Flea Market Special
by Michael A. Kechula
“Hey, Susan, look what I got at the flea market for a buck,” Harry said, putting a black metal box on the table.
“How exciting! I can’t wait to see what’s inside!”
Harry slammed the rusted padlock with a hammer. After a few whacks, the lock fell off.
Removing the lid, Susan screamed when she saw a woman’s head.
“Take it easy,” Harry said. “It ain’t real. Looks like it’s made from wood.”
“What an ugly looking hag. What’s that sticking out of its forehead?”
“Looks like a key. Let’s see what happens when I turn it.” Harry twisted the key a few times, but nothing happened. “See if you can find a switch on her head.”
“I don’t see any,” she said. On impulse, she pressed the hag’s nose. Both eyes popped open. An old woman’s voice cackled, then said, “Put a penny in my mouth, if you dare, and I’ll tell your future.”
“How neat,” she said, reaching for her change purse. “I want my fortune told.”
“Don’t do it! I don’t like the looks of this thing. It might be haunted.”
“I can’t believe you’re getting the willies over a wooden head, after winning medals for bravery in Baghdad.”
“Hey, when guys run at you with bayonets, at least you know they’re flesh and blood, not spooks. Geez! Did you see that?”
“The face just changed. Look how it’s smirking.”
“I don’t see anything different,” she said. “You better have a drink to calm your nerves.”
Nancy inserted a penny into the slot formed by the hag’s lips. Whirring sounds filled the room. The thing’s eyes rolled until only the whites showed.
“You will die in five minutes,” a screechy voice said. Then it cackled fiendishly.
“I told you it’s haunted!” Harry yelled.
“Whadda ya talking about?”
“Did you hear what it just said?”
“Yeah, it told me the winning lottery numbers! It’s the best news I ever heard,” she said, jumping up and down. “Yeee-haw! I’m gonna win Power Ball tonight.”
“That’s not what it said!”
“I gotta go buy a ticket. Power Ball’s up to a hundred million. I can’t believe it! I’m gonna be rich! Wa-hooo!”
Grabbing the box, Harry said, “I’m gonna burn this damn thing.”
“No you’re not! Stop acting like a kid! Don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone. You might screw things up. If you ruin this for me, I swear I’ll cut your heart out!”
“Listen to me, Susan. It didn’t say you’re gonna win anything. It said you’re gonna die in just a few minutes.”
“You’re nuts. It told me lottery numbers. You’re just jealous that I’m gonna win a hundred million. What are you afraid of, Harry? That I’ll collect the money and run off?”
“No! I’m afraid for your life.”
“Stop acting so jerky,” she said, heading for the door.
Harry quickly shoved a penny into the thing’s mouth.
“You will be hanged for murder,” said the voice, followed by creepy laughter.
“Hear that?” Harry said. “Can’t you see what’s happening?”
“All it said was that you’re a jerk,” she replied, “and that if I stay with you, you’re gonna wreck my future.”
“You evil bastard!” Harry yelled, pounding the face with his hammer.
Susan tried to stop him, but he shoved her away.
“Look what you did!” she screamed. “You killed it. You rotten bastard! You ruined my future!”
She grabbed a pot and slammed Harry’s head with all her might. He fell to the floor, unconscious.
Cursing him, she tried unsuccessfully to insert a coin between the smashed lips. “Please take my penny. Please tell me you’re not mad, and that I’m still gonna win the lottery.”
She tried to pry the lips wider with a screwdriver.
Suddenly, she screamed. Blood streamed from her hand. “Why did you bite my fingers off?” she shrieked before collapsing.
* * *
The jury thought the evidence against Harry was overwhelming. He’d cut off his wife’s fingers. Then her head. Since two psychiatrists affirmed his sanity, all agreed this was a case of premeditated murder.
Though Harry described the head in the box to detectives, and how it must have maimed and murdered his wife to get revenge, they thought he was nuts. Especially when they searched his apartment and found nothing unusual.
Before sentencing Harry to death by hanging, the judged asked if he had anything to say.
“Yes, your Honor. I want everyone here to listen very closely. It’s a matter of life or death. If you ever find a black box with a wooden head inside, don’t smash its face with a hammer.”
Copyright © 2007 by Michael A. Kechula