Then he reached out to touch it, the skull, his heart telling him in Morse code that the thing was bound to snap his fingers off, that those vicious harmless teeth would clamp and chomp his flesh, but he kept going anyway. And when he touched it (and didn’t lose any appendages), he laughed a little because it was just the porcelain he should have been expecting. It couldn’t sensibly have been anything else and he was surprised at himself for believing – however fleetingly – that it might have been bone. And, sensibly, he thought that it had to belong to one of the kids. He’d find out in the morning. At breakfast. He’d put it on the kitchen table and he’d soon know who it belonged to. He was a detective after all. In the meantime he smiled at it, raised a glass to it and drank to its health even if, considering it was a skull, he’d rather missed the boat on that one. He laughed again, relaxing, puffing away at the cigar, and got back to work.
By the time his wife had called him twice he was pretty much done anyway and he left the room, forgetting completely about the skull and only remembering again when he found himself in the kitchen washing out his ashtray and his shot glass. Damn it. He’d meant to put it on the kitchen table to surprise them all in the morning. Not to worry. He’d get it later, have a proper look at it at the same time. And tomorrow, as they laughed over their scrambled eggs and cereal at the silly thing, and Gil got his phrenology bust back from wherever they had hidden it, he would gently remind them all – wife Cheryl included – that no one was supposed to go into his office because there were important, private, things in there. He had rules, but he wasn’t one of these over strict fathers. If he had to he’d lock the office, but that was a last resort. He’d seen too many breakdowns and break ups come from the fall out of spying. He had caused a lot of them. So he’d rather leave it alone. A locked door was a magnet for wrongdoing.
But almost as soon as the thought of showing off the skull came into his head it was gone again, simply slipping through his memory and then gone, leaving nothing behind but a vague idea that there was something he was going to do. But since he couldn’t remember it and he normally had such an excellent memory, Gil surmised that it couldn’t have been important in the first place and settled down with Cheryl for dinner and to watch nothing much on TV.
The next morning, breakfast came and went without incident. Although something was still nagging at Gil’s brain, wheedling and needling inside his head – something about teeth, was it? Or his eyes? – it didn’t come up in conversation. He saw Cheryl off with the kids on the school run, washed up the breakfast things, and took his just delivered paper into his office with a cup of coffee fresh from the pot. Just as he always did when he was working from home. Nothing strange there except for the vague niggling in his skull… Skull. Gil remembered as he opened the door to his office.
©Lisamarie Lamb 2012
This story, along with 13 others, appears in my short story collection, Some Body's At The Door. It is available through Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback editions.