NFh.jpg

Stuart Watson

If It Wasn’t Attached


 

I was going along lickety-split behind my mower when the piano-wire clothesline clipped me just beneath the chin. I’d meant to do something about that almost-invisible line. Too late then to swap it out for plastic-coated cord. Sliced right through my neck, it did, clean as a whistle. A guillotine could not have done a better job, but I was standing up when this happened, not kneeling over a basket, so my head teetered a bit.

The mower stopped cutting. As my head tipped back and fell, I saw the sky, the eaves of our house, the railing on the wrap-around porch. Then a jumble of images as my view sped from the eaves past the windows and foundation to the grass and dirt. 

Then, stillness, with a sideways view of my neighbor’s house and his tree. 

As this was happening, I could feel my body moving around like you would if you were stuck in a closet with no windows or lights. Dark, even if you could pull the cord that turned on the lights. Not sure which way to turn to find the door, or even if there were a door.

As my head lay on the lawn, I realized what had happened. 

Until then, I had been pretty cautious when I was out mowing. Briana and I could barely see the wire holding up the squirrels and birds when we sat sipping margaritas.

I could see my body stumbling around a bit, but it was on its own. I tried to tell it to bend down and feel around in the lawn, get its head together, but it wasn’t listening to me. Or maybe there was nothing to hear? Either way, I knew then how my wife felt when I tuned her out.

That’s when I heard Briana scream. I could see her coming down off the porch and running toward me, and then it was just her feet. She must have reached down and grabbed me, because I could see the buttons on her shirt and then her chin and lips and her eyes when she stopped turning my head. 

She looked into my eyes, and I into hers. I tried to speak, but nothing.

She was oddly calm. Her screams had stopped. She must have realized that my brain and sensory organs were still working. My body was stumbling around like a madman, but I was entirely myself, or at least the part that was aware of my own existence and identity. Just detached. 

“Wait here,” she said, and set my head neck-down in a flower pot. I heard the door latch behind her. I could see my body wander by, veering right and left, searching. I said something. I heard myself, inside, but Bree couldn’t hear, and my body did nothing I willed it to. 

It wandered off into the street. A car slowed while my torso turned blindly in circles. The car backed up rapidly, like the driver had seen something startling. 

I felt hands on either side of me, just beneath my ears. It was not my wife. I could glimpse small shoes, laces untied. I heard the idiot kid from across the street. The one of whom Briana said, “He’s not a moron. He’s just a diff’rent child.” 

“Look what I found,” he yelled. “A head!”

Other kids yelled back. Then chanted. 

“Kick it! Kick it! Kick it!”

Nice kids. The “diff’rent child” took my head out into the street and set it down, and I could feel a ping where his foot kicked me. 

I started to roll. 

Reality passed in circles as my head picked up speed. 

Bree had returned to our yard. Next to her, the rest of me stood, holding her hand. 

“Hey!” she screamed at the kids. “That’s my husband’s head! You go bring it back! Right now!”

They did, tossing me back and forth as they trudged up the street before handing me to Bree.

She gently lowered the stub of my neck into the flower pot. While I sat there, watching the street, she slipped her phone from the hip pocket of her capris and dialed 9-1-1. 

“Yes, my husband … His head … Off … Yes … No … He’s OK … Kind of … Just befuddled.”

She told them we didn’t need an ambulance, that she could “bring them in.” Them. I had doubled. She hung up and rushed my head over to the car. She set it down for a bit while she dumped cocktail ice into a plastic tub, then set my head on top.

“Feel OK, honey?” she asked.

I blinked. 

Then she went back and grabbed the rest of me and guided it to the car. She helped me into the passenger seat and clicked my seatbelt into place. I felt nothing.

The people at the E.R. were freaked when she opened the door on my side and they saw my body sitting there. 

“There’s no blood!” one of them screamed. “How can there be no blood!?!”

Bree came around with the tub and my head. The E.R. people looked in, and I could see them. I tried speaking, but something was wrong with my vocal chords. 

I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice to say, they patched me up. The E.R. doc carried me in the tub out to the waiting room. My other half was sitting there, next to Bree.

“How is he?” Bree asked. 

“Amazingly good,” the doctor said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Take him home. A little rest would be good. Otherwise, just … well, here, let me show you.” 

The doctor approached my torso and inserted a large funnel into my neck. “Like this,” he said to Bree. “Then you can spoon in his dinner. Or pour it. Just don’t feed him too much or it will overflow.”

She nodded. And that was that. She drove us home.

We settled into a sort of a post-decapitation lifestyle. Bree and I could communicate, sort of. She would speak.

I would blink or move my lips as if I were talking. She took a class at community college to learn how to read lips, and was actually pretty good. 

One day, at breakfast, she told me my head seemed to be losing weight. She wanted to take me to the doctor. He heard her out, did a little poking and pinching, then asked her what she was feeding me and how. She told him about the funnel.

“No, the head,” he said. “His torso seems to be getting more than enough food. But none of that does the head any good. I’m surprised the E.R. doc didn’t mention that. We treat several decaps here, and it takes a special recipe to feed the head.”

I had no idea I wasn’t the first. Bree and the doc worked things out. Recipes. How to turn my head upside down before inserting the funnel. Basic stuff. And after that, I started to put on chubby cheeks. Odd to say, but I began to feel like my old self. 

She was clearing the dishes one day after breakfast smoothies (again) when I shook myself a little and rattled the plate where she had set me. She came back.

 

“Can we have sex?” I asked. “I miss it.”

 

She looked at me as if the thought had never crossed her mind. 

 

“I didn’t know … I wasn’t sure ….”

 

“I want it,” I said. “Just not sure how.”

 

Her hesitance surprised me. She was always the horny one. Now that I had a little bit to offer, she seemed unsure how to respond. 

 

She got the message. After finishing the dishes, she set me (or should I say “us”?) in the living room. 

 

“I’ve got to spruce up a little,” she said.

 

She came back in a gauzy baby doll. She took one half of me by the hand, the other under her arm. She positioned my torso where I usually slept. She held my head as she lay back and propped herself against some pillows. Then she lay my head in her lap, facing her. I smiled at her, until she reached down and grabbed my hair and tilted my head forward. Ahhh, just like the old days. I noticed her hand get busy with my lower torso.

 

When I finished with her, she set my head aside, got up and straddled my other half’s hips. I had my doubts, but she told me all the plumbing worked just fine. 

Afterward, lying there in the low light, she set my head in my own lap. I felt my arms cradle my skull, as if I were holding a baby or a small dog. I felt like laughing. She saw my lips move, and joined the giggles.

Then I told her I wanted to talk with the docs about reattachment surgery. I said I wasn’t sure if our insurance would cover it, but it would be well worth it, if only to feel again what I had just experienced. 

“I’d like that,” Bree said. “I’d hate for you to misplace your head -- or any other part of yourself.”

She stood up, stripped out of the baby doll, and put on a pair of ratty jeans and a paint-stained sweatshirt.

“Where are you going?” my silent lips asked.

“The lawn,” she said. “It’s not gonna mow itself, you know.” 



 

Stuart Watson’s work has recently appeared (or will soon) in The Maine Review, Two Hawks Quarterly, Revolution John, Montana Mouthful, Wretched Creations, Flash Boulevard, Hippocampus (books), Wanderlust Journal and, now, DM.

 

He lives with his wife and the world’s best dog in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon. Among other places, he has been to Tonopah, Nevada. Bienvenue au Danse, Stuart.