“For heaven’s sake,” pleads Heldegund, “don’t blame the Mafia”

MESSINA, SICILY (—After an intensive search by the Italian authorities, Brian Heldegund, the award-winning correspondent for TheShortStraw was found on a bus depot bench, covered in urine and faeces, neither his own, with bruises on face and body, three missing teeth, cracked ribs, a missing pinkie, but otherwise in healthy spirits.

Shortly before he was to interview Jesus Christ, Mr Heldegund went missing. The Italian authorities suspected the Vatican, the Mafia and themselves.

“I would like to thank everyone who sent me cards and flowers. I didn’t know so many people cared, and were concerned,” Heldegund read from a prepared statement, his hands shaking. “I would also like to say that the Mafia was in no shape or form involved. As it happened, I fell while taking a shower, bruising myself, and later, I accidentally cut off my pinkie while slicing bread, and then—silly me—sent it in the mail to my wife as a practical joke. Let me also add that the Mafia as we know it today is a legitimate business with no connections—I repeat, no connections—to racketeering, prostitution, money laundering or narcotics. Such rumors must be squashed once and for all.”

He further added that he was terribly disappointed not to have interviewed Jesus Christ, which he termed an opportunity of a lifetime, but said he harboured no ill will towards fellow correspondent Libby Van Nutter who took his place. “Overall, I think she did a pretty good job, I guess,” he said.

In a final surprise, Heldegund announced his retirement from journalism. “Let me add that I will no longer be working as a journalist. Let me repeat, this has nothing to do with the Mafia or any organizations connected to it, but is a completely voluntary decision.” Asked what he planned to do next, Heldegund said he’d like to become an elementary school teacher in a destination never to be revealed.

Paolo Sabatini, the spokesman for the Italian Police, a broken arm in a sling, said: “The Italian Police has concluded its investigation into the disappearance of Brian Heldegund. It appears Mr Heldegund disappeared for ten days after a heavy bout of drinking. He suffered bodily harm while taking a shower, and cut off a pinkie while slicing bread, which he then mailed to his wife as a practical joke. Let me also add, in agreement with his statement, that the Mafia was in no shape or form involved with his disappearance. Indeed, as he stated, the Mafia has changed its image, and is only involved in legitimate businesses.”

When asked what had happened to his arm, Mr Sabatini said he had fallen off a horse while riding a carousel with his son.

Copyright © 2004, TheShortStraw


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