Thursday, January 8, 2015

I Want Your Skull

You never know what you're going to find at my parent's house. With their garage sale obsession and shall we say, offbeat tastes, it's like P.T. Barnum, the Addams Family, and the Smithsonian Institution decided to merge their collections together and display it inside a suburban Florida home. you can turn up just about anything there; a stuffed bobcat, a Native American corn grinder, a barber chair, or a shrunken head that may or may not be real.

Not to say that they're hoarders. Hoarders have towers of old newspapers and fast food cups that they can't part with; my parents have collections and oddities. Well, I guess they would be collections if they were restricted to one or two interests and were more organized. I guess there's a fine line between collector and hoarder now that I think about it.

And you can't walk around a hoarder's house without sticking to their weird trash tunnels. You can walk about my parent's house with no problem. Well, except for the garage. You might get tetanus from the stacks of ancient tools and other outside garage sale finds.

Over Thanksgiving and Christmas I was poking around in closets, mostly to find my old collection of shark's teeth, but managing to turn up a Nazi helmet that I'm pretty sure my granddad took off of Hitler, two riding crops, two mandolins my great-grandfather used to play, a couple of Indian skulls, and an old self-portrait I did for high school art class.

Oh the skulls? Yeah, two skulls. Real human skulls that once held someone's thoughts and feelings. I thought it was odd that there were two skulls. I mean, I knew we had one - it was a skull minus the jawbone mounted on a black display that was apparently once owned by the Smithsonian, picked up by my parents at a garage sale in Bradenton, Florida.

I realize that most people might find it odd that a house would even contain one skull not connected to a living person, but those people have obviously never met my parents.

My mom was hanging around while I was exploring, trying to trick me into taking home some Cosby sweaters, so I asked her why exactly there was a half a human skull in the closet of what used to be my bedroom. The skull had a number painted on it, like a museum exhibition, so I figured it was an old museum piece that somehow made its way to Florida, like the original skull.

She got kinda weird.

"Oh that," she said in a tone I knew that was trying to shut down discussion. "I found that in Mississippi years ago. We found all sorts of artifacts. You've seen them."

"Yeah, but this is a human skull. You don't seem too excited about it. I mean, everybody's found arrowheads, but how many people actually find a skull?"

I asked some more questions, but she didn't reveal much more other than the fact that she dug it up with my dad sometime in Mississippi. My girlfriend was there at the time, so maybe Mom thought she was a snitch from the Bureau of Indian Affairs or something, and I let it slide.

But I couldn't stop wondering about it, in the same way I kept thinking that I really needed to bring that Nazi helmet home with me, even though I guess I couldn't really display it or anything, and if I hid it in a closet someone might find it and think I was a secret Nazi instead of just holding on to an important family artifact proving that my granddad took Hitler's helmet and...wait, what were we talking about again?

Oh yeah, the skull. I re-asked her over Christmas and she seemed sort of blase about the whole thing. My parents took a bunch of archaeology classes at Mississippi State and would go out on weekends and afternoons looking for artifacts. I remembered that because I was either with them and bored poking around field in the hot sun, or at home with my sister hoping they didn't get some ancient curse put upon them, and in effect, me.

So they turned up this skull. I asked how they knew it was an ancient Native American skull and not some fresh Mississippi murder, and they both kind of said that although they must have skipped the days when Professor Jones discussed ethics in archaeology, they paid attention the day he talked about how to determine a skull's age.

They cataloged their find and carried it with them for years, telling no one about it, with the skull's evil powers growing yearly until for some reason they decided to store it in the closet of my old bedroom. I'm sure it's what the proud Native American would have wanted, to be interred with my sister's old textbooks and my high school letter jacket.

Although now that I think about it, I'm not really 100 percent sure that skull wasn't in my bedroom while I was growing up, cursing me daily with its mystical rays. That would explain a lot, actually.

I took home the mandolins, left the Nazi helmet, and didn't touch the cursed skull. That thing can stay in Bradenton. I'm sure they've worked up a tolerance for the curses by now.

Hey, I just realized. I hope they don't get in trouble for having a skull now that I made jokes about it on the internet. Well, let's just say I made the whole thing up. Yeah.