May 17, 2005
Volume 1, Issue 5
Some people suffer for their art, but whatever you do, don't lose your head.
Today's theme is "a severed head."
"Severed head" is just too compelling not to play:
Something had had to be done. This was the fourth week in a row. The fourth. He’d ignored it as long as humanly possible.
For a moment he couldn’t remember where he’d left it; he stared blankly as his brain caught up. Oh, right. The porch.
It was a lot heavier than he’d expected. In his dreams he’d always one-hand it skyward in triumph. But this was definitely a two-hand job.
It wouldn’t sit quite right on the stake until he mashed it a bit with the shovel. He hung a neatly lettered sign below – a warning to the others.
Lady Godiva was game
for a man to conjoin in her fame.
He's a mint cherry bomb,
but he's no Peeping Tom,
for her lover is Ichabod Crane.
The Old Regime
The tumbrels creak and rumble back
Along the roads of slate,
Retracing rutted years of sand
Whose distance storms debate.
The passengers stand fixed as stone
While faces cheer from snow.
The blade awaits it's midday meal,
When above becomes below.
Innovations carved from clouds
Give despair and dance new measures.
The blade reflects its evening meal
When kings slake lower pleasures.
Arrived at now they gaze at mist
Where granite horses roam.
Their schedules as fixed as dark.
Their future -- structured foam.
The head within the basket sees
Vast parliaments of sky.
The ears hear but the fading surf
As the past gone years defy.
I was so surprised to wake up at all that I followed Dr. Mutfak perfectly meekly when he gestured me out of the hospital room and down a long hall.
"Mr. Vandervecken," he said, pushing open a heavy laboratory door, "perhaps I wasn't completely honest with you when I said you'd survived intact."
I took in the computer, cables, radio antennae and medical apparatus, tracing the tangle to a central vat that contained, unmistakably, my own head.
As I put a gleaming, stainless-steel hand against the doorframe to steady myself I could hear the hum of dozens of tiny electric motors.
Latrine parried the riposte and neatly skewered the charging guardsman in the chest.
"You see", he said to the boy, as the trooper fell, "Pierce the heart and the body will die."
The boy pulled a blunderbuss from under his cloak and blew the other guardsman's skull clean off.
"Hmmph", sniffed Latrine, flicking a bit brain matter off his bandolier, "I suppose its difficult to breathe with out a head as well."
I can't say if my stomach feels all woozy because of the beer and scotch and White Russians I drank last night, or because I woke up with a head in my lap - and not in a good way.
He's got good hair, dead eyes, and pale skin.
I don't know how he lost his head - correction: I don't know how he lost his body.
I don't know where he lost his head. There's almost no blood here, except for a circle on my shirttails.
I don't remember last night at all. Not anything after White Russians came out.
The woman gyrated in a circle as the passers-by gave her a wide berth. She was dressed in her best pre-Generation X attire, tie-dye and the perpetually out of style Burkenstocks. There was no Ipod for this street urchin, she had only the old, battleship grey ghetto blaster. The music was familiar, I'd heard it many times before during my years passing through the streets of San Francisco. It was the king of all jam bands, the Grateful Dead.
Walking down the street a few hours later I happened to see her again. She was listening to the same tape, gyrating to the same groove. But it wasn't until I saw all of her teddy bear tattoos that I stumbled upon the realization that she was a SEVERE D-HEAD.
I’m naked, of course. (As in all dreams) Peering ahead in the fog I see a huge goose. Another, more, dozens. They start to pursue slowly, faster, then at a run.
As a man, I hypothesize . . . outcomes, consequences, of nakedness and furious geese.
Panic! (As in all dreams) I back away screaming.
But now I’m holding a machete- scalpel sharp, long as a bat.
I spin in a circle, whipping it horizontally, forehand and backhand, screams now triumphiant.
I awaken to find my wife horrified by my screams and the severed heads of geese littering the bed.
Like Plato and Socrates before him, Les Nessman defined his age. In the cutthroat office culture of WKRP, Les made it stylish to be an office weirdo. Why, his tactic of putting tape around his "imaginary office" pre-dated such office-humor cartoons as Dilbert. And Les' nerdly leanings were the inspiration behind such cinematic epics as "Revenge Of The Nerds" And "Revenge of the Nerds 2" Truly, a man who broke the rules. Aren't we all a little like "Les Nessman"?? I think so.
Crap! It's time. Weathered peasants stand waiting, arms folded. They'll live another day. "You'll get no begging from me!" Fake anger hides inner panic. Under the guillotine now. Shouting rises to a crescendo. Chop! I'm falling, spinning. Sights and sounds are jumbled until I hear my name shouted. All quiet as my eyes follow his face back and forth. He knows I'm alive.
I feel weightless now, and no pain. The panic is gone. I try to speak but my mouth just moves a little. I see a horrible shock come over his face. Fading. Fading. Nothing....
He was tired. It was a very long day. He made coffee, turned out the lights, and walked upstairs. He was careful as he entered the bedroom not to disturb her.
He saw her sleeping her in usual spot. She never seemed to move. How can a person sleep so stoically?
