What Foolish Morals Be


The FBI files read like tales from the dark side of the moon…for the violently misbegotten. 

The gang were an adult-aged assortment of escaped childhood circus performers' and freaks descendants, mostly from armpits in and around Soviet Eastern Europe, said to be the spawn of bit-part extras used-up by Hollywood for weird perspective shots or freakish effects, convinced that the child-size tights they were forced to wear, not to mention the shocking absence of any real healthcare-related union style benefits, had effectively compromised their physical development, compounded by the consequent overall negative impact upon any real prospects they might otherwise have had of ever sitting at the big people’s table at any potentially important dining experience.  Privately, they rationalized this psychosocial slight, as they had long despaired of any real understanding of the fork, salad or entrée, pretending to pretend that it just didn’t matter, should they ever have had such an opportunity--a kind of compensating justice that only made things worse when they were really hungry for anything other than fast food, their fallback option, especially the Drive-Thru window or, as they self-pityingly referred to it, the Equalizer Express.  In their depths (which, let’s face it, is not all that deep) huge wrongs dwelt, wrongs that would be righted with wrongdoing, however right they may have been in feeling wronged by the tragic loss of their rights, right?  Having grown tired of half-hearted half-measures from the full-bodied world, they would now remake the world in their image, insuring as their first step a mandatory metric system designed to inflate their ‘standing’ in society, one they would fiendishly manipulate to operate according to the rules of golf, where the lowest number is triumphant; it was going to be glorious, complete with a new Napoleonic perspective, calling it Waterloo Redux, invoking the childish ‘do over’ rule resorted to by all physical misfits who can’t cut it against the so-called normals.

The psychological profiles had identified one particular trauma, however, that made these guys  much more than half a handful; the cruel exploitation of their kind by the freak-of-the-month club-minded voyeurs of the movie industry; they regarded one film above all as their Bosch-like rendition of hellish doom, vowing to some day avenge their suffering brothers and sisters of the ghetto the world and MGM had shamelessly idealized as Munchkin-land to, and for, their parents.

Crucial to their plan of vengeance was the alleged deliberate placement--- by the Oz politicos---their term for abusive Amerika and its vertically challenged lackeys---of the 'Yellow Brick Road' (code for exploitation) smack in the midst of this already oppressed and servile community, despite an abundance of data showing the projected traffic along this thoroughfare by pilgrims off to see you-know-who to be quite a lot, and indefinitely.  Added insult was the landlord’s requirement that the inhabitants of that ghetto were to be present on a half-time basis based, of course, upon ‘normal’ man hours-----yielding the unintended though cruel result that every Munchkinite was on call virtually all the time.  This, then, was the oppressive arithmetic of vertical Fascism, they its disregarded ‘digits’, doomed to a half-share in this American…NIGHTMARE!  “Follow, follow, follow, follow the yellow”…OUR asses; they were half again as much oppressed and vowed to redouble, no re-redouble their efforts to achieve parity through whole dollars and the equality they brought.

The profiles somberly concluded, however, that the ultimate catalyst of the gang’s unpredictable wrath was the exclusion of access to that road by the Munchkinites in favor of inorganic beings without hearts, brains or balls enough to ensure the safety of what anyone could see were rather small, really hard to see (no street lighting was possible due to cost overruns at Emerald City Hall) pint-sized pedestrians, forced to stand in harm’s way, nonetheless. Thus, concludes the elaborate neural ratiocinations of one Detective Ralph Flanders, Newark P.D. We now join his prefrontal cortex, already in (relative) progress...

"I alway knew these Feds were overpaid freaks--what the Hell am I supposed to do, summon old Willy, and shake his spear to solve this…massacre?!" Detective Flanders, all 5'4" of him, was doubly pissed.

First, his love of blue-collar hockey was, now, forever connected to snooty Shakespeare lovers and, worse, the papers were having a journalistic war of wordplay: 'Is a Midsummer Revival of Pucq Possible?'  And it was so near the end of the season--what, the fairies on the crime beat don't talk to the slobs in Sports?!' By now the squad room was deserted, the various detectives out doing their thing, the transparent walls taking on a deserted hockey arena's glass enclosure, Flanders, mid-ice, holding the puck, aching to drop it, bam, the sticks slapping the ice, unfreezing his dream-state brain. 

The emails weren't any better: 'To: Det. Flanders/From: Yellow Brick Road Warrior/ Re: Robin & His Goodfellows; So, when can we expect DeNiro to play you, the Mucky Muck of the Pucky Puck Murder?'

