we done with them,” I asked Brandon.

“Them? Yeah, we told them they could go a while back.”

“Then why are they still standing there?” I snarked back at Brandon, probably too sharply. It wasn’t his fault these dudes were lingering.  The cops have been heavily trained for the last couple of years NOT to tell people to fuck off.

I marched towards the civilians, with long, firm strides.  “Hey guys, are you part of this?” I was being polite, but definitely using a tone that a typical, male ego would call aggressive.  They looked at me and looked away, rattled that I had addressed them while everyone else had just been content to let them lurk.

“No,” one of them mumbled. “We’re just smoking.”

“Come on you guys…” I said in a conciliatory but final tone. “Go on and get out of here. This guy didn’t die for your entertainment.”

They bristled and exchanged looks, each of them wondering if the other was going to try and challenge me. After a beat, the speaker flicked out his cigarette and ambled away, making sure to amble off with a pouty: “Well, it wasn’t really all that entertaining…” He said this with a wounded air- as though he had bought a ticket to these amusements and felt that he’d overpaid.

“Worst death scene… EVER!”

I rolled my eyes and shivered in the sub-zero air.  As I walked to the landry room, I saw that the apartment complex was arranged with all of these buildings were facing inward toward the parking lot in a sort of courtyard configuration.  I saw curious residents all gathered at their windows, taking in the scene.

“Fuck.” I said again.  There was no way to shield the goings-on from public view. I was going to have to work with an audience. I greeted the DIT guys as I approached the laundry room, seeing with dismay that this laundry room opened directly to the outside and it was the size of a small walk-in closet.  The decedent had been dragged out by paramedics and now lay on the sidewalk under a couple of blankets… essentially on display for the whole world to see.

I jammed into the laundry room with the DIT guys and they showed me the paraphernalia. I took my pictures and gave them a ration of shit for hiding from the crazy woman confrontation outside- and they admitted it was one-hundred-percent true. When she had bulldozed her way on scene, they all scrambled into the laundry room to let the patrol guys sort it out.

I stepped back outside to perform a brief external exam on the dead guy- just enough to verify there wasn’t any obvious trauma or foul play. I felt the burning weight of hundreds of eyes on my back as I did this.  My muscles tightened even more and I tried to keep the body as covered as I could.  But it was impossible. I was going to load him into my truck and take him to the closest funeral home where I could do a proper external exam, but all of this would be tricky.  He was a massive human, easily 300+ pounds.  He was laying on the ground which meant we would have to lift him up and then parade him through this coliseum of on-lookers who were undoubtedly filming this whole fiasco with their bedazzled phones.

And FUCK it was COLD.

“Ok guys,” I addressed the officers. “I’m gonna need your help loading this guy.  I have to take him to a funeral home to get a good look at him.” The officers’ shoulders sagged at the announcement, but no one refused to help or walked away. (Except the DIT guys who were suddenly SUPER busy with the decedent’s phone).  I pulled my stretcher from the back of the truck, grabbed a body bag, breathed heavily on my hands to warm them and went to work.  It took four of us to muscle the dead guy on to the stretcher, all of us straining and huffing.  But we did it while keeping him mostly covered, which was a miracle. I was just coaching the police on lifting our dinosaur of a stretcher and wheeling it back to my truck when I heard the voice.

“WHAT HAPPENED?”

I whirled around, certain the crazy girlfriend had returned, maybe with a knife this time.

But it was a different woman. A mid-to-late thirties, portly, white woman who wore a velour tracksuit with “JUICY” printed across the ass in big, shiny letters.  She was clutching a convenience store bag and also had the exploding clutch of brown hair perched atop her head in a bun. She looked all of us in the eye with an expectant blink.  Not concern, definitely not alarm.

My eyes narrowed even as Brandon threw himself at her like he was shielding someone from a grenade.  But who was the grenade- her or me? Brandon and I have often worked together over the years. My husband and I have even gone out drinking with him.  Brandon has seen me go from fresh-faced newbie to embittered veteran and while he may have enjoyed watching the progression, he also knows I’m becoming a bit like aging dynamite. Anything might set me off.

“Hey…” He called nervously. “There’s nothing going on, it’s not a problem. Just a police matter ma’am, thank you!”

She would not be dissuaded.

“DID SOMEONE DIE!?” She demanded as she craned her neck to see around me and catch a glimpse of the dead man on the stretcher who, thankfully, was covered with sheets.

My back was to the woman as I had been guiding the stretcher off the curb and into the parking lot to load it into my truck.  Brandon was at the head of the stretcher and had an unobscured view of both my face and the caterwauling woman behind me. I can only assume that my expression looked like a gathering storm cloud. And Brandon was the wild animal who could sense the tornado coming.  He tried again, sounding a little bit more manic this time.

“Ma’am, there’s nothing to be concerned about. There’s no risk to the public. I promise you, nothing going on here concerns you.”

He gestured to me to go ahead and maneuver the stretcher forward, off the curb, past the woman and safely into my truck, away from probing eyes. I followed his direction, resolving to ignore her and just get the hell out of there.  I could barely feel my feet, I was hungry and even after I left the scene, there was still so much work to do.

“I JUST WANNA KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON! YOU HAVE TO TELL ME WHAT’S GOING ON! WHO IS THAT? I LIVE HERE, I HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW…”

She rattled off a couple more typical phrases, in particular a bunch of bullshit about her “rights” and how they applied in this situation.  She even went so far as to begin following us toward the truck as we tried to navigate past her and load up our decedent.

Something snapped.

I couldn’t say what. The evenings’ frustrations coalesced into a single, ferocious lightning strike in my head and the thunderclap was about to follow.

