“This one is unique. It comes with the atlatl.”
The elderly woman lulled John’s attention. John crossed the breadth of the antique store’s rickety floor and focused on a spear in the corner. His thoughts were no place else.
The possession, perfectly balanced in the woman’s wrinkled hand, pierced the lean man’s hawkish eyes.
“The atlatl was used to hold the spear at the base so…”
John’s habit of continuing the thoughts of others compelled him.
“…so it could be thrown farther and faster.”
John felt the black feathers fastened to the spear’s side. He did not have to look further. It would fit nicely between the bronze Quixote lance and the Revolutionary War musket on the back wall in his library.
Some collected stamps. Others coveted bug specimens. John had a healthy addiction for weapons. An ironic compulsion for a man who never raised his voice or felt a pang of rage.
Perversity drove people to use instruments of destruction. The accountant took delight in turning perversity on its head. He collected such instruments for aesthetic appeal alone.
However, I can’t say this with certainty. These are echoes of a story John shared with me. We can’t be certain of any memory since our minds ensure what once was can never be again. Memories are imitations with minute imperfections that grow larger with each attempt of recollection. Memories appear clear, yet like a magician’s sleight of hand, elements remain hidden.
But I digress. My intent is to tell of the last hours of John Aplum, my friend and business accountant. John grew excited as he revealed with a slow enunciation (for effect) the last sentiment of the Native American woman. She warned, “It’s understood, as my grandfather revealed, this spear is CURSED.” John admitted the woman’s sense of marketing was sharper than her appreciation for hygiene.
“Surely,” he insisted, this item was “well worth the money.” He had another weapon to display and a haunting tale to tell. His only disappointment was that he could not get the old woman to reveal why it was cursed. She would only assure him of the spear’s wickedness.
“And yet, it sat in the store staring her in the face!” John bubbled with delight, citing the old woman’s contradiction in hosting a dastardly possession.
The following days passed in nondescript fashion aside from a slight change in John’s work ethic. His midday emails went missing. I found myself wondering what had taken John’s attention away. Yet, as if I was completing his thoughts like he often did mine, I knew the answer.
I eventually phoned him. “What do you think? Has it killed tribesmen? Took part in an epic battle? Rhode Island settlers were at peace with the area Natives, yet such calm was not kept between the Narragansett and other New England colonies.”
His frenzy continued, “Of course, I like to join conjecture with historical facts, so I’ve been perusing old history books and encyclopedias. Did you know during King Phillip’s War, the colonists and the Native Americans betrayed Rhode Island’s insistence to remain neutral.”
His excitement came to a new plateau. “What if this was the spear that killed Metacom, the Narragansett war leader who helped burn Providence to the ground? Certainly, such bloodshed would inspire the tribe to curse the weapon!”
My fondness for John’s colorful conjectures was foiled by the pressing need to keep business in order.
“Perhaps you should work outside of your library for the next couple of days, John. I’ve noticed a stutter in your usual working stride. I need you to stay sharp as the sales quarter nears a close.”
Maybe I didn’t phrase it that way. Perhaps I didn’t actually say it at all, but I was thinking it. The solitary years have smeared the vividness of that exchange. But, I can still feel the anxiety and tinge of anger that danced upon my thoughts.
“I understand the urgency of your state of affairs, yet as you know, my work has always exceeded your needs and expectation. If I could just have a few moments to entertain my…”
“Thoughts on the spear?” I completed. “Look, you’re correct in reminding me of your perfection up to this point in our business relations but…”
“That is no excuse for fantasizing about curses and spears. That is what you were going to say. Was it not?” John inquired.
It was eery how well he could complete my thoughts. But, as sure as I was about his dark talent, I was not convinced of his ability to stay on task.
I headed over to his office. I rang the bell twice and about to press a third time when I checked the door that was fortuitously unlocked. I remember the pungent smell of his freshly smoked pipe as I came upon him in the library. He was staring intensely at the spear on the wall.
There he was perched on a footstool, lifeless, like a gargoyle. You probably expect me to describe how I questioned him. But, I knew. I could finish his thoughts. He had grown OBSESSED.
A sudden rage rushed through me. A torrential downpour of arrows pierced my patience. I intended to grab the spear, tear it from the wall, break it in half, and bring John back to his senses. I can’t recall what happened next. I can only relay, secondhand, what has been told to me by my jailers.
It’s now understood that I, the teller of this tale, am not John’s boss but John. I strangled my employer to death in the library. There was no evidence of a spear, an old woman, or an antique store.
And yet, I can still see the instrument of destruction clear as anything experienced in my rage-less life.