Famous by a Nose

When I was in Jr. High, or Middle School as it has come to be known, I found a dead body. It wasn’t just a dead body, but it was the body of a man that had been stripped and tied and left to rot in the Arizona desert for a week.

Just between you and me, bodies stink. Seriously, I’ve smelled a lot of bad things in my life, most of them since then, and nothing has ever come close.

I was in college for too many great years, on and off. You smell a lot of things in college, mostly puke and crap, but there are some other lovely mediums available, and when I say “lovely” I mean disgusting, and when I say “available” I mean forced upon you. The world is your oyster and it smells like it.

I found the body while “hunting” with my cousin and a friend. “Hunting” was basically us shooting each other with BB guns, which is one reason I won’t let my boys own one. The other is that they’ll shoot their eye out. Is that the same reason? Or what about the time that I shot a sparrow and it died and I buried it in a Pop Tart box in the backyard beneath soil and tears, and then felt all dark and emoish for weeks even though emo didn’t exist yet? Is that a good enough reason?

I think so.

We were “hunting” and we smelled it. It was the smell of death, and to be honest I don’t know that I knew what death smelled like prior to that moment, but the minute it hit our nostrils we knew that that was what we were smelling.

We were in a dry riverbed that doubled as a grazing area for cattle. We assumed that we had stumbled upon a cow that had finally decided to end it all. We followed our noses.

We found the body. His hands were tied behind his back. We looked at each other, the three of us armed to the teeth with BB guns and dull Rambo knives. We looked at each other and then we ran like hell.

Your mind plays tricks on you when you’re 13 and you are running through the Arizona desert on a summer afternoon. Your mind plays tricks on you when you’re miles from the nearest house and you have just found a body that had obviously been murdered. It makes you see things, like murderers for instance.

Cut to scene: Three young boys, screaming about murderers and running as fast as they could around rocks and cacti, all the while pumping their BB guns with a vigor that would set the standard for future pump-action activities unrealistically high.

Everyone knows that when faced with a murderer there is only one option for a boy armed to the teeth with a BB gun and a dull Rambo knife, and that is to shoot the bastard’s eye out and hope to hell that someone else was aiming at the other eye. Then you continue to run like hell.

We ran to the nearest house and proceeded to scream our lungs out while banging on the door. At this point the murderer must have been right behind us. We were sure of it.

The owner of the house listened to our story and somehow understood what we were saying. They called the police and we continued our journey to the home of my cousin. His parents had been called and they were waiting for us. All of our parents were there within minutes.

The police arrived shortly after that and my cousin took them back to the body. It was an easy trail to follow, as we had been very thorough in exercising our survival skills. There was a path of trampled brush for miles. It glistened with tears and BBs.

Hansel and Gretel had nothing on us.

It wasn’t long after the police came back that we had to speak to the media. There was an angle and some spin, and suddenly we were being patted on the back for things that any idiot with a nose would have done.

We were told that the body belonged to a drug dealer. A deal had gone bad. The body had been dumped in the riverbed and the murderer was long gone.

The three of us played on a little league team and we had a game that afternoon. We went to it, and we talked as kids are prone to do. We were famous because some poor guy made some bad decisions—or bad decisions were made for him. We never took it lightly, that part of the story. Sure, the further removed we were from our fear the more surreal it became, but death leaves scars on a boy, and some memories linger forever.

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