“That DOES IT!” I growled under my breath as I turned, letting go of the stretcher and stomping toward the woman who still stood there, clutching her phone, her cigarettes and her completely baseless sense of entitlement.

“nonononoNoNoNONONO!” Brandon reached out to grab me but had to grab a hold of the stretcher to keep it from rolling away… seeing as how I had just released it and was bearing down on the woman who blinked at me expectantly. “GRACE, it’s NOT WORTH IT!”

I ignored him. After almost 12 years of obnoxious observers, I was going for it. I was done with being the bigger person, I was done with professionalism. I was loaded for bear and I was aiming to give her both barrels.

“Ma’am,” I hissed at her as I pulled up to her. (“Ma’am” because I was going to rip her a new one but I was going to do it politely?) “I want you to take off all your clothes, right now.”

She gasped and stared at me for a second, like she couldn’t quite believe I had just said that.

“I… beg your pardon…”

“I SAID TAKE ALL OF YOUR CLOTHES OFF RIGHT NOW!”

“How… dare… you…?” she huffed in astomishment.

“IF YOU THINK THAT THE GENERAL PUBLIC HAS THE RIGHT TO SEE SOMEONE IN THEIR MOST VULNERABLE AND HUMILIATING MOMENTS, THEN I WANT YOU TO TAKE OFF ALL YOUR CLOTHES RIGHT NOW!”

She stared at me for a moment, her confusion and shock slowly evaporating under my heated point. Her face shifted from blank to furious.

“FUCK YOU” she shrieked. “WHAT THE… FUCK YOU! I HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW! HOW DARE YOU?!?”

I whirled away from her and grabbed the stretcher, pushing it forward as I caught a glance at Brandon’s face.  His expression was a mixture of dread and amusement. He followed my lead and guided the stretcher to the back of my truck and helped me load our decedent as the woman’s screaming tirade continued… Variations on the theme: Whatever was happening, she had a right to know.

“You don’t have a right to shit,” Brandon called to her. I suspect he felt obligated to back my play, even as he was cringing at it.  She was still raining down a hail of profanity as I pulled out of the parking lot and drove away, leaving Brandon and the other officers to deal with the bomb I had just detonated behind me. I grit my teeth down to nubs as her caterwauling faded.

I’m not sure what I had hoped to achieve in that situation, but it didn’t happen.  Looking back, I guess I wanted her to consider her actions and recognize that she was in the wrong.  I wanted her to understand that human devastation isn’t a show to save her from her uneventful evening. This was a real person who was really dead… not some one-dimensional character on a shitty program.  He had real friends and family who would be really heartbroken over this.  And none of it was her fucking business.  Someone just lost their turn on planet earth, and whether or not he’ll ever get another one is up for debate.

But none of that mattered to her, just like it doesn’t matter to so many other people whose lives are ruled by the principle of: “I DO WHAT I WANT.”  And when we, as emergency workers, first responders and the undisputed janitors of the human race respond with: “Yes, but do you really want to be an asshole?” I’m always astonished at how often that question is answered with an unequivocal and resounding, “YES!”

I was disappointed as I left that scene.  I had always imagined that finally letting loose on a lookie-loo troll like that would feel good.  But it was a hollow victory.  She hadn’t learned or realized anything, just flipped out and I probably should have guessed it would go that way.  What’s more, I was not super proud of the fact that I had lost a hold of my faculties so much that I had actually engaged with a gawker.  Lastly, I felt guilty because I put the cops at risk.  Oh sure, my actions are my own and I don’t even work for the sheriff’s department.  But “juicy-ass scene-goblin” wouldn’t see it that way.  It was possible, likely even, that she would call in a complaint to the “Police Community Standards” hotline and regale them with a story about how a police officer ordered her to strip. I hadn’t been wearing my uniform coat and was dressed all in black, but I was there with the cops. She wouldn’t bother to make any distinction.

“Fuck.” I said under my breath as I pulled up to the funeral home. I dialed Brandon’s number on my cell phone and when he answered I didn’t bother to introduce myself. “That was really bad, wasn’t it?”

Brandon sighed. “Well… yeah.

“I’m sorry man, I’ve been wound super tight lately. I should’ve let it go. I’m sorry, you tried to stop me.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” I heard him shrug. “It was awesome, but yeah. It was kinda bad.”

“Do you think she’s gonna call and complain? I don’t want you guys to get in trouble.”

Brandon sighed again. “I don’t know, she might. It’s fine, people are complaining about everything right now. Some girl accused me of being a racist yesterday when I arrested her boyfriend for beating the shit out of her. And she’s the one who called 911. The world is a shit show.  But on the upside, what you did was so off the wall, I doubt administration will believe it if she does complain.”

I didn’t say anything.

“Are you ok?”

I sighed. “I don’t know. I’m kind of on the teetering edge.”

“You’ve been on the teetering edge for two years now.  It’s why you’re so much fun.  Don’t stress about it. Go home, get some sleep. I’ll catch you later.”

Sometimes it feels like I’m living in reverse.  People are supposed to care less as they spend more time in this job.  I thought all the contact with trauma would make me callous over. Instead, I feel like my skin is getting rubbed off and I’m just a raw nerve, exposed to the world and everything in it. I’m taking things more personally. I’m getting more protective of the dead. I have less and less patience with people who exploit death as a curiosity an amusement… a side-show.

I think I care too much. It matters to me that these people are dead. They’re NOT just extras in someone else’s movie. I want people to know that… to feel that. Maybe I’m asking too much of the human race, but I care.

I feel like this job NEEDS people who care… but this job also DESTROYS people who care.

So what is the answer?

A Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Job

Remember that book? “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”

I did a quick look up and found out this charming little tale of childhood angst was first published in 1972. If you haven’t read it, maybe give it a look. You know, before it’s too late and you spend your life with an unexplainable sense of optimism, assuming everything is going to work out for you.

Let me explain.

The book is a story about an 11-year-old boy, Alexander, who has a catastrophic day in which he suffers numerous atrocities. He trips over his skateboard getting out of bed. He has to sit in the middle seat during his morning carpool ride to school. He gets shit on by his friends at recess. He goes to the dentist to find he has a cavity. He has to eat lima beans, he has to wear shoes he doesn’t like. He gets scolded by adults. His nightlight burns out and his cat doesn’t want to sleep with him. Throughout it all, he believes the remedy for his woes is to move to Australia.  In the end, Alexander’s mother lets him know that regardless of where he is or what he does, sometimes life will kick him in the teeth. All he can do is take it on the chin and hope tomorrow is better.

I get it. This book strives to communicate to kids that bad times don’t last forever. Things will improve and it’s important to develop a sense of resiliency when nothing is going your way.

That’s one way of looking at it.  On the other hand, I can’t help but see Alexander’s run of school-kid crises as preparation for what’s to come. Alexander is having a rough time of it and no one cares… Which makes this book perhaps the most Generation-X literary work ever published: Life is going to fuck you over, kids. Deal with it.

I think Alexander may have grown up to be a deputy medical examiner.

I think I might be Alexander.

Seriously, I’m not sure, but I believe books like these set the gaslighting tone of the 70’s and 80’s in which we were told that not wanting life to suck so much all the time was some kind of a moral failing. I don’t know about your generation, but I come from latch-key kid territory and the overwhelming theme of my childhood was this: Nobody gives a shit how you feel. Work harder.

I think most of us born-between-1965-and-1980 folks really internalized that message and have become the bone-grinding laborers that are currently keeping the world together while the Baby-boomers succumb to dementia and the Millennials battle for social justice in the streets. Speaking from my own experience, I would have loved to march and riot and demonstrate along with all the other outraged feminists.  But I have to work.  The dead bodies of my county aren’t going to clean up themselves, and my co-workers are just as overworked as I am. I can’t bring myself to call in sick-of-the-state-of-affairs when I know it would mean sticking my cohorts with a 72 hour shift. We’re all burned out.

I’m not gonna lie, things have been bad lately. I think the combined stress of the pandemic along with a whole array of political upheavals and civil unrest is taking a brutal, unacknowledged toll on the human race. People have been dying of COVID-19.  But, there have also been more suicides, more homicides and WAY more instances of people dying BADLY than I think I’ve ever seen. Seriously, you guys… shit is fucked.  Maybe it’s always been that way and my original programming: the suck-it-up-no-one-cares-how-you-feel-programming… is simply starting to fall apart. The lesson I learned from Alexander and his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day is failing me.  Maybe I’m just done taking it on the chin and hoping tomorrow is better.

Anyway, it’s been a run of some gnarly shit- and since this is MY blog and MY coping mechanism… I’m gonna go ahead and talk about it.

(I guess that’s as close as you’re going to get to a trigger warning.)

-Case #1- Bad men and beautiful creatures

It was the second day of my 48-hour shift, and I use the word, “day” lightly. The time was 4:55 in the morning, and I know this because it was the third time I had been woken out of a dead sleep to deal with someone else’s problems.  The first call had been at midnight.  The second call had rolled in at 3 am. Now it was 4:55, I had barely slept and I was shlupping my cranky ass to a suicide… Rather, ANOTHER suicide. There have been so many lately.

It may surprise one to hear, but much like paramedics, death investigators have certain scenes that they don’t mind running, and other scenes that they despise with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.  For example, back when I was a paramedic, I was a whiz with cardiac calls, but I hated respiratory calls.  I would completely fall apart and do a shit job.

The quirky, stoic medical examiners displayed on network television would have you believe that all deaths are created equal and we who investigate them are indifferent and unaffected at each and every one. 

That is not the case.

I hate suicides on a visceral level. Walking into a suicide scene feels like swimming in toxic waste.  You come away from it feeling heavy and poisoned. I hate asking witnesses about the dead person’s slow descent into hopeless misery.  I hate looking at blown-off heads or mouths erupting with frothy foam from an overdose.  I hate heaving dead bodies down from their hanging points. I hate measuring ligatures. I hate peeling ropes, electrical cords and ratchet-straps out of the deep furrows around people’s necks. I hate having to explain to the dead person’s mom or wife or brother that we know it’s a suicide due to a multitude of reasons. I hate telling them their suspicions the death may have been a homicide or an accident aren’t based in reality or fact.

That morning, as I wrote down the address and headed to the scene, I hated all of it more than ever. In addition to the standard issue post-suicide angst, I would also be battling sleep deprivation. I’m physically incapable of napping during the day, which meant the remaining 27 hours of my shift were going to be fueled by caffeine and rage. I wasn’t even halfway done. And a shift at the medical examiner’s office is like a box of chocolates: There’s a lot of variety, but sooner or later, all of it is going to keep you awake, make you fat, and give you a disease.

I stampeded onto the scene with a degree of salty sarcasm that frightened even me.  Sadly, stopping at a Starbucks for a cup of liquid decency didn’t improve my mood. The only thing that helped the situation was the fact that none of the decedent’s family was at the scene when I got there.  Normally, the cops are supposed to keep witnesses around so I can interview them myself. But today I didn’t give a shit. In fact, I was relieved no one emotionally invested in the death was still present, because the second I walked in the door I was off like a sarcastic comet… my contempt for everything and everyone trailing a searing streak behind me.

