Franco tyrone's suicide at The Corvid Motel was the biggest thing that had ever happened in Galaville. Franco had been in town to film an episode of his television show, Finding the Heart of America. The day after he killed himself, he was supposed to talk to the LaBella brothers, who baked made-from-scratch fruit pies in an old pizza oven, and then he was supposed to interview Dizzy Garrity about tapping maple trees for syrup, and then he was scheduled to meet with me at Galaville Orchards and film me talking about how I make our famous cider doughnuts. I should say the doughnuts were not actually famous, but a sign in our front window declared famous cider do-nuts, so Franco was supposed to call them famous and maybe, once they were on TV, they would become famous, and people from the city driving upstate to admire the fall foliage would stop and buy dozens. Like the doughnuts, I was supposed to be on television, and, like the doughnuts, I thought I would get a little famous. Franco always made it seem as if the people he talked to on Finding the Heart of America mattered, and the places they came from mattered too. I'd hoped being on television might make me someone interesting, might make it so I wasn't only thought of as just the smart, uptight girl, the nerd destined to be valedictorian of Galaville High.
But, of course, there was no interview with Franco. My sister worked as a maid at The Corvid, and when she went to clean Franco's room at noon, she knocked and then shouted out "Housekeeping!" three times and entered the room when there was no answer, and she discovered him hanging. She was interviewed by the Albany news stations and then, because Franco was famous, she was interviewed by the national news shows. Everyone wanted to talk to the girl who'd discovered Franco's body. "It was terrible," she repeated in every interview. "It was the worst thing I ever saw. And I'm just so sorry for his family and friends." When the reporter from Albany with the crooked tie and slicked down hair asked Tess if she had any suspicions about why Franco killed himself, she tilted her head and said, "How can anyone know that?" [End Page 117]
Because Tess was beautiful, she became a meme, screenshots from the news interviews of her outside the motel appearing all over the Internet. In these screen-shots, Tess was standing below the wooden The Corvid Motel sign with the silhouette of a crow, her hair blowing in the breeze. Her image was superimposed with phrases like "When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Sure Your Hair Is On Point" or "Stay Sexy Through Tragedy!" She became known as the "Hot Crier" online. A few weeks after Franco's suicide, the Internet spent more time talking about my sister's cheekbones and lush cascade of dark curls blowing in the wind than they did about what had driven Franco to kill himself. His story was sad and tragic, of course, but not fully unexpected. He'd had a few good years, a few famous years, people said, but fame and money don't solve anyone's problems. He had a history with severe depression, starting in the days when he was a PhD student. When he turned fifty, he took an extended leave from his university teaching job, and to keep busy, he traveled the country by car and started a blog about under-the-radar places and people in America. Then the blog blew up and then the Travel Network came calling and he became a star and officially quit his job teaching American History to college students. But I guess what haunts you always haunts you, and some people are just too haunted to push aside what gnaws at their minds. So there wasn't much more to say about Franco after the initial shock and sadness, but Tess, well, she seemed like someone fascinating whose story was continuing on, a young woman with model good looks...