The Pantsing: A Halloween Tale

Detective Marilyn Grendel took a drag off her cigarette like a teenage boy giving a hickey. She flicked the spent butt to the ground with a loathing usually reserved for relatives who owe you money. Adjusting her three-dollar blazer over shoulders that said “Express Aisle: 10 Items or Less,” Marilyn stepped over the Highway 5 guardrail with the agility of a dancer with sciatica and a trunk full of black-market bongos.

“What have we got?” the detective barked, her eyes darting along the embankment like a hobo waiting for hummus to fall off the falafel cart. She bent to lift the sheet covering the body lying there unflatteringly on a patch of gravel.

“Just like the others, Sarge,” said the plainclothes officer whose name does not concern us.

“I see,” Marilyn muttered. “No pants?”

“Completely pantsless. No evidence of pants whatsoever.”

“Hmmm,” hummed Marilyn, who was wearing a skirt herself, because it was Wednesday. The body under the sheet was male, Caucasian, Gemini. His face was frozen in a rictus like Rick James after a night of deep-sea apple-bobbing. Wearing a double-breasted jacket over a four-flusher shirt, the victim was naked from the waist down, and not in a good way.

“Did you look under there?” asked Marilyn, not taking her eyes off the corpse, who would not be enrolling in a correspondence course any time soon.

“Under where?” asked the officer.

“Heh-heh,” chuckled Marilyn softly. “Gotcha.”

She lowered the sheet over the body and stood erect only partially out of habit. It was the fifth pantsing this month, and police were no further ahead in discovering the pantser. They’d interviewed everyone who had a history of violent untuckings or involvement in gangland wedgies. Every one of them had perfect alibis and blemish-free skin. The city was on edge.

“Dammit, Grendel,” the superintendent shouted one sentence later. “The city is on edge! Belt prices are soaring through the roof! People are even stitching their pants to their shirts!”


“Don’t be impertinent, Detective! We have a pantsing panic on our hands. Don’t forget this is an election year, and the last thing we need is voters accusing the commissioner of being soft on slacks!”

Back in the place where police do stuff, Marilyn was wracking her brain like a dog trying to figure out if it was the one that made that smell. “Think, Marilyn, think!” she found herself saying to herself as one does with oneself. “There’s got to be a connection.”

And that’s when she saw it: that M&M she had dropped, like, three weeks ago. Turning back to photos of the victims, she suddenly noticed, on each left hip, letters raised ever so slightly under the skin, the letters “L-E-V-I-S.”

“Wait a second,” Marilyn growled through gritted teeth that were least likely to win a prize for dental hygiene. She ripped a sheet of paper out of a notebook, ruining a perfectly good notebook, and wrote the letters down. She began unscrambling them: V-E-I-L-S. No, they were leg coverings, not face coverings. L-I-V-E-S. True, lives were taken… V-I-L-E-S. All those victims, without their pants on, pretty vile, sure, but…

And then she saw it. “So obvious,” Marilyn declared like a tax form. S-E-V-I-L. She picked up the phone, which was on the floor. She put it on the desk, then picked up the receiver and dialed a number, which for privacy reasons we can’t reveal. “Get me the next flight… to Spain!” she shouted.

Fourteen hours later, Marilyn walked through the arrival gate at the Seville airport. She pulled out crumpled note paper again, looked at it again and said, “Oh.”

Fourteen hours later, Marilyn was back in the superintendent’s office. She slammed the note on her superior’s desk like she was placing a bet on how much hummus a hobo could eat. “E-V-I-L-S!” she imparted impatiently. “Something evil is pantsing the citizens of our unnamed city! And I plan to find out who – or what – it is.”

“Well, you better hurry,” said the superintendent, “because you only have a few more paragraphs.”

“Yes, sir,” said Marilyn, turning to the door.

“And Grendel.” She turned back to her boss. “Make them scary.”

Suddenly, at the exciting climax, Marilyn found herself pinned to the ground by an invisible violent presence outside the abandoned insane asylum that used to be a slaughterhouse and was now a portal to a dimension of terror (Forever 21). Her plan to lure the evil pantsing entity by wearing the latest in-style blue jeans had paid off, and now she was fighting for her life – and pants.

