Catching up on the Daily Show this evening, I found Jon Stewart busily mocking the Democratic congressional irresolution in the presidential closing Guantanamo, and the reluctance of any state’s representatives to accept terrorst-detainee-refugees. To illustrate the American competence to keep bad guys inside, Stewart cued an MSNBC clip of a patricidal cannibal named Joseph Garner, interviewed at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, who, after killing his father, took a bite out of his father’s brain. Stewart went on to fence brilliantly with Nuke Gingrich.
Joseph L. Garner was the name of the kid who lived across the street from me from 1951-63. The guy on the screen looked a great deal like an older extrapolation of the Joey Garner I remember; glasses, pale and particularly strange. Slough about 45 years, and prisoner Garner could easily be the very same kid who accidentally broke of my little finger beneath the heel of his boot as we walked to the Saturday matinee at the Avenue Theater. It happened when I’d reached for something interesting on the ground in front of us as we walked, while he took a shot at crushing whatever it was. Despite being nearly identical in age, raised under similar conditions, we were two very different kids. I ignored the pain and numbness in my finger until it started smarting from the salted popcorn, midway through the feature. There was blood. There was also no way I’d disclose the fact that that twirp had caused me a moment’s discomfort, but whatever friendship we’d enjoyed was 250-300% over.
I watched at a distance from that point forward as Joey’s peculiarities surfaced in the schoolyard. All through the fifth and sixth grades, he hung out with very small kids; taunting, teasing, bullying. And I’d listen attentively as my mother pointed to Joey as though he were a paragon of the virtues she demanded of me. I, of course, knew a whole lot better than she…who Joey was.
Joseph Garner, inmate at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, looked like the perfect reason for me to call my mother and tell her just exactly how infallible is her judgment of character. Unfortunately, I’m not that particular prick. Neither, upon closer inspection of the records available to me by means of the internet, is prisoner Garner Joey. The cannibal is probably ten years younger, slightly better looking and likely a pleasanter companion.
Still, it would have been awfully nice to take and withhold the news of this mountain of moral highground from my mother. So very close, yet totally unsmokable.