Death to a Headless Bird
With a Nod to The Adventures of Pinocchio
–Carlo Collodi, 1883
Once upon a time there was a village dolt named Mister Carrot, for his nose was Day-Glo orange. A wayward pigeon flew in and lit on his tumbledown table. “Excellent! For tomorrow is the Feast of Fools!”
Mister Carrot took up a cleaver ready to strike the creature’s neck when a voice pleaded, “Please, do not harm me!”
The old geezer glanced all around but did not see any body. He stooped to peer behind a bucket of wormy apples. Nothing. So, who could it be?
“Oh!” He laughed, scratching his silly pink wig, thus releasing parasitic insects. “The voice must be in my own head!”
This time, when taking up the cleaver, he struck with tremendous force.
“Ouch!” The severed head shot to the wall and stuck like static cling.
Shaken, Mister Carrot set the cleaver aside and began to pluck pinfeathers.
“Please sir, stop! You’re tickling me!”
This time, poor Mister Carrot fell to his knees, for surely this creature should be dead as a hobnail. At a loss, he propped the bird in front of the radio. Mr. Carrot knew almost everything from listening to the evening news. Perhaps a strange illness was traveling about?
The mister tossed back a shot of Old Turkey before rimming the bird’s neck with lip-paint from his dead wife’s cosmetics’ box.
“And a touch of rouge, if you can spare it?”
Mister Carrot shuddered but pinched each tiny breast until it blushed.
In that instant, someone rapped at his door.
A hunched old woman stepped inside. Her name was Elizabeth but the village drunks called her Pussy, because her hair reminded them of a coughed-up fur ball.
“Whatever are you doing on the floor?” she asked.
“Teaching lice to read.”
Her gaze fell on the headless guest. “And who is this pretty little thing?”
“Why do you slander me so?” she demanded.
“T’was not I!” Mister Carrot glared at the bird.
“Are you saying I insulted myself?”
“[REDACTED] Cock-sucker!” With that, she waddled to her hob-flat.
Mr. Carrot cast the bird into the icebox.
“I can’t breathe!”
“Of course you can’t breathe! You don’t have a head!”
In another day, Mister chose an index card from his Hello Kitty Recipe Box. Instructions called for a washer-box. How timely! The old man had won just such a contraption in a raffle.
He stuffed parasites into the bird’s cavity and crimped it in fusion-foil. Onto the uppermost rack it went, the dial set on “cleanse.” (No soap of course.)
Near midnight, Mister Carrot led Elizabeth and her entourage into the kitchen.
“Elizabeth?” He beamed. “Please lift our supper from the washer-box.”
She waddled forward and unlatched the solid-magnetic door.
A steamy voice cried, “You are sad, sad little people!”
The guests stopped, listened, then tucked in their bibs.
[No part of this tale has been reproduced or stored in a retrieval system or otherwise been transmitted]
Sherry Shahan lives in a laid-back beach town in California where she grows carrot tops in ice cube trays for pesto. Her work has appeared in Horla, Shoreline of Infinity, Were-traveler, Meta-Stellar, Terror House Magazine, Last Girls Club and elsewhere. She earned an MFA from Vermont College and taught a creative writing course for UCLA Extension for 10 years.
A Song for Sherry