Friday, February 24, 2012

What Ever Happened To . . . Thing One and Thing Two?

Mike and Mark Fitzmulligan were identical twins, born in Springfield, Illinois in 1952.  For the most part, the boys' childhood was unremarkable.  They were friendly young men and excellent students, adored by their teachers as well as their peers.  After school, the boys worked part time at the market owned by their parents Henry and Connie, where they stocked shelves, swept the floor, and bagged groceries.  The Fitzmulligan Twins were among the most popular and well-liked kids in all of Springfield, which makes what happened to them even more tragic.

One afternoon in April of 1967,  Mark was manning the checkstand when a suspicious-looking customer entered the market.

"Good morning, sir, welcome to Fitzmulligan's," said Mark.  "Can I help you find anything?"

"Why yes," answered  a six-foot three-inch black and white cat wearing only a red and white hat and bow tie.  "Where do you keep your tuna?"

"Here, let me show you," said Mark, stepping out from behind the counter.  "The canned fish are right over . . ."

That's as far as he got.  Without warning, the cat clubbed the unsuspecting twin over the head with an umbrella, dragged him out to the street, and tossed him into a large wooden box in the bed of a 1962 Ford pickup.  The cat closed the latch on the box trapping Mark inside.  That's when Mike came out of the store, trying to figure out why his brother was no longer working the cash register.

"Excuse me, sir," he said to the cat.  "Did you happen to see my brother?  He's about four-foot two and looks, well, exactly like me."

"Why yes, he's standing right there behind you.  I don't know how you missed him."

Mike fell for it -- hook, line and sinker.  When he turned around, the cat whacked him with the umbrella and loaded him in the box with his twin brother.  The cat climbed into the driver's seat and sped away.

For the next month, the felonious feline subjected the Fitzmulligan twins to various types of physical and mental torture.  He dressed them in identical red jumpsuits, dyed their hair a hideous shade of blue, and fed them nothing but brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tarts and Jim Beam whiskey.  To dehumanize the twins, the cat referred to them only as Thing One and Thing Two; if the boys dared to call each other by their given names, the umbrella came out and the beatings commenced.  The two Things spent most of their time drunk out of their minds, and the cat only let them out of their box when he wanted to vent his anger, which often included playing a game he called "Hit That Thing".

In addition to being a violent psychopath, the cat was a petty thief and he often took Thing One and Thing Two with him on jobs, one of which has been well documented.

It was a rainy Saturday morning.  Sally and Tommy McCrumm were left at home, just the two of them, while their mother Josie went to the store to do the weekly grocery shopping.  Mrs. McCrumm was a single mother, and while she would have preferred to hire a sitter to look after her children (Tommy, the older of the two, was only eleven), her budget didn't allow for such luxuries.  Most Saturdays this wasn't a problem, as the kids were fairly responsible, but on this particular afternoon some adult supervision would've saved an awful lot of heartache and paperwork later.

As Tommy would explain to the investigating officers, at around 1:25 PM something went "bump", and that bump made them jump.  They looked to see what caused the noise, and that's when they saw him.  They saw him step in on the mat.  They looked, and they saw him, the cat in the hat.  Tommy immediately told the furry intruder to leave the premises, as they weren't allowed to have visitors while their mother was out.  The cat, however, ignored the boy's pleas and began to destroy the family's possessions.  He started with a book, a teapot, a cake, a rake, and most troublesome of all, a glass bowl containing the family goldfish, Mr. Krinklebine.  The cat later claimed that he was merely trying to juggle these items to entertain the children, but Sally insisted, "the cat wasn't juggling at all, he just tossed everything up in the air.  The cake splattered, the coffee cup shattered, and if Tommy hadn't caught the fishbowl, Mr. K was a goner."

As the kids scrambled to clean up the mess, Mr. Krinklebine screamed at the cat, "Get out of here!  You should not be here when their mother is not!"  The cat did, in fact, leave the house at this point, only to return moments later carrying the wooden box containing two things formerly known as Mark and Mike Fitzmulligan.  As usual, the Things were completely hammered, and as a new twist, the cat had laced their morning Pop Tarts with a healthy dose of PCP.  When the cat opened the latch, Thing One and Thing Two shot out of the box like a couple of hyperactive weasels zapped with a cattle prod.  For the next hour and a half, Sally and Tommy McCrumm (and Mr. Krinklebine) experienced a level of chaos unmatched in the entire history of poorly-supervised pre-adolescents.  The cat and the Things flew kites in the house, played tennis, and caused a variety of damage to the floors, walls, and the overall structural integrity of the McCrumm house.  After the drugs wore off and the Things slowed down a bit, Tommy was able to capture them in a net and secure them back inside their box.

