PAUL MOONEY DIED OF A BRAIN ANEURYSM IN 1991. On Easter.
I don’t know if Joe Mooney chose me to replace his dead twin brother because we shared a name or if there was some other reason. We were roughly the same age. I had brothers, one of whom was around pretty often. I kept enough of a distance from my neighbor that reality was never going to get in the way of his fantasy. There were plenty of possible reasons for it, but that’s definitely what happened.
Joe Mooney kept the journal that Josh and I found in that desk drawer meticulously. He began writing in the fall of 1989, and he wrote a one-page entry--no more, no less--every Saturday until the night before he broke into my house. The book was thick, made thicker with the dozens of newspaper articles he had neatly clipped, folded, and inserted between pages here and there. The clipping between March 30th and April 6th of 1991 was an obituary:
Paul Mooney, 24, of Mayville, IL, died in his home on Sunday, March 31, 1991. He was preceded in death by his father, Joseph. He is survived by his mother, Paula; his brother, Joseph, Jr.; and his wife, Carrie (Millis). There will be a visitation from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 4, at the Lockwood Funeral Home and Crematory in Mayville. There will be no funeral services.
His April 6th entry makes no mention of his brother. But the following week, this is what he wrote:
APRIL 13TH, 1991
I miss Paul. He hasn’t visited in over a week. I know he’s not busy--I saw him sitting on the porch drinking a beer not two hours ago. I even bought a case of Sierra Nevada for him when he comes over. I know it’s his favorite. I think he’s still mad at me for telling him to leave Carrie. I don’t care. He is too good for her. She’s mean to him. And she keeps him away all the time. Anyway, I hope he forgives me soon. Maybe I should just go over there and apologize. He would forgive me and we could watch a ballgame or something. Maybe we could walk down to Cobb’s and shoot pool. Anything. I just miss my brother…
Over the next eight years, every entry that mentions Paul is a reference to me. There is a newspaper picture of me at a church function and a clipping of an article in which I was mentioned because I worked on Mary Derringer’s staff when she ran for mayor. My name is neatly highlighted in yellow.
As I said, Joe Mooney's last entry is dated the night before he broke into my house to prepare a ham, and it makes no mention of me or his plan. Maybe that's not the kind of thing you plan. I don't know. And I couldn't tell you where he is right now. A good guess might be Florida. Possibly South America. I always imagine places with pineapples.
I REMEMBER THE SPRING OF 1991. It wasn’t ice cold, and it wasn’t even snow cold. In fact, it was unseasonably warm. I remember that I spent a lot of nights sitting on my porch listening to baseball that spring. I was almost a year out of college, proud of myself for landing a job with a salary that afforded me the opportunity to own my own home when most of my classmates were still living in their parents’ basements. I was alone and I was happy. Joe Mooney was just alone.