"The Face in the Broom"
A Curious Crime
by Oliver Dandy

Chapter I: A Curious Crime

The full moon must have reached into the soiled linen hamper because I heard a discreet retching sound. A curious crime was about to occur. I was not ready for the curious crime. I was contemplating the proverb: "Practicality is the mud flaps in the mind." (must be spoken out loud after inhaling a helium balloon).

Balloon animals for the zoo families. Schnucks, that's one way to make a buck. Seems there's a whole bag of tricks to making ends meet. Some careerists turn to vaccination. Others to mixology. Still others to building blocks. Some to slime. Yet others....live for crime. Sure, it's not the oldest trick in the book, but crime's pretty ancient, about as ancient as the electric can opener.

And this particular crime was about to open a wide mouthed can of worms. This particular crime. was.. curious

Chapter II: The Face in the Broom

I had swept later than usual that evening. One might say I swept in.

Dwelling on the passion palms of King David, son of Evan Williams, I tripped into a trance-like trance. My soul was stripteased; I was erect with reverence; at the mercy of the palms, perking up to investigate metaphysically the divine sacred omission (emission?) of this-and-that scripture verse.

Trance on an astral plane flight put me there; now I was fully capable of seeing "the face in the broom". "The face in the broom"'s presence was no surprise. I was blessed to see "the face in the broom" manifested whenever I reached this dizzying and hallucinatory state of mind (a state I seemed to be reaching more and more frequently, most of my days spent "zoning out" in the Palms).

This was my chance to ask "the face in the broom" a question that had been gnawing at me that particular curious evening with the full moon and everything. So I asked.
"Why did I sweep later tonight?"
No answer from "the face in the broom".
At least I don't think there was an answer. I had already fallen back into the thorny trance, my body shaking, slightly foaming at all holes, drooling...discreet retching (ah, so that's what I heard earlier). I was the lost palm pilot, itchy with savage temper normally attributed to piano tuners. The string vibrating so rapidly I felt the bowels of five others. I'd loosened my metaphysically tie only to discover it was a mere noose. A hole between the between a rock and a reverent erection. But it didn't prevent my outer sheen of submission, my shampoo bath, my freedom. The left voice shivered too. Lips were blue, he'd been back there with the dry ice, granted the right. King David was there too, giving his labrador a shampoo bath.

