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**PRINT: No. 34.2: Part dictionary of the outrageous, part chronicle of the manic twists and turns of American life, Atlanta writer Jamie Iredell's BOOK OF FREAKS (due fall 2010 from Future Tense) is A+ material, the best of its bits spawning raucous laughter and righteous anger read after read after. Check out several of the "freaks" in this issue, part of our mini-broadsheets series, along with Nashville-based Gabe Durham's similarly structured selections from "Fun Camp," a work in progress, on the back side. Durham is Keyhole Magazine's new editor.

**PRINT: COLD WAS THE GROUND, by Chicago's Scott Stealey, is No. 34 in our broadsheet series. Gina, protagonist, a rather lonely condo dweller/office manager, strikes up a fleeting friendship with one Porgo, an Eastern European construction worker who is burying on her property what Gina takes for a time capsule. But the metaphorical fix is in -- Porgo, an ESL student, may be leading Gina in directions she canít exactly get her head all the way around. Enjoy. Chicago writer Stealey is editor of the Please Donít online mag.

WERT'S DEATH Michael Peck
FORBIDDEN FRUIT Steven Schutzman
MY ALIBI Kevin O'Cuinn

Chris Bower

Chicago's Ray's Reading Series, held at Ray's Tap on the city's northwest side, in mid-2010 featured "Death in Yellowstone," a dissection of the book by the same name. Each reader was given a copy of the book and assigned a portion of one of the book's two sections: "Death by Nature" or "Death by Man." The show also featured two stop motion animations created by Susie Kirkwood and Landry Miller and a theme song by Alan Scalpone, available here. Stay tuned for the remaining chapters. THE2NDHAND in 2008 published the results of the first Ray's event in "Requiem for Bob Meritxell." Bower, a past THE2NDHAND contributor, hosts the Ray's series and has published fiction in a variety of mags. Since 2003, he's put on at least one of his plays yearly; find more about them at his site.

PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7 | PART 8

The idea of being boiled to death in a hot spring is a truly terrifying one to any rational person.

This is the opening line of the first chapter of Lee H. Whittlesey's Death in Yellowstone. The chapter is called "Hold Fast to Your Children: Death in Hot Water," and I read it out loud to my friend Ron and his dog Moosie just as we got onto I-15, 851 miles from Yellowstone National Park.

I planned on reading the entire book out loud or taking turns reading it with Ron, but he really wasn't that into it. Every time I started reading, he either turned the radio up or said, "I think Moosie needs to piss," and he'd pull over and Moosie would look at me, as if to say, Why are we stopping?

Moosie was a great dog. We were originally going to make the trip with our girlfriends, but in the planning Ron and I both lost our girlfriends. They didn't break up with us; they died. It was awful. They were coming to see us, and some guy who had 11 fucking drinks plowed into them at an intersection while they were driving home filled with probably 12 drinks each themselves. Fucking drunk drivers, killing other drunk drivers. It's an American tragedy. The four of us had planned on making this trip together. But at least we still had Moosie.

As we passed Las Vegas, I started reading from the book again,

Little Lester Duke, 4, was scalded to death at LaDuke Hot Springs on July 23, 1905, when he fell into a bathing spring that was characterized as "one of the hottest in eastern Montana." The child's father, Julius LaDuke, ran the bathing resort at Horr, Mont., and the child was buried in the Horr cemetery.

Ron stopped me, "Moosie needs to take a piss. There's a rest stop just ahead."

We were at least 15 minutes away from the next rest stop, and I stated that, and started reading aloud again.

Another early fatality from a hot spring in the park occurred in 1905. Miss Fannie Weeks, age 40, was traveling...

Ron pulled over to the side of the road and said, "He really needs to go."

When they got back, I got into the driver's seat and announced over the dusty highway wind that I was going to drive for a bit. Ron yelled back that he was cool, that he could drive another hundred easy, but I stayed in the driver's seat. I drove for two hundred miles or so, all the while asking for Ron to read the book to me.

"Hey Ron, would you mind just readingÖ"

"If you wouldn't mind... I was just curious about an end of a story, could you read from page 11 for a bit or from page 12 or back from 13..."

"Could you describe the pictures to me?"

"Could you read me from the goddamn fucking Death in Yellowstone book I bought for us!"

