Spirit Box

Paul Rousseau

I lay some Pjs out on my mattress before hitting the shower. When I return, towel around my waist, they’re gone. Kinda spooky. I check the floor, under the bed, nothing. Already shrugging it off as a lapse of memory, I head over to my dresser for some undies. Something sort of big and spherical shifts around as I slide open the drawer. Turns out, it’s my father’s severed head. I can’t imagine how someone had the time to empty this drawer out. There must have been at least twelve pairs of underwear and double the amount of socks in there. Now, just a head.

I went to a psychic some years ago, who sort of predicted all this. No crystal ball or tapestries or heavy eye makeup, just a nice older lady from Burlington, Wisconsin. Before we could start the reading, she said she needed to learn more about my life up till now. I said it was pretty normal with a few setbacks here and there. My dad was rarely around. Never went to my competitive pottery-making tournaments, the Clash of Clay. Never taught me how to correctly draw the number 8. My friends all thought he was dead, but it was worse than that.

My parents divorced after they promised not to. I made them promise, in the middle of one of their more heated fights. Doors were slammed. Bags were packed. But there we were, all three holding hands at the kitchen table, and they promised to stay together, just like that. Then split not long after.

I found myself really opening up to the psychic, who insisted I call her Deb. I told Deb about the brief moment I got to see dad every day when my parents were still together. How I’d watch him apply deodorant through the sliver of an open door. His hands gripping the huge navy-blue aerosol bottle. The painfully cold tsst sound it made as it coagulated around his armpit hair. The dense chemical smell that lingered. It was just a glimpse into his morning routine, but I loved every second of it. I’d sneak in the master bathroom after he left for work and spray some on myself, way before my sweat glands even developed, just to have a part of him with me at all times, if only in spirit.

I go through the rest of the house collecting my father’s parts in a black garbage bag. I find his heart in the pantry behind some beef stock. I nearly had to put the dog in a chokehold for his spleen. And I find his privates, his pork and beans, so to speak, swinging triumphantly from a ceiling fan.

I lay him out as anatomically correct as possible in the living room and fetch my spirit box, the PolterPod 2, then begin.

“Who did this to you?” I ask, pretending my voice is deeper than it actually is. Trying to sound more defiant. Though, truthfully, it is sad to see him like this. The last time I saw him was when he came to the cities to get his taxes done, and just so happened to take me out for lunch. I was on the way.

He still wears the same deodorant. I could smell it on him when I reached for the bill and he waved my hand away. I’ve been wearing it for years now, too, and went back and forth the whole drive home on whether I should trash my bottle and find a new brand or not, upset about how we both just faked our way through the meal.

The PolterPod cycles through its fifty radio frequencies per second. No response, just static.

“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” I ask. “Speak now. This may be your last chance.”

I try to think of some way to make him talk. Deb said dad would finally realize it was his fault in the end, and if his current state is any indication, I’d say we’re pretty close. I run upstairs quick and grab a used bottle of deodorant. Our deodorant. I spray it all over as if it were incense or sage at a seance, unsure if my goal is to cleanse or provoke or something else entirely. Thankfully there is still a little juice left as the room fills with that familiar smell.


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