At this point, he'd trade Newark for Vegas, even odds.  The house might always win, but at least there the 'devils' had a winning record, and without the ice.  Speaking of which, he was cold, the interior winter of his office rivaling closely the real snowy one outside.  He might as well be freakin’ Hamlet, in his dank castle at Elsinore, the skull and bones of his dead daddy adding to the chill of his own stiff bones (excluding his autoerotic one, too often on his lonely mind) and judged empty skull.

The unkindest cut of all…he realized that his thoughts were now characteristic of the trapped Shakespearean Dane, complete with angst to spare) were the stream of notes now arriving; forensics was flummoxed: they were done on parchment, in Middle English, and taunting like some extant Ripper that knew more than Jack about underfunded police labs.
The latest: "…

The eye of
man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen,
man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive,
nor his heart to report, what my dream was." Nick Bottom

'Cute, make an ass of me, when it's you who's the ass…' Flanders spoke to the only audience in the room, his eyes on the SparkNotes of the play he'd purchased in the name of research, at the expense of Newark's citizens, the wider audience ever-ready to ass-ess his performance. 

Bottom was right, it was time to think outside the penalty box.  The professor at Fairleigh Dickinson was expecting him that afternoon.


"Yes, the Philadelphia Polish Mob, the press has dubbed them the Kielbasa Posse, a Polish American organized crime group operating from  Philadelphia. South Jersey is their relevant base.

The gang moved into territory occupied by Irish, Russian, and Italian Mafia outfits, namely the trafficking and dealing of drugs, and are said to have moved into bookmaking and loan sharking. Although they have a tough and fearsome reputation, they are said to be very polite and gentleman-like to local citizens and do not start fights unnecessarily. They do not have a good relationship with the Irish.  According to local residents, they are not well known and the older Polish residents of the neighborhood choose to ignore the existence of the gang."  The professor was a bit too clinical about the whole business, Flanders thought, and decided to turn the discussion to more sporting matters.

"Well, the origin of the word "puck" is obscure. The usual sources suggest the name is related to the verb "to puck", a cognate of "poke", used in the game of hurling, for striking or pushing the ball, from the Scottish Gaelic puc or the Irish poc, meaning to poke, punch or deliver a blow.  Ironic, isn't it, this business of names, although, when one thinks on it it seems fitting, the whole Slavic versus Celtic contest, for territory, you see."

Hoping to get down to the street level from the towering blather emanating from the prof's ivory-gated pie hole, Flanders asked about the slang 'biscuit' for it, and the fact that the puck had been lodged deeply within the short and stocky Pucq's throat, his eyes encrusted with some strange elixir, as yet unidentified by the chemistry lab in Trenton.
"Curious, indeed; you see, the play your bad actors have invoked has deep roots.  For one thing, Robin Goodfellow has a rather ribald history, involving, well, genitalia and all sorts of placement of same..." Professor Athenz's ordinarily pink flesh now took on the fey color of rouge, and he cleared his throat vigorously, culminating in a dry hacking cough.  "Must be that scone I had at breakfast" he self-consciously explained.

"That's a kind of biscuit, right?" Detective Flanders added, annoyed at the academic's pointlessness, or so he thought.

The prof only nodded, happy to move on to this oblique destination, prodded by the detective's now regularly tapping foot.

"And it is more than passing strange that the deceased's employer, Mr. Oberonowski, is...or, was, close to him.  As you may have read, in your...summary there, Oberonowski's Russian wife's name is Tatiana. King and Queen of the Fairies, you see, in the play."

Unconsciously, Flanders now replaced the cheat sheet pamphlet in his jacket pocket.

"There a queer connection here, that it?" Flanders had debated, with himself, whether he should use the term, ruling without objection that it was often used proudly by persons also known as gay.

"Technically, yes; by that I mean, based on my own life experiences--and, by that I mean certain…researches--there is an almost intentional mockery involved in this deadly melodrama you have brought me; you see, the play itself involves a Greek setting, with switching loves, allegiances, all rather confusing, and silly, culminating in Puck's famous declaration: '...what fools these mortals be'."

Flanders was now drawn in, hoping to be nearing a plausible motive.

"So, Oberonowski, after all the fooling around, one with the other, blah, blah, blah, is miffed with Puck, the one who started all this..." Flanders lips formed a smile as he spoke the last few syllables.
"It is true that he does become quite upset at Puck's 'impishness', yes; my money is on one key part of the plot: a favorite of the Bard's, really, the play within the play trope--there must have been some sort of interference, somehow, by an outlier, I'd bet my bottom dollar."

