The Night Stocker
by Edd Vick
Here's my first question: how the hell does a head without a body wind up in a vegetable box in a Safeway stock room, anyway? Sure they call them 'heads' of lettuce, but that's just rife with wrong. Second question: how much wronger is it that the head opens its eyes and starts gabbling away in Spanish? Third, and wrongest of all: why does it happen when I'm here? I mean, I've been good, mostly.
Pretty handsome, as heads go. Long dark hair, deep brown eyes, straight mostly-white teeth in a mouth without a bottom. Ew.
I'm Tina Tryon, night stocker. These things happen to me.
No way is this some joke of Manuel's or Pablo's. For one thing, they're both backing away in horror, hands totally visible.
"What's he saying?" I ask. Sure, I want to retreat, too, but vegetables is my beat. Somebody's got to stick around. Guess I'm elected.
From behind the forklift, Pablo says, "He's very tired, and he wants his body."
"Fair enough," I say. "Tell him we don't have any in stock. Manny, call the cops." I know this script; somehow by the time they come the head won't be there or it'll turn into lettuce, and I'll look like some kind of kook. But maybe if I don't call them it'll get worse. A lot worse.
"So why's he here?" I ask Pablo. "Ask him what he's doing contaminating my lettuce." If I know Alan Parkins, the store manager, he's just going to have me wash the stuff and put it out anyway. Hell, he'd probably have me put the head out in the freezer case marked $7.99 a pound.
"He says he is a powerful brujo, a wizard, and often turns his head into a crow to spy on his enemies." Neat trick. "Sadly, he takes on crow habits, like trying to grab food. He landed in a truckload of lettuce, ran out of magic, and turned back into a head. Without hands he's stuck this way."
I hear sirens approaching. It'll be the simplest thing in the world to let them have the head. Then I can go back to stocking.
Boring, boring stocking.
Or I could grab the head, hitch south, and learn Spanish. Maybe learn magic.
Maybe lose my head. "Pablo," I say. "When the cops get here let them in. I'm going to keep an eye on this head and make sure it doesn't get away." I shrug at the head, and get the impression he'd shrug back if he had shoulders.