Encounter With a Talking Head
by VM Landi
Every year during the summer my son and his wife, their two kids, and I would make the trip to the Jersey shore for a week. The oldest girl, Barbara, was around 3 the first year we took them, and her sister, Lena, was close to 2. My son had a large Tahoe which was perfectly suited to our large family and all our beach stuff and suitcases. Even without all of us, the truck was quite a gas guzzler and we would have to stop to fill up the tank halfway through our trip.
There was one gas station along our route where we always seemed to end up at around the time the gas tank needed filling. I don’t remember what brand of gas they sold but I do remember there was a little person attending the gas pump. It was an older man, in his 30s or 40s, with black hair and a mustache, and he spoke in a deep voice.
I was a little taken aback the first time he came over to the truck because only his head reached inside the frame of the window. It took me a few seconds to process that it was a little person because it truly did look like a floating head, but of course, that’s only possible in movies.
As we started our trip each year I would forget about the attendant until we needed to stop at a gas station and found ourselves at the same one again. As soon as I realized where we were, I hoped neither of the girls would say anything. The first two years were fine. We would get our gas without incident and be on our way.
Until this one year.
As always, the man walked up to the window of the Tahoe and asked in his deep voice with just his head framed in the window, “How much gas do you want?”
Barbara, who was 5 by this time, starts screaming at the top of her lungs, “That little boy has a man’s head! That little boy has a man’s head! Why does he have a man’s head!?” She becomes hysterical!
I remembered myself doing a double take the first time I saw just his head in the window, too, but logic quickly took over. To a five-year-old, the only logical explanation was that the head was attached to a little boy’s body. That to her made sense, and it was a better reaction than thinking it was a floating, talking head as I thought for a few seconds.
We apologized to the man who seemed oblivious to what happened, and we finally got Barbara calmed down a bit. She did not accept our explanation and brought up the man with the boy’s body several times over the next few days. She did eventually forget about it never to be talked about again.