The Severed Head: Part 3


Terran Boylan


The thing about living in rural Iowa was that in many ways it was like living in a time warp. A lot of the smaller towns had a feel to them as if they belonged to a different era. Things tended to move at a slower pace than they did in the bigger cities. There was the East Coast and the West Coast and everything in-between was this kind of vaguely defined Middle West region. Where did popular culture come from? More than anything else it seemed to be piped into homes via cable television by way of Saturday Night Live and daytime talk shows and CNN.

Dave Hollister was a pig farmer. His father had been a pig father and so on for a few generations. When the wind was blowing the wrong direction the stench carried as far as the Southern end of Whiskey Creek. Dave had grown up with the smell and it was just a part of his world. Pigs stank. He wasn’t invited to that many parties, even though he thought he cleaned up pretty nicely.

Dave’s house was set well back from the gravel highway, and at the end of his driveway was an old-fashioned mailbox. Because high-school kids were what they were, and "mailbox baseball" was a popular sport even in his heyday, Dave’s mailbox was mounted on a four-inch diameter pipe that was sunk into a concrete base. Kids still occasionally took pot shots at the mailbox, but never really did much damage. About five years ago someone had used it for target practice and had shot enough holes in it that Dave had been forced to admit defeat of a sort and bought a new corrugated steel model from the Whiskey Creek Wal-Mart.

Although he’d plowed his driveway, the snow from the big storm was still plenty deep. Dave considered the walk down to collect the mail to be exercise. He could have driven from the house either in the John Deere tractor or in his Ford pickup, but the day was warm enough that it wasn’t necessary. In his hand he held a couple of bills that needed paying. When he got to the box he put up the metal red flag to indicate he had outgoing mail that needed "pickin’ up."

At first he thought the severed head was a package and only realized what it was when he had taken it out of the mailbox. The head had been wedged into the mailbox in such a way that it was sitting up. Like all the heads except for the very first, it was wrapped in a thick, clear plastic.

Dave looked at the head, which had apparently belonged to a black woman with unnaturally red hair. The head, after a fashion, looked back at him, its dead eyes gaping wide. When the head was rotated in an orientation such that the eyes appeared to be looking into his own, a shiver ran down his spine.

Dave was a sensible man, a farmer first and foremost, and he thought about what he should do next. He had already touched the head, but since he was wearing his wool gloves he hadn’t left any of his fingerprints on the plastic. He decided it was probably best if he put the head back where he’d found it. He wondered if he should remove his mail first, which he could see in a pile in the back of the mailbox, behind the spot the head had occupied. Dave decided that he should probably leave the "crime scene" as much like it had been as possible. However, he still looked through the pile of mail quickly to make sure he hadn’t received his monthly issue of Naked Skinny Teens Magazine, which he would prefer not to explain to the police.