I just spent the last hour, at my 8 year old’s desperate request, translating a true story (taken from one of my earlier pieces) of weird and brutal murder, into a tale worthy of her next Show and Tell. And finding pictures. And let me tell you, it is HARD to find pictures that are ok for 8 year olds when your search terms are “gallows execution suffocation educational scaffold cartoon.” Here’s the end product.
The Talking Dead Guy
When doctors go to school to learn about the human body, they usually learn by performing surgery on a “cadaver” (ka-DAHV-er). That is a person who said, “When I die, give my body to student doctors so they can learn from me.” A lot of people do that now. In the old days, nobody gave their bodies to doctors because they thought they wouldn’t go to heaven if they did. So the only dead bodies doctors were able to learn from were the ones that came from criminals, who didn’t have a choice.
In 1752 a man named Ewan (Oo-wen) brutally killed another man and was sentenced to death by hanging. Hanging is trickier than it looks. A good hangman uses a lot of math [See kids! It DOES have real world application!] to “execute” (which means ‘kill a criminal’) a person. The rope has to be just the right length so that when the trapdoor opens under the criminal, they fall fast and hard, so their neck breaks. This death is clean and painless. [You will poop yourself. But otherwise it’s just like a bungee jump into Heaven.]
But sometimes the rope isn’t right, the neck doesn’t break, and the criminal chokes to death instead. This is what happened to the man named Ewan. [Typed then removed…lots of things about gasps, flops, loved ones pulling on your flailing legs…] After a while, the police put their hand on his heart, didn’t feel it beat, and said he was dead. They cut him down and sent him to the medical school.
The doctors and their students were very excited to have a new body. By studying it they learned how to make other people healthier. [Here I cleverly distract the children from the the mental picture they are forming of a dead body being mutilated. Because, kids, if it weren’t for that, how would we know apples are good for us and not too eat too much candy? Yay human dissection!] And again, these criminal’s bodies were very rare. [Like stinky floppy diamonds whose bulging eyes will haunt your dreams].
They put Ewan’s body on the table in the classroom. The medical students came in, waiting for their teacher to perform surgery on the body and teach them how it works.
But to everyone’s shock, when the teacher walked into the room, the man Ewan, who was supposed to be dead, was sitting up on the table, looking confused and saying his throat hurt.
The police had been wrong; Ewan hadn’t died, he’d fainted from lack of air. His heart had still been beating, but too softly to be felt.
The teacher, whose name we don’t know, was quite upset that his prized cadaver, the one he was going to use to teach a room full of people to be doctors, was sitting up and talking. He did not think that was fair, especially since the man was a mean, brutal murderer who deserved to die. [And I’m yet to meet the professor who doesn’t believe themselves worthy of carrying out life and death sentences. Those PhDs in Medieval Feminism as Conveyed by Tapestry confer a sort of deity, apparently.]
So, without saying a word, the teacher stepped out of the room, and came back in with an enormous hammer. He [Typed and erased: savagely beat, crushed his skull, pulped his brain] banged Ewan in the head several times, and this time made sure he was dead. Then, he simply held his class, like he’d intended, never mind that he’d just beaten a man to death in his classroom.
He probably should not have done that, but he didn’t get in trouble. [Remember that kids…’extenuating circumstances’….you might need it someday.] Instead, a few years later, the doctor himself was killed by being hit in the head! Except instead of a hammer, it was his own horse that did it. [And we all enjoy a jolly laugh. Ahh. Horses.]
What’s going to happen when my daughter’s teacher is no longer my personal friend of several years? How long then until Child Protective Services get called? “Your daughter seems to know an awful lot about human atrocity, Mrs. Oneill.”
“Yupper do! That’s my girl!”