I barked questions at the cops, I sneered at the Walmart décor… asking if it was from the “Suburban Desperation Collection.”  I demanded to know who had cut the decedent down from the ligature point in her closet. And did that investigative genius bother to take any measurements or pictures before they destroyed anything of evidentiary value. To cap it all off, I also asked why the fuck these people had a drawing of Christopher Walken in their living room.

(It took me a second to realize it was actually a cringe-worthy, cliché “Native American’s” face superimposed over an equally mediocre landscape.  Whoever had drawn it had attempted to accentuate the stereotypically high cheekbones and solemn countenance.  But they had only managed to render a white-washed, gaunt ubiquitous male who, hand-to-God, looked just like the Hessian Mercenary from Sleepy Hollow.)

By the time I made it to the decedent’s body in the living room, my tirade died down a bit. I heaved out an exasperated huff as I knelt down beside her.  Her name was Krista. She was 21 years old. Blonde. Eyes closed with black eye-makeup flaking off her eyelashes on to her cheeks. Her shirt had been cut by the fire department during resuscitation and lay in shreds beneath her.  To facilitate CPR, Fire had also yanked her bra up to her chin rather than try to cut the underwires.  He jeans were slashed from the cuffs to the waistband so an interosseous IV could be drilled into her leg. Tangled IV lines and plastic wrappers from resuscitation equipment surrounded her.  There was a tube jammed down her throat and vomit smeared her face and dribbled into her hair. There was a deep, waxy furrow looping around her jawline and up behind each ear. It was vulnerable, grotesque and in a word, humiliating. I glanced around the living room.  There were pictures of her with her family, hung everywhere. She was smiling in all of them, clearly laughing in a couple as well. I felt a twinge in my chest.

“Oh, kiddo… what the hell did you do?” I sighed as I pulled the airway tube and began peeling away layers of resuscitation equipment. The officers spoke as I worked. They detailed Krista’s last night on Earth as I ran my hands over her scalp and face, feeling for bumps, bruises, deformities. Feeling for movement where there shouldn’t be any.  Looking in her mouth, pushing on her teeth to make sure they were all still in place. I checked for scratches, bruises, defensive wounds… anything that might suggest she didn’t do this to herself.

“This is her parent’s house,” The officers told me. “By all reports she was a pretty normal kid until she moved in with some guy for a bit.  That fell apart and she’s been a mess ever since. She was living here right after the break-up. But apparently she wasn’t willing to abide by ‘house rules’ so parents kicked her out a while ago and she’s just kinda been couch-surfing ever since. They let her sleep in her old room here from time to time. But I guess she won’t keep a job and parties all the time: In and out at all hours, problematic behavior, steals, lies etc.  Anyway, she shows up yesterday at like 7am, asking if she can crash here for a bit.  Mom & dad say yes, even though they’re leaving to go to out of town for the weekend and she’s going to be here alone with her sister who still lives here.  The sister decides to go to a boyfriend’s place, leaving our girl here alone.  Krista decides to have some people over even though she’s been told not to.  Sister calls at about midnight and hears people in the background.  Sister tells our girl to get those people out of the house.  They hang up and about 2 hours later, Krista texts the sister and tells her not to come home tonight.  Naturally, the first thing Sister does is come right home. She finds our girl alone, trussed up in the closet.  Sister cuts her down, calls 911 and here we are.”

I glanced down at Krista’s face as though I expected her to offer some kind of explanation or rebuttal. The officers continued:

“We’ve already talked to one of our girl’s friends who was here earlier.  The friend says she didn’t like Krista’s new boyfriend who was here, so she left right after that phone call with the sister. I guess Krista’s boyfriend stuck around for a bit, but then left too.  We got his number, but we haven’t called him yet.”

“Well, shit,” I guffawed. “Dial him up and put him on speaker! We have questions for him.”

The officer nodded. “One more thing,” he said. “Sister says Krista was at some birthday party recently.  She got pass-out-wasted and I guess she was sexually assaulted by a couple of guys there. It wasn’t the boyfriend. He wasn’t there.  But I guess she didn’t file a police report because she felt like it was her fault.”

“Fuck…” The twinge in my chest tightened into a twist, like my heart couldn’t watch anymore and was trying to turn away. I stared into Krista’s dead face for a second and I could feel the officers’ eyes on me as I absorbed this information. My glance snagged on another smiling pic of our dead girl as I straightened up from my crouched position on the floor. “Fuck, that’s… terrible… Ok, mom and dad have been notified?”

The officers nodded. “They’re driving back right now, it’ll probably be another few hours. Sister is at a friend’s house.”

I stood there, silently for a moment.  Looking at Krista’s face and trying not to think of the pictures on the walls around me: pictures of her smiling, pictures of her laughing with her sister or hugging her dog. I wanted to say something to her. I wanted to hold her and soothe away the trauma in her life. I wanted to rewind it all and tell her she was going to be okay.  But she wasn’t ok.  She was dead.

“Boyfriend,” I announced to the officers. “Get the boyfriend on the phone.”

They nodded again and one officer, Derrick, dialed the number we had been given for the boyfriend.  He put the phone on speaker and we gathered around as the ringer trilled.  We had to call 3 times but he finally answered.  I kept quiet as Officer Derrick introduced himself and told the guy (let’s call him Tony) about the death.

To his credit, Tony was pretty upset.  He gasped and sputtered and his voice shook as he asked what happened.  Derrick calmly explained that Krista had killed herself and we knew that he had been at the house earlier in the evening. “Listen, Tony,” Derrick said. “The medical examiner is here with me.  You’re on speaker and she’d like to ask you some questions.”

“Man… o-ok,” Tony gasped as the reality of the situation punctured the fog of sleep.

