Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Hot Day for Skeletons


Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's my steady diet of Cheez Whiz and bacon-wrapped bacon slathered in bacon and topped off with garnishes of bacon-injected bacon.

But I just don't have any energy today. Some primal instinct suggests that I shelter somewhere dark and cool until the saber-tooth tigers move on, and frankly that seems like perfectly reasonable advice.

So, here's a blast from the past. It's the day I learned to the validity of cynicism. Enjoy!


Direct your gaze onto the advertisement below. Try to see it through the eyes of a bookish six year old who loves all things strange and eerie.

Oh yeah. This is the stuff dreams are made of...

Life-sized monsters. Seven feet tall. SEVEN FEET TALL. That's tall, people. With glowing eyes! Reaching hands! Imagine the terror, indeed.

For a dollar.

Did I absolutely have to have a seven-foot-tall glowing skeleton of my very own?

Why yes. Yes I did.

So I shoved a buck thirty-five into an envelope and checked 'Boney the Skeleton' and the clock on my frantic little life came to an abrupt and screeching halt the instant that envelope hit the bottom of the mailbox.

I'd never wanted anything so bad in all my life. I went to sleep dreaming of the fun Boney and I would have! We'd stroll around town, scaring Hell out of everyone. We'd sit out on the porch and wave to horrified passers-by. We'd be the terrible talk of my tame little town, and if any kid came around with some lame Frankenstein's monster we'd knock his block off.

That is what I dreamed. Such thoughts consumed my every waking moment. And oh, did the moments drag. The ad didn't include the traditional admonition to allow six to eight weeks for delivery. How many hours did I spend, pondering the significance of that mysterious omission? Did the fine creators of Boney the Skeleton rush their sinister creations to the happy owners in a matter of mere days, instead? Was there, even now, a dark, unmarked truck speeding through the night toward Oxford, an eager Boney at the wheel?

Hours dragged. Days crept. Weeks crawled.

Moment by agonizing moment, I waited for my skeleton friend's arrival, forsaking all lesser concerns.

One Week. Two weeks. Three weeks, four. I lost my appetite. Lost interest in all things unrelated to the subtle click of clever bones.

Five weeks. Six weeks. Seven weeks, more. My eyes developed dark circles beneath the lids. I walked with a slump. Dragged my feet. How long, I wondered, so often the very words left paths in my brain. How long must I endure this never-ending sojourn through darkness?

Then, on rainy Tuesday afternoon in September, my mother met me at the door, smiling the smile of a relieved but patient parent.

I knew. I knew without words that Boney had arrived!

He was home, home at last, all seven glorious glowing feet of him! All 206 intricately connected phalanges and metacarpals and femurs and mandibles!

I was alone no more.

I was....complete.

I raced into the kitchen, sure Boney would be seated at the table, waiting to give me a cold but friendly embrace.

Instead, atop the tiny Formica eating table, sat an envelope.

An envelope. Thick, yes, and larger than the usual bills that came to us.

But only an envelope. No more for more than a single toe-bone. If that.

Mom must have recognized my confusion.

"It's from the right place," she said. "Open it! You've waited so long."

My mind raced. All right, I thought, though I'm sure I didn't use those words. Boney's delivery has been delayed. Or maybe they send a letter ahead before the actual skeleton arrives. Yes, I decided, as I tore into the paper. That must be it. It's a warning, so people won't be frightened.

Mom moved to my side.

So she was right there, for that awful moment when I removed the contents of the envelope, watched them unfold in my hand, and realized that Boney, my magnificent life-sized seven-foot-tall skeleton friend, Boney of the glowing eyes and the reaching hands, was nothing more than a cheap piece of plastic with a crude rendering of a skeleton painted upon it.

I do remember quite clearly thinking this:

Life-sized. They said it was life-sized. That means sized like life, with height and width and thickness.

They lied. The lying liars lied.

I dropped Boney on the kitchen floor and started bawling.

The weight of every moment of the long agonizing wait fell over me like a tidal wave. I had to say goodbye to my skeleton pal Boney forever, because there really wasn't any magic at all in the world, not even for a dollar plus thirty-five cents shipping, not even from storied New York.

Mom is gone now. Boney, who I kept, flaked away into bits of dust decades ago. I turned quickly past all the ads in my comic books, because after that I knew darned well Sea Monkeys didn't wear festive outfits and build little cities in your fish-bowl, and X-Ray Specs were just cheap plastic frames with concentric circles drawn on the lenses. No. Those were merely more lies. The world is what you see, nothing more. Jobs and bills and tired Dads and worried Moms and pets that sometimes never came home.

And all that came rushing back when I lifted that old comic book out of a stack of cast-offs and saw that ad again.

I still miss ya, Boney my skeleton pal.  Maybe one day.


This is life before the Internet, kids. Count your blessings.


  1. Look on the bright side, Frank! Boney prepared you to ignore the importunings of all those medical experts filling your emailbox with promises of - shall we say - personal enhancements?

  2. The latest trend in my personal spam has been toward, and I kid you not, luxury private jet charters. Because aren't we all sick and tired of chartering plain old Leer jets for our junkets to Paris?