By this time, Mrs. McCrumm had finished her shopping and was about to return home.  In a rush, the cat haphazardly straightened up some of the wreckage (though the plumbing and electrical work would require extensive repairs by certified professionals which created a financial hardship for Mrs. McCrumm, since her homeowner's insurance did not cover damage caused by psychotic cats and drug-crazed teenage Things) and fled the scene.

Mrs. McCrumm asked Tommy, "What the hell was going on here?  This place looks like a bomb went off!"  Tommy was an honest kid, so he told his mom an accurate, if watered-down, version of the day's events.  Mrs. McCrumm immediately contacted the authorities, who questioned the children.  Mr. Krinklebine refused to talk to the officers without his attorney present.

Meanwhile, the cat drove away at a breakneck speed and when he turned the corner, the box containing the Things fell off the truck and smashed on the pavement.  Confused and injured, One and Two sat down on the curb where they were soon picked up by the police.  Using information the Things provided, Officer Marvin K. Mooney and his partner were able to track down the cat at his home and launch an investigation.

As it turns out, the hat-wearing cat was much more than a petty thief and vandal.  His real name was Skitch Morris, and the ransacking of the McCrumm home was but the latest (and least disturbing) of the cat's criminal activities.  An extensive search of Morris's home revealed drug paraphernalia, unregistered hand guns, and an extensive collection of underground kitty porn stashed in a closet.  To top it off, buried in the backyard, crime scene investigators found the bodies of three Sneetches who had been brutally murdered a few months earlier.  Apparently, two of the Sneetches had been tortured prior to their deaths because while one Sneetch's belly had not been mutilated, the others had scars upon thars.

Skitch "The Cat in the Hat" Morris was convicted on all charges and sentenced to death.  His execution was carried out on February 7, 1978.

After six months in a drug rehabilitation facility and three more in a mental hospital, Mark and Mike Fitzmulligan returned home to their parents in the summer of 1969.  Though not quite the same as they were before their abduction, both boys were able to return to Geisel High School that September and graduated the following June.  Neither of the twins discussed the details of their ordeal ever again.

After high school, Mike went on to the University of Northern Michigan where he majored in criminal justice.  He served thirty-five years with the Lansing Police Department, and retired in 2009.  He currently lives in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan with his wife Mitzi.  They have three grown children and seven grandkids.

Mark, on the other hand, spent his time redefining the word "lazy".  Uninterested in attending college and unwilling to look for work, the disturbed twin never moved out of his parents' house.  He sat around all day in his underwear, eating potato chips, drinking root beer, Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper, and any other soft drinks he could find in the refrigerator.  One afternoon in early '71, while completely hopped on pop, Mark stole the keys to his father's '69 Chevy Impala and went for a drive.  He didn't make it very far.  While speeding on the Interstate, Mark lost control of the vehicle and collided with an eighteen-wheeler transporting a shipment of Spaghetti-os to Pittsburgh.  In a gruesome avalanche of twisted steel, burning rubber and neat round spaghetti you can eat with a spoon, the Chevy tumbled down an embankment killing Mark instantly.  The driver of the truck was uninjured, although he could never quite get the smell of tomato sauce out of his trailer.

At the funeral, Mike Fitzmulligan spoke fondly of his twin brother.

"I loved him, man, we were two brothers sharing one soul.  We looked out for each other, we took care of each other, we shared each other's secrets.  As most of you know, we went through a terrible time together, but we were able to put that behind us and move on with our lives.  At least, I thought we had, but it seems now like Marky needed me more than I thought.  I wish I'd been there for him at the end.  That's one Thing I'll never forgive myself for."


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Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Sandwich

It was a Saturday afternoon, the year was 1977.  My brother Eric and I were in the kitchen whipping up a couple of baloney and cheese sandwiches for our lunch.  Mom was at work, and Dad was in the cellar working on something.  Our youngest brother Bobby was lying on the couch, recovering from the common cold.

"Dad!  Can I have lunch?" Bobby yelled.  It was a small house.  Voices carried, even down to the cellar.

Dad called up, "Are you guys in the kitchen?"

"Yeah!" I hollered back.

"Make Bobby a sandwich, would ya?"

There's no way to sugar-coat this.  At the age of seven, our brother Bobby was a little shit.  Being the youngest, he took a lot of crap from me and Eric, but he dished it out pretty well too.  And now, with the support of our father, he had us doing his bidding.  He was more than eager to take advantage of the situation.

"You heard him,  slave boys.  Make my lunch."

Eric and I looked at each other.  "I'm not making it, not if he's gonna be a jerk," said Eric.

"Don't look at me, I'm not making that little twerp a sandwich."

"And hurry up about it!"  Bobby ordered.

Eric slammed his green army hat to the floor, and stomped over to the top of the cellar stairs.  "Dad, Bobby's being a jerk!  Do we really have to make his lunch?"

"Just do it, please!" Dad replied.

"Yeah, slave boys," said Bobby.  "Just DO it!"

Eric came back to the kitchen.  "This sucks."

