Lord of the Appliance Toss

 

Herb and Joe skewered the beef leg, lifted the dead weight, and stood ready. In the silence, and standing over the dry blood, they looked suddenly furtive.

Scott spoke loudly.

“This head is for the beast. It’s a gift.”

The silence accepted the gift and awed them. The head remained there, dim-eyed, grinning faintly, blood blackening between the teeth. All at once they were running away, as fast as they could, through the parking lot toward Hessler beach.

Chris stayed where he was, a small brown image, concealed by the paper. Even if he shut his eyes the sow's head still remained like an afterimage. The half-shut eyes were dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life. They assured Chris that everything was a bad business.

“I know that.”

Chris discovered that he had spoken aloud. He opened his eyes quickly and there was the head grinning amusedly in the strange daylight, ignoring the shards of broken TV tubes, the pieces of vacuum cleaners, even ignoring the indignity of being spiked on a stick.

He looked away, licking his dry lips.

A gift for the beast. Might not the beast come for it? The head, he thought, appeared to agree with hint. Run away, said the head silently, go back to the others. It was a joke really—why should you bother? You were just wrong, that’s all. A little headache, something you ate, perhaps. Go back, child, said the head silently.

Andy and Tom sat on the porch, gazing at the barbeque spit and idly flicking pebbles into its smokeless heart,

“That charcoal is gone.”

“Where are Marvin & his date?”

“We ought to get some more charcoal. We’re out of 10 lb. bags.”

Andy sighed and stood up. There were no shadows under the porch roof on the platform; only this strange light that seemed to come from everywhere at once.  From high up amongst the wall of TV’s, a console television was tossed down and crashed onto the yellow Pinto like a gun.

“We’re going to get buckets of small appliances.”

“What about the fire?”

Andy trotted into the parking lot and returned with a wide spray of paper and cardboard which he dumped on the fire. The coals crackled, the paper coned and the yellow smoke expanded.

Tom made an aimless little pattern in the dirt film on the porch floor with his fingers.

“Trouble is, we haven’t got enough people for a fire. You got to treat Marvin & his date as one turn.  They do everything together—“

“Of course,”

“Well, that isn’t fair. Don’t you see? They ought’ to do two turns,”

Andy considered this and understood.  He was vexed to find how little he thought like a grownup and sighed again. The party was getting worse and worse.

Tom looked at the fire. “You’ll want another bag o’ coals soon.”

 Andy rolled over.

“Tom. What are we going to do?”

“Just have to get on without ‘em.”

 

“Beef --”

The guests sat, solemnly thinking of beef, and dribbling. Overhead the televisions boomed again and the broken appliances clattered in a sudden gust of hot wind.

“You are a silly little boy!!” said the Lord of the Appliance Toss, “just an ignorant, silly little boy!!”

Chris moved his swollen tongue but said nothing

“Don’t you agree?” said the Lord of the Appliance Toss, “Aren’t you just a silly little boy?”

 Chris answered him in the same silent voice

“Well, then,” said the Lord of the Appliance Toss, “you’d better run off and toss your appliances with the others. They think you’re batty. You don’t want Andy to think you’re batty, do you? You like Andy a lot, don’t you? And Tom, and Joe?”

Chris’s head was tilted slightly up. His eyes could not break away and the Lord of the Appliance Toss hung in space before him.

“What are you doing out here all alone! Aren’t you afraid.”

 Chris shook.

“There isn’t anyone to help you throw this party.  Only me, and I’m the Beast.”

 Chris’s mouth labored, brought forth audible words.

 

“Pig’s head on a stick.”

“Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill,” said the head.  For a moment or two the back porch and all the other dimly appreciated places echoed with the parody of laughter. “You knew, didn’t you?  I’m part of you?  Toss, toss, toss!  I’m the reason why it’s always a go? Why things are what they are?”

The laughter shivered again.

“Come now,” said the Lord of the Appliance Toss, “Get back to the others and we’ll forget the whole thing.”

Chris’s head wobbled. His eyes were half closed as though he were imitating the obscene thing on the stick, He knew that one of his times was coming on; the Lord of the Appliance Toss was expanding like a balloon.

“This is ridiculous. You know perfectly well you’ll only meet me down there—so don’t try to escape!”

Chris’s body was arched and stiff.  The Lord of the Appliance Toss spoke in the voice of a schoolmaster.

“This has gone quite far enough.  My poor, misguided child, do you think you know better than I do?”

There was a pause.

‘I’m warning you.  I’m going to get angry.  D’you see? You’re not wanted. Understand, Ben? We are going to have fun at this party.  Understand?  We are going to have fun at this party.   So don’t try it in my chair you poor misguided boy, or else-”

Chris was found he was looking into a vast mouth.  There was blackness within, a blackness that spread.

“—Or else,” said the Lord of the Appliance Toss, “we shall do you. See? Scott and Jim and Herb and Joe and Todd and Tom and Andy.  Do you.  See?”

Chris was inside the mouth. He fell down and lost consciousness.

Back-