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Improvisation on Newsprint

                                    Mike Smith

Say it’s true that they found her a mile from her house,
hands and feet tied behind her. (The reporter writes
she did that to herself, but only after she
ingested a lethal dose of morphine.) So say
it’s true police were aware of her for years, that
they had responded to no less than 13 calls
without a witness present or forthcoming, and
that by the window where he allegedly stood,
they never found so much as a cigarette butt.
(which is what they look for, butts, or candy wrappers—
boredom being a universal condition.)
The cops didn’t mind, really, but you can only
check the closets so many times. (The reporter
assures us her condition, although rare, is not
unheard of.) So it’s true, all of it. The theory
now goes that in the beginning there may have been 
a certain someone who called a certain number
of times, but that all the attention scared him off.
And yet, a routine had been established, and she
simply took up the slack.
                                           I can see it. We all
like to think we’re noticed. She might, on some level,
have depended on those calls. Maybe they sounded
almost neighborly—He’d ask after her daughter
and she would make sure he remembered his mother.
He’d call to tell her that the roof needed repair
or that the car’s engine sounded off. He might
have left notes, little things, reminding her to cook
the chicken in the fridge, or that the porch lights burned
through the night. Who could blame her if she kept it up?
It’s natural to improvise, and, anyway,
virtue’s in action, right? 

                                         How just like him, she must
have thought. And the further she went, the easier
it got. After all, who would believe it—someone
as pretty as she had been beating herself blue?
So when they found her, it gave them pause. Maybe they’d
misjudged her, they thought. (It’s what I would think.) But they
brought in an expert. He tied himself up the way
they found her in nine minutes flat. (The reporter
says that the morphine would have given her fifteen.)

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