Heads and High Windows
by David Drury
The town council meeting finished well after dark. Widower Enmit Wessel held his coat closed with pale knuckles and walked home through a wind so strong it sheared a sheet of plywood from the high window of the mortuary building, which had been abandoned for years. The plywood square frisbeed into the street, severing a power line and taking the councilman’s head clean off. No one saw it happen. Everyone had gone a different way home. The broken line danced in the street, throwing sparks. Enmit’s head ambled end over end—down the sidewalk, off the curb, and into the street. A car passed right over it, music trailing behind, but did not slow. The head spun once and came to a stop. A bird hopped up and pecked at one eye for a while, but then the head began to roll again, and the bird flew off. The head was redirected one way by a bottle cap and then another by a pebble. Just as it bounced against the far curb and started to pick up steam, the head came in contact with the live wire. Enmit Wessel’s head jumped back to his body in a shower of sparks. He stood and brushed himself off without a conscious idea that anything more than a slip had just happened, and he continued on his way. He saw a piece of plywood in the street and the high window where it had come from. He remembered that the mortuary building had originally been a church. He had attended a wedding there as a child and lost his clip-on tie somewhere on the dance floor during the reception.
The story started with an image—a sheet of of plywood falling from a high window, neatly removing someone’s head. Then there were the questions. Who? How? What next? There was a story here somewhere, both inside and outside my own attached head. If I looked, what would I could find? I wanted to find. The process of finding looks a lot like creating, and I am okay with that.
If a severed head or similar gravy-colored grief rolls around long enough in my stories, it is probably looking for resurrection, or at least a glimmer of a rumor of a hope. Sometimes it will settle for a whole lot less, and I am okay with that. I like gravy. The rest here is electricity and recovered childhood memories. One is a device and one a pathway to transformation. Existence so often feels like mundane liturgy until you are forced to pay attention to the words. There is power there. I suspect for Enmit Wessel that life may yet return to mundane liturgy once again, but hopefully with good lighting and eye contact.
David lives in Seattle, Washington. One could say he has been broadcast on National Public Radio and published in Best American Nonrequired Reading. One could also say that a marginally longer work of his is forthcoming in ZYZZYVA, a story which involves evidence found in space of an ancient lake and onion who developed an affinity for one another and changed the course of human history. It all sounds so literary! But why say these things at all, when it is more fun for one to say is that David has been kicked out of every casino in Las Vegas? Why indeed.
If you are the kind who says bad puns into a walkie-talkie made of computers, here is a place: @davdrury.