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Crushing

By Samuel F. Nelson

George picks up two large stones, granite bricks, and clasps one in each palm. He has crazy in his eyes and mumbles something about degrees of softness before he elevates the stones high above his shoulders, then thrusts them into his ears and further. There is a rattling sound like somebody stomp-dancing in a bin of broken beer bottles, and there is a flash of powder, a short, tenor grunt, and then nothing.

We both stand there awkwardly until I am compelled to say something. I feel slightly uncomfortable speaking to him, since he has no head and I am not sure how it might compromise the moment. But he seems to be waiting for me to say something. Or maybe he is talking and I can't hear him.

"So, uh, what next, George?" I ask.

I feel clumsy and hungry. I would suggest food, but I’d rather not offend him.

He shrugs and waits before starting up the lonely, cracked street, back toward the main avenue.

I follow him, hungry and mildly curious. I look back for any remains of his head, but there are only the two stones, covered in powder and sitting on the side of the road, already collecting dust.

We arrive at Main Avenue and walk east. I can feel people's looks, but I don't look at their looks because I don't want to see. I'd rather pretend this was normal.

As we walk, George taps my arm and points across the street. I look up and there is a young, tan woman walking the other way in a short, strapless yellow dress that makes me wish it was always summer.

George smiles at her but she doesn't smile back. In fact, she looks rather frightened and puts her head forward and down. I do the same and wonder how long I ought to accompany George.

I don't even know him that well. We have had a few beers and talked about politics and women. He always had a strange edge and was prone to impulsive thoughts more than actions. He once told me he wanted to be a geologist and I laugh now at the irony. I hadn't taken him seriously then and I don't now either because, well, he has no head.

My stomach says something dirty to me and, when we approach a burger joint, I stop and point to it. He stands still for a moment then slowly flicks out his middle finger.

I throw up my arms. "Hey, I got needs, George."

I can see him compromising as I wait for him to concede. Finally he does and we enter the restaurant. He takes a seat at a booth while I order two burgers, a shake and fries.

The burgers are lukewarm, but they are perfect because they are there and ready. I can feel him concentrating on my fries and I know it must be painful to look at them. I'm not entirely comfortable with him staring at my food, but I feel bad, so I eat the fries as quickly as possible, nearly all at once to alleviate his impossible impulses.

Before I finish my first burger, two cops walk in. They look around only briefly before approaching our table, as little time is needed to spot the headless.

They stand over George, unsure of how to proceed and what to make of his large, burly torso now turned squarely into them.

The older cop speaks up. "I'm afraid you're scaring people, sir," he says.

George doesn't move for a moment. He is accruing a propensity to pause before each action, perhaps because he has no central nervous system. Then he slowly lifts his middle finger and holds it there.

The older officer is not happy.

"Alright, sir, I'm going to ask you to stand up and come with us. We'll need to talk, elsewhere," he says.

I clear my throat, "I don't think he can talk officer."

The officer frowns at me then turns back to George, waiting.

George sits still for a moment then slowly rises. They stand there and when the older officer turns to his younger counterpart, Georges raises his right fist high and wields a punch. It is a tremendous haymaker that reels back and wheels forward in a perfect circle, mimicking the hand of a clock and just as slow. The cop dodges it easily. After a brief moment of contemplation, he strikes George curtly in the gut.

George bends over, holding his stomach and the older officer nods to his partner, who handcuffs George's two great paws behind his back.

The younger cop looks at me and I feel for him because his eyes are young and unprepared.

"How did this happen?" he asks.

"Two great big stones," I say. And I pick up the remains of my two burgers and mimic the crushing of my skull.

The older officer grunts and bobs his head up and down while the younger shakes his across.

They turn and slowly walk out. Everyone in the restaurant is staring. I see George's shoulders turn and look at me.

I didn't know what to say, I hardly knew the guy anyways. So I shrugged my shoulders and felt mildly sorry for him.

They leave quietly and everyone begins talking and the room buzzes like a highway.

I finish my burgers despite knowing they will make me sick. I was hungry.

I am not sure what to do next. What does one do after watching a friend disappear his own head and, consequently, be taken away, likely to never again be seen?

I sit for a moment, thinking or not thinking, and then I sit some more.

 

Samuel F. Nelson is studying writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

Photo "Silver Head," Anonymous, Kielce, Poland.

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