A Second, Less Capable, Head: And Other Rogue Stories

A Second, Less Capable, Head: And Other Rogue Stories

by James Hanna


Publisher Sand Hill Review Press

Published in Literature & Fiction/Short Stories, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description


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A Tea Party activist discovers that he is growing another head, A playboy befriends a fickle female only six inches tall. A lonely librarian answers a matrimonial ad from a demonic farmer. Darkness abounds in James Hanna's cryptic stories. In these nineteen piercing tales, Hanna skewers the human comedy and makes reading dangerous again.

Sample Chapter

Virgil Ploughright—plumber, football fan, Tea Party activist—awoke one morning with a lump on his neck. The lump was soft, red, and fuzzy—like a plum that had been left too long in the refrigerator. Panicked, Virgil phoned his doctor and arranged for an immediate visit.

An hour later, Virgil—dressed in a white cotton gown—was sitting on a table in the consultation room. “Is it malignant?” he asked.

The doctor hesitated, a long pregnant pause that made Virgil’s heart pound. “No,” he said finally. “It isn’t malignant.”

“Can you remove it?”

The doctor stood silently, as though he were waiting to catch a bus. When he spoke, it was like a judge pronouncing sentence. “No, I cannot remove it.”

“Why not?!!”

The doctor handed Virgil a mirror. “Look closely, Mr. Ploughright. You are growing another head.”

Virgil studied the lump on his neck. Although the mirror kept shaking in his hands, he could make out a tiny mouth, a pair of eye slits, a nose no bigger than a button. “It looks like a shrunken head.”

“For now, Mr. Ploughright—only for now. It will grow. In a week, it will be as large as an orange. In a month, it will be the size of a cantaloupe. Soon after that, it will show signs of human intelligence.”

“What’s wrong with the head I have?”

“You have a fine head, Mr. Ploughright. It fills out your Raiders cap nicely.”

“Then cut that thing off.”

“I can’t, Mr. Ploughright. That would be murder.”

“Who’s going to know?”

The doctor sighed and folded his arms. “I’m going to let you in on the secret. This is not an isolated case. It’s happening in other parts of the country.”

“Like some A-rab plot?!”

The doctor scratched his chin. His voice dropped an octave. “We don’t know what’s causing it.”

Virgil studied the little head in the mirror. He tilted the mirror back and forth, appraising it from different angles. “It don’t look intelligent to me. Cut it off.”

“I can’t cut it off.”

“I got insurance.”

“Insurance does not cover murder.”

“I got rights.”

“You don’t have the right to take life.”

“What about the gooks I shot in Nam? And those towel heads we’re killing in Iraq?“

“This is innocent life, Mr. Ploughright. It is practically newborn.”

“It don’t look innocent to me. It looks like a goddamn A-rab.”

“Maybe so, Mr. Ploughright. But I cannot remove it—not without a court’s permission, I can’t.”

Virgil slammed the table with his fist. His fear was turning into rage. “Who says so—the government?”

“Read the Constitution, Mr. Ploughright.”

“What about my constitution?”

“You’re in good enough health. You’re just a little thick around the stomach.”

“If I was dying, would you cut it off?”

“But you’re not.”

“So ’cause I’m healthy, I gotta wear this monkey’s head?”

“If you want to put it that way—yes. I’m sorry.”

Virgil could take it no longer. His stomach was churning and he felt a huge belch coming on. The doctor’s smugness, his breezy self-righteousness, his probable allegiance with that foreigner in the Oval Office—all required the loudest of rebuttals.

Virgil slammed the table again. “Sarah Palin’s gonna hear about this.”


Virgil’s heart was still pounding when he entered his home—a red brick duplex with a foreclosure notice on the door. He was sweating so profusely that he barely felt the cool caress of the air conditioner in his living room. His girlfriend, Trixie—a tall fading blonde—was sitting on the coach watching Jeopardy and painting her perfect toenails.

“What are mummies?” she said.

“That’s not funny,” snapped Virgil.

“But it answers the question, Virgie.”

“It doesn’t answer my question.”

Trixie put the cap back on the nail polish bottle. “So what did the doctor tell you?”

“He said I’m growing another head.”

“That’s so odd, Virgie. What’s wrong with the head you got?”

“Nothing. The doctor said it’s a fine head.”

Trixie rose from the couch and hobbled towards him, careful of the cotton between her toes. Sweeping her platinum bangs from her eyes, she examined the little head. “It is kinda cute. It looks like a gummy bear—only bigger.”

“Don’t get attached to it, Trix.”

“It’s you who’s attached to it, Virgie.”

“I won’t be for much longer. Not after I hire a lawyer.” His voice turned into a growl. “I swear, Trix. Give up an inch these days and you’re gonna lose a yard.”

Trixie tittered seductively. “Atta boy, Virgie. You need every inch you’ve got.” She stroked the little head. “But it is kinda cute. I’m gonna name it Alf.”

“I’m serious about this, Trix.”

“I know you are, Virgie. But you’re serious about a lot of things. You’re even serious about football.”

“Football matters.”

“If it matters, maybe you oughtn’t be a Raiders fan.”

Virgil puffed out his chest and glowered. He suddenly wished that he loved her less. “Watch your mouth, woman, or I’ll ring your chimes good.”

Trixie laughed throatily. “Promises, promises. Careful there, hombre, or I’m gonna hold you to it.”

Virgil felt his temples start to pound. Across the room, in the center of the living room mirror, the little head seemed to watch him. “The doctor says it’s human. I say it’s a monkey’s head.”

Trixie arched her eyebrows. “You oughta know the difference, Virgie—you of all people. You picketed that abortion clinic just last week.”

“I shoulda burned it down.”

“They got sprinklers in there.”

“So what?”

“So you installed them yourself.”

“In these hard times, Trix, I gotta take work where I find it.”

“Well, you ain’t that good a plumber, Virgie. If those sprinklers don’t work, you could get yourself sued.”

She pecked him on the cheek and returned to the couch. Virgil felt his ulcer start to dig. What entitled her to her attitude? She stayed home all day, she drank his good beer, and she didn’t even cook. And yet he loved her—loved her ever since he had first noticed her in that sports bar two years ago.

“What is Lake Erie?”came a voice from the television. Virgil glanced at the screen. It was “Final Jeopardy!”and a contestant had just lost big.

Virgil slumped his shoulders. If he lost the house, would he lose his girlfriend too? And would that be a bad thing? “So why do you stay with me, Trix?”

She laughed. “I don’t know, Virgie. You’re little and I don’t like little men. And you’re old and I don’t like old men. I guess you’re just my little ol’ puddin’.”

Virgil sighed. Her remarks always caught him off guard. But now was not the time for hesitation. Now was the time to take action.

“I’m gonna write Sarah Palin,” he snapped.


Excerpted from "A Second, Less Capable, Head: And Other Rogue Stories" by James Hanna. Copyright © 2016 by James Hanna. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

James Hanna

James Hanna

James Hanna wandered Australia for seven years before settling on a career in criminal justice. He spent twenty years as a counselor in the Indiana Department of Corrections and recently retired from the San Francisco Probation Department, where he was assigned to a domestic violence and stalking unit. The criminal element figures strongly in his writing.

View full Profile of James Hanna

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