Requiem for Boddy

A somber moment, remembering a departed friend. Reflecting on a life of wartime heroics, stateside baronism, and missed opportunities, Matthew Baldwin takes the podium and says a few words.

Hello, hello everyone. It’s nice to see so many familiar faces, although I wish the circumstances were better. It’s a shame that it takes a tragedy to reunite so many friends.

I’ve been asked to say a little something about our late friend, Richard Boddy. Now, I should warn you: I’m an old warhorse and tend to be a little long-winded, so I hope you’ll excuse me if I go on for a bit. But I think it’s important that we examine Rich’s entire life, both his good side and his bad. I think we owe it to ourselves, and I think we owe it to our dearly departed friend.

Because—let’s be honest—Rich was no saint. That was apparent even in childhood, or so his parents tell me. He was a precocious child, prone to wild swings in mood and behavior. Some days he’d be up, after rescuing a cat from a tree or doctoring a puppy’s paw; other times he’d be down, like when he was caught doodling on the wall, or when he fell while trying to raid the cookie jar.

We were little more than children when we first met, fresh out of high school and serving as cadets in the military. This was back when I was known as Private Mustard, if you can believe it. Rich and I were both in the same unit, and fought side by side in The War For Global Domination. It was immediately apparent that Rich was a shrewd strategist. It was his idea to first conquer Australia and then hunker down, conserving our resources while our enemies eliminated one another. Sure, the Boddy Doctrine seems obvious today, but it was groundbreaking at the time. And who else would have foreseen the strategic importance of Kamchatka?

But even as he moved up the ranks Rich wasn’t content to send others into battle while he remained ensconced at headquarters. He insisted on fighting right alongside the rank and file. In fact, he and I were both on the battleship that sank the Enemy’s last submarine. I vividly remember the cheer that went up from the crew when the captain announced that C7 had been a hit.

After the war we both moved to Atlantic City and reentered civilian life. We were young, eager to begin our careers, and we’d often stay up late, drinking and discussing our success formulas. I was interested in fame, but Rich, it will come as no surprise, put the most emphasis on money. Neither of us put much stock in happiness—an oversight that would haunt us both later in life.

And it was then that Rich and I parted ways, at least for a while. I chose to launch right into a career, while Rich opted to attend college. I guess that’s why Rich eventually wound up with a baby-blue car, married, father to four, and living in a Millionaire’s Mansion, while I wound up in the Poorhouse. In retrospect it doesn’t really seem fair, but I guess that’s life.

Rich understood that the way to make money was to build a better mousetrap, and he spent his first two years of college studying mechanical engineering trying to do just that. Sadly, the fine art of invention was not for him: the Rube Goldberg contraption he eventually created was entirely too complicated for practical rodent control, and his professors urged him to explore other fields. It was then that he switched majors and discovered his true calling: real estate.

Even before graduation he had closed on his first property, snapping up a parcel of land over on Mediterranean Avenue. When he invited me over to see the joint, I told him candidly that I thought it was a dump. I was even more dismayed when I heard he had purchased the place on Baltic as well. And when I saw the shoddy houses he slapped up—each painted an identical shade of bright green—I was sure he’d be bankrupt by year’s end.

But I guess that shows how much I know about business! Every house he built was rented immediately. And the more homes he built, the higher he would raise the rents. He went on a real-estate spree, purchasing tracts of land over on Tennessee Avenue, St. Charles Place. Soon he got into the hostelry business, erecting his trademark scarlet hotels all over town. Sure they were dives—people called them ‘Crimson Flops’—but that didn’t prevent him from making a killing.

It was at the height of his career when he took his fateful trip to Africa. He had adopted Big Game Hunting as a hobby, and had invited me to accompany him to the Savannah. His goal was to bag a Hippopotamus, and we spotted several emaciated specimens drinking at a watering hole. I thought he had lost his marbles when he waded right into the pond, but he kept saying he wanted to get the best possible shot. And just as he took aim at one of the beasts, he was viciously assaulted. The famine had left these creatures so ravenous that they attacked him from all sides, swallowing every yard of clothing and pound of flesh they could tear from his body. I tried to reach him, but I was driven back. The hippos were hungry … so very, very hungry.

Rich was near death when I was finally able to carry him to the jeep and drive him to the regional hospital. I knew his chances were slim, but I held out all hope that he could be saved. The doctor went to work immediately, removing his breadbasket, his funny bone, and the butterfly in his stomach. But the surgeon’s hand slipped at a critical moment, and when I heard the buzzer I knew we had lost him.

And in a sense, we had—he was clinically dead for well over a minute. When the doctors finally revived him, Rich spoke of a magical place he had visited, a land full of Peppermint Forests, Peanut Brittle Houses, and Molasses Swamps. He had been traveling toward a bright light, he claimed, but had taken a shortcut through the Gumdrop Mountains and found himself back on Earth.

It’s not exaggeration to say that Richard’s ‘death’ was the best thing that ever happened to him. He swore off business entirely, deciding instead to focus on the things that really mattered to him: family and friends. His accident reminded him that the pursuit of wealth and power was a sucker’s game, a chimera; he realized that just at the moment when you were close to reaching your goal, something could come along and bump you right back to where you started without so much as a ‘sorry.’

And so he spent the rest of his life in the company of those who loved him, inviting friends and former business associates to come stay at his Millionaire Mansion. Well, apparently not all of his guests loved him. I’ll never forget the moment when I entered the Conservatory through the secret passageway from the Lounge, and found his lifeless corpse laying there beside the bloody candlestick. To this day the police don’t know who committed this heinous crime—I’ve always suspected the Professor, myself—and the case remains officially unsolved.

And so we gather today to pay our final respects to this great man. He may have began as a scoundrel, but as he grew older and wiser Richard Boddy became one of those rare people who are able to appreciate life not for what it brought, but for what it was. Richard finally recognized that life is a game: the point is not to win, but simply to enjoy playing.

Matthew Baldwin dedicates this essay to Sid Sackson, 1920–2002.