22 January 2023

Dying Declarations II

II. A Hiss Before Dying

red curtain fringe

gate with the letter K

Lights down, curtain up, the famed film unreels.

Two minutes… ⏱️ … two minutes of reverent silence lapse as the camera passes under a gate bearing an encircled letter K. In the distance, a castle-like mansion beckons, a single lit window draws in the audience.

snow globe with hut inside

Through the glass, snow, swirling mysterious snow. When the camera pulls back, the scene reveals a snow globe cupped by an aged, dying man.

As the old man expires, the sphere rolls from his hand and shatters.

At that moment, theatre doors burst open. A piercing shaft of light slices the audience’s peripheral vision. The late-comers stumble and mumble, and their voices boom through the hushed auditorium.

“Hold this. Oh geez, I told that kid extra butter, no ice and lookie, extra ice and no butter. I’m gonna slap him silly. Hey, it’s started already. Oh, it’s that old guy, Orkin something. Scuse me. Oh crap, it’s in black and white.”

“Damn it. I can’t see. Scuse me. Scuse me.”

“Shh! Shh!”

On screen, the dying man whispers something approximating, “Яzzchoz€ßplub.”



“What’d he say?”

“Don’t know.”


“He said nose rub.”

“Slow snub?”

“Or clothes scrub.”

“No, no. Hose tub.”

“That makes no sense.”

“Maybe he whispered nose blood.”

“Like nosebleed? ’Cause he’s dying?”

“I’m thinkin’ Moe’s Pub.”

“Nonsense, no Moe and no pub.”

“It’s the bar next door. I need a drink.”

“Are you all deaf? He said toe stub.”

“That’s ridiculous.”



“He said snow glub.”

“No way. It was a snow globe, not a glub.”

“When it rolled, it went glub-glub.”

“That’s silly.”

“Honey, would you go back to the concession stand?. I can’t eat popcorn without butter.”


“Scuse me. Scuse me. Scuse me.”


“Turn off your phone!”

“I’m googling.”

“What’s it say?”

“Yo. Reddit says rosebud.”

“What? That makes even less sense.”

“Facebook misheard it too.”

“Scuse me. Scuse me. Okay, they gave us triple butter.”

“Two hours debate and we still don’t know.”

“I vote to close-caption theatre subtitles.”

“That concessions kid forgot salt.”




“Hey, look. Something’s painted on… on… on that burning thing. What is that?”

“A bedstead?”

“A bobsled?”

“Bob’s sled? Who’s Bob?”


“What does it mean?”

“I want a refund.”

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a show stub.”

“That’s the ticket.”


Wait! There’s more.

Dale Andrews
Dale Andrews

As mentioned last time, a conversation with friend and colleague Dale Andrews persuaded me he’d come up with the most ingenious (and surprisingly realistic) deathbed declaration ever.

As you surmise, some of us find dying whispers not merely indecipherable but too often wholly unintelligible. As a clue, they too often obscure rather than enlighten. The most treacherous aren’t merely red herring, they’re bloody red genre piranha.

Our discussion– Dale’s and mine– came about because flying has become onerous. Airlines and TSA have conspired to make air travel a miserable experience. So, I booked a train and in doing so, realized I would lay over in Washington, DC.

I phoned renowned author Dale Andrew, asking if he’d like to meet for breakfast. He accepted (and paid!) and we spent more than an hour discussing crime and punishment and the train station’s sculptures.

We enjoyed bouncing around ideas. Once Dale and I worked on an plot for a MG/YA story, The Severed Hand. Unfortunately our resource list included a secluded Caribbean isle, someone to answer phones and pay bills, and a supply of drinks after hours. The latter might be affordable, but…

Death and Faxes (or text messages)

Did I once mention Dale helped me reshape a dying accusation clue in the story Untenable? He rightly pointed out the message (an SMS, not a fax) was too stilted, then suggested a way to turn it into a different clue. Smart. By a surely unrelated coincidence, the story’s prosecutorial chief was named Andrew Dale. The magazine Ficta Fabula / Pages of Stories bought it.

Dale had a story rattling around in his head that included a dying declaration by a victim as he gasped his last breath. Unlike so many messages uttered upon the point of dying, Dale’s clue was genius, arguably the best of its kind, ever. You’ll have to read ‘Four Words’ and you’ve been warned.

Working alone might encourage originality, but it doesn’t replace asking a colleague, “What do you think of this? What if the plot did that?” It’s a step removed from a writers group, but tailored to the genre and personalities of the authors. And as Dale suggests, when about to croak, enunciate. I highly recommend it.


  1. Reminds me of the great Mel Brooks abstract art short- The Critic!

    1. I'll have to look that up, Janice. I enjoy Mel, Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman…

  2. I don't mind dying accusations. What drives me nuts are the dying accusation that's a puzzle - really? Someone's trying to muster up a last gasp but manage to write an anagram in Aramaic - writtten in blacklight - that, once discovered and deciphered will lead you to the place where the portrait on the back wall has the same name as the killer? No. No, no, no.

    1. Yes, I know the type! It's sad but many 'logic' computer games (Escape and others) rely upon weird happenstances where colors on the bottom of vase indicate the sequence of numbers behind the wastebasket provide the combination to the safe.

  3. "Renowned?" Hmphh. That'll be the day. What's that? You said the comment was a "Tolkien cheat?". . . . OHH, I get it -- it was "tongue in cheek!"

    1. Hell, Dale. My cell phone comes up with that wording on its own! (On my first attempt at a message, auto-correct substitured 'worried' for wording. Typical.)


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