Witch of Whidbey
By Nicole Henneman
(Contains potentially offensive/triggering language-racial, cultural and religious concepts, expletives and references to violence)
“Isn’t it just delicious?” Reid caressed a domed glass jar as Andrea’s eyes adjusted to the dimmed lighting around her. She wasn’t sure about Reid’s choice of words as the image began to take form. Inside the jar was—What the hell?— someone’s hair with a pair of ears attached to it. Andrea didn’t know whether to be sickened or fascinated.
“Are you shitting me, Reid? Is that someone’s head?”
Reid smiled and held the jar up to the light. “Well, to be specific, Andrea dear, it’s someone’s scalp. This here is some poor fuck’s hair and ears after being scalped by Indians back in the day. I have no idea where his head is. I don’t know a lot about it, really. The guy who sold it to me said he found it in the attic of a house he bought. Can you imagine? Jesus. Just unpacking a bunch of old shit and coming across ears? I can’t even imagine. I mean it would be right up my alley, but not this guy. He was driving a hard deal, but I could tell he wanted it out of his house. I guess he was keeping it in the trunk of his car. I thought, um, yeah dude, that will be an easy one to explain to the cops if you get pulled over. Needless to say, I am not one to flex. I put it in a cardboard box and started creepin’ down the side streets to get home.”
Andrea inched closer to the display case. “Have you touched it? I mean is it skin for sure? Is it real?” Reid got very serious. “Oh, it’s skin all right. Possibly the weirdest thing I’ve ever touched in my whole life. Here, try it.” He lifted the dome up as Andrea held the base. “Are you sure you should do that? I mean, if it is super old it might disintegrate or something.” Reid laughed, “Well, then we’ll both have felt up an expensive piece of old dead dude and we’ll have stories to creep dinner guests out with. You know me. It’s all about the conversation starters when mingling with money. That shit’ll be priceless.”
He placed the glass top on a shelf and took the base from Andrea. Suddenly they were like two little kids about to play with slimy goop for the first time or pull the legs off a spider or something. “Oh my goddess. Seriously. He doesn’t have teeth. Do it already.” Andrea slowly settled her hand on the dark hair. It felt coarse and dry beneath her fingers. She did not want to get close enough to feel the actual scalp but grazed one of the ears with her palm. Reid laughed nervously. “Isn’t that so bizarre? I held it by the ears after I bought it. Honestly I can see why the guy had the willies. I couldn’t wait to hide it . Even in here I kind of shove it to the back of the back—I mean, I guess lots of my finds are kind of on the darker side, but not like this.” He lowered the glass dome to the base and slid the whole thing toward the wall of the display cabinet.
By the time they got back to Caitlin, a few more people had shown up, including one of Reid’s law partners. Grant had classic California rugged looks that women swoon over, but he liked to refer to himself as “woke.” He must have known about the fiasco with Travis by the way he looked at Andrea as she walked through the doorway. Reid waved him forward. “Andrea this is Grant. Grant, you’ve heard me talk about Andi, right?” Grant swapped pitiful sorry-dog eyes for a bright white smile and nodded. “Of course. I think you referred to her as your soul.” Reid laughed, “Right, as if I have one. I believe I said she was my conscience. Clearly the firm keeps you around for their marketing.” Grant continued, “So what were you kids doing in the broom closet?”
Reid smiled, “Honey, you couldn’t handle what goes on in my closet. Besides, it’s bigger than yours.” Reid held his hands up and apart, ” You know-I go big in everything I do.” The joke missed. Eyeing Grant from top to toe, Reid shook his head, ” You are looking pedestrian as usual I see. A rolled pant leg? Really? Are you still trying to convince people you ride a bike everywhere? You’d better be here baring gifts of Pule or Screaming Eagle, bitch—you weren’t on the guest list.” Having more than his share of the Reid “experience”, Grant did indeed come bearing a bottle of wine and the latest office gossip. He nestled on the sofa next to Reid and in minutes had him giggling so hard that it was clear that Grant’s trespasses were forgiven. Andrea sat silently and listened to their conversation-hoping to catch some news about Travis.
As Reid got up to get some food from the kitchen, Andrea followed him. “I’m surprised you didn’t hire a server.” Reid looked perplexed. “Why would I do that? These people are like fourth-string, baby. They are lucky to get crudites. Besides, I had these discount beauties delivered this morning. And did you see that bottle Grant brought? He didn’t drop more than a hundred. Cheap. Ass. I should have charged him a cover.”
“So, Grant works with you? What’s his story?”
Reid moved platters around in the sub-zero and then licked some olive oil from his fingers. “Girl, you want none of that. He makes Caitlin look like Doris Day-if Doris Day was her character in real life and prayed instead of straddling Rock Hudson. Yes, exactly, he would make Caitlin look like a nunnie Doris Day. Seriously, the CDC would issue warnings if they knew what he got up to. He is like a walking petri dish. Someone really should plaster him with Mr. Yuck stickers and mount hazard lights to his Tesla—it would be a public service.”
Andrea smiled. “No, I am not interested in him. I was just…” She paused.
The reality of what she was thinking came full circle to Reid. “Ohhhhh, honey, no. I mean yes, he does work closest with that twat man-snatch ex of yours, but you don’t want the kind of soul-crushing news he can deliver. All that falls from his tongue is smut. I love it. I eat it up like cotton candy. But the price you’ll pay. Nope. You ask him anything and you’ll need more than a salt gargle or sage bath to clean that shit off. Uh- uh. Beep-beep.” Reid flashed his hands in front of Andrea’s face, “Steer clear, darling. Travis is not worth it. I mean sooo not worth it.” He pulled a platter of vegetable garnish and handed it to her. “Now be a good minion and go feed the whores. I mean hordes.” He stuck his tongue out in her direction and then bent over again for a cheese plate.
As they walked back to the living room, Reid turned to her, “Have you ever heard of that show School House Rock?” Andrea nodded. He smiled widely, “I totally have those songs in my head. I might be the only person in the world ready to party to Conjunction Junction. Tonight is just going to be weird!” Laughing to himself, Reid snapped a celery stick in half and chomped down his exclamation point. Sometimes Andrea feared Caitlin or Reid doing anything harder than alcohol because she was sure they would completely lose it.
Sitting down, she noticed a movie playing, a few stragglers shooting pool and Caitlin latched on to Grant. It remained to be seen what they would think of each other outside of the haze of being stupid drunk. Reid and Andrea were the only two not drinking. That fact was not lost on Reid. “Well, damn. We need new friends. Look at us old biddies sitting on the couch together. Girl, I am going to have to take up knitting if we keep this up, and that will just not do. Not-at-all. So you better keep me entertained or we are hitting the streets for some fun. I am not even sure what, but don’t worry, I gots the bail money.” Reid elbowed Andrea gently in her arm, rolled his eyes and sighed deeply, ” I. Am. Bore. Duh.”