Ron refused every request, and I got pissed off. "I thought this would be a fun thing to do! I thought we could learn about the history of the park and also hear some crazy stories about people dying in strange awful ways!

Ron asked me to pull over. I asked, "Does Moosie have to go?"

"No," he said. "Just pull over."

I pulled over, and Ron told me a story, one that, in retrospect, I really should have heard before, considering we had been planning this trip for months.

"My dad worked at Yellowstone," he began. He loved the park and was an avid skier and rock climber. After work, employees had a lot of freedom to go on night trips and explore the park. He had always been fascinated by the beauty of Shoshone Hot Springs, and on one such trip he decided to go for a walk while everyone else made dinner. Everyone else was Jack, Andrea and Jane, a new woman who had just recently joined up. His dad invited everyone for a walk into the geyser basin, hoping that only Jane would accept. But Jane had just started chopping onions on a small piece of cardboard and got an elbow from Andrea before yelling, "I'll see you when you get back!"

"Are you reading from the book?" I asked him. But when I looked over I could see the book open on his knee, cover-side up. He started talking again. I started driving again.

"It was winter," he said, "and maybe my dad wanted to see the beauty of the springs in the snow and maybe think about me and my future mom and whether or not he wanted to have me. I have no idea. Maybe he wanted to do some illegal 'hotspotting,' soaking in the cooler of the thermal pools, or maybe he was contemplating the bad decisions he made in his life, like how he ended things with Andrea."

The wind started picking up and our car was being blown from lane to lane, and I could hear the tires of our car running over bones, over bodies, nothing major but bones for sure.

"Are you reading from the fucking book or are you telling me a story about your dad?"

Ron stared through me and continued.

"Everyone was having a good time around the campfire, but my dad never made it back to the fun. Andrea, my dad's woman before my mom said, 'I hope he is OK.' Jack, who was then screwing Andrea, said, 'He is probably loving it out there,' but then he quietly noted, 'Something is wrong. He should have been back by now and I've got a bad feeling.'

"Andrea. Jack. These were people who should have been awkwardly introduced to me as fake aunts and uncles, but they would never be anything more than the last people to see my Dad alive. Jack is a dick but a good kind of dick. Jane is my mom, and she lives through this story long enough to have me."

Ron laughed, loudly and awkwardly, and the Death in Yellowstone book he wasn't reading from fell off his knee and onto the floor with a thud.

I said, "I think Moosie has to go," but Ron ignored me. Moosie rolled his eyes.

"The three-man lamphead search party set out, and they found my Dad quickly because they heard him screaming, 'God! Help Me! Please!' He was lying just outside a pool of water, steaming. 'I fell into a real hot one,' he yelled. 'I'm hurtin' real bad.'

"Andrea ran up to my Dad and tried to take off his clothes, saying, 'We have to take these clothes off, they are still boiling.' But as she began to take off his shoes he said, out of breath and clearly dying, 'I want Jane to do it, not you... Bitch.'

"Andrea called Jane over and said, 'He wants you to take care of him.' Andrea and Jack went for help in the snow.

"My dad, in grave pain, somehow convinced Jane to fuck him. Even though he was 12 times not a virgin, he pleaded with Jane to be his first. When she fucked him, she fucked him like she had wanted to fuck him forever, which was sort of true, and she fucked him so hard that his skin started rolling off his body. When she touched him and when she came, pressed up against my Dad's disappearing body, she felt his final ejaculation enter her. She also felt the whole organ just melt away into nothing, skin and fat dripping into skin and fat, an erect penis turned to mush. Because she had orgasmed already, she was cool with that aspect of it.

"So to make a long story short, Jane is my mom and my dad died from burns from a hot spring, but before he died, they had sex and made me even though he was burning to death and my dad was being burned just by being in contact with her skin.

"He must have really loved her. But he didn't. He only wanted to hook up with her because she wasn't Andrea, and he had actually compiled a list of things he didn't like about Jane before he went out that day and this was after just seeing her once, in a blurry photo and imagining that they might some day go on a date.

"1. Not tall enough.
2. Looks like she might be a vegetarian.
3. Too good looking.
4. Possible Polak.
5. Possible Jew.
6. Possible descendant from those awful camps (too much baggage).
7. Have to make sure Jack hasn't fucked her. I fear she might be the wrong kind of slut.

