I made it to Sunday morning without any further incidents.
I wouldn’t have described my parents as especially devout, but they were regular churchgoers. In the morning, I accompanied them to services at the small Lutheran church we attended.
I daydreamed through the service. When I left the church, I would not have been able to recount a single sentence from the pastor’s sermon to save my life.
My mind was otherwise occupied.
When we arrived home, our Sunday copy of the Cincinnati Enquirer had arrived, too. I took my time skimming through the paper, pausing only briefly on stories about the ongoing national headache of stagflation, and the upcoming presidential election.
Then I saw a story that did catch my attention.
“Headless bodies found near Zanesville”
In the wake of several young men going missing in the area, Zanesville authorities made a grisly discovery in a wooded area just beyond the city limits last Thursday.
The partially decomposed, headless bodies of two young men were found in a ravine…”
The story went on to include quotes from local law enforcement officials. There were speculations of a serial killer, or perhaps organized crime.
Zanesville was a small city in central Ohio. No more than a few hours from Cincinnati.
How many more coincidences do you need? I asked myself.
“Looks like an article there has your attention,” Dad said. Sitting on his La-Z-Boy, he was busy reading the sports section. The Cincinnati Reds were going gangbusters this year. The local sports media was already hyping the possibility of them winning the World Series (which they did, in fact, win in 1976—though I would have little interest in baseball that year).
I told my father the gist of the article. His reaction caught me off guard.
“What else can you expect?” He practically shouted. “With the way so many kids are using those damn drugs today, losing all control, it’s no surprise that things like that happen!”
I didn’t know quite what to say. We had not discussed Jack’s visit the prior night. Nevertheless, no major feat of interpretation was required to discern that my father’s words were a reflection of his frustrations and disappointments with Jack.
And I, for my part, was no fan of Jack’s lifestyle, for the rest of the hippie drug culture. But I wasn’t sure that I could so easily ascribe those headless bodies in Zanesville to the ongoing problem of young people getting high and dropping out.
More and more, I was coming to the conclusion that Harry Bailey’s article might have an element of truth to it.
But this was a conclusion that I was still fighting.
My mother had been in the kitchen, making the three of us pancakes, as was our usual after-church Sunday ritual.
She walked out into the living room, drawn by the sound of my father’s outburst.
“Is everything okay?” She asked.
My father smiled at her, obviously struggling to calm himself down.
“Everything is just fine, Marge. Steve and I were just talking, that’s all.”
My mom looked over at me for corroboration.
“Just a disturbing article in the newspaper,” I said. “Some young men murdered in Zanesville.”
“Do they know who killed them?”
“Oh,” my mother said. “Yes, that is a shame.”
My mother didn’t bother to ask why such a news report would have provoked my father to shout.
Thanks to Jack, yesterday had been a stressful day for them, as well as me.