“Tony,” I spoke loudly into the phone in Derrick’s hand. “My name is Grace, I’m the county medical examiner. I need you to answer some questions for me.”

“Yeah… yeah.”

“You’re Krista’s boyfriend, right.”

“No… not exactly… we’re talking,” he mumbled.

My eyes narrowed and I glanced at Derrick, who shrugged and rolled his eyes in response. “you’re ‘talking.’ Ok. What does that mean?”

“I don’t know. We hang out but it’s nothing official.”

“Right. Okay. I understand you were here tonight.  Can you tell me what happened?  What was going on? How was Krista acting?”

Tony launched into a confused description of being invited over to the home, driving across town to get there, the “vibe” of the whole thing being “pretty chill” until the sister called.  At which point the other girls in attendance “later-ed out” and he and his buddy left soon after.

“So,” I rubbed my eyes with one hand as I took the phone from Derrick. “How was Krista acting when you left.”

“I don’t know… She got really quiet.”

My ears pricked. “What do you mean ‘she got quiet?’”

Tony fumbled with his words for a second. “She got quiet, she seemed… quiet… I don’t know.”

“Was she upset?”

“Maybe.”

“Did you guys fight?” Tony was sounding a bit evasive. He was couching his answers in equivocations in order to deflect something. Not quite lying, but definitely side-stepping.

“No…?” he hesitated.   

I was starting to lose my patience with Tony. “OK, go on.”

He fumbled around for a bit, meandering through some feeble tale about they were supposed to go paddle-boarding the next day and her friends were lame and some other such bullshit. His voice went higher and the words came faster with no destination or point in sight. The tone of his monologue made my teeth grind until they squeaked.

“Tony… tony… tony… TONY STOP TALKING!” I interrupted him mid-sentence as he blathered on about absolutely anything other than what I was asking.  The deputies froze at my tone and exchanged a glance. I have a reputation for being kind of a hard-ass, but I don’t think any of them had ever actually heard me yell at a “witness” before.  But Tony was trying to wiggle out of something and I wasn’t having it. “TELL ME EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED.”

“Well… I drove all the way over there from across town, and I thought we were going to hang out. But then we had to leave and I told her I was annoyed-“ His voice trailed off.

-and that’s where the real story colored itself in. I knew exactly what had happened. Tony had driven across town, thinking he was going to get laid.  And when Tony didn’t get laid, he let Krista know exactly how he felt about it.  He had burned a good $7 in gas on the possibility of an orgasm. When he didn’t get what he felt entitled to, he had berated Krista and she got -as he called it- “quiet.”

I asked him if he knew about the sexual assault at the party.  He said he’d heard about it but wasn’t there and didn’t know the details.  His voice broke and he started babbling again. I could tell he was winding up to kick-off some hysterics and I wasn’t interested. I handed the phone back to Derrick and walked away as Tony began wailing. I didn’t care.

Tony was an idiot.

I’ve known the type.  After getting out of an incredibly abusive relationship, I attempted dating a “nice guy,” as in: he wasn’t a tattooed psychopath with a substance abuse problem. But despite the fact that I had told Mr. Nice-Guy about my recent, traumatic past… that didn’t stop him from kicking stones and whining that I had neglected to have sex with him after a few dates.  Specifically, he didn’t get a pony-ride on his birthday and he felt cheated.

Another time, another boyfriend wove together an epic guilt trip when I made moves to go to sleep when he was expecting sex. “Of course, maybe you just don’t LIKE sex,” he’d accused glumly. “Or maybe you just don’t like sex with me.” (Later that night I woke up to the sound of him noisily jerking off to porn in the bathroom. When he came back to bed to find me up, he told me it was my fault he’d been driven to such behavior.)

Still another time, ANOTHER boyfriend confronted me with near outrage when I had taken a sleeping pill on a camping trip, thinking I was about to turn in for the night. “What do you think you’re doing?” he had demanded as I washed down my Benadryl with a sip of water.  

I bet if you’d asked any of those guys what my reaction was to their behavior, they’d say that I “got quiet,” too.

Because I did.

In each of those instances, I froze with confusion, anger, shame. What should I say? What should I do? Am I wrong? Is he?

I knelt down again next to Krista as Derrick tried to talk Tony out of his imminent melt-down. I couldn’t help myself.  I didn’t want the deputies to see me, because, after all, I’m a hard-ass. But I wasn’t just going to leave her there. I had to do… something.  I reached down and cradled Krista’s head in my hands, stroking the sticky hair away from her face. I put a hand over her eyes and closed my own for a moment. I can’t put words to that moment because I didn’t say anything. I was just trying to reach past whatever barrier she had slipped through in her final moments. I see you. I know what happened to you.  I’m so sorry, kiddo. I’m sorry so many people failed you. You deserve better. I’m sorry all you get is me: a random stranger standing over you on your parents’ living room floor. I’m so sorry.

When I glanced back up, Derrick was watching me.  He’d handed the phone off to the other deputy (Tony was now audibly sobbing over the phone in another room) and when our eyes met, he said that he’d called the body transport crew and they’d be here soon. I stood up, straightened my coat. “Ok,” I sighed.  I felt heavy. Like I just didn’t have the energy to even be sad or say something to Derrick who looked concerned, like maybe I would start crying too. I wouldn’t, I was just weary.  Weary of loss. Weary of tragedy. Weary of what human beings do to each other and themselves.

I walked to the front door and stood in the foyer for a second. It was almost 5 am: early enough that the sky would still be dark, and it wouldn’t take the transport crew long to arrive. It was also early enough that the neighbors wouldn’t be staring out their windows or coming outside to ask why all the police cars were there. Sighing again, I opened the front door. I needed to breathe a bit.