"But it turns out that my mom was the right kind of slut, the kind that fucks dying burning men because there is nothing else to do but enjoy a National Park."

I looked at Ron. I pulled over to the side of the road and said, "I think Moosie has to go." Ron agreed and pushed Moosie out into the highway where he tumbled and crumbled and died.

"We need a new Moosie," he said.

We pulled into the next town, and I picked a new dog out at a pet store, one that looked almost exactly like Moosie. I named him Moosie, not out of spite or rage, but because of a general lack of imagination. I drove throughout the night, and Ron and New Moosie slept in the backseat.

I turned on the interior light and tried to read some more of the book while I was driving. I finally got my knees in the perfect place to free up my hands and started to read from where Ron left off. Wait, from where Ron left off? Sure enough, the story of his father dying was in there, sort of -- there was no sex in the story, no post boiling conception, but pretty much, it was there.

I read, Andrea remembered it all vividly: "I was sitting by John's head and had just handed him the cup with a few sips of water. He drank them down, sat slightly up to hand me the cup and said thank you. As he flopped back, his eyes rolled up and his jaw clenched. I heard this strange gurgling sound. His lungs were filling with fluid. I thought maybe he was just choking so I gave him the Heimlich but when I deflated his stomach, all of his skin started rising from his face like he was getting unzipped and when I let him go, it all sort of melted back down into place but wrong, you know."

I dropped the book, and Ron's voice continued the story while Moosie kicked her legs together like she was dreaming.

"He spoke to Andrea. His last words were not, Why me? Or: That was a stupid thing I did. He said, reaching his hand out to caress a strand of Andrea's hair, 'I still love you, Andrea. Don't tell Jane. Or Jack. Or Andrea.'"

Ron was silent for a while, and then he opened his door and fell out of the car. I was driving slow, under the limit, but still almost 60, and as I slowed down and pulled over, I could tell through my rear-view mirror that Ron had tumbled and crumbled and died.

I stopped the car. I started crying. Moosie whimpered, and I pretended to close my eyes. And then Ron's voice appeared, coming directly from New Moosie's mouth, and it said, "We need a new Ron."

A few miles down the road we saw a man hitchhiking, and Moosie barked for me to pull over and pick him up. "Fine, I will pick him up, Moosie," I said. "Jeez."

I stopped just ahead of where he was standing. Moosie barked happily. As the man approached the window, I could see his face was covered with dirt and dried blood. He opened up the passenger side door, got in, and said, "Hey guys. Sorry about that."

It was Ron.

I guess.

"Hi Ron," I said to him.

"Hi David," he said to me.

"Hi Moosie," he said to Moosie.

"Hi Ron," said Ron's voice from the inside of Moosie.

We drove in near silence for the next few hours. I watched Ron slowly clean his face with his spit and a rag he had in his pocket.

"I have wipes," I said.

"I have wipes," Ron said back to me sarcastically.

When we pulled over for a snack, Ron stayed in the car. When I came back, Moosie was in the front seat buckled in. Ron was in the back, crying.

"What the fuck happened in here?" I asked.

"What the fuck happened in here?" asked Ron's voice, sarcastically, from inside Moosie.

"I got us ICEEs," I said.

"I love ICEEs" said Ron's voice from Ron's head, sarcastically.

"I know you do" I said.

"I don't like ICEEs, " said Ron's voice inside Moosie.

Nobody said anything for a couple of minutes. Ron and I sucked down the frozen red drinks until our straws hit the bottom and began screeching against the plastic tops. Ron's voice inside Moosie said, "Because I am a dog."

Ron asked, "You want me to read to you from your precious fucking book?

"Yes, I would, Ron."

"Fine. I'll read from your fucking book."

Ron read: Andrea remembers it all well: "When Jack, Jane, and I first reached the Geyser Basin, we heard a jubilant shout as we broke from the trees."

"They saw my Dad and he was delighted to see them and was singing at the top of his lungs:

"My momma is a mountain lion
My daddy is a Grizzly Bear
And I'm the meanest mountain man
This side of the Missouri River."

Andrea said, "He seemed joyful, giddy and seemingly invincible."

This was because my father had not yet fallen into the hot spring. He was just lost. He fell into the pool when he slipped while hitting the high note on the word River.

I know this contradicts a lot of the story I have been telling.

