MONDAY, DECEMBER 2 This week of rodent rain, Twitter tragedy, and good people gone to the great beyond kicks off with a Florida love story for the ages. Our principals: 22-year-old Justin Holt and 20-year-old Erin Steele of Pompano Beach, who met last year and quickly became inseparable. "They met and then that was it, they were together," said Justin Holt's mother, Maria, to the Sun-Sentinel. "From day one—day one—he was in love with her." Which brings us to last night, when Holt and Steele were hanging out at an apartment with friends. "One of them, Joshua Henry, brought a pistol and showed it off to the group," reports the Sun-Sentinel. "They passed it around and practiced firing it without the bullets inside. Then, Henry reloaded the pistol and set it on the counter." Some time later, Erin Steele picked up the gun, pointed it at Justin Holt's chest, and pulled the trigger. "The 911 call... came just before 11 p.m.," reports the Sun-Sentinel, adding that Holt was rushed to Delray Medical Center where he was soon pronounced dead. As of now, no charges have been filed against Steele, and Holt's family heroically hopes it stays that way. "We have a lot of compassion for her," said Holt's 82-year-old grandfather, Michael DiFiore. "She's got to live with that, no matter what she does, for the rest of her life."
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 3 In more predictable news, the week continues with a rain of drugged mice falling on the US territory of Guam. Details come from NBC News, which identifies the cause of Guam's drugged-mouse rain as the brown tree snake, an invasive species that "likely arrived in an inadequately inspected cargo shipment sometime in the 1950s" and has since grown into an expensive, slithery nuisance. In addition to feasting on the region's exotic birds, the estimated two million brown tree snakes in Guam routinely cause trouble for the island's industrial complexes, which are "regularly bedeviled by power failures caused when the snakes wriggle their way into electric substations—an average of 80 a year, costing as much as $4 million in annual repair costs and lost productivity," reports NBC. Lucky for Guam, brown tree snakes "have an Achilles' heel": acetaminophen, with one-sixth of a standard Tylenol pill containing enough to kill a brown tree snake. Which brings us to the aforementioned rain of mice, each one of which was stuffed with a deadly dose of acetaminophen, tied to a cardboard parachute, then dropped from a low-flying helicopter, with roughly 2,000 such mice rained down on the forested areas of Andersen Air Force Base this past Sunday. As you read this, snakes are OD'ing all over Guam. Let this be a lesson to us all to adequately inspect our cargo shipments.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 4 In worse news, the week continues in Washington State, where today a Vancouver woman endured a distinctly 21st-century horror—unknowingly live-tweeting the traffic-collision death of a man who was soon confirmed as her husband. As KGW News reports, "A 47-year-old Vancouver man was killed in a collision on Interstate 205 northbound Wednesday afternoon. The man's wife, who follows scanner traffic with her Twitter account, happened to be live-tweeting about the crash." After quoting a tweet from the Columbian—"One confirmed fatality in I-205 accident says @wspd5pio"—the woman began a series of her own tweets: "I'm trying not to panic, but my husband left work early and he drives 205 to get home. he's not answering his phone."
"i just called 911 and they transferred me after I gave them his license number and told me that they will call me back. wtf?"
"it's him. he died."
"Thank you all so much for the prayers and thoughts. I'll reply to everyone later tonight."
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 5 Speaking of people who died and the amazing people they left behind, the week continues with Nelson Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid revolutionary who became South Africa's first black president, serving from 1994 to 1999. Today, after an impossibly dramatic, profound, and inspirational life, the 95-year-old Mandela died, with the man's unavoidable passing greatly mitigated by the eloquent outpouring that rose to fill the void. The basics, summed up by the New Yorker's William Finnegan: "He was the last of the twentieth century's national liberators... He led his beloved, tormented country from the howling darkness of apartheid to the promised land of democracy with shrewdness, courage, and visionary determination." The man's ultimate meaning, summed up by writer and friend Nadine Gordimer, also in the New Yorker: "Mandela: not a figure carved in stone but a tall man, of flesh and blood, whose suffering had made him not vengeful but still more human—even toward the people who had created the prison that was apartheid." And finally, some words from the man himself, spoken during an interview in the 1996 documentary Mandela: "Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity."
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6 Nothing happened today, unless you count the roughly 800 marijuana appreciators who gathered at Seattle Center in freezing temperatures to celebrate the one-year anniversary of legal weed in Washington State. Meanwhile, thousands of other marijuana appreciators celebrated by staying home and getting baked in their well-heated living rooms.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7 Nothing happened today, unless you count another day of cold-ass weather and another, more profound gathering at Seattle Center, this one a candlelight vigil and public memorial honoring Nelson Mandela. "He was a great leader," said attendee Phetheni Ndhlovu, a former South African now living in Everett, to the Seattle Times. "He asked for nothing from God but wisdom and taught us to pray for peace and reconciliation."
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 8 The week ends with another memorial, this one for a Northwest mainstay: Richard Henry Schmidt, a lifelong artist and a beloved fixture at Pike Place Market, where he spent the past 30 years selling his handmade flutes and ocarinas. He passed away peacefully in his sleep on November 29 at age 61. "He made a million best friends, brought out smiles from every baby, and affected the whole Market community," reads Schmidt's obituary, forwarded to Last Days by Schmidt's daughter Sarah. "He was also a progressive liberal, fought for social justice and equality for people of every background and ability, and made all his relationships personal." On a quirkier note, Sarah writes, "My dad loved The Stranger and has read every single edition since day one. The funny thing about him is that he always counted down the pile '1, 2...' and took the third one down. And if he sent any one of us to get The Stranger, he would say, 'Get the third one down!' We will never know why." RIP, Richard Schmidt.