There, right at eye-level as I opened the door, a hummingbird hovered in the entryway.  Facing inward as though it had been about to knock on the door. The tiny thing didn’t flinch or fly away, but rather hung there, regarding me with fearless curiosity.

My breath halted in my throat and the moment froze like a paused movie. Its wings were a dark blur and I couldn’t completely see it in the dark. But its throat was such an astonishing neon green it looked like it was lit from the inside.  “Oh…” I gasped as the hummingbird zipped a few inches closer, then backed away again. The little green light twitched and flashed with each miniscule movement. We remained like that, staring at each other for a few suspended seconds before it turned and disappeared, leaving me in the early morning stillness. I couldn’t move.

“What are you doing?” I heard Derrick behind me, breaking my trance.

“I… uh… there was a hummingbird. It was… green.”

“Hummingbirds are cool.”

“Yeah.”

The transport crew came and took Krista’s body away and throughout the rest of my shift, I grilled every cop I saw about whether or not anything could be still be done to prosecute the guys who attacked Krista at that party.  The answer was pretty much the same all around: She hadn’t reported it and now she was gone. Those cases are hard enough to pursue when the victim is still alive and willing to talk.  Without Krista to make the report, there was almost no chance those guys would ever answer for what they did to her.  No one took it lightly, either.  Every cop and detective listened intently and shook their head in frustration. Everyone felt the same way: angry, disgusted, helpless.

The next day, I had the dreaded talk with Krista’s mom. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea, but I mentioned the sexual assault when she asked me if I knew what happened. As I explained what we had found out about the incident Krista’s mom sighed, sounding almost exasperated. “I told her… I told her these things could happen.  I warned her about drinking…”

I get this a lot.  People feel compelled to explain things to me, to justify what they did or didn’t do.  They defend themselves or the defend the dead person.  It’s unnecessary. After over a decade of doing this job, I don’t really feel invested enough to make judgements on who’s a good person, who’s a bad person or who’s to blame. I just want to get my paperwork done.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel kind of … incredulous at this response. Like, okay, it’s important to warn kids about the things that could happen if they drink too much.  But still, in the aftermath of her daughter’s sexual assault and subsequent suicide, this I-told-her-so reaction struck me as being pretty… awful. Granted, this wasn’t my family and our conversation was only a glimpse into their dynamic.  But damn. The whole situation burrowed me deeper into a state of bleak ennui. In the immortal words of Charles Bukowski: “People are not good to each other. Perhaps if they were, our deaths would not be so sad.”

Or, in the words of Alexander: “Terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad…”

I did my best to file it all away in the “things I can’t think about or it’ll kill me” drawer in my brain. Also, I didn’t tell anyone about the hummingbird because I knew it would sound all woo-woo or whatever. I mean, it’s silly to attach significance to it, right? Hummingbirds happen – my desire to turn its appearance into a tiny, little, neon miracle… maybe Krista’s soul flying away from a bullshit, human existence… stupid… right?

I didn’t even tell my deputy husband, Mike, how upset I was by the whole scenario.  But it appears someone did. Imagine my surprise when he came home from work a while later, put down his gear and regarded me.

“Derrick is going after those guys.”

“Huh?”

“Derrick, he was with you on the suicide of the girl who was assaulted at a party.  He’s interviewing the other witnesses, he’s going to try to go after them.”

“He is?”

“Yeah, it might not go anywhere.  But he’s at least going to get them on law enforcement’s radar. We’ll know who they are. “

And it’s only now funny to me how I went to that death thinking that no one invested would be at the scene. No one who cared would be around.

I cared. Derrick cared.

Sometimes, you’re alexander. You realize no one gives a shit how you feel. You take it on the chin and hope tomorrow is better.

But sometimes, something lights you from the inside.

Sometimes, you’re the hummingbird.

I hope I’m the hummingbird.

Stay tuned for cases #2, #3 and #4

Bleach and Bleachability

So, today we’re taking a brief break from the “Acting Out” posts of yester-week, and I’m addressing a problem that has once again found it’s way into the news

Yes, folks, once again the prospect of drinking bleach has come to our attention.

I recently joined a google group for true-crime aficionados and the following news article was under discussion:

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/florida-family-allegedly-sold-thousands-bottles-bleach-marketed-covid-cure-n1265244

If you don’t feel like clicking on that link, rest assured that the majority of the information is already included in the title. A Florida family allegedly sold thousands of bottles of bleach, claiming it was a cure for the coronavirus. They called it “MMS” for “Miracle Mineral Solution.”

Florida. Amirite?

Now, most people realize that drinking bleach is not a good idea. But as I read through this article, it occurred to me to wonder what the “general-public” ruling is on drinking bleach. So, with a whole day that was packed with other stuff I should have been doing, I decided to dedicate some time to really unpacking the whole, “drinking bleach” question: We all know it’s bad… but HOW bad.

Here, I should note that while I was on my quest to really unpack “drinking bleach,” I had the movie Pride & Prejudice & Zombies on in the background.

What follows is the brief essay that I posted for all my new google-group friends to read. I call it Bleach and Bleachability in honor of Jane Austen and every bastardization that has ever been inflicted on her beloved works.

————————BLEACH AND BLEACHABILITY—————————————————

(Please do me the favor of imagining the first two lines of this being read by Kiera Knightly with a lovely baroque piece being played in the back ground as you you gaze over the English countryside:)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a wife, must be in want of a means to dispose of her.

And although, heretofore, many have supposed that bleach ingestion may be a convenient and available means to such an end… in truth one must endeavor to educate one‘s self before simply adulterating the offending individual’s tea with a spoonful of Clorox.

