Set on th' porch a spell

>> Sunday, October 18, 2009

This seems to happen every year around this season: somebody dies in public, and the neighbors leave him or her there, thinking the corpse is a Halloween decoration. This year, it's a 75-year-old man whose corpse sat on a balcony in Marina del Rey for a week.

I love it (I know, maybe I'm a bad person) when I read something like this:

Mostafa Mahmoud Zayed had apparently been dead since Monday with a single gunshot wound to one eye.


...followed just a few paragraphs later by:

Physicians will examine the body today to determine the cause of death.


I'm not a doctor, but I suspect the cause of death had something to do with being shot in the eye. Maybe. Maybe not:

"Jim," the coroner said hesitantly, "cause of death was forty-three knife wounds to the chest."

Falkner put his cup down. "I thought he was shot in the eye."

"That appears to have been a coincidence."


Of course, the news article is just poorly-written, is all. The author means that the coroner has to determine things like whether this was self-inflicted and (assuming there isn't something odd afoot) whether the actual cause of death was, for instance, brain trauma (from being shot in the eye) or hemorrhaging to death (from being shot in the eye) or somesuch. At least I assume that's what the coroner is up to.

"Well, Jim," the coroner said, "I think it's safe to assume we know what killed this man."

"Really?" Falkner said. The old doctor's methods never ceased to amaze him.

"Sure," the coroner said. There was a lengthy, awkward silence. Finally the coroner said, "He was shot in the eye."

"He was?" Falkner looked at the body again. This time he saw the subtle indicators the physician had seen with his trained eye almost instantly: the missing eye, the blood on the corpse's face, the missing eye. "My God," Falkner said, "I think you might be on to something. I thought he was just winking at somebody when he died"

"Jim, there's a hole in his face where his eyeball is supposed to be."

"I didn't go to medical school," Falkner snapped, "try explaining it to me in English."


This sort of thing gets reported often enough for one to suspect it's an urban legend kind of like the one about somebody dressed in a rented Santa outfit getting stuck in a chimney and everybody thinking Daddy must have run off with a floozy until the fireplace gets backed up the next time it's lit six weeks later or whatever. But the dead-guy-on-the-porch theme is, I imagine, a bit more credible. As I was driving over to a friend's just the other evening, I noticed an eerie figure sitting on a decorated porch rife with pumpkins and fake spider webs and such--I couldn't tell, in the moment I passed it, whether it was some homeowner or guest getting a bit of fresh air or maybe smoking a cig, or a zombie or skeleton wearing a coat, set out to amuse and frighten anybody coming up to the house. I guess, in light of the Marina del Rey story, that they're not actually exclusive possibilities (if you see what I mean). Anyway, there is a TV station photo of the porch, so I imagine there's something to the story aside from just the fact that I could see it really happening.

So. How cold was it in Marina del Rey this past week?

9 comments:

WendyB_09 Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 11:49:00 AM EDT  

Once again truth is stranger to fiction. Although it is sad no one (family, friends, neighbors, meals on wheels) missed him or thought to check on him all that time.

Come to think of it, I'd have the same problem...some days I pick up the phone just to see if it's still working!!

Carol Elaine Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 12:15:00 PM EDT  

Not cold at all, save one or two days. But like most places in L.A., Marina del Rey residents don't pay much attention to their neighbors. I just wonder how close he lived to the ocean, considering no one noticed the smell. Like Wendy said, it's pretty sad.

Leanright,  Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 12:23:00 PM EDT  

Oh, it was somewhere around 83 degrees in MDR this week, after a couple days of much needed rain.

Eric Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 12:59:00 PM EDT  

Thanks, Dave! I'd have to second Carol Elaine's comment, then--that could not have smelled pleasant at all....

neurondoc Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 2:01:00 PM EDT  

When I was a resident, I "helped" during an autopsy of a woman who had died two weeks before being discovered. I actually passed out from the smell. And remained ever thankful that I chose neurology and not pathology.

Nathan Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 4:14:00 PM EDT  

It's not the heat...it's the morbidity.

Carol Elaine Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 4:53:00 PM EDT  

I used to work in Marina del Rey. It's an odd place. And that's saying something. Marina del Rey is quite affluent, but feels very...phony. I vastly prefer Venice, just to the north. Yeah, Venice is a little odd, but all of its oddness is on the surface, since it's a super artistic area. I actually feel very comfortable in Venice, but not in MdR.

So, yeah, not all that surprised about the elderly man not being noticed for so long, I hate to say.

Nathan Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 8:51:00 PM EDT  

C.E.,

When I was living in L.A., I really wanted a place in "The Jungle" down in Playa de Rey. That seemed like the cool place to live.

(And I bet a dead guy could...uh...be dead there for weeks without getting noticed.)

Leanright,  Monday, October 19, 2009 at 3:47:00 PM EDT  

A nice ocean breeze can do wonders to cover an aroma...Sometimes the LA Coast actually smells WORSE than a rotting corpse.

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