Danika came back to a destroyed apartment. At first she thought they’d been robbed, but then she saw Lenny sitting in a pile of laundry at the end of the hall. He was separating socks, underwear, shirts, into two separate piles.
“Hon,” she said, putting her purse down. “What’s going on?”
“Shh!” he said, and placed one sock in each pile, and then dug around in the hamper some more. After a minute, he stopped, smiled, and looked up at her. “It’s okay now.”
“Is it?” she asked, uncertain.
“It’s over,” he nodded, and then hiccuped violently, slamming his head into the wall behind him. “Mother of Je—” he hiccuped again, and doubled over.
“What’s going on?” she laughed, rubbing the back of his head gently. “Are you okay?”
“I’m c— cursed,” he said. “Have to b— break it before I die of as— asphyxiation.”
“Cursed?” Danika said. “Who would curse you?”
“Lois,” he whimpered.
“Lois Archibald the girl at the coffee shop?”
“Lois McKinley the ex— ex-girlfriend,” he said sheeplishly.
“I didn’t know you had an ex-girlfriend named Lois.”
“You met her once. At the g— grocery store. She was buying Vegemite.”
“Oh my god… the girl with the shaved head and two different-coloured eyes? I can totally see that. What the hell did you date her for?”
“L— long story. M— maybe later.”
“Okay, so why were you sorting laundry if you’re cursed? Shouldn’t you be… I don’t know, sacrificing squirrels or something?”
“I saw a shaman and h— he said to go to the laundry and g— get half my stuff out and—”
“Wait wait wait,” said Danika. “You saw a shaman? How much did that cost?”
“I f— forget. He took p— plastic.”
“If you spent our vacation money, you’re a dead man.”
“I m— might not be alive for our vacation!”
“Whatever. Crybaby. So this so-called shaman said to split the laundry in two? By weight or size or what?”
Lenny stared at her, tears in his eyes.
“I d— don’t know. He didn’t say.”
“He didn’t have an instruction manual or something? Shaman cheat sheet you could take home?”
“You’re m— making fun of me.”
“I could d— die.”
She rolled her eyes, ducked into the bathroom. “I’m going to humour you because I’m a nice person, but you’re going to owe me. Big time.”
He said nothing, only hiccuped.
“Fine,” she sighed, and looked behind the bathroom door. “Maybe you left some laundry lying around like you always do. Maybe that’s why your ‘cure’ isn’t not working.”
“M— maybe,” he hiccuped, standing up.
“Hey, here we go…” she said, and he leaned forward.
She slammed the door suddenly, and he screamed and fell onto his back, clutching his hand.
“My f— fingers!” he squealed, and she noticed a small spray of blood at the edge of the door.
“What the hell happened?”
“You s— slammed the door on my fingers!”
“I was trying to scare you!”
“What the h— hell for?”
“To make your hiccups go away!”
“They’re not hiccups, they’re a c— curse! I’m b— bleeding!”
“I can see that! Wrap yourself up with something! Get a towel from the laundry! Or two! In pair! Whatever!”
“Don’t make f— fun of me!”
“Oh for the love of god,” she grumbled, and stormed into the kitchen to get an ice pack. When she returned, he was still hiccuping, but reading the back of mangled business card. His fingers were dripping blood on the floor.
“Okay,” he said weakly. “Okay, he said we could t— try other things. Let’s try something else.”
“Like what? Sort the pile into lights and darks?”
“N— no,” he said. “Cut parts of my hair.”
“Which parts?” she asked, tossing the cold pack down to him. He ignored it.
“I d— don’t know,” he said. “Just do random parts.”
“What if the shaman dude wanted certain parts and not others to be—”
“Then he would have s— said so!” snapped Lenny. “Just do it! C— cut it!”
She leaned into the bathroom, found the pair little orange scissors, and knelt down next to him. He closed his eyes like he was meditating.
“This is a bad idea,” she said.
“D— do it.”
She held out the scissors and cut a little bit of his hair shorter. He exhaled, and for once, didn’t hiccup. She cut another bit, and his breathing calmed even more. Cut a few more patches here and there, until he looked like a mangy animal who had escaped a questionable laboratory by way of a flame thrower. And still, he didn’t hiccup.
“There,” she said. “That’s as much as I can do.”
He opened his eyes at her, smiled nervously, and then let out a long, thankful breath.
“That was c—” he hiccuped and jerked forward, straight into the scissors, stabbing himself in the forehead. “Pain!” he screamed, and threw himself back into the wall, toppling over.
Danika put down the scissors and went to get a bandage for his forehead. She resisted the urge to comment on his state of affairs, but the look on her face implied her feelings, and more. When she got back, he was sitting up again, bloodied hand to his bloodied face, trying to read the business card.
“Give it here,” she said, snatching it away. It was written in scratchy handwriting that she didn’t recognize, but the third and final thing listed was easy enough to read: “Stand on your head?”
“I’ll n— need help,” he said.
“Does this mean you have to flip upside-down, or that I’m supposed to actually stand on your skull?”
He gave her a withering look.
“You s— still don’t believe it’s a c— curse?”
Well,” she said, flipping the card back and forth a few times, and then handing it over, printed side up. “Given that your shaman and your ex-girlfriend have the same last name, I’m not sure it’s a curse-curse so much as a curse of stupidity, really.”
Lenny took the card, read the name ‘Rafael McKinley, Shaman First Order’, and finally, his hiccups stopped.
This #1kStory is for Turid ("Get half of my stuff out. Cut parts of my hair. Stand on my head").