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Life Imitates Dickens

Posted Tuesday, October 2, 2007, at 11:51 AM

He CAN make this stuff up...
Back in 1864 Charles Dickens began work on what would become his novel, "Our Mutual Friend." In it, among many quirky characters (one might almost call them "Dickensian") were Mr. Venus, proprietor of a taxidermy shop, and Mr. Silas Wegg, a one-legged gentleman. As part of his trade, Mr. Venus would buy up bones and other odds and ends from hospitals and piece them together. He bought the bones in bulk, so to speak, and in doing so he came into possession of Mr. Wegg's leg, which had been amputated at one of the hospitals Mr. Venus did business with.

Mr. Wegg, extremely eager to regain possession of his disjointed member, tries to talk Mr. Venus out of it, but Mr. Venus says he has full legal ownership, having bought it fair and square. He then proceeds to extort Mr. Wegg into taking part in his various schemes on the promise that he will sell Mr. Wegg's leg back to him if he cooperates.

Now, in North Carolina it's deja vu all over again.

It seems that a Mr. Wood was storing his amputated leg in a barbecue smoker, and...

Boy. It's really hard to go on after starting a sentence like that. Now, I don't know why he was storing his leg in a barbecue smoker, but he was. And the smoker was in a storage building. And he didn't keep his rent payments up. So the contents of the storage building were auctioned off. The smoker was bought by a Mr. Whisnant.

Mr. Whisnant first turned the leg over to the police, who said it was none of their business. He tried to give it to a funeral home, but it's an all or nothing deal with funeral homes. And I suppose Mr. Whisnant was about ready to return the leg when he found that he was able to charge admission to people who wanted to see the Gruesome Smoker.

(This leads to the question: Is the incidence of insanity significantly higher in North Carolina than other states? I don't know. I'm just asking.)

Now Mr. Wood wants his leg back and Mr. Whisnant, who has found that the presence of the leg greatly increases the audience appeal of his Smoker (they were paying $3 for adults and $1 for children just to look in the empty smoker, after all), says he's willing to share custody of the leg, but there's no way he's giving it back. It's his leg now. He has a receipt.

Some critics have occasionally accused Charles Dickens of creating over-blown characters and situations that are so outrageous as to be a little bit silly. Personally, I'll stand by Mr. Dickens' reading of human nature any day.

Showing comments in chronological order
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If Dickens were alive today and wrote a novel using some of Jerry Springer's guests as fodder, it would be apropo.

-- Posted by Johnny Yuma on Tue, Oct 2, 2007, at 4:29 PM

Actually, I think that if Dickens were alive today, he would be a screenwriter.

As for Jerry Springer's guests... I think they're more in line with H.P. Lovecraft.

-- Posted by kenteutsch on Wed, Oct 3, 2007, at 10:09 AM

And I'm sure you're familiar with the story of Santa Anna's lost leg, now residing in a museum in Illinois. Made of cork, it served him well after he lost his real leg to the French 10 years earlier. Now Mexico wants it back, the artificial one that is.

-- Posted by kennethjones on Fri, Oct 5, 2007, at 4:39 PM


-- Posted by kenteutsch on Mon, Nov 5, 2007, at 1:08 PM

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