Heads of Cabbage
Henry took a swig of beer and stared whimsically out the window. His wife glared at him as she passed through the room, but Henry was used to it. No one looked at him with respect anymore ever since he lost his job at the factory- or maybe they never did. At age fifty he didn't know if he could start over at another career. Who would want him? "Quit staring into space and come help me clean up from supper," his wife called to him. "I'll be there in a minute" he said. With a sigh he got up to go help with the dishes. He caught his reflection in a scrubbed plate and appraised himself, but he didn't like what he saw. His black hair needed a trim as well as the stubble on his chin. He looked in fairly good shape after hard work on the factory floor, but beer and unemployment might change that. Then his wife went out with her girlfriends to go shopping. Henry was left alone to stare vacantly out the window again after she left.
The phone startled Henry awake from where he had fallen asleep on his chair. In his haste to stop the annoying ringing, he knocked over a lamp sending glass flying across the room. He let out a curse; he would never hear the end of it from his wife. He answered the phone, and a woman's sweet voice drifted over the line. "Hello," the voice said. "This is your neighbor, Olivia, from across the hall. My refrigerator quit working, and I was wondering if you could come help me figure out what's wrong with it." The request caught Henry off guard. What the f*ck did he know about refrigerators? "I'll be right over Olivia," he replied. "Thank you so much Henry. You're a life saver," she said and hung up.
Henry grabbed his tool box from under the sink, and he walked across the hall and knocked on the door of Olivia's apartment. He had never actually met the woman, just seen her occasionally going to and from the apartment building. Still no answer to his knocks. Just as Henry was about to give up and leave, the door swung open. A pretty woman with brown hair in pigtails and a black dress stood before him. He couldn't guess her age, but up close she looked like a mere girl. "Follow me please," Olivia said and twirled around. Henry followed her into a dimly lit kitchen.
"It just stopped working this afternoon," she said. "Normally I wouldn't make such a fuss, but I don't want my milk to go bad."
"I'll see what I can do; although, I'm no expert," Henry told her.
"Thank you very much darling," she said and skipped out of the room with her pigtails bobbing up and down. A cold chill ran up Henry's spine. There was something very odd about that woman- or girl. He resolved himself to quickly fix the problem with the machine if he could, and then get out of there as fast he could. He opened the refrigerator to see if could discern any problem from within it. The first thing he noticed, however, was the lack of items. The milk Olivia spoke of wasn't there he noted with growing unease. The only things were a stick of butter and some strange circular objects. He dismissed them as a heads of cabbage in the dim light. The dial indicating the temperature gave a correct reading, and there seemed to be nothing wrong with the refrigerator. As Henry stood up to leave, he noticed something sticky on his pant legs from where he had been kneeling. Was that blood? His hands were sweating profusely now, and their sweat mixed with the blood as he tried to furiously wipe it off his pants. He walked towards the door- no ran- but Olivia jumped out in front of him.
A smile creased Olivia's lips as she said, "Where are you going so fast Henry. You just got here?"
Henry shoved her aside and grabbed at the door handle. It was locked. He tried to remove the chain, but his slippery hands struggled to gain purchase. His life might not be in the best place right now, but he didn't want to die. Just before the knife plunged into his back, a thought occurred to Henry. The things in the refrigerator weren't heads of cabbage.