“What are you?” Marilyn stammered unsymmetrically, clutching at her waistband with the determination of a dozen drunk frat boys.

“We are the combined spirits of fashion critics and old-school tailors,” uttered an otherworldly voice that hinted of a deep respect for hyphens.

“And what do you want?”


As the entity attempted to de-pants the detective, Marilyn whipped out her cell phone and clicked open an Instagram account filled with nothing but young people posing in outrageously ripped jeans. Overwhelmed by the unholy holey-ness, the entity shrieked in agony and began to fade.

“Die, you sons of britches!” screeched Marilyn.

In the silence that was like the waiting room of a podiatrist with foot odor, Marilyn caught her breath, confident that the foul thing was gone. Disgusted with the ripped jeans she was wearing, she removed them herself and held them out before her, amazed that people would pay good money for what looked like a mistake. She could not help but be grateful, however, for the sturdy midsection that had kept her from being another victim of the pantsing.

“Such a waist,” she said.


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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32 Responses to The Pantsing: A Halloween Tale

  1. Joy Blake says:

    I guess I had better go change.

  2. Yahooey says:

    I see you are still traumatised by your Forever 21 experience.

  3. I resemble that last remark.

  4. franhunne4u says:

    Love this! This is absolute class! Reminds me of the Nursery Crime-Novels by Jasper Fforde (no, the double F is no mistake, he is Welsh). That is if the detective were Jack Spratt and this took part in Reading (a town in England) – and the evils were some children story characters ..

  5. I wonder if you realize how good this is? Go back and read it a second time. I did. It’s a pretty impressive tsunami of puns that are so bad they’re good. Nice, fluid plot. Satisfying conclusion. This reminded me of your book a little bit. Was that an intentional call-back?

    • rossmurray1 says:

      No call back. Hey, maybe I have a style! This is one of those times when I had a title, started with a first sentence and just kept going. So, yeah, when it’s been a year of difficult writing, it’s satisfying when the weird magic still more or less works, even if I do try readers’ patience with the length. Good morning!

  6. ksbeth says:

    this works. so well.

  7. List of X says:

    I enjoyed your shorts story.

  8. pinklightsabre says:

    Such a waist. Wow. Roll, jelly-style….Hardee-har, har, har Sarge. That read like a…like a…like a reading thing! In my reader!

  9. What a fun read. Puns generally rest upon a slender reed – but it’s in a writer’s genes, and sometimes suits to slack & pen puns under pants categories, belting out jokes, bang in the corner pocket, and who would britch about that. A darned fine post & seamy tale, well-told.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Not enough pants puns, as far as I’m concerned. It’s one of the funnier words, “pants.” Maybe there’s simply no way to improve upon it.
      “Jodhpurs” is also pretty good.

      • “Gusset” and “ruched” are pretty good (I have an aunt who designs clothes), not as funny as just plain pants, but good substitutes for swear words. Go ahead, say them loudly while you’re a work, see what kind of a reaction you get.
        I’m pretty fond of “bespoke tailoring,” though, because I always envision it as something painful to do with bicycles.

        • rossmurray1 says:

          Ahhh, “bespoke” is a beauty word we don’t hear nearly enough. I love old-timey words. When I was writing my novel, one of the favourite parts was giving names to competing 19th century newspapers. One was The Beaverly Modicum, the other The Petawatamocto Portmanteau. How I wish they were real.

          • Those are terrific names. In the town where I went to college, in Maryland, the newspaper started in 1793 was called “Apollo, or, Chestertown spy” which struck me as a pretty peculiar name. I like Portmanteau a lot better, I learned that word from “Alice in Wonderland,” and Petawatamocto is fun and also plausible.
            I’m enjoying the native names around Wisconsin, like Kickapoo, Peewaukee, Sheboygan, etc.
            So now when I want to invent a combination word, I’m calling it a Winnebago.

  10. Gavin Keenan says:

    This was witty, fun to read and a lot of laughs. Thanks. I too, cannot comprehend why alleged adults wear pre-ripped, over- priced, faded jeans. Clearly, another example of the jungle again encroaching on civilization.

  11. cat9984 says:

    Couldn’t she have convinced the spirits to destroy the jeans without killing? Kind of a win-win

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