Roger, the Friendly Neighborhood Human Skull

"Thar be skeletons ahead!" the disembodied Disney pirate voice warned. Or something to that effect. I don't recall precisely. I was five. It was my first time on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. And I was absolutely frantic to return to a more skeleton-free existence.

Now in my family, fear was not an option. Just like my Pop felt any aches and pains or pneumonia or bubonic plague could be totally cured by "doing a few squat thrusts," fears were irrational things you needed to just suck up and get over.

Why, in his day, five-year-olds smoked cigars. And worked 20-hour jobs. And faced their fears like men. Small men. In short pants. With milk mustaches. But men.

They didn't make a lot of noise because they'd lost a few fingers at the bandsaw, or had a little skeleton problem.

So one day, Dad came home from the hospital where he worked, and brought a new friend. This friend had commuted in a paper bag. And jingling through the door after a long day of biomedical booyah, Dad handed the bag to me.

Oh, foolish, unsuspecting me... I peeked inside thinking there might have been a hospital booksale. That discount Nancy Drews might lurk within.

Instead, I was met with a skull's plastic grinning face. Roger's. A to-size human skull with poorly glued dentition and great empty staring eyesockets.

Roger was a medical school teaching tool that had been surplus to requirement.

Now he was our permanent houseguest.

Well, you can just imagine the reaction of a kid who's terrified of skeletons being handed the head of Yorick...

That whole "Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard" thing my family had been operating on all these years went right out the window.

But I was informed that Roger, as the Pop called him, must stay. And that's when he began living in our basement rec room on top of the television set.

I played there, of course. And so reruns of Underdog and Hong Kong Phooey and the Monkees were now seen with the relentless, wobbly, yellow grin of Roger beaming down on me. The drawback was the quality time I was forced to spend with Roger.

The benefit, I soon realized, was the improvement in aerial reception.

Over time, Roger gained a head scarf and an eyepatch, but regrettably lost his lower mandible in a freak dusting accident.

And while friends visiting the house for the first time would question Roger as one of the many oddities my packrat father had found and tucked away in the basement, to me, Roger quickly became little more than one of those Starving Artist paintings you buy for cheap to match the couch and then forget about.

"Skull? What skull? Oh, him. That's Roger. Let's play Monopoly."

Yesterday, my friend "The Knave" was commenting on some skulls printed on my pocketbook, and I had cause to recall Roger for the first time in years. Dad has long since moved and the basement cleared of its residual weirdnesses. Yet where did Roger go?

To the dumpster, to roll from truck to truck and eventually land up in a grand garbage pile, waiting to scare the socks off some curious rummager?

Or was he purchased at the house sale, by some lucky Goth kid? Or maybe a low budget Shakespeare company prepared to make Roger a star?

I'll have to ask.

I like to think he's out there somewhere. Scaring the Sunny-D out of some other kid. Who'll grow up to be reasonably well-adjusted in spite of it. Or because of it.

Plus, he really did wonders for channel 9.



Joel Klebanoff said...

"Now in my family, fear was not an option." -- You poor, poor child. Without my fears I would have been an empty shell of a youngster. They sustain me even today.

And, in the absence of fear as an option, you assumed the wrong attitude with Roger. Rather than fearing Roger, then dressing him, and later coming to terms and ignoring him, you should have warmly welcomed Roger (possibly now poor Yorick, as you suggest) as a disembodied friend you could talk with during life's lonely moments.

Jenn Thorson said...

Joel- I had a reliable old stuffed bear for that. And the bear was unlikely to lose parts of himself as I carried him around. :)

Ann Martin Photography BLOG said...

I love eclectic people. Your father sounds like a hoot and the eyepatch and scarf sounds exactly like something I'd do to Roger.

Jenn Thorson said...

Ann Martin- Roger really was made for accessorizing. :) Arrrrggh!

TJ Lubrano said...

Woohoo! Go Roger! But...he lost his lower mandible in a freak dusting accident o_o? That is some extreme cleaning!

Jenn Thorson said...

TJ- Heh, Roger wasn't wired together really well, which is why, I guess, the students at the hospital couldn't use him anymore, either. His jaw came off if you just looked at him funny. And the top of his head popped off, too. The headscarf helped keep it in place.

ReformingGeek said...

I love the idea that anything that ails you could be cured with squat thrusts. That sounds like my dad.

I will say that I didn't have any friends with skulls in their houses. That would have been a first!

I love the way your dressed him. Don't worry. He has probably been squashed and broken so many times by now that he's almost dust.

TJ Lubrano said... dust...Nooooo...

I like the idea that Roger is sitting somewhere fashionably pimped, scaring other kids...

Jenn Thorson said...

Reforming Geek- Everything can be cured with squat thrusts UNLESS it's affecting the Dad, I should add. :) I have however had fun using that line on him when he has some sort of ailment. He just smirks at me.

TJ- I do, too. Though I also like the idea that he's the treasured possession of some delighted Goth kid.

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

I hate to say this, but I think your parents may have scarred you in a lot of ways! I hope most of this was for humor (I'm being one of those commenters who 'just doesn't get it' today.) Your father shouldn't have ... OK. I can't be one of those commenters.

Funny post and I'm sorry skeletons scare the crap out of you, but guess what...they do me too! Even today and I'm 32!

Jenn Thorson said...

Lisa- No, see, I'm fine with skeletons now. But I've found some of the most real humor is born of those moments, ideas and personalities that are not quite right. If all our tales were based on good and fair and sympathetic, we probably wouldn't learn much about ourselves.

TJ Lubrano said...

Yoohoo Jenn!! I made the doodle for you ^_^! I posted it today on my blog, I can send the doodle also in your email if you want!!

Hmm there is also a little story that goes along with it hehehe!

Ciao! *waves*

Deray said...

I didn't know it was your birthday last week!!!

Estas son las mananitas ke cantaba el rey David, a las muchachas bonitas, se las cantamos aki. Tan-tan.

That was a short version of the Mexican happy birthday! ;-)

Jenn Thorson said...

TJ- Oh, you are terribly sweet! I left you a comment. As always, your drawings are wonderfully happy and it pleased me greatly!

Deray- Woo-hoo! I have never before received a Mexican happy birthday-- thank you!! (I was able to read the "good friends" part in it-- and "King David"-- I'll have fun translating the rest. I'm weird, I love doing stuff like that.)

TJ Lubrano said...

Ciao Jenn! I replied to your comment...not sure if you get a note if I did.

Of course you can take the doodle! I made it for you ^_^! I'm really happy you like it!

A Mexican Happy birthday! How cool!!


MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings said...

Even though I have a cold from hell, this post had me smiling and laughing and, like you, wondering about the whereabouts of poor Yorick, alas. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go do a few hundred squat thrusts! ;)

Jenn Thorson said...

TJ- Excellent- If I get a chance tomorrow, I'll update my page with it then. How fun!

Mike- Yep, squat thrusts are the answer. Though, I'd say a nice chicken soup chaser might not be a bad idea either. :) I hope you feel better soon.