Appeasing the Beasts of Remembering

“Procedural,” “Bless This Mess,” and “The Criminal Element Adapts and Evolves,” three shorts by Pete Segall

Appeasing the Beasts of Remembering

Procedural

Following the incident in the daycare and the incident in the high school and the incidents in the assisted living facility and the dog park, Barhydt was transferred to the Solved Crimes Division. It was their job to field calls related to cases that had already been closed. It surprised him, how many calls came in. People had a spotty relationship with the past. They revived it and they banished it. They rewrote the existing revisions. They elided months and years with a single word. Barhydt, for his part, was not sympathetic. He believed in a monolithic fossilized past, that behind us was a continuously expanding block of immutable moments. He treated the complainants with scorn and ridicule. He treated their calls as pranks from the void. In late July he took a call from a man who said his son-in-law had robbed him. Barhydt drove to the man’s apartment in Fordham Heights. He introduced himself and threw the closed file at the man’s sallow face. The papers that fell onto the floor detailed the investigation of the robbery, included the confession of the man’s daughter and her lover, who hoped to pin the theft on her husband. It included the transcripts of their trials, where each tried to blame the other, and the Bureau of Prisons report on their incarcerations. It also included a small typed notation that the son-in-law had relocated to Virginia and a clipped obituary from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He died of pancreatic cancer in 2004. The caller did not understand what had happened. He stood dumb in a puddle of papers. “I am the Avenging Echo,” Barhydt said. “I am the Beast of Remembering.” He gave the man a gentle slap on the side of the head and walked to the door. Soon Barhydt was transferred again. This time he was sent to Uncommitted Crimes. It was a unit for maniacs who could not be trusted anywhere else. They sat around all day and made up offenses they imagined taking place across the city. Barhydt became the most decorated officer in the unit’s long, long history.

Bless This Mess

The ghost was unobtrusive and kept her distance. Then she started doing us small favors: retrieving items believed to be lost, unlocking the door when we forgot our keys, turning out lights we left on. It sounds comforting but it was not. We are messy and absent-minded. In the mortal coil our ghost was organized and tidy. We are her hell. We mumble awkward thanks when we notice any new housework she’s done and, when we’re out, have begun discussing the possibility of an exorcism.

The Criminal Element Adapts and Evolves

I would say things have improved since we began turning criminals into animals. They are generally good-natured or occupied with their animal business. At worst they’re a little confused, and that’s hardly a thing to hold against them. Sure, there’s an influx of manure in the streets and nests and burrows have appeared in places where they aren’t wanted, but a brand new public works project has given would-be criminals jobs powerwashing away the mess. Civic pride is unfamiliar and buoying. We fall asleep at night feeling assured and listening to agile creatures commuting through the trees. Among certain people, though, there is growing suspicion that criminals who’ve yet to be caught have changed their tactics, sinning against us in more subtle ways. They operate in passing lanes and with public utilities. They rent unoccupied apartments strictly for the purpose of having loud, ecstatic sex with the windows open. It’s said they are making us doubt our abilities, resent our children, shorten our temper. If we feel threatened again we can only rely on those we love and trust, and the rabbits and pandas we pass on the street, working so hard to become themselves.

About the Author

Pete Segall’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Conjunctions, SmokeLong Quarterly, Necessary Fiction, The Literary Review, Matchbook, and elsewhere. He lives in Chicago.

“Procedural,” “Bless This Mess,” and “The Criminal Element Adapts and Evolves” are published here by permission of the author, Pete Segall. Copyright © Pete Segall 2018. All rights reserved.

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