He changed in the dark and slipped under the covers. He turned quietly, conscious of the light sleeper with him. Her shoulders; he missed them. She always responded warmly to a gentle kiss there.
Now the covers lay flat. Nothing to kiss but her head, peacefully indenting the pillow.
"Tails I win, Heads you lose." That god-damned runt Eddie actually said it before taking the machette to Johnny Balsac's neck. Whacked him from behind, hit the bone, cut a decent chunk of flesh off his back, but that didn't even start to do the job. He tried twice more, still not getting the job done. By then he's tired of Johnny's bitching and moaning, even through the gag, and takes a whack from the front, cuts his throat, gets it done.
Still he had to make me hold down the legs while he twisted until the bone snapped. Bastard.
The search for the super fantastic shoes, it sometimes takes the Manolo into places of unsavoriness. Thus it was, years ago, when the Manolo found himself in the backroom of the half-caste bordello on the outskirts of Mumbai.
It was the pair of the most precious chappals, ones crafted from the pelt of the rare kashmir stag by the Hindu poet-saint Raidas himself, or so the man said.
When, finally, the ancient slippers were produced for the Manolo’s consideration, he knew he was being offered something more objectionable than the rare deer skin, for he could trace on the leather upper of the left shoe the faintest outline of the human ear.
I got it!!! An epiphany!!! It’s all so clear!!
“I am your queen! I can just print money for you. I can do that. I’m the queen! They let me! No more poverty! No more scrounging around in those filthy rags!”
They can’t hear me. Why can’t they hear me? Maybe if I move this way a little …
“Will somebody lift me out of this basket and take the cake out of my mouth so I can speak?!!? Hey, I’m talking to you!!! What are you doing to that dress? Do you have any idea how much it cost?”
He noticed the bedroom door was already open. The large bed looked warm and inviting. Walking in, the physicist discovered a ball bearing on the bed's pillow. Curious, he bent down.
"That will teach you," he said to its small brassy surface. He smiled at the memory of the puppy that licked his face.
The severed head perched on top of the television, looking at me with accusing green eyes. I was perfectly aware it was just a bad dream of course. What puzzled me was that I didn’t recognize it: who dreams such things of strangers? It squinted unpleasantly at me, and spoke: “… and coming up, after the break: coffee, and the train to work”. It took a moment to overcome my revulsion, then I reached out, gingerly picked it up, and placed it on my shoulders.
I tried to put yellow tape around my working area. It represented a small shred of privacy in an otherwise public world. Soon, at my urging, others recognized its boundaries, and would feign a knock upon approach to my sanctuary.
Yesterday, comfortable in my glass house, the maintenance crew destroyed the walls to my castle, mercilessly ripping them from the floor like so much tape. I rose to my feet in fury. The rest is hazy, but I clearly remember the expression on the maintenance supervisor's face as I used his severed head to bludgeon his assistant.
There's a severed horse's head at the foot of my bed.
It's the third one this month. Tenth this year.
There are 37 streets in my subdivision all named 'Oak' something.
Oak Street, Oak Avenue, Oak Corner, Oak Circle, it goes on and on.
Mailman's confused, and he's been working this area for 5 years.
Can't expect a young mob wannabe to get it right, I suppose.
Sigh, disposing of the head is a bitch, and the blood on the sheets....
Somebody's getting whacked without their proper warning, that's for sure.
I mean, I don't think Vito suspects anything.
"Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia"
Was Peckinpah full--never freer.
Warren Oates (no beauty)
Did leading-man duty,
With a Colt .45 Deus Mea.
It was not really hard to do, what with all the booze these bums sluice down their guts. But to be sure, I’d even bought the bastard a pint of Grandad. Halfway through the bottle he was all the way in the bag, primed up earlier in the morning.
Just step behind, grab the hair (felt like a grease trap full of worms), quick tug and quicker pull across the throat. After the drain-out, pull out the hacksaw and finish up and home to my coffee table.
So, what shall I call you? Something famous, Hollywood even? How about Wilson?
Michaelangelo's silent, severed head directed Peter's every move.
A milky white shoulder grew from the marble beneath his chisel. It was perfect. A blind man who touched the cold stone would feel warm beauty.
Peter was damned.
Endless rounds of wasted art classes had introduced Peter to two people that would change his life: Bob, a demon who made dreams come true for a price, and Jennifer, an accountant with large breasts.
Peter had sold his soul for art. And to impress Jennifer.
He picked up the invoices she'd dropped off that morning.
He had a head for figures, too.
Ah… the challenge of the rhyme is the challenge of our time...
Or at least that of the time we will share today...
So without any remorse... let’s thank the lord it wasn’t a horse...
And soon you’ll learn why it’s this that I praise and pray...
My confession will provide... relief from guilt I’ve had to hide...
And it’s the consciousness of my conscience that makes me say...
You see my friends
I hit a ‘possum as he crossed the road...
He was in terrible pain
I backed back over him.
Rolling was my only means of locomotion – so that is what I did. It wasn’t easy getting started but the tongue makes a great lever when the need arises.
The angle is important. The nose and ears were troublesome but landing on an eye depression starts the process all over.