To be honest with you, I don't even know who is speaking anymore at this point. Who am I? Am I Moosie? Ron? New Ron? Old Moosie? Me? Am I me? What a strange question. All I know is that I feel like diving. Do you ever feel like diving? Has Greg Louganis happened yet? What year is it, anyway?

Whoever I was, I was with another guy and a dog with the voice of my friend deep inside, and we entered Yellowstone National Park. A ranger handed us a bunch of pamphlets, and Ron took them and threw them in the backseat. They sat there unread until the rangers found them a few hours later. They were delighted with ranger irony, which is very caustic and bitter, but is still (traditionally) followed by laughter.

I pulled over to the side of the road because Moosie said in Ron's old voice, "David," talking to me, "David, pull over here. At the Fountain Paint Pots."

I could hear hissing and popping coming from the earth.

Moosie looked at me, looked deep into my eyes and said, in my voice, "I got your brain, I got your brain. You want it back? You gotta get it out, you gotta get it out."

Ron looked at me, closed his eyes and said, "Shut the fuck up, David."

"I didn't say anything, Ron."

"I wasn't talking to you, Moosie," he said.


"I am going to go look at the Pots."

I looked down, and I was Moosie, as well as David, and I was so fucking uncomfortable in this car. Also, I had to piss, and everything itched. I watched David and Ron walk over and stare into the bubbling water, and I was alone in the car with the copy of Death in Yellowstone.

It's a mystery why anyone would dive headfirst into a Yellowstone hot spring merely to save a dog, but that is precisely what happened on July 20, 1981. David Kirwan and his friend Ronald Ratcliff parked their car at the Yellowstone Fountain Paint Pot parking lot at around one o'clock in the afternoon. When the men looked at the hot spring, Ratcliff's dog Moosie, a large mastiff or Great Dane, escaped from the car.

"I'm a mutt you asshole," I yelled.

Moosie ran toward Celestine Pool and jumped in, legs spread out like wings landing, a loud gorgeous splash into water later measured at 202 degrees. Moosie started yelping and someone nearby quipped, "Oh, look at the poor thing."

I was a poor thing. This water was so fucking hot. I was a poor fucking mutt, melting.

Dave and Ron rushed to the spring and stood on the edge of it. Ron saw that Dave was preparing himself to go into the spring. Ron yelled, "Don't go in there."

And Dave, I mean, me, this is me now, I said, "Like hell I won't."

I was so hot, so I took off my shirt and took a dive into the pool to help Moosie, who was dissolving in the water. I could hear his singing in my voice, "I got your brain, I got your brain. It's burning away."

Kirwan took two steps into the pool and dove headfirst into the boiling water. One witness described it as a flying, swimming pool type dive. Vistor Earl Welch of Alabama described it as more of a "swan dive," but Annie Franklin of Minnesota said it was "a pretty lame dive, lacking any grace, but the type of dive a man desperate to get his brain back from a boiling dog would do."

I swam a few strokes and I started to melt away. I grabbed Moosie and he fell apart in my arms. I could feel my brain inside his head squirm and bubble in the boil like it was crawfish. My brain was red, cooked. I tried to climb out.

Ronald pulled Kirwan from the spring, sustaining second degree burns to his feet. As they moved, Dave managed to say, "That was stupid. How bad am I?" Before they reached the walkway, Dave softly said, "That was a stupid thing I did."

I did not fucking say that. I said, "Moosie's got my brain." I was in boiling water for three fucking minutes. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Don't make me seem fucking reasonable.

Dave was a walking corpse. His entire body was so badly burned, his skin was already peeling off. Dave was blind -- his eyes appeared totally white. They removed one of his shoes, and the men watched horrified as his skin came off with it. Ron screamed, "Don't do that." And Dave said, "It doesn't matter."

I did say that. I did say that.

Near the spring, Rangers found two large pieces of skin shaped like human hands.

Moosie was never recovered, but oils in his beautiful body caused small eruptions in the springs for days.

I experienced third degree burns over 90 percent of my body, including my entire head, making it a clean 100. I lived until the morning. They flew me to Salt Lake City to die. I had never been there before, so that was interesting.

In our car, rangers found the park's warning literature and pamphlets. Unread.

Pay attention to the rules. Read the pamphlets. Or else you will die in Yellowstone.

PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7 | PART 8


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