So, obviously, we’ve all heard Trump’s speech in which he blitheringly mumbled that ingesting cleaners might cure the coronavirus.  I was just as horrified as anyone but didn’t really think about it much more than to assume that the gene pool would be well rid of anyone who looked to our ignoble 45thpresident for medical advice.  But upon being presented with this article, I couldn’t help but contain my curiosity.  Many, many years ago when I was a shitty paramedic, I remember hearing a story of a paramedic instructor who would begin the “toxicology” portion of paramedic school by opening a bottle of bleach and taking a swig of it.  His point being that everything we’ve been told about “toxic” substances isn’t always true.

sorry, wrong “poison”

I took my curiosity to my search bar, just to see what ye olde internet was saying about drinking bleach these days. One of the first articles I ran across was on the web-site Quora (which apparently doesn’t waste much time with fact-checking). A young man by the name of Luke Harrison stated: “just a little sip of bleach can kill you.” He then launched into an admirable work of gruesome science fiction in which he boldly stated that this, “little sip of bleach” would do a person in within 15-30 minutes. He then described how, if someone survived, the bleach would have burned the esophagus and stomach to such a profound degree that the unfortunate soul would have to get an “esophagectomy” and would never be able to eat solid food again.

Feeling somewhat doubtful, I then checked Luke Harrison’s credentials and discovered that he expects to graduate from college in 2023, AND he wrote this little treatise on bleach drinking in 2018.  So… yeah… pretty confident in his medical knowledge for a high-schooler.

Quora… it’s a real think tank…

FINALLY, I simply went straight to the source and called the state chief forensic pathologist and asked him about the toxic effects of bleach.  He said that the toxic effects of bleach are almost completely dependent on the concentration of the substance and the overall health of the person drinking it.  Most people wouldn’t have easy access to highly concentrated bleach and would have to settle for whatever could be found on store shelves.  These products typically top out at a concentration of 6%.  

The biggest issues tend to be less about the theoretical “burning” of the esophagus and stomach (although bleach is corrosive and this can be a problem if you have pre-existing tears, ulcers or esophageal varices due to other health issues) The real concern seems to be more the bleach altering the pH of your blood, because let’s all remember… what you put in your mouth, ends up in your bloodstream. Human blood has a pH of 7.35-7.45, whereas bleach has a pH of 10-11 (making it alkalotic, NOT acidic.) This can do a number on your blood cells (they will hemolyze and die, flooding your bloodstream with blood-cell debris) and result in an acute kidney injury that, again, may be further complicated by an already existing condition.

So… what does drinking bleach do?  Well… it depends.  In a healthy individual, it’s reasonable to expect that drinking a cup of bleach won’t feel GREAT, but it won’t kill you.  Especially if you chase it with a whole lot of water and a swift kick to the ass… because, why the fuck are you drinking bleach, idiot? It’s also reasonable to expect that REPEATEDLY drinking bleach will cause enough problems that you’ll end up in a hospital long before you actually die.  At that point the hospital staff will (hopefully) stop you from drinking bleach and get your dumb-ass better so you can go out and find other bone-headed ways to do yourself in.  Finally, it’s reasonable to expect that continuing to drink bleach WILL kill you as repeated exposure to the substance will eventually cause an esophageal or stomach perforation followed by sepsis.  And/Or it will eventually turn your kidneys into grumpy little brown nuggets who won’t want to do their job anymore due to the lousy working conditions.  

But remember, these outcomes largely depend on the concentration of the bleach.

So ultimately- FUCK THESE GUYS for selling people bleach and telling them it was a miracle coronavirus cure.   And as for Luke Harrison… well, judging by his completely unfounded confidence in his own knowledge of what will kill you and what won’t, I don’t expect we’ll be bothered with his Quora opinions much longer. 

Oh… yeah… and if you want to kill your wife, bleach poisoning probably isn’t the most expeditious way to pull it off.  Feel free to hit me up for a more effective method.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Anyway, while none of my new friends have yet asked me for new and different ways of dispatching an unwanted spouse, I did receive one marriage proposal.

Not sure how to feel about that…

New Podcast Episode!

Hey there folks…

Here’s another survival story. This one comes from the faraway land of Mexico… where my friend Duque managed to survive a shootout and kidnapping attempt… then he managed to leave that life behind and simply commit to social justice, cold drinks… and cooking tacos.

Charlie's Story Part 2: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep" Dead Men's Donuts

Charlie was victimized by her mother's husband from the time she was 6 years old.  As a young adult she continued to live under the thumb of his narcissistic abuse and even gave birth to his child.  But Charlie wasn't going to spend her life in that cage.  And there's nothing more dangerous than a woman who has nothing left to lose.  This is part 2 of a 2 part-story.
  1. Charlie's Story Part 2: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep"
  2. Charlie's Story: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep"
  3. Deb's Story: How getting punched in the face can save your life
  4. Rachael's Story: Going Full Cockroach
  5. Duque's Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout

New Podcast Episode!

Hey guys…

So, now I have two new blog entries in the works… because things happen faster than I can write about them. But they’re coming. I swear they’re coming.

In the meantime, here is a new podcast episode-

This is a story of miscommunication, racial tension, and 75 tootsie rolls (or a laser pointer)

Charlie's Story Part 2: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep" Dead Men's Donuts

Charlie was victimized by her mother's husband from the time she was 6 years old.  As a young adult she continued to live under the thumb of his narcissistic abuse and even gave birth to his child.  But Charlie wasn't going to spend her life in that cage.  And there's nothing more dangerous than a woman who has nothing left to lose.  This is part 2 of a 2 part-story.
  1. Charlie's Story Part 2: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep"
  2. Charlie's Story: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep"
  3. Deb's Story: How getting punched in the face can save your life
  4. Rachael's Story: Going Full Cockroach
  5. Duque's Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout

Lord Voldemort Rides Again!