And then the skin pulls off onto the hot asphalt. Looking back down the road with my remaining eye I see clumps of hair, an ear – even bits of skull.
There’s not much of me left. I should have quit when I was a head.
Sure, take it home and call it Wilson!
Preserve it in the jar o' Pilsen!
Listen to it say "Thanks"
For being nice (like Tom Hanks),
and NOT bad, like that BAD "Mr. Killson".
I stoop to the ground and run my fingers over the roundness of your sweet head as you lie there in the dirt, caressing my baby, comforting you, no, me, I think, as the morning dew freshens your flesh and you look kissable even though you've gotten purple and waxy and it's time to try snapping your neck which cracks but doesn't yield to me and the serrated knife is trusty and true at the bloody business of severing you who I've nurtured for so long even though we both know that love is selfish and I'm hungry and you can nurture me now, give and forgive, ok?
Major combat operations were over, but Tikal's conquest was proving hard to maintain. Some grumbled that with these public games, Balaj Chan K'awiil was merely diverting the attention of the Snake Kingdom from his own questionable leadership.
But no worries: The scribes and stonemasons were his. He who controls the hieroglyphics, controls history.
Today, his enemies' blood pooled in the fountains, and he'd advanced the smooth skull of his latest adversary within easy range of the goal.
"Life, sport, and sacrificial death -- it's all good!" he thought, and he smiled broadly at the courtiers surrounding him. "Now watch me hit this drive!"
Lotsa fun to read and to write. Many congrats to the team, and thanks for however long this lasts.
Suggestions intended constructively, if you've got a coder handy:
(1) Add an auto-word counter string to the post function, so folks can check their counts in "preview" mode, and then add a variable in the "Posted by" line to display the final count. I've seen several public domain routines in a quick Google search on "word count" that you could probably adapt.
(2) Add permalinks to the individual comments to make cross-referencing easier.
(3) Consider format changes that would make it easy for commenters and readers to distinguish between fictional stories and nonfictional comments. (E.g., establish a custom that fiction be entered in blockquotes, which then will display in a different typeface or with a different background.)
(4) Obviously it would call for completely subjective judgments to winnow out the most fabulous submissions from among the merely good (and some not so good) ones. But consider some mechanism, manual or automated, where the author/webmaster team (or rotating volunteers/delegates therefrom) can highlight and aggregate your choices of the best from the best comments, so they're not lost in the forest.
In the night, a plan formed. I found a sharp razor. I was not beaten, but yet a queen.
It as early when they brought me out, the crowd screeching and clawing at one another. I did not blink as I trod the steps to the stage.
I crossed myself and knelt before the stump.
Pain! God! The executioner jerked out his sword and drew back for another blow. Then...breathless, falling into the basket.
He took my hair and yelped when he held me up, as I flew toward the crowd, he still holding my wig.
I had won.
Footsteps on the front stoop, you arrived with a soggy blue duffle bag and a jaded impression of what was yours to take, the stairs creaked as you climed, slowly, steadily, seductivily, your hand gently gliding up the banister like fingers on a crystal ball and you said we could exist in perpetuum as long as the seasons change and are everlasting. The weeks and months, you came and went, nothing but the grim guise of a coerced existence in reality, fading, disappearing like sand in an hourglass that has no end, like the pendulum that never returns, the silhouette that never was cast...
He severed Charlotte's head just as surely as she cured his disfiguring skin affliction, permanently. That's what happens when a pistol-packing paranoid scolds the rabble for being too gentle and then forgets the dangers of bathing and sharp implements through the heart. Most fatal accidents happen at home, he should've known better than to incite people to lose their heads over intrigues and principles and then let her into his place. I don't watch unmoved I intervene, each had thought, the floating, bloating demagogue martyr and earnest young woman relieved of the burden she shouldered giving false importance to death.
The itchy painful flashes of heat were creeping up his neck. The screams and taunts would soon follow. He yanked open the refrigerator door, pulled up the kitchen chair, and sat. The frosty cool washed over his bare torso, pushing the hot flashes back down.
He looked into the dead eyes of his neighbor. The one who came over to complain about the noise at a most unfortunate time, when the voices were so loud his vision blurred, and the imagined bugs crawling out of his skin making him panic.
“Who’s laughing now, bitch?” as he rummaged through the plums.
After the frantic phone call, Julie rushed to her mad-scientist boyfriend’s lab. When she got there, he was kneeling on the floor, head in a burlap sack, machete at his throat.
“Goodbye, cruel world!” The machete flashed, his body fell forward and the sack rolled to the left.
Julie wanted to run to him, but which part? She grabbed the sack, fearfully reached inside and pulled out a head of lettuce.
There came a soft cackling and she turned. There, in a jar on the counter, was Johnny’s head, laughing maniacally. “Good one, eh?” it asked.
stood in contemplated
that long days work.
Maybe they hadn't heard
about how important it was
To obey, you first had to listen.
They would now,
as he spoke to them
with the bloody head tucked under his arm,
as he talked to them of fealty,
of respect for royalty.
The whole town listened now,
each head slightly bowed,
impaled on a stake
and facing him,
without even a sigh of dissent.
Just the buzzing of flies.
Another town tamed