(in the "Baldie Stories 1" collection - on sale at Amazon.com)
They couldn’t find the top of him so they used an old half a cantaloupe to punctuate the clear run of ruin above his mouth. “How’s he even sitting up like that? You need a brain to sit up like that, don’t ya?”
“I think so, but it’s like that chicken thing; they run around a bit before they die.”
Then it spoke. It put a finger up to the top of it, scratched at the dirty rind, found a half an ear and inserted a finger clear through to where that part of the brain should have been.
“Gettem... gettem here to the spital- ohspital - getteme ospitl....”
“Crap! The hospital! Call 911.”
They led him, on foot into the emergency room. He refused to sit. Even with half a head, he was stubborn. Later, while the surgeons were shrugging around the operating table, the cops were asking questions in a room next to the emergency waiting area.
“I don’t exactly know. We didn’t know him, just saw him there after the car backed up off his head. He must have been drunk. But then he sat up, and it looked...”
“Yeah - it looked like he was going to try to light a cigarette. But the top of his head was gone. Looked like a bowl of old soba noodles. Ick…Christ!”
Two days later he was transferred to a special clinic in Colorado. Two weeks later, he was on a plane for Germany. They’d managed to keep the infection at bay by topping him off with a glorified fish bowl. There was puzzlement all around. Not only didn’t the man with half a head not die, but he seemed to be communicating just fine with a pad and a pencil. Nasal passages worked with some assistance, feeding tube did its job. The major hunk of brain that went missing appeared to be superfluous to begin with.
His family was contacted. They weren’t surprised. “Sounds like something that joker would pull off” was what his brother had to say. His mother was fine with it as long as they never got a bill for any of the work performed. No one expressed interest in seeing the man.
His name was Stanley. And even with half a head, he was one completely irritating guy.
"He keeps writing that he wants to listen to Beethoven's fourth piano sonata! God damned doesn't have ears! Shit-basket doesn't have a skull to hang ears on! For fuck sake, I quit!"
And that was the fourth personal attendant in five days. Stanley complained about the darkness, the pain in his face, nicotine withdrawal, pissing down his leg, and he wanted soup! He wrote it:
Sopu soupp nou fuker nou!
Stanley's father suggested they drive him to the expressway and let him find his own way home.
"Son of a bitch can still play the piano, he can find his way through six lanes of traffic."
"Why do you hate our son so much!?" They’d paused to take a look. At the hospital's fairly decent upright piano, Stanley is leaning into the tangle of the fourth piano concerto’s first dawn, fish bowl for a skull tucked into a bloody gauze ascot, thumping away as if nothing were at all wrong.
Sidney pointed at the nightmare, wiggled a finger at it.
"Same reason I hate you so much! You fucked up my life without even trying! Look, at least now he's got some effort into it! No fucking head, no fucking brains, but he’s still ruining my life, one second after the next!”
"Sidney! It's terrible! Look at him - that horrible, horrible thing plugging the rest from spilling out his neck! He's your boy! Your boy!"
"Darlene, you've said it so many times I'm starting to wonder whom you're trying to convince!"
Stanley sensed the discord; the vibrations came to his knees and elbows with the sensitivity of perfectly honed tuning forks. He wrote with two hands on two separate pieces of paper, rarely defining which words follows which, page to page. It was an unbearable torture to decode the double-handed rant.
"Piss off, something, something Else, the. Piss off some more. Lousy parents.... so on. "
Sydney laughed heartily, threw the note on the hospital floor, and laughed some more.
"This kid is some ball buster. Honestly, no head - chin up, nothing, and he's still telling us what to do."
Sidney turned to the new attendant. "What took you so long? You’ve been on standby since yesterday?!”
“Yes, sir. It’s just...all the shouting. I figured…"
Sidney snarled, “Don’t figure! Look at that! That thing is supposed to be my son! If I started figuring, where’d you think I’d end up? No. No figuring. Unless you figure out how to make this all go away. Then let me know what’s on your mind.”
