Originally Published 09/05/2011
Photo Source: Jessica Beebe
They called him The Bog Man, but he was known as Boggs, the joke being that like Wade Boggs was a .300 hitter, The Bog Man was a .300 killer. Of course, that was the rumor going around, and nobody knew for sure.
WE knew better because we used to ride our dirt bikes through the woods to drink with him when we were in high school. Or at least we thought we knew better. We knew that Admiral Derek Grendel had been side by side with MacArthur at Inchon, and he had plenty of kills over those four days. They called him “30 Seconds” back then, or so he told us, because that’s how long it took before his NKPA captives started talking. And we knew he had clearance all the way up to the Atom Bomb and that he retired from teaching aeronautics at MIT and built a cabin at the edge of the marsh. The rumors of all the bodies in the marsh were just rumors. As far as we knew.
But it wouldn’t have been surprising if “30 Seconds” was overseeing a marshy graveyard. There were enough stories. Grendel had rigged piano wire across the trail to take out the man who screwed him out of a tenth of an acre of garden space. Grendel had fired his .12 gauge on two kids who were necking in the woods. Crazy Grendel had screwed his neighbor’s wife, strangled her, and then screwed her again in the marsh before dumping her body off. Who knew?
He was crazy, alright, but never violent toward us. He always welcomed us into the cabin, and we always stayed until well after dark, grabbing beers from his ice chest. Grendel was about 5’6”, lean and taut, with thinning black hair and only three teeth showing up top. He was always in fatigues and boots, always with a can of Schaefer in hand and the breath to prove it. As dark fell on a summer night, he would stand lurching next to the kerosene lamp, his face glowing red from the wick and his temper, his high-pitched voice animated with stories from his days in the Army, teaching and coaching rowing at MIT and all the people with whom he had a score to settle or a score that was settled.
His transistor was always on. When not listening to the Sox game or his favorite, Car Talk on NPR, it was tuned to some great station that played all the classics: Glen Miller, Ellington, Bix Beiderbecke, Sidney Bechet. He called rock ‘n roll, “glass breaking shit” and said of this or that war-era chestnut on the radio, “this is good fucking music! Ya gotta get a girl and fuck her to this, ya get it?!? Hah?!?”
When not instructing us on our just-pubescent sex lives, he was instructing us on how to kill our neighbor, the Garden Thief. Our mission was to grab the Garden Thief in a half-nelson and skewer the blade in his kidney. That way he would be in so much pain he would be physically unable to scream, thus we’d have a nice, clean, stealth kill. “Ya gotta fuckin’ DO IT, ya got it?!?” Thus we high school kids received torture instructions from a drunken madman set to Moonlight Serenade on a summer night.
Eventually we graduated, moved on and stopped coming around. We presume The Bog Man is still out there: our neighbor is still alive, at least. And the rumors of what lays in the marsh continue to swirl like mosquitoes in the haze. All just rumors. As far as we know…