The Great Fish Emulsion Caper
By Ann Christoph
What a stir the hostile prank against our city manager has caused—press releases, articles in the local papers, resolutions of support at the council meeting.
Vowing to get to the bottom of the incident, police said, “the act will not be tolerated.” Mayor Bob Whalen labeled it as “criminal conduct that will be investigated immediately.” Chief Jeff Calvert said, “the police department is actively investigating this vandalism.”
But there is no need for the police investigation, Indy columnist Michael Ray has solved the crime—or at least limited the scope of the search—to Village Laguna “acolytes.”
Since I was raised a Catholic and attended 13 years of Catholic school, I am qualified to explain the characteristics of acolytes, defined as “a person assisting the celebrant in a religious service or procession.”
In my day, they were limited to men or young boys dressed in black cassocks with overlaying white surplices.
They were commonly called altar boys.
Now females are included, but the ceremonial dress and duties are still the same. They mostly stand around the altar while the priest says mass. But they also fill the cruets with water and wine and bring those to the altar for the priest to use at important moments during the ceremony. The job, while tedious, had its benefits. My husband Alfredo, who was an acolyte, has experience with wine pouring that happened out of public view. He says the priest commented on being mystified about why the wine bottles seemed to become empty so quickly. Alfredo, of course, only witnessed others taking a few swigs now and then.
In any case, these acolyte outfits will make it easier for police investigators to pin down a group of suspects to pursue. Even though recent Village Laguna membership meetings have been on zoom, there are undoubtedly some secret meetings going on where the acolytes are assisting in a ceremony of some kind. Sort of reminiscent of the meetings of the lodges that require a secret handshake to get in. All the police have to do is send an undercover officer to penetrate the veil of secrecy and bring in all the members dressed in cassocks and surplices.
Then the job will be to find out who did the deed—who spread the obnoxious material around the city manager’s house. That will likewise be fairly simple. It turns out the substance was not “fecal material or sewage.” Rather, it seems to have been fish emulsion fertilizer*, commonly used for house plants and available at local nurseries. It smells bad, like old fish, but it’s harmless. In fact, cats love to lap up the fish water that drains into the plant saucers.
So round up all the Village Laguna acolytes dressed in their cassocks and surplices and first give them the smell test. If any smell like old fish, that is already a clue. If not, check their internet and phone history to see which ones had looked up “how to vandalize city manager’s houses with fish emulsion.”
Next, what to do with the culprit? How about six months of heavy weeding? With this problem solved, we’ll soon put all our other challenges in their appropriate perspective.
*it has the characteristic uniform brown color, thick texture and the city manager confirmed it smelled like fish.
Ann is a landscape architect and former Laguna Beach mayor. She’s also a long-time board member of Village Laguna, Inc.