John Ferro (thanks, Oliver): HIGHLAND – The small, frail man with an Italian passport would arrive unannounced, trundling a small suitcase behind him.
Like a wispy Willy Loman, but with nothing to sell, Anthony Monaco would appear from time to time at one of the motels along Route 299 in New Paltz or Route 9W in Highland.
He had no family there. No desire to go sightseeing. He talked at length with almost no one.
But he was known to local police, mostly because of his erratic behavior — eruptions of rage that would get him tossed from one motel to another, but almost never charged with a crime.
When his suitcase was found along the shoulder of Route 9W, Town of Lloyd police issued a missing persons report. They found his body days later, on Sept. 30, 2015, washed up in the Twaalfskill Creek.
Dan Barry: YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Numbered balls of chance rattle and rise two nights a week down at the cavernous community hall of Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It’s called a good bingo when your number comes up.
But that last Saturday before Christmas offered no good bingos. The night was reserved for a boxing event billed as Season’s Beatings, which had prompted a newspaper deliveryman named Anthony Taylor to pull up in his clattering Dodge Caravan. Twenty-four years old, 5 feet tall, 115 pounds, about to turn pro.
A fist of nerves, he walked down the glazed-tile stairwell to the finished basement, a space used for church dances and wedding banquets, but now an open locker room. Chandeliers glittered above the fighters trying to warm up and calm down, while the crowds upstairs cheered on the amateurs, including a sleepy-eyed 11-year-old who would knock out his grade-school opponent.
Weston Phippen: Yevgeny Safronov and the four tourists landed in Los Angeles on a 70-degree dream of a day last May. They were Czechs, Slovaks, and Russians, here on vacation. It was a holiday, so the banks and much of government had closed, but not all of it. For at least six months investigators in federal agencies that watch the nation’s wild lands, its fauna and flora, had also kept eyes on these five foreigners, who would soon drive into the desert, where undercover agents would be waiting. The flight from Moscow had lasted 12 hours. Safronov and the others left their seats, then applied for entry into the U.S.
The investigation began when an agent in Denver found a European website advertising a trip. Written in Slovak, the blog post read: “Already this summer, I began to have ‘cold turkey’––I have not been in the U.S. since last June.” The post was written by the trip’s organizer and the site’s host, Igor Drab, who had planned a camping tour of state and national parks across the American Southwest, starting and ending in Los Angeles. “If anyone among you is interested to join,” Drab wrote, “you must do so as soon as possible.” The investigator alerted Fish & Wildlife Service in El Paso, Texas, and from there the Bureau of Land Management, Customs and Border Protection, even the crisp-brimmed rangers of the National Park Service.
Alex Tizon: They found what was left of him in the spring of 2014. Firefighters battling a huge blaze on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula first spotted a boot in the dirt. Then they noticed some bones scattered across a wide grassy area. Fire crews in Alaska are used to seeing the bones of moose, caribou, bears, and other large creatures that live and die in these woods. So it wasn’t until crew members found a human skull that they stopped to consider that the pieces might go together. The skull was resting on its side, the face angled toward the ground. A few blackened molars clung to the upper jaw. The lower jaw was missing.
The Alaska State Troopers arrived by helicopter and salvaged what they could. “The bones were close to being ash,” Lieutenant Kat Shuey later recalled. “They weren’t quite to the point where if you touched them they would disintegrate, but close.”
The remains were spread across an area about 60 yards in diameter, presumably the work of scavenging animals. Also found at the site were three hunting knives, two quarters, two metal buttons, a zipper, and part of a Samsung mobile phone. All of the items were charred to varying degrees, like most everything else in the path of the Funny River Fire, which burned nearly 200,000 acres in the western lowlands of the Kenai Peninsula, a remote corner of this remote part of the world, a place one local described as “the middle of the middle of nowhere.”
Tommy T (thanks, Oliver): The business I love has put a lot of good people on the street and left behind a lot of empty buildings. I love it anyway, and so do the people who came by the paper Thursday, not so much to say goodbye to the old building but to say hello again to one another. I did most of the best work of my life with those people, and had most of the good times I’ll ever have, and met the woman I married. Newspapers can break your heart. But I’ll let it be broken every time for what I got out of the deal.
We’ve been talking about Michael Brick’s craftsmanship here for years. Here’s your chance to own a remarkable collection of his stories in book form, including several I guarantee you’ve never read. This anthology, which debuted at number 1 in essays on Amazon, also features essays on craft from Dan Barry, Andy Newman, Michael Kruse, Thomas Lake, Tony Rehagen, Wright Thompson, Justin Heckert, Chris Jones, Erin Sullivan, Mike Wilson, Michael Wilson, Charles McNair, Tommy Tomlinson, Amy Wallace, Michael J. Mooney, Joe Sexton, Michael Paterniti, Charles P. Pierce, Kurt Eichenwald, Tom Junod, John Schwartz, Lena Price and me. Proceeds go to Brick’s wife and children.