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If They Did It . . .

from The Reeducation of a Turd Peddler
by John Henry Peabody

I HAD BEEN AT THE RANGE for about twenty minutes, configuring the pigeons and sighting in, when I realized that my going shooting that afternoon was all a front.
I was aiming, calibrating and firing away but really what I was doing was wondering who stole the heart?
  I had a list of candidates. And to be fair, I was one of them.
  But what motivation did I have? Heck, I wanted the heart to stay at the historical society. We made money from it. We sold T-shirts that said, “I Saw Junipero Serra’s Heart in a Jar.” Tourists, school kids, out-of-towners, everybody came to see the rubbery thing. We were busy.
  I suppose I could have stolen the heart, hidden it somewhere and then brought it back at just the right moment as the caper unwound—my ploy, the entire time, to douse Serra’s heart with more aura than it had.
  But I doubt it.
  Particularly since I was pretty sure I didn’t steal it. I like to have a few drinks, and I am a dingaling on occasion, but black out drunk?
  The only way I may have been involved in the theft of the heart was because I wasn’t paying attention. As I told the sheriff when she interviewed me, I can’t say for certain the heart was there when I left the building. Maybe the thief snuck in and wandered off with it while I was upstairs trying to write a coherent sentence. Maybe it wasn’t even there in the morning when I arrived. It might have been gone for a few days. Being the self-centered expert on Native American coprolites than I was, I admit that I do on occasion glance over at the mahogany cases to make sure they still look great. But the heart? In its jar?
  I looked right through it.
  Janet could have stolen it. Between the time I left the building and when I saw her, she could’ve come into the place, taken the jar and then stashed it in, say, the trunk of her car. Hell, she could have stolen six packs of gum and a red bic lighter from the local Walgreens in the same amount of time. But Janet was not the thieving type. Her discipline was nearly exact. Janet reported crime, she didn’t make it.
  There were elements of the Fornay who might take it. I had heard of and listened to the occasional extremist amongst the lot of Indians up the Pass. But those guys were the angry, bored, jobless type of NA. They would perform a stunt just to get noticed, act out. In that case, the heart would turn up soon—within the week—as the average rebellious Fornay, the angry Fornay, was a fuck up. Eventually, they’d blow it, get drunk, sell, leave it, drop it, break the glass, bounce the heart across the carpet. They could make a mess of it.
  The people from “The Society to Canonize Father Serra” could have taken it. Gerry Danskin had crossed my mind. The SCOFS people had a platform to reunite the heart with Serra’s body, neatly tucked under the tile work at Mission Carmel, to push the old boy towards sainthood. No heart, no saint.
  But Danskin and his khaki slack friends didn’t seem the type to walk into a building and steal something. They were more likely to use a lawyer to take it from you. Yeah, he was deluded, in a professional sense—the way Michael Bolton was. But actually walking in the back door and grabbing the heart—Danksin? He might be the person who dusted the space after the jar was taken, but the whole deal done by Danskin?
  It could be kids on a dare, some junior college idiots chugging cheap beer and acting cool. Why not? Everyone at the festival was going nuts, rolling in the street, poking each other in the ass with Popsicle sticks like a Breughel painting—why not look at the heart like some college boys look at the rival team’s mascot? You get loaded, have half a plan and steal it. In which case, the thing will turn up within the next week as well. They’ll get bored, sober, and realize mid-terms are a right around the corner.
  Darby Hipper could have done it. DH was a formaldehyde fetishist with a collection of things pickled in jars. But he wasn’t stupid and deluded. Darby was too obvious.
  Sean the Pelican Man, my pal, I could see him get into a desperate situation at some stage of his life and do that. But he wasn’t at that stage of his life. He had the town dicked, in his way. No stealy no hearty for him.
  Targuman, Mr. Elihu—he was deranged, in a good way, but still deranged—but where the hell would he put it? In the bushes? He lived in some pretty nice encampments, sure, dry sewer vaults and tree houses, but where would he hide a thing like Junipero Serra’s heart? Plus he never mentioned it to me. Obsession quotient?
  I could go on and list everyone fool in the city. But then I’d have make a list of every fool in the county. You could make a lot of lists of a lot of fools and never come up with the fool you’re looking for.
I pulled the trigger and a hundred yards away the orange disk exploded with a pound of dirt exalting around it.
  I figured one way or another the heart would turn up


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