by Niles Reddick
“Eddie’s dead,” my mother announced while we were eating dinner, right between spooning the green beans and passing the biscuits. My sister dropped her fork on the Formica table top.
“How?” I asked, already knowing Eddie would have killed himself. Surprised he hadn’t already done it and if I was him, I would have, too.
“Shot himself,” she said. “His poor mother, bless her heart, had to deal with that his whole life and everyone thinks there’s something wrong with her, too. Ran in their family is what I heard.”
“That,” I said, “is just a genetic issue, like conjoined twins. Most don’t even live, and Eddie wouldn’t have lived either, if the other twin would have been more developed. Cranial duplication is what they call it.”
“Just ain’t right,” Dad said, adding, “Frightening to everyone. Like a damned Jason from Friday the 13th, if you ask me.”
“For god sakes. He wasn’t no killer. It’s just that face on the back of his head, looked a lot like his, but with a sneer. Then the face had some sort of ability to laugh, cry, and whisper. He shouldn’t have ever gone to school and certainly shouldn’t have thought things that came out of his other mouth. I swear that’s where the term ‘two faced’ must have originated.”
“Okay, he wasn’t a killer, but he was a freak. Like that damned Elephant man guy. Still, I don’t know what you’re talking about. To hear you tell it, he had two brains or something, like he couldn’t control it or something.” Dad looked at me like I was crazy, but Mom had swallowed her green beans and her mouth was open. My sister had three green beans stuck on a fork in mid-air on their way to her mouth.
“Well,” I said. “I asked him and that’s what he said. He thought something, but wouldn’t say anything or react, but he heard the other face whisper.” I told them I could still remember it all those years ago. “Other kids were on the swing set, the see-saw, or monkey bars, and I sat by Eddie on a bench underneath the apple tree the science teacher had a class plant in memory of Isaac Newton. I asked Eddie what it was like. He said, ‘What do you think it’s like?’ I told him I didn’t know, and he said, ‘If I think something and don’t say it, it comes out of the other face in a whisper. It’s frightening to me. Nothing is secret to me. Nothing at all.””
“Most of the time, Eddie wore a black felt hat with a black cloth that came down the back of his head and a black piece of elastic that stretched around the front of his neck, so no one could pull up the black cloth and see the other face. His mother had made it for him when he was a child and then continued to perfect it over time and as he grew. People said he wouldn’t live with the condition, but he did, though after the first year of high school, he stopped school altogether. Went on the home bound program.”
“One group of kids wanted him to use his other face to cheat for them, to look on tests of smart people who sat behind Eddie, but though he had eyes on the second face, they didn’t work or move. The lids were always closed. Even if they eyes opened and worked, it was tough to get anyone to sit behind him knowing they would be watched through that black cloth. Once, Eddie’s other face had whispered something that sounded like “nice breasts” through the black veil to one of the cheerleaders, and she screamed and told the teacher, demanded something be done, but the teacher told her to sit down and be quiet. Once the face made an evil laugh when an English teacher was reading the poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, and Eddie was sent to the principal’s office. He’d received no punishment. I wonder what the other face did when he was thinking about shooting himself,” I said.
“What the hell kind of question is that?” Dad asked. “It didn’t do a damned thing.”
“I know, but did it have anything to say?”
“What does that matter?” Dad said.
“Wonder if they’ll donate his head to science. Stuff him and put him in a museum at the university.”
“Who cares? There’s another reason to just get a job and not go there after you graduate high school.”
Niles Reddick is author of the novel Pulitzer nominated Drifting too far from the Shore, a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in eleven anthologies/collections and in over a hundred and fifty literary magazines all over the world including PIF, Drunk Monkeys, Spelk, Cheap Pop, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Slice of Life, Faircloth Review, among many others. His new collection Reading the Coffee Grounds was just released. His website is www.nilesreddick.com
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