By this point, though, a thought had occurred to me.  Dad didn't exactly say what KIND of sandwich to make for our smart-ass little brother.  "So, Eric," I said.  "Just what kind of sandwich do you think Bobby would like?"

"I don't care, baloney?"

"Okay, anything else you want to add?"

Eric's eyes narrowed, and a smirk crawled across his face.  "Uh, yeah, I think he might like some peanut butter on it, too."

I spread a thin layer of Skippy on the one slice of bread.  "What next?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Eric.  "Maybe some mustard?"

Out came the Heinz Spicy Brown.  We took a quick inventory of the refrigerator.  Catsup.  Horseradish.  American cheese.  Grape jelly.  Hey, with a name like Smucker's . . .

By the time we finished, Bobby's sandwich was loaded up pretty good.  We went extra heavy on the horseradish around the edges of the bread, so that first (and probably only) bite was going to be a doozy.  Then we used lettuce leaves and a couple extra slices of baloney to make the sandwich look "normal".  We put it on a paper plate, garnished it with some Lay's potato chips, and delivered it to our sickly brother.

"About time, slave boys.  Now get me a Dr. Pepper."

"Anything you say, your majesty," I answered, stifling a chuckle.

Eric and I went back into the kitchen and waited.

"AAAAGH!  What is this?!?  This is DISGUSTING!"  Ah, the joys of horseradish.  "DAAAAAAD!"

Our father thundered up the cellar steps.  "What's going on?" he asked.

"They made me a gross sandwich!"

We were still giggling when Dad confronted us in the kitchen.  "What did you guys put on his sandwich?"

"Actually, Dad," said Eric, "it would be easier to tell you what we DIDN'T put on his sandwich.  Milk."

We knew we were in the clear when Dad cracked a smile.  "Okay, okay, maybe he asked for it.  Can you guys make him a baloney-and-cheese-and-nothing-else sandwich now?"

"No bread?" I asked.

"Uh, yeah, bread too."

So we did.  You've never seen a kid eat a baloney and cheese sandwich more carefully.


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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Another Year Without the Jets in the Super Bowl

Yes, the Jets did win the Super Bowl.  I was three.
Well, for the 43rd consecutive year, my beloved New York Jets are not playing on Super Sunday.  That's right, in the entire forty-six year history of the Super Bowl, the Jets have made exactly ONE more appearance than the Edmonton Oilers who, in case you don't keep up on such things, play in the National Hockey League.  The good news, of course, is that the Jets actually emerged victorious in their lone appearance, thanks to the magic of Joe Willie Namath combined with the complete ineptitude of the over-confident Baltimore Colts.

We'll take it, don't get me wrong.

Since it is virtually impossible for me to watch a sporting event as an impartial observer, I am, for the forty-third consecutive year, forced to select a non-Jets team to root for.  Generally, there is a system I use to help me decide.

First, I will not ever root for the Raiders, Rams, Dolphins, Bills, Patriots, Jaguars, Panthers, Ravens, Browns, Steelers, or any team with a completely candy-ass quarterback (other than the Jets, of course).  The reasons here are varied, but I view those teams as "the bad guys."

I will often cheer for a team if they have a player who I respect, both for their athletic talent and their perceived off-the-field demeanor.  Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Warrick Dunn are examples.

There are also players I will never root for, no matter who they play for such as  Ndamukong Suh, Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens and Brett Favre (again, except when he was a Jet).

Thankfully, this is one of the easy years, since the New England Patriots are playing.  I absolutely despise the Patriots, every single thing about them.  From their candy-ass quarterback to their 600-pound Sumo Lineman who hilariously has the word "fork" in his name, to their slovenly, hoodie-wearing, rule-breaking head coach, the Patriots are about as likeable as the Taliban.  In fact, if New England was playing the Taliban in the Super Bowl, I would root for the Taliban.

Okay, that's not exactly true.  I'd root for the Patriots to win, but for Tom Brady to blow out both knees in the process.

Vince Wilfork mistaking Jay Fiedler for a pizza.
Making my selection even simpler this year is the fact that the Pats are playing a team from New York.  Sure, it's not the Jets, but I'll take a New York team over a Boston team any day of the week and twice on Super Bowl Sunday.  Yankees-Red Sox, Rangers-Bruins, Knicks-Celtics, Syracuse-BU, doesn't matter.  As I once heard 50,000 New Yorkers majestically chant, "Boston Sucks!"

Making this year even more fun is the fact that the Giants are most assuredly going to win the game.  Sure, it might be somewhat close, but the New England defense couldn't stop traffic if they had fourteen spike-strips and a bazooka.  And while the Patriot offense is somewhat formidable, they're depending quite a bit on an over-sized buffoon named Rob Grinkoflabowski (or something like that) who will be limited due to a boo-boo on hims widdle ankle.

Giants 38, Patsies 31.  Write it down.

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