Cleopatra, Georgia


When the reporter arrived, I was in the middle of breaking up with my wife, and didn't have much time for questions.  He was interested in our town because of all the murders, but as none of them were solved, there wasn't a lot to report on. "How come you haven't solved any murders, Sheriff?" said the reporter.

"Why aren't you a better man?" said my wife.

It made me wish that I had done the murders myself.  We were standing outside, and it was cold.  When the reporter had called me, I'd told him to meet me at Joe's.  I didn't realize that my wife would be lying in wait outside the front door for me.  It was a press conference on my failures.

"The truth is," I told them, "that failure is the greatest mystery.  Savor it."

There was not a lot that I wanted to say to my wife, and there was not a lot that I could tell the reporter.  I thought it strange that he was investigating a string of murders two years old, but reflected that, newswise, old murder is better than none at all.  We hadn't even had a new restaurant open in five whole years.  Our town is not interesting.  I found this comforting, and wanted to let the others know.

"Our town is not interesting," I said.  "That is the problem."

"Are you blaming our marriage on the town?" asked my wife.

"Are you drawing a parallel between marriage and murder?" asked the reporter.

"Well, marriage is the murder of a set of possibilities.  And murder is considered the greatest crime because it supposedly murders the greatest number of possibilities for the greatest number of people.  It is a clearcut eliminator of chance, both for the protagonist and the minor characters.  However, in some circumstances, bank fraud can really shift things economically as well, and isn't the real problem that we are not paying enough attention to the larger forces that shift our lives - large scale investments, plus housing trends, plus zeitgeists - and instead fixating on the minor forces - an aching back, water quality, the death of a marriage?  I think that if you consider it carefully, you'll see that the failure of our marriage can be chalked up to a number of larger environmental forces excluding ourselves, most of them out of our control.  These murders for instance - you probably think that I am dumb for failing to solve them.  But they can never be truly solvable - since the real problem is murderers existing, and that is unfixable.  I could catch this particular one, but it would be merely symbolic."

The reporter said "Would you say that the murders have been a central motif in the breakup of your relationship?  If I were writing a poem about it, could I use them as a central metaphor?"

My wife was angry.  "The failure of our marriage is our own faults, and directly beneath our control.  Please don't confuse the issue."

"But who are "we"?," I asked.  "We are shaped by our environments, our associates, and our class.  If you had had a more loving grandmother, or if my father's genes had been more self-confident during meiosis II, (or if I had ever won 5000 dollars on a splay-legged roan), we might not be having this conversation!"

"Don't you think that you're being a little avoidant?" asked the reporter.  "This woman just wants some closure.  Why are you denying her an intimate, careful conversation?"

"If I were that sort of man, then I wouldn't be answering either of your questions.  Who do you want me to be?  Why are you talking to me if you want me to be somebody else?  I am the man of the wet, slick fingers - I can't hold anything; all I can do it rub it."

"Do you find it ironic that you are the Sheriff?"

"Yes," I said, "but I designed it that way."