Raymond Chandler’s Hamlet

A short, short story; winner of Honorable Mention in the 1995 International Imitation Raymond Chandler Competition

By Jonathan Vos Post

Something was rotten in Denmark, rank and gross, as rotten as a dame named Gertrude in bed with her husband’s killer while the caterer recycled the funeral baked meats for the wedding reception, at which the bride did not wear white.

Hamlet was sharp for a prince, good with a knife, but not sharp enough to handle his old man kicking the bucket with an earfull of murder.

My name’s Horatio, Hamlet’s gumshoe buddy, trying to stay clean in a dirty castle. A grizzled ghost pleaded the Fifth when I gave him the third degree, then split the scene when the cock crew, like a guilty man before a marshall serving a summons.

King Claudius, cool as a cucumber after offing his brother, twisted nephew Hamlet’s arm not to return to college at Wittenberg, Caltech not having yet been built.

The air bit shrewdly, it was very cold, when the ghost came again. It was Hamlet’s father’s spirit. His tale would freeze blood, pop out eyes, and make your hair stand on end like porcupine quills. He demanded revenge for murder most foul. The snake that killed him wore the crown. Me and Hamlet took the case.

Hamlet’s main squeeze, Ophelia, a green girl, griped that Hamlet was pale as his shirt, in dirty sox, acting weird. Fortinbras was gangbanging Polacks. The sun bred maggots in a dead dog.

Hamlet played mad, but when the Santa Ana blew, he knew a hawk from a handsaw. A bunch of non-Guild actors showed up for the castle venue.

“To be or not to be,” mused Hamlet, thinking of a one-way ticket to the morgue.

At the play , “The Murder of Gonzago, ” an actor dumped poison in the play-King’s ear. The real King freaked. Polonius hid behind Queen Gertrude’s bedroom curtain, but Hamlet smelled a rat and stabbed him dead.

“I’ll lug the guts into the neighbor room,” he said, then hid the corpse where worms ate brunch and didn’t leave a tip.

I heard Ophelia do the hey-nonny-nonny gig, singing about flowers and Valentines, but a Valentine’s Day Massacre was more like it. Laertes found his sister Ophelia, poor wretch, in the weeping brook, drowned in muddy death. It was time for the great axe to fall.

A couple of clowns found a skull a scream, when they tipped Ophelia into the grave. Hamlet jumped in on top of her. Hamlet and Laertes got down to business with a couple of long knives while the Queen gulped down some poison Pinot Noir the King meant for Hamlet.

The Queen falls. Hamlet and Laertes cut each other up, then Hamlet swigs from the deadly cup and stabs the King stone cold dead. Instant karma, I guess.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were snuffed. Fortinbras stomped into Denmark with his gang, and lots of drums.

I was the last guy left. I heard a gunshot. I looked off into the distance, a solid heavy man like a rock.

Then I began to wonder where my next paycheck was coming from.

*** The End ***

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