Prompt Day #274: Write about a character who is literally “trying to keep his head on straight.”
“What is this?” I said looking into the gift box. I really hadn’t expected an anniversary gift. It’s not like we were getting along real well lately.
“Eh, figured you could use something to abuse other than me.” Denny shrugged. He reached into the box to pull whatever it was out. “Ouch!” he jerked his hand back and stuck his finger in his mouth and sucked. “Damn.” I rolled my eyes. I reached in and pulled out a bobble head doll that looked like a cartoon version of my husband.
“Oh my God. He does look like you.” I bopped the doll on the head and he agreed with multiple head nods.
“Yeah, but what the hell is this?” he asked reaching over and pulling a straight pin out of the hands of his bobble-headed doppelganger. “This thing drew blood.” He said pitching it into the empty box.
“Maybe a staple or something.” I offered, turning my new doll around and checking him out. He was dressed like Denny and had real hair the exact same shade as Denny’s. “What’d you do? Send in a picture or something? They did a great job.” I held the doll up to Denny’s head. “They matched your hair perfectly.”
“That is my hair. They said to send in as much as you can. Your hair, your clothes, a picture or a video and they would build an exact replica.” He smacked the little guy’s head. It wobbled about. “Put him on your desk or something. He’ll always agree with you. Happy Anniversary.” He said and walked out to the kitchen for a beer.
I looked at my gift; my prize for putting up with a drunken adulterer for the last eight years. “Well, Bobble-Denny, I guess you’re my husband now.” I said and shook him. “Don’t piss me off.”
I set my gift on my desk at work the following day and promptly forgot about it. Sometime later, I got a call at work asking for Denny. Seems he never showed up at his scheduled installs that day. Denny is a cable installer and if he isn’t at the clients’ house, it means he passed a bar on his way there. I’d saved his ass so many times telling them he was sick or I was on my way to pick him up because the car had broken down. That day, though, I’d had enough. He wasn’t worth it. I slammed the phone down and picked up the bobble head. I shook it. Its head clicking and clacking as I stressed the limits of its spring.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” I yelled at it. I threw it on the desk, grabbed my purse and left work. I drove towards the road he takes on his way to work each day, and fanned out from there, checking the parking lots of all the bars along the way. I was on the way to one of his go-to establishments when I saw his car angled off the road surrounded by police and ambulance. I pulled over, assuming he’d wrecked or got pulled over for drunk driving.
“Hi. I’m Denny’s wife. Is he ok?” I sked the first office I came to.
“Yeah, he is now. Had a seizure while driving. Ran off the road. He’s up there in the rig. I think they got him mostly calmed down.” He pointed to the ambulance and I headed that way. There was Denny, his head shaking, strapped down to the gurney.
He was released with the diagnosis of grand mal seizure and told to follow up. I figured it had to do with the drinking. He didn’t get much sympathy from me. He did manage to save his job though.
Denny’s “seizures” continued intermittently and the work up was completely negative. But he couldn’t seem to keep his head on straight. The words “Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Chorea” were being thrown around. I personally thought his brain was pickled.
The next time I got a call about my husband at work, it was a woman on the other end.
“Denny’s real sick, I’m calling an ambulance. He wanted you to know.” Some floozy from the bar most likely. Stupid idiot.
“Thanks.” I said and smacked the Denny doll on my desk. He agreed whole-heartedly. I hung up and watched the Desk Denny’s head mimic my Denny’s head. I hated him. I hated this reminder of my asshole husband. I grabbed the thing and ripped its head off. The broken, stretched out spring stuck out vulgarly swaying back and forth like a cobra. I tossed his head in my trashcan and once again, left work to deal with my husband’s myriad of problems.
I arrived at the ER, where by now, I recognized most of the doctors and nurses. They saw me but immediately dropped their eyes. Something was wrong. I walked up to the desk. Melanie was working tonight.
“Hey, Mel” I sighed. “Has Denny made it in yet?”
“Uh, let me see.” She said looking at the computer. She never once made eye contact.
“Is everything ok?” I asked and then, realizing that maybe it was the whole his girlfriend called 911 thing, “I know where he was. It’s nothing new.” I added
“The police notified you then?” she asked confused.
“The police? No. She said she was calling an ambulance.” I said, now I was confused.
“Shelly, why don’t you come with me. I’ll take you to the family waiting room.” She said and I followed. I was dumbfounded. I’d never had to do any of this before. They would usually just take me to the room where he was going to be put when he got there.
I sat in that room for hours. I was starting to worry. Could they not get his seizure under control? Was there something else? What did the police have to do with this? I was just getting up to go back to the desk when there was a knock on the door and Dr. Vincent came in followed by two police officers.
“Mrs. Hutchens?” The first officer asked? I nodded.
“Mrs. Hutchens, I’m sorry to have to inform you of this, but your husband, Denny has been murdered. He was found at the residence of a Miss Chastity Miggs. She’s been taken into custody. I’m afraid we’re going to have to ask you to identify the body.” I had fallen back into my chair as he spoke. She seemed like one of his usual girls on the phone. Some young, dumb waitress who fell for all the usual lines. Too naïve to realize her worth. And what had she said to me; “He’s really sick. I’m calling an ambulance” Why would she do that and wait if she had killed him? It made no sense.
“Are you up to seeing him?” The second office asked. I nodded again. It’s all I could do. “I must warn you, it will be shocking.” I held my hand up. I didn’t want to hear anymore. I just wanted to see him. I followed them down the hall to the morgue. I saw the outline of a body beneath the sheet. Something seemed off. Something about the shape did not match my husband. Perhaps they had the wrong person. I stood beside him as they lifted the sheet.
It was Denny. The shape was off because he’d been decapitated. The edges were so jagged, it looked as if someone had torn him apart. Because of this detachment, his head sat at an odd angle to the rest of him. I fell back. Dr. Vincent caught me and helped into a chair.
“Is this your husband, Denny Hutchens?” The first officer asked. I nodded my head. In my shock, I just kept nodding. Over and over. Like the doll. The Denny doll, who’s head was always bobbing at the slightest bump or vibration, like my husband’s seizures that started shortly after the doll arrived, like the doll who’s head I had ripped off right after hanging up with Chastity Miggs. The men watched me sympathetically. The poor widow, overcome with grief for the loss of her husband. They were wrong of course. I wasn’t paralyzed with grief. I was appalled by realization.
Chastity didn’t kill my husband. I did.