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The Ragged Stranger

(c. 1928)

by Charles MacArthur

Chapter IV.

First Search was beside himself when the Ragged Stranger was brought back to the morgue. He swore that nothing on earth would induce him to take the body back. He shouted that he would quit first, that it was an outrage, the worst joke he had ever seen perpetrated in thirty years of public life. The undertaker, in whose charge it had been committed, submitted that it was his fault. He didn’t want the body. First Search loudly rebutted that was no excuse for tossing it back and forth.

“What do you think it is -- a medicine ball?” he demanded.

“Don’t blame me, brother,” said the undertaker. “All I got out of this case was forty dollars and a punch in the jaw by some fresh Jew.”

“What the hell do they expect me to do with it?” persisted First Search, wildly. “Adopt it, and send it to school?”

But his bitterness availed him nothing. The Ragged Stranger was back to stay until the newspapers saw fit to authorize his burial, and they remained deaf to all the morgue-keeper’s frantic entreaties. Every day a reporter from each paper continued to call and solemnly ask if there was anything “new” in reference to the body. First Search received these requests as so many personal insults. He turned purple with rage. He screamed chaotic things. He waved his arms insanely; and, in general, made a fool of himself. For no one has a keener love of a joke than a newspaperman. And when it became known that the morgue keeper’s rage was so immediate, maniacal and bellowing, it became the custom for reporters to end their all-night drinking bouts in front of his establishment, banging at the door until First Search appeared at the window, when he was asked extraordinary questions having to do with the Ragged Stranger. Once he was roundly peppered with cantaloupes.

© 2003-04 The Estate of Charles G. MacArthur. All Rights Reserved.

Continue to Chapter Five or Return to Charles Gordon MacArthur Page

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