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By Maria Modrovich.

Cemetery Phantom Busted: Man Stole Flowers From The Dead

Police caught the man who stole flowers off graves in a cemetery in the city of B. Reportedly, the middle-aged employee of City Library, father of two, had been taking whole bouquets and individual flowers over a period of time that probably spans over 5 years or longer. The cemetery phantom had been caught thanks to a lively elderly pensioner. Mrs. M. single-handedly tracked the man down and called the police when she surprised him in flagrante at the grave of her late husband. “I stalked him out,” the perky senior told the press. The man confessed to having desecrated various other tombs within the cemetery but denied accusations of pensioners from other graveyards in the city. Further investigation will be needed to confirm or rule out the alleged culpability. “I’m not a criminal,” Mr. G. said in his defense, “although of course I do realize that what I had done might be seen, morally speaking, as not right.” It is not yet clear what sort of legal action will take place.

Testimonials of people close to Mr. G. and those affected by his deeds:

Mr. G. is a respected colleague and a fellow professor at the University. I have always admired his views. Perhaps you could call his methods a little unorthodox but that is precisely what makes him a strong personality. This man is a born leader, a visionary. I think you have the wrong person. I cannot explain what led him to confess to these atrocities, possibly a work overload – not everyone realizes how stressful and challenging the academic field really is – but I am sure a further investigation will prove him innocent.

Professor Kinski, Department of Slavic Philology and member of The Third-World Countries Literature Center at City Library.

I have to say I’m in shock. I can’t imagine why my son would act like this. He comes from a decent family; he holds a professorship at the University. You should know that he presides over The Third-World Countries Literature Center at City Library. In fact, he was the one to have founded the center. He was always concerned with the needs of the disadvantaged, always initiating social debates. It’s true that his older brother has always been the one to actually help hands on, so to speak. This younger one was more of a dreamer, a revolutionary. Somewhat unreliable and impractical in daily chores. In fact – and this is a little ironic – it’s my older son who knows about flowers and helps me a great deal in the garden. He would never ravage flowers, certainly not in a cemetery.

Mrs. G., mother of Mr. G.

He has stolen flowers from my parents’ grave uncountable times. I was so desperate that I left him a note once. It read: “God sees you, your hand will fall off.” The next time I came, I found his note: “I’ve been doing this for years, and I still have both hands.” I don’t know what kind of a person does something like that. My husband who is disabled has been worried sick about me going to the cemetery by myself. It’s a huge relief to know that the man has been caught. No one but Mrs. M. could’ve done it.

Mrs. L., pensioner

This is ridiculous and I have no doubt that it will be clarified soon. My husband is one of the noblest people I know, a man with a capital M. He’d save the whole world if he could. Last year, we spent all summer in Samarkand where we hiked almost every day in search for some scriptures. Could I have imagined a more relaxing family holiday for me and the girls? Of course I could’ve but that’s not the point here. The point is, my husband’s ideals would never allow him to act in a way that unknown criminal did. Tell me, what motive could he possibly have had for acting like a vandal? None. He’s not a vandal; in fact, he’s the exact opposite. I think our family might even know that woman who supposedly caught him, and let me tell you, she’s a handful. If it’s a personal revenge – I’m don’t know. But it’s clearly a mistake, or some sort of misunderstanding. I have nothing else to say to you but this: my husband always was and always will be a humanist, in the deepest sense of the word. If every one of us cared so passionately for the poor, and for rare, vanishing literatures that are so fascinating once you’re willing to leave the comfort behind and take that hike, the world would be a better place. And such a place and the people of it would surely be kind enough to forgive a small fault, especially if what they were given instead was a much greater gift. That is if there were anything to forgive. I am, of course, speaking hypothetically.

Mrs. G., wife of Mr. G.

Yes, I see the man on the 39-bus frequently. I ride it to school and then back to the dorms everyday. Why I’m positive it’s him? I took an Introduction-to-Philosophy class in my freshman year and he subbed for our professor once. He went on about some primitive Uzbec-or-something writings that were to prove something. I don’t remember. I know he had those funny-shaped glasses and he spoke in never-ending, hard-to-understand sentences. He also laughed at these bizarre, unfunny jokes of his – a weird, nervous sort of giggle. Nobody else laughed. Beside that and the Hrabal-esque syntax, he’s known for this… should I say tic? He stresses certain words, or puts emphasis on some phrases; it’s like a mannerism of his. It’s as if he were trying to be simultaneously serious and ironic about a point, at the same time. I fell asleep during his lecture. He’s said to be quite the philanthropist, so this cemetery gig of his is a bit of a bomb on the campus. What an a-hole. And then again: if you think back to all those great intellectual minds … Marx, Rousseau … not exactly sweethearts in private, right? (laughs)

Michael S., anthropology student

You get off the 39-bus and from the stop it’s just a few steps to the main gate in front of which are the flower sellers, forming a line that winds down, – the pavement is descending – standing one next to the other, offering basically the same choice of flowers, usually gerberas: orange, white, yellow and sometimes – in my opinion quite inappropriately – pink. Some of them have wreaths too, or they sell daisies in brown plastic pots. The spare choice aside, the prices are a rip off, so I never buy anything from these people. Your best bet is to get the flowers at the Central Market but you absolutely must go early in the morning. I go at 7am, 7.30 the latest. You can imagine the labor I put into all that, and then schlepping the pots across the city – and for what! Only to get the flowers stolen almost every single time. And he is picky, this…, this guy. He takes roses, or carnations, pulls out a twig, but only when they’re fresh. I’m hundred-percent positive he sells the stolen flowers. What else would he do with them? Unless he’s crazy which I’m not ruling out either. Sometimes he shares with me, you know, leaves something behind, the darling, like on the day of my husband’s birthday. At other times he just cuts of the heads of the flowers, leaves the stems rot in the vase. Tell me, what kind of a person does something like that? Poor Mrs. L., from the XXI-section, she’d left him a note and you know what the bastard did? He wrote her back that. Oh, so you’ve heard. Can you imagine the horror of that old lady? We were all scared to go to the cemetery – what could a lonely old woman do to protect herself? It was about time I tracked that maniac down. Who could’ve known it was an honorable professor… It doesn’t surprise me, personally. God does move in mysterious ways. He sweated like a boar when I caught him. He kept blinking and pushing those square-shaped glasses up his nose, you know, they were constantly sliding down.

Mrs. M., perky pensioner

(You can read Mrs. M’s testimony in full on page 16).


Maria Modrovich is a Slovak writer and journalist who lives in New York. Her fiction and nonfiction appears in magazines in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In the U.S., her short stories have been published in the literary magazine Anderbo.com. At present, she is working on a collection of short stories.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, October 5th, 2010.