The Head On The Coffee Table

(Based on a true story)

It was 1970-something and we were living in Florida in a new house. My dad had a good job painting billboards for local theme parks like Sea World or Gator Town. My brother and I shared a bedroom. It was the night before Easter Sunday and both of us were out of our minds, excited about what we would find the next morning, hidden in various parts of the living room. Would it be a gigantic chocolate bunny? Cadbury creme eggs? Toys? Somehow, despite our overactive imaginations, we managed to fall asleep.

I woke up early, probably around 530am because there was just a soft glow coming from the windows. Eagerly, I peered out through our open bedroom door into the living room, expecting to see some evidence that the Easter Bunny had visited us already. The dim light, though, only gave me shadows and the dim outline of familiar objects. A chair. The television set. Our record player.

Then I saw it. A roughly egg-shaped hump on the coffee table in front of the couch. It was an Easter basket! I could already taste the marshmallow peeps, the multi-colored jelly beans, the—

My mouth went dry and my mind was filled with the sound of a thousand buzzing hornets, as I realized the strange shadow was slowly rotating. I could now see the irregular but recognizable contours of a nose, a mouth and, finally, two bright red glowing eyes that locked onto mine.

It was a head! A head on the coffee table!

Terrified, I flung myself under the covers, whimpering like a lost dog, tears stinging my wide open staring eyeballs. My heart jackhammered, out of control. I began sobbing, sure the head was still staring at me...out there...on the coffee table.

I whispered my brother's name over and over, trying to awaken him. Unwilling to emerge from my blanket fortress, I hoped he would be able to hear my cries.

Eventually, he awoke, asking what was wrong. In hitching breaths, I tried to explain what I'd seen. Of course he didn't believe first. "Just go look," I whispered. I could hear his soft, creeping footfalls as he approached the door. There was a quiet pause. Then the bedroom door slammed shut and he raced back to his bed. I peeked out to see his form shivering uncontrollably under the blankets of his own bed.

We stayed that way for hours, until my dad opened our door with a perplexed look on his unshaven face. Warily, we threw back the covers and looked out into the living room.

There was nothing on the coffee table. It was clear except for the TV remote. No head, no Easter basket. Nothing.

Of course it was the fabrication of an excitable young mind. But not a night goes by now when I don't still think about the ponderous, methodical turning of the decapitated head so it could watch me with those burning, blood-red eyesockets.