So, I know it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. It turns out podcasts take up a lot of time, but a new adventure in mortality is almost complete. Stay tuned! But in the mean-time- here is the latest podcast episode-

Charlie's Story Part 2: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep" Dead Men's Donuts

Charlie was victimized by her mother's husband from the time she was 6 years old.  As a young adult she continued to live under the thumb of his narcissistic abuse and even gave birth to his child.  But Charlie wasn't going to spend her life in that cage.  And there's nothing more dangerous than a woman who has nothing left to lose.  This is part 2 of a 2 part-story.
  1. Charlie's Story Part 2: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep"
  2. Charlie's Story: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep"
  3. Deb's Story: How getting punched in the face can save your life
  4. Rachael's Story: Going Full Cockroach
  5. Duque's Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout

New Podcast Episode

So, here it is- Chris’s story.

Charlie's Story Part 2: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep" Dead Men's Donuts

Charlie was victimized by her mother's husband from the time she was 6 years old.  As a young adult she continued to live under the thumb of his narcissistic abuse and even gave birth to his child.  But Charlie wasn't going to spend her life in that cage.  And there's nothing more dangerous than a woman who has nothing left to lose.  This is part 2 of a 2 part-story.
  1. Charlie's Story Part 2: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep"
  2. Charlie's Story: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep"
  3. Deb's Story: How getting punched in the face can save your life
  4. Rachael's Story: Going Full Cockroach
  5. Duque's Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout

So… I’ve heard that people have had a rough time with anchor cutting off the podcast episodes after only a couple of minutes.

Has anyone had that issue?

Well- just so you know, it’s available on Google Podcasts

Or Stitcher

Or Spotify

Or Apple Podcasts

I’m sorry, I have no idea how to link those

Anyway, my point is- if you want to listen, you can find it all over the place…

and you SHOULD listen… I mean I like that people sometimes enjoy the stuff I write, but the fact is- writing essays can get kind of tedious for me when I’ve spent an entire shift cranking out case files.

SO- my own stories will continue to come suffering down the line. But in the meantime- listen to a survival story or two.

xoxox

New Podcast Episode!

So

this story isn’t new to you guys, but it is likely the first time you’ve heard me read one of these stories first-hand. If you would like to hear me read “The One That Got Away” to a live audience- you can check it out here:

Charlie's Story Part 2: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep" Dead Men's Donuts

Charlie was victimized by her mother's husband from the time she was 6 years old.  As a young adult she continued to live under the thumb of his narcissistic abuse and even gave birth to his child.  But Charlie wasn't going to spend her life in that cage.  And there's nothing more dangerous than a woman who has nothing left to lose.  This is part 2 of a 2 part-story.
  1. Charlie's Story Part 2: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep"
  2. Charlie's Story: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep"
  3. Deb's Story: How getting punched in the face can save your life
  4. Rachael's Story: Going Full Cockroach
  5. Duque's Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout

Otherwise- congrats to us all for surviving another week of the apocalypse!

High-five!

Love is Blind

You probably already knew this, but love makes you stupid. Especially when you’re feeling it for the first time-at the age of 35.

Confused? Yeah, so was Megz when her girlfriend tried to kill her. Hear all about it on this week’s podcast episode, Megz Story.

I swear I’ll get back to writing my own material this week. It’s just with all the crazy shit going on in the world today, I have been finding it difficult to do anything other than watch reruns of Ru Paul’s Drag Race:

strangely therapeutic… or just strange.

In the meantime, here’s the link to the podcast episode.

Charlie's Story Part 2: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep" Dead Men's Donuts

Charlie was victimized by her mother's husband from the time she was 6 years old.  As a young adult she continued to live under the thumb of his narcissistic abuse and even gave birth to his child.  But Charlie wasn't going to spend her life in that cage.  And there's nothing more dangerous than a woman who has nothing left to lose.  This is part 2 of a 2 part-story.
  1. Charlie's Story Part 2: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep"
  2. Charlie's Story: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep"
  3. Deb's Story: How getting punched in the face can save your life
  4. Rachael's Story: Going Full Cockroach
  5. Duque's Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout

And now for something completely different!

Well,

I did it. I finally got my first podcast up. But for those of you who are hoping for a fucked up story about someone dying…

THINK AGAIN!

The podcast is all about fucked up stories of people LIVING!

That’s right. In an effort to combat the crippling depression, anxiety and ennui resulting from my incredibly traumatizing job- I’m producing a podcast of survival stories. I spend all my time listening to stories of why people are dead- I wanna hear why they’re alive.

But, don’t worry. I’ll still craft dark and morbid tales of depraved deaths for you here on the blog. But if you find yourself a little too depressed, feel free to give this a listen.

First episode is up and available on Anchor and Stitcher and Spotify and PocketCasts. (I think… sorry I’m still trying to figure this shit out. I’m old and technology is strange and frightening.

Charlie's Story Part 2: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep" Dead Men's Donuts

Charlie was victimized by her mother's husband from the time she was 6 years old.  As a young adult she continued to live under the thumb of his narcissistic abuse and even gave birth to his child.  But Charlie wasn't going to spend her life in that cage.  And there's nothing more dangerous than a woman who has nothing left to lose.  This is part 2 of a 2 part-story.
  1. Charlie's Story Part 2: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep"
  2. Charlie's Story: "If you ever touch me again, I'll stab you in your sleep"
  3. Deb's Story: How getting punched in the face can save your life
  4. Rachael's Story: Going Full Cockroach
  5. Duque's Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout

If you like it, tell your friends… if you hate it… tell your enemies.