If Darlene seemed at odds with Sidney over Stanley's condition, his well-being, or the possibility of an emotional tether to their youngest offspring, it was merely the brute force of the maternal instinct hat had overcome the aging mother.
In fact, when the answering machine took that first call from the police, it was Darlene who said, "Don't pick it up! If we're lucky he's dead - If not, I don't even want to know."
But later, the curious nature of the condition of their boy, the hints of potential profit that lurked burbling just under the base of his skull: talk shows, book deals, options - hell, they'd been contacted by a major toy manufacturer who wanted to pay dearly for rights for the name and identity of "Stanley The Headless Wonder Doll! " - they found something inside each of them that, when polished by desire, managed to look awkwardly like diffident care, strangulated love, or some other common pathology that passed for familial attentiveness.
"He's the worst of both of us, and nobody's math can add those things together without sobbing at the end of it!"
Sidney winced in the parking lot, "I mean, they'll know we hate him before I hang up my hat!"
But they hadn't counted on Darlene's maternal instinct.
One look at half a head and it didn't matter how horrible the little shit had been to the world, it was her little shit! Her little shit without a face!
"He wants hair!?" Sidney screamed. He clutched the bed rail and shivered.
"He doesn't even have a brain and he wants hair! He doesn't have eyes or cheeks or a god-damned mouth and he's still telling us..."
The old man quaked. Veins in his neck pulsed and flexed and the flesh on his face jelly-rolled through a rainbow of horrific expressions, colors, ungodly contortions. Then, right before poor old Sidney dropped dead, dead and quivering still - he got out the last couple of words that would finish him for good:
"He wants a new hairdo!?"
The sound of Sidney shattering from the inside out was audible. Darlene had an eyebrow up and the doctor, who looked more intrigued than startled, had to lift his glasses over his eyes to be certain he wasn't seeing things. He nearly spoke, but didn't.
Darlene walked over and nudged her husband’s corpse with the blunt toe of her left shoe.
The doctor knelt down beside the dead man and checked for a pulse, flipped an eyelid, and thoughtlessly thumped a thought out on Sidney's forehead with a pencil.
"He has died," said the doctor.
At that moment, Stanley began to burble. Burble and bubble. He swayed and grasped at the air around him and a thin gruel of bloody matter erupted from the fleshy mess at the top of him.
"What's happening?" screamed Darlene.
"I don't know!" exclaimed the doctor.
"Do something!" screamed Darlene.
"But... but…" stammered the doctor, unsure of exactly what the emergency protocol might be when dealing with a patient with no head.
More blood and phlegm splattered about as Stanley began to swing about, left and then right and then back again.
Darlene screamed some more and then screamed again. She took it all in, dead husband at her feet, her only son - she remembered a moment of pure pleasure, the infant smiling - now reduced to this unspeakable horror...
Her shrieks increased until she found it impossible to shriek any longer. The doctor bounded across the room to upright Stanley and with one hand outstretched, poked a finger into his fleshy blow-hole to stem the loss of blood. Darlene tripped over her dead husband's body and split her skull wide open on the cast-iron lift mechanism at the foot of the bed.
Darlene was dead before the doctor felt the quality of quivering that emanated from the orphaned boy’s body. It was not the quaking distress of choking. It wasn't the flailing of fear or terror - not at all. The doctor withdrew his finger from Stanley's gullet and put a hand on the headless man's back.
"You are laughing?" whispered the doctor, horrified.
"Evil, through and through."
Stanley flailed about until he found a sheet of paper. The doctor handed the headless man a pen. Stanley swayed over the sheet as he wrote. When he was finished he tossed the sheet into the air above his shoulders. The doctor pulled it out if the air.
‘Greedy people! Hated me. Wished me dead but wanted profit from this horror. Their son...
I want a head. Make me a head. Put hair on it! Don't get greedy.’
The doctor looked up slowly.
Stanley shook with joy. He was feeling better, much better indeed.