Fiction | Short Story

The Holes In My Head

When he first started showing up, I tried to swat him away.

It’s hard for me to see the holes in my head as they are mostly on my backside, but I know they are there—because of the bird. It’s a huge-ass, ivory-billed woodpecker, and although I’ve never gotten a real good look at him, his talons digging into my neck and his beak banging into my cranium make his presence more than obvious.

When he first started showing up, I tried to swat him away, but it was like trying to knock the skin off of your own scalp, so eventually, I gave up trying. I guess it’s what you call a symbiotic relationship in that we depend on each other for survival.

I didn’t understand it at first. I was even hesitant to go out in public knowing that at any moment this creature could appear out of thin air, land on the back of my head, and begin pecking at my skull—it draws attention to say the least.

Now, I had the conversation you are no doubt wondering about. And yes, I asked the great red-crested bird just what in the hell he was doing.

“I’m digging out the burrowing bugs in your head, but don’t worry, I’m just eating the bad bugs,” the bird replied.

I protested. “But, I don’t have any bugs in my head—good or bad!”

“Of course you do—everybody does, it’s nothing to freak out about.”

The bird leaned forward, and using my peripheral vision, I saw a grub squirming in its mighty beak.

“Take this grub for instance,” said the bird. “This grub was just about to rape a co-ed.”

“Jesus Christ, what are you talking about?”

The bird did not answer, it just swallowed the grub and then went back to its relentless pounding. After a moment, the bird again leaned forward. “And take a look at this cockroach.”

I squinted and saw the hideous insect being chomped in half.

“This cockroach was in the process of choking an innocent black man to death.”

“Ahhhh!” I screamed. “Leave me alone!”

“But you need me.”

“I don’t need you! All you do is put these monstrous bugs in my head!”

The bird clacked its beak together in rapid-fire succession, producing a robotic laugh.

“I didn’t put any bugs in your head, they were already there—I’m just having lunch.”

I thought about this for a moment and then had an idea. “Hey, aren’t you supposed to be an ivory-billed woodpecker?”

The bird tilted its head back and forth and said, “I’m not supposed to be—I am.”

“Ah ha! Ivory-billed woodpeckers are extinct! You don’t exist!”

Again the bird made its strange beak-clacking laugh. “We are not extinct, we are presumed extinct. Now quit trying to change the subject and pay attention to this ant.”

I was exasperated and no longer knew exactly where to take my argument—so I relented. “What about that ant?”

“This ant is seeking moral guidance from the same man who is sodomizing her son.”

“Oh, for the love of god, why do you keep showing me these despicable bugs?”

“Because they’re your bugs.”

“Those are not my bugs.”

“Hmm, the hole in your cerebral cortex says otherwise.”

“Please go away.”

“Are you telling me, you can’t see even a little of yourself in these bugs?”

“No, I can’t.”

The great bird lifted off of my neck and flew in a quick circle and then landed in a nearby tree. It was now partially hidden among the leaves of the tree, but it was still close enough to be heard.

“Well, if you can’t see yourself in these bugs,” said the great bird in the tree, “nothing will ever change.”