I dissolved out of the trance, somewhat thankful to take a break from the balmy palms of David or Judas or Joan of Baez or whatever the script(ure) writer's name was. Having come to, I looked down at the gathering of garbage I had been sweeping for the past few hours. The mound of miscellany had grown limbs. Severed limbs!
"How curious," I thought.
"How curious?" I asked "the face in the broom".
No answer. I'd never heard an answer from "the face in the broom". Never ever. Not once. No. But I didn't let that deter me from chatting "the face in the broom" in eleven hour increments and asking "the face in the broom" the big questions (about sweeping, shampoo baths, etc.).
"Whose limbs do these belong to?"
I didn't hold my breath for an answer from "the face in the broom" for I sensed this was a most curious crime. I urgently dialed collect to my good friend and project coordinator, the Reverend / private detective, Dickens Edwards.
"Hullo?" Ah, Dickens, with his innocent voice, his manner of speaking, insinuating, 'why are you bothering me?' His one of a kind irritation system.
"Dickens, it's me, Winker Commons, I'm at our chop shop sweeping up, or should I say, I was sweeping until I was stunned alarmed puzzled and befuddled by a most curious pile."
"Now, Winker, what could be so curious about a pile of dirt?"
"Well you see Rev, I was swept away by this particular collection of flotsam - not only does this pile contain dirt, not only dust, not only clippings, cigarette butts, hair of the dog that bit me, empty aspirin packets, deflated balloons from our scripture readings, tatters of Bible belts, bottlenecks, rubbernecks, and pebbles and toadstools and-"
"Yes, yes, I know what sort of chop shop riff-raff ends up in the dustpan, but, please, I'm impatient, I was in the middle of a conference call with the hydrahead when I clicked over to this nonsense-"
"Ah-ah! I thought your voice sounded 'high'. You were inhaling helium with the spirits. That explains it."
"Goddman the helium Winker! There's nothing curious about dirt, and dust, and nail clippings, and dog bites, and cigarette butts, and empty aspirin packets, an-"
"-d belts, and necks, and balloon animals, and shampoo baths, and-"
Dickens' voice deepened, helium effects wearing off. He seemed to have lost his patience. "Yes, yes! Curses! All the above and more! Now please tell me Brother Commons, what, in God's name, makes this pile so curious?"
"Well, you see Rev, there's a full moon out tonight and-"
"Please spare me the mise-en-scene and tell me, what makes a pile...curious?"
"How to put it Rev, this pile, you see, um, well, this pile, uhhh, ok, this pile; has severed limbs."
"Severed limbs! Are you certain?"
"Sure am." I paused, and my doubt magnified. "Um, wait, let me double check."
I put Dickens on hold and checked.
Yep, limbs alright.
"Rev, are you there?"
"Yes, I'm here Winker. What did you see?"
"Yep, limbs alright."
"What sort of limbs?"
"Looks like....arms. Two arms and a...and uh, ... Wait, let me put you on hold."
I put Dickens on hold and checked.
"Rev, are you there?"
"Yes, I'm here Winker. What did you see?"
"Looks like limbs alright... arms. Two arms..."
"I believe we've been through this. Anything else, Gordon Winkfoot?"
"Oh, yes, there was more indeed, yes indeed."
"Yes, oh, my, indeed two arms and a..."
"C'mon out with it!"
"Two arms and a leg."
"Two arms and a leg!"
"Yes. Two arms and a leg."
"Anything else?"
I put Dickens on hold and checked.
"Rev, are you there?"
"Yes, I'm here Winker. What did you see?"
"Looks like...arms. Two arms."
"I believe we've been through this. Anything else, Winker 'Boston' Commons?"
"Oh, yes, there was more indeed, yes indeed."
"Yes, oh, my, indeed two arms and a..."
"C'mon out with it!"
"Two arms and a leg."
"Two arms and a leg."
"Yes. Two arms and a leg."
"Anything else?"
"No, just two arms a leg."
"Dear me. I guess I better come over and have a look."
Dickens put me on hold...
...and popped up next to me.
"Where is this pile, Brother Commons?"
"Right here Rev." Using my nose, I pointed towards the ground.
"Wow! This is a most usual pile save for the macabre addition of two severed arms and a one severed leg! Curious indeed! Good work Winker! Now tell me, how did you come upon these curious limbs?"
"Oh, it was a full moon and all, n' I was sweeping, n' in a trance and chatting with 'the face in the broom' when I lost my grip on the physically reality entirely and blacked out like a sailor drunk on grog-"
"Wait, say no more, Winker, for I have already solved this...curious crime."
"Fantastic! I knew I could count on you. Genius of deduction detection discovery and uncovery! - and solved so quickly - glad I called you and not The Butcher."
"Yes I have the punchline to this misfit mystery clenched in my fist and I'm ready to share the solution to the riddle with you. Right now."
"Do tell, Rev, do tell!"
"The limbs, the two arms and the one leg, belong to you, Winker Commons!"
I gasped, discreetly, then farted. "How could this be?"
"If you will follow my instruction and take a close look at yourself, you will notice those exact limbs missing from your person."
I did as I was told and took a peek at my body. I was generally opposed to scoping myself, but I did so for the sake of closing the file on this curious case.
"You appear to be entirely correct Rev! But tell me, how do explain this other pile of mutilated corpses of mixologists wrapped up in animal balloons?"



Though lacking the sophistication, the wit, and the charming complexity of a modern day New Yorker cartoon, the "The Face in the Broom" tale was remarkable for its time. When Oliver Handy first penned this now seemingly quaint mystery, he set a precedent that is standard, indispensable, and necessary in the genre nowadays. He was the first author to mention sweeping, or any act of labor for that matter. Before he arrived, fiction was totally devoted to subjects of luxurious living: the aristocrats, the upper classes, the one-percenters, the silver spooners, the michael j's (Jordan, Jackson, J. Fox, Jai White), the senator's sons, the kings and queens and aces, the "fats" of the land.

But ol' Ollie wrote about the common man: the street sweeper, the peasant, the farmer, tooth decay, the christmas tree salesman, the smiling fisherman. Even more so, he wrote for the common man. Widely known for his parasitic financial drain on his family, his insatiable alcoholism, and his damaging abusive rampages, Oliver's least publicized quality was his own commonness. A common man writing for the common man - How noble! How ingenuous! Yes, what made Oliver Handy so remarkable, was his commonness, his hideous, vulgar, detestable commonness. These quirks that made up his personality (commonness, nobleness, abusiveness, drunkenness, among other attributes) made the Dickens Edwards' tales (two in total: "The Face in the Broom" and "The Face in the Sack of Sandwiches", still unfinished to this day) highly relatable and, above all else, marketable. He spoke directly to the commonness of most everybody. And even though we, as a culture, society, and nation, have moved on to higher forms of expression (Spy Kids 3-D, Super Bowl, global terrorism), isn't everyone one of us, in some way, wondering how those severed limbs ended up in our piles?

-Burt Sal Curdle, 2012