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A mystery of hasps and coat hangers

Fastened on January 29, 2023.

A mystery presented itself this week: Upon blearily wandering into my ninth-floor half-bathroom, woken up at 5 a.m. by a tooting mastodon outside my ninth-floor bedroom window, I closed the door, turned on the light, and something new—never before seen—greeted me: Upon the door, on the inside side, in the middle, near the top, but not all the way up near the top, sort of more near the middle, there now hung… a double-headed coat hanger. It wasn’t there the night before. I was reasonably sure it wasn’t there the day before, either—or the night or day even before that. I have, after all, resided in this palatial house since I was but a Pnårpling, and I was reasonably sure I had, at least once, visited every room the house had to offer, including this ninth-floor half-bathroom, considering it was the bathroom abutting my ninth-floor full bedroom, which is where I sleep most often in years ending in “3.” I was reasonably sure that I was reasonably sane today too, which ruled out several other possibilities, some of which are more common on other days than others, such as days ending in “y.” The coat hanger continued to hang there, on the inside side of the door, in the middle, near the top. I stared at it. I squinted. I glared at it. Still it hung there, as coat-hangery as ever. It didn’t stare back at me, lacking eyes itself. It was brass.

I peeked around the outside side of the door. That side sported no new coat hangers. Nor did any other sides of the door (there are six). One long, thin side of the door held the usual two hinges; the other long, thin side had the expected latch mechanism. And the two short, thin sides (the “top” and “bottom” in the parlance of door-hanging experts) sported nothing other than the obscene doodles I had scribbled there when I was nine. They were still legible. As to the coat hanger… perplexing and vexing, perplexing and vexing indeed.

I sat down on the toilet pensively. Where did this brash, young coat hanger come from? Why only one—with two heads? Who had put it there? Had a pair of nefarious gnutes shimmered into existence late last night (or more worryingly, early this morn) and hung it there, in order to vex and perplex me? What meaning did it hold? What was the meaning behind its having two heads? Was someone implying something about me—or my own two heads? I looked at the shiny thing again, my eyeslits narrowing. Its brass surface gleamed—it was certainly new. It was certainly not there last night, let alone last week, nor last month, nor last year, nor last decade, nor—I surmised—when the house was constructed back in 1693. I began wondering if it was a gift from—

Then I fell off the toilet and hit my head on the sink, since this half-bathroom only had half a toilet. “Ow!”

I clambered back up onto the toilet and perched myself gingerly. Half a toilet was not nearly enough for my full buttocks, but I would make it work. And furthermore: Another mystery! But the Mystery of the Missing Ha’Toilet would have to wait—I had to uncover where this new coat hanger had come from first.

I sat down to my morning cold turkey juice and hot coffee and thumbed through the newspaper equally pensively. That double-headed coat hanger was still on my mind. The weather forecast predicted record-breaking heat, unending cold, and three simultaneous blizzards, all this week. The market was up (and down and sideways and back and forth). And the local police were concerned that a budding serial killer was stalking the town, honing his skills by skinning thousands of squirrels and hanging the pelts in random residents’ sheds and garages. “That’s no serial killer, that’s just Pnårp,” I scoffed and turned the page. Still that coat hanger was on my mind. It was on my mind, still. But the next page of the Bouillabaisse Boulevard Bulletin was the comics; three frames into a particularly gripping Garfield strip I had forgotten everything else that mattered.

Vile horses visited me each night this week: Nightmares of the darkest kind. I dreamed that all my cheese had become moldy, not just my cheddar and my feta, but even my Roquefort and my Stilton—and there was nothing I could do about it. Not even slicing the mold off helped; it would grow back as fast as I sliced. Soon piles of moldy slices filled my kitchen and spilled out into my other rooms. The stores were full of moldy cheese, the town was full of moldy cheese, the entire world was full of moldy cheese. Squirrels transmogrified into piles of moldy cheese. Becasue was buried up to her nipples under moldy cheese. Even the moldy cheese turned into more fractally moldy cheese. I fell into a toilet the size of a bathtub and then someone flushed. I swirled around, went down the pipe, into the sewer, and out to sea. Then more moldy cheese held me under and I drowned.

I awoke yipping like a methed-up Chihuahua and had to be sedated.

I gingerly rubbed the lump on my forehead as I fixed myself some more cold turkey juice and hot coffee. It was Turds Day—the day between Woodens Day and Fries Day. Becasue didn’t appreciate my nighttime yippings and howlings. No, she didn’t. I opened the Bulletin and turned to the classifieds. That mystery hook remained at the forefront of my smooth mind. Perhaps a time traveler had affixed it to the door and perchance there would be a cryptic message posted in the classifieds alerting me to this fact. I read them all, becoming increasingly crestfallen as my eyes moved down the page, then up again, then down again. There was a want ad for a used turkey (Who would want a used turkey?) and someone was selling a five-gallon bucket of prop wash and a can of camouflage paint. Alas there were no messages from any time travelers. Four columns into this arduous slog through the classifieds, I got dizzy and fell over and had to be sedated again.

I gingerly rubbed the second lump on my forehead as I fixed myself some more cold turkey juice and hot luncheon meats. At least I’m symmetrical again, I grumbled to myself. My hard, tiled floor didn’t appreciate my morning-time fallings-over. No, it didn’t. But I did so prefer being symmetrical, so I took comfort in that. I clambered back up onto the toilet and then swept up all the shreds of newspaper littering the kitchen floor. The mystery of where the other half of that toilet had gone was solved, but why it was in the kitchen presented a new mystery—which in turn was overshadowed by how my Bulletin had been reduced to shreds in the short time I was unconscious and drooling on the floor. The over-stove cabinet was still locked. So it wasn’t the skeezle-wumpus.

“Curiouser and curiouser,” I mumble-buttered aloud. Once again I became pensive. I noticed there was also butter everywhere, and a single corncob up on the table. What had Becasue and I been up to? Or could I assign blame to the gnomes for the slippery mess? Then I looked up and saw there were 157 more coat hangers recently affixed to the ceiling. They were all double-headed. That ruled out the gnomes. But did it rule out that tooting mastodon that set all this bizarrery in motion? No. I went all wall-eyed and fell off the ha’toilet again.

“Christ on a croissant!” I swore inimitably. “Christ on a cranberry muffin! Christ on a cruise ship!”

Suddenly, it struck me: (No, not a falling coat hanger, that would be too obvious a joke at this point in this long, drawn-out affair.) A large brass safety hasp, right in the middle of my forehead. I yerked and, after another staccato eruption of wrathful oaths and impious imprecations calling on Jesus in his myriad forms, I knew the answer to the whole mystery: The case of hasps I had purchased a decade ago, the members of which I had spread far and wide around my abode, had somehow gathered itself back into one assemblage, whereupon the individual hasps had proceeded to mate with one another and produce a multitude of brass coat hangers as offspring. The coat hangers, being highly peripatetic in nature, then—

“You can’t be serious,” my dishwasher-dwelling porcupine interrupted my theorizing. He peered at me curiously, leaning over the lid of the dishwasher, the most incredulously dubious expression on his porcupiny little face.

“I—” I protested. “But… well, yes—I could be… I mean, of course I’m serious… I—well…”

The week would end with the Case of the Out-of-Place Coat Hangers & Hasps unsolved. But inasmuch as this was anything, it was phlogistically fantastical.