A Very Devout Ornamentation
By Jaclyn Watterson
Nancy works regular hours to my irregular ones, and often phones me from the desk at her office, especially on Mondays.
Yesterday she said, I’m bringing over the head.
The head is something that belonged to her recently deceased grandparent. These mounted heads, often severed from ungulates, were, Nancy promises, very popular for many centuries.
The head in question is missing an eye.
The head in question weighs eighty pounds.
Nancy and her family think that because I’m a writer, and working irregularly, I should have the head. It is my personal policy never to argue with Nancy or Nancy’s family.
This morning the head was delivered by Nancy’s brother Scott. Scott is wicked. I waited until after he left to prop the head in the armchair. I angled it toward my disused fireplace, unfolded a blanket beside it, and came to my bedroom.
The cat, wary of the head, has followed me, and we have closed the door. That was seven hours ago, and the phone has been ringing. Nancy, I’m sure.
We are the new owners of a head, I said to the cat. She closed one eye, slowly.
Life is often munificent, and there’s nothing like a severed head in your armchair to remind you.
Around noon, my boyfriend came over. I heard him cooking noodles in the kitchen. Before long, he was eating at my yellow Formica table, another gift from another of Nancy’s dead relatives. He didn’t come into the bedroom, and I didn’t go out, and after a while he rinsed his bowl, placed it upside down on the drainboard, and left again.
He’s like that, my boyfriend. It’s soothing having him around, which is not something I can say of the head: it is not soothing having the head around. So far, it has been mostly vexing.
The head belonged, in the first place, to a caribou. In the second place, I believe Nancy’s grandparent shot the caribou—who can say why.
The caribou’s conservation status is least concern. Meaning no one puzzles how to save the caribou. Experts have deemed there are enough caribou, and no one concerns for this one, dead, or for all the others, still living.
Not Nancy’s grandparent, and not this caribou. Still living?
Nancy arrives. She’s my third visitor in one day, very unusual. To say nothing of the head, but of course Nancy does.
It will be company for you, she says. Now open this window and let me in. Nancy is standing outside my bedroom window. It’s 6 pm, and she’s taken the train back from her office.
Nancy is a tactless and expressive woman. She is my friend, and because I live on the first floor, she often comes to my bedroom window.
Climbing in, she takes an electric drill with a long cord from her workbag. She plunges it into the empty socket in my bedroom and goes out to the living room. The cat has gone under the bed, and I consider the same, but in keeping with my policy, I follow Nancy to the living room, where the drill resounds.
She has mounted the head. Its fur needs combing; the one eye shines handsomely. I will become accustomed to this caribou head and tend its needs, as I have done with Nancy.
I didn’t want—I was merely trying to work. What makes explaining this so difficult? I had never met Nancy’s grandparent, presumably the second owner of the head, and I felt this keenly, looking at Nancy and the head she had mounted on my wall. I felt concern.
Because at some point, you stop believing you will not get old. And the older you get, the more likely your things will outlast you. At some point, your things will go to other people’s homes, whether they want them or not. We choose durable things, and they last.
Nancy unplugged her drill and retracted its cord. She left me with the head, its empty socket—beckoning.
Jaclyn Watterson’s recent fictions and horrors have appeared or are forthcoming in Puerto del Sol, Two Serious Ladies, The Newer York, DREGINALD, and Yalobusha Review. She currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Updated April 2015)
Jeff Tatay is an MFA in Creative Writing candidate and an Environment and Natural Resource candidate at University of Wyoming. His writing, photography and audio/visual art is inspired by the biological and natural world and his investigation of environmental ecology and animal biology. He is currently investigating the deeper ecological complexities of the biosocial, semiotic and geomorphological stratigraphy of consciousness and animal matter. His work has appeared in Arsenic Lobster, Clare Literary Journal, Indigo Rising Magazine, Obsession Literary Magazine, Wyoming Public Media’s Spoken Words, Tract/Trace: An Investigative Journal and other publications. (Updated June 2015)