'Bottom', that's it, Flanders was thunderstruck.

"Professor, you've been a great help, thanks so much for your time" Flanders gushed, making a mental note to send him some suitable biscuits to suck on, as a thank you gift.


'Bottoms Up', what were the odds: a gay bar, right there, under his nose; he cringed at the odiousness of that particular figure of speech.

There it was, cancelled, suddenly, despite a packed house, every night.  "Paramus & This Be...Dreamy!", it was too freaky, which meant it rang true, like some cross-dressing belle, northern version.  The handbill, slightly damp from having been tossed in the gutter, gave Flanders a limp thumbs up, and he wasn't about to continue his foolish suffering.  The crumpled Xerox reemerged from that same coat pocket crowded with his SparkNotes copy of that surrounding play, now, rolled and tattered like some modern scroll.

"…The eye of
man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen,
man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive,
nor his heart to report, what my dream was." Nick Bottom
"Wise ass…mixing up all the senses, senselessly…" Flanders muttered.

"Smell, he left out the nose!" he rejoiced, his ear now seeing, his hand tasting insight, his tongue exclaiming.  His heart, now beating much faster, reported, by way of his tongue, the conceptual clue to the damned mystery: the stinking gym, in Paramus, where the mob types groomed their latest chumps, 'MuscleHustle', in puke green on a sign with a pair of flaring nostrils, just nostrils, crudely painted in spray paint graffiti style, with bluish teardrops of sweat, run by Matty Grosse. 


"Matty around?" Flanders asked, knowing it depended on who was asking.

"Duhpends on who wants ta know" the sweaty workout bag-basher replied in athlete-ese.  Flanders noticed that his sweat had a blue tinge; must have been the lighting.

The detective's shield seemed to cause the partly liquid athlete's nostrils to flare like two intake valves of a sewer pipe.   Fittingly, Flanders reacted by warning the human-shaped sewage plant not to waste his time.

"Back office..." it replied, now somehow flushed.

Detective Flanders, now weary of his nose's metaphorical talents, knocked on the door marked 'Private', in blue-tinged spray-painted stenciled letters."

"Enter" came the reflexive response in what Flanders thought a strange accent.

The badge only commanded Grosse's peripheral attention, otherwise busy reading.

"Need to ask you 'bout the bar on Mulberry Street, know the one?" Flanders, like some wind-up lawyer, knew the answer.

"Here we go round the mulberry bush, so early in the morn…" Grosse offered, again, in the same dialect.

"What's up with the musical thing, Shakespeare?"  Flanders thought he knew this one, too.

“…as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!"

Grosse had stood, gesturing as if on stage, smiling as if expecting applause from Flanders. 

"Cute, 'bush', 'bear'--you wanna tell me who mighta written this, and, use your poetic imagination, Duke" Flanders smilingly urged, glad that he had studied his SparkNotes.

"Well, the authorship is that of William Shakspur--that's how he signed his name---but no one's sure who wrote it."

"I know a certain D.A. might wanna hear what you got to say, under oath" Flanders pressed, now, noticing tiny blue-tinged sweat droplets forming a shimmering laurel wreath around the 'Duke's' bald head.

"More strange than true: I never may believe these antique fables nor these fairy toys…” Grosse now paused, seeming to recover control from some other part of his personality.  "Look, alls I know is that they were plannin a picnic, in the Pine Barrens; next thing I hear, Pucq slips 'em a Mickey Finn, bam, they're asleep.."

"You sure you don't wanna add a little more, say, like, motive for Pucq to be....dropped?" hounded Flanders, now detecting blood …feud.

"Um sure you know who owns that 'club', Bottoms Up, I mean; Tatiana, married to Oberonowski, silent partner in a certain hockey franchise--do the math, I mean, Pucq, he's on the payroll, you dig, and, well, he pulls that stunt so's he can be the lead in the show at the club; c'mon, you don't ever want your goalie comin out, not like that!"


The papers were full of praise for Detective Flanders' instincts; he simply demurred that the credit was due Mr. Shakespeare, a very cooperative witness.  He admitted, however, that even he didn't immediately connect Professor Athenz and the, now, permanently 'dropped' Pucq; there, the inspiration went to a certain Elwood Blues, and his sweating while belting out that song about the 'rubber biscuit'--stay hungry, and don’t come up… too short.

The End