All In Your Head
A wealthy connoisseur expanded his collections to include sculpted heads, which he displayed on plinths. When they were sure they were alone, the heads would talk, secure in their superiority.
“It must be so strange,” said White Marble, “being an embodied head.”
“Strange?” said Burnished Bronze. “It must be intolerable. All those appendages! So much to go wrong!”
“That’s true,” said Carved Green Granite. “The worst we get is sinusitis and the occasional migraine. They’ve got gallstones, sciatica, blisters…”
“…dactylitis fingers, haemorrhoids, cartilage damage, tennis elbow…” continued Plaster Cast.
“…housemaid’s knee, chilblains, dysentery, fractured hips, lumbago,” added Coloured Wax.
They all shook themselves thoughtfully from side to side.
It was a theme they never tired of.
“Glandular fever, kidney infections, ingrowing toenails,” said White Marble.
“Cirrhosis, bursitis, gout,” said Burnished Bronze.
“Awful,” said Carved Green Granite.
“Nightmare,” said Plaster Cast.
“So sore,” said Coloured Wax.
One day, for devilment, the connoisseur added a plastic head he had picked up in a toy shop, which by means of differently coloured segments demonstrated the internal workings of the brain.
When the others were sure the connoisseur had gone, they resumed their conversation. They didn’t include Plastic Head, a substandard material.
The others waited until they were sure the connoisseur had left.
“Did you see the way he was limping?” said White Marble. “Tendonitis for sure.”
“Pulled hamstring,” opined Burnished Bronze.
“Slipped disc,” corrected Carved Green Granite.
“Agony,” said Plaster Cast.
“Thank goodness we can’t suffer the way he does,” said Coloured Wax.
There was a clearing of the throat from Plastic Head. “I think you’ll find you can.”
They all swivelled their eyes in Plastic Head’s direction, apart from Carved Green Granite whose eyes were either missing or had never existed.
“Pain is nothing but perception,” said Plastic Head. “It doesn’t come from your body, it comes from your brain.”
“Ridiculous,” said White Marble and Burnished Bronze.
“Absurd,” said Carved Green Granite and Plaster Cast.
“Crazy,” said Coloured Wax.
“There’s nothing crazy about me. My brain’s in perfect working order,” said Plastic Head, rocking gently across the plinth so that they could all admire the differently coloured segments of the brain. “Pain is obviously projected – how do you think amputees still experience it in phantom limbs?”
The silence was broken by a moan from White Marble: “My shoulder!”
A howl from Burnished Bronze: “My toes!”
A yelp from Carved Green Granite: “My wrist!”
A whimper from Plaster Cast: “My knee!”
A wail from Coloured Wax: “My solar plexus!”
Plastic Head realised that if the racket didn’t stop quickly, it would rouse the connoisseur from his contemplation of 18th century porcelain snuff boxes in the room next door. But while attempting to warn the others to keep quiet, Plastic Head rocked too close to the edge of the plinth and fell. The fall upended Burnished Bronze’s plinth, in turn dislodging White Marble, who shattered after smashing Carved Green Granite and pulverising Plaster Cast, while Burnished Bronze squashed Coloured Wax before being irreversibly dented on the floor.
The connoisseur rushed in to see Plastic Head rolling unscathed towards him. He blamed himself for having positioned his latest purchase so carelessly.
He could never replicate the collection, and decided not even to try. But out of sentiment, he kept Plastic Head in order to admire all the differently coloured segments and ponder the workings of the brain.
Olga Wojtas is half-Scottish and half-Polish. She has had over 30 short stories published in magazines and anthologies. She won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers award and was an Edinburgh City of Literature Story Shop reader at the 2015 Edinburgh International Book Festival. Her first novel, Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar, was published in January by Contraband.