Gopher Heads (short story)

As Omon Lamarcke awoke one Thursday morning, he found twenty disembodied gopher heads squinting at him. He was lying on his stomach, and the sound of Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle” spurting from his old radio was answered by two screeches, each to the beat of its own drum. One noise originated in Omon’s half-open closet, while the other, slightly muffled in tone, came from underneath his bed.
Omon could hear raindrops outside. It was a school day. Today the last of this semester’s finals would take place. Omon started to rise from his old Smurfs bed sheets, but suddenly realized that the glaring rodents were too much for him. By now, the penultimate gopher had completely ended its muffled squeal.
“Hey Monny! Don’t be late! Get dressed!” called Mrs. Lamarcke from the living room. Omon detested the nickname. His mom only gave it to him so he’d be able to distinguish her commands to him from those she gave to his father, whose name was also Omon.
Mr. Omon Lamarcke, Sr. was a big businessman who often did work with big names such as Cronmaker, Sepulveda, and Neuman. He and his wife had two children, the fourteen-year old Voltaire and the twelve-year old Omon.
Omon thought to himself about the sight he saw before him. He ran from his room, to the doorway of his sister’s shabby room.
“Voltaire!” called Omon. “Come quick!”
“Not now,” Voltaire said weakly. “I’m practicing guitar.” Though only fourteen, Voltaire was already signed up to a record label. She had appeared on a fourth-rate compilation called We Can’t All Be Gems 36. She had talent, just no experience, as she came from an affluent home and had to create all her problems if she wanted them.
“Please! It’s urgent!” said Omon. “You’d never believe what happened!”
Voltaire gave a loud, dramatic sigh. She gradually appeared in the doorway, guitar in hand. Her long blue hair was as straight as an arrow, and she wore no makeup whatsoever, accentuating her anemic skin. Omon couldn’t tell whether Voltaire was wearing her pajamas or her slacks, but that was definitely a bootleg Pixies shirt. Her red electric guitar seemed much heavier than its owner.
“What is it this time?” asked Voltaire. Omon stepped to the side, and Voltaire slouched into the foyer of Omon’s room. “Wow. What’s that music playing?” she snickered.
“I think it’s called ‘Last Child. It’s by Aero…”
“No, that other music. Oh my God! Are those…gophers? Gopher heads, I mean? Where’s the rest of the gopher? I mean, how did gophers themselves get here? I’ve never seen one before.” She turned Aerosmith off, and listened even more to the possibly-immortal head. A tear came to her eye.

Omon had never seen his sister cry before, even at their uncle’s funeral. “They’re just gophers.”
“Just listen. This is a beautiful song.” She quickly tuned her guitar and strummed a near-perfect rendition of the redundant gopher screech, until she had memorized it. By then, the natural din had decreased into a mere whisper. “Lemme get my DAT.”
As she quietly attempted to slip into her own sloppy room, Omon chased after her clumsily, accidentally squishing three of the heads.
“What’s going on? School’s started already!” yelled Omon’s mother. “Neither of you are dressed yet.” She tapped her high heels at the siblings. “Omon Julius Lamarcke! What’s that on your sock?”
Omon, who always slept in his tube socks, turned his left foot towards his mother. Five eyeballs and countless yellow teeth stuck out from a furry substance sticking to his sock.
“Is that a pair of rats? Good God!” yelled his mother.
“Reiva, calm down.” Voltaire tried calming her down. “Reiva, there’s somewhat of an explanation for all this.”
“How did rats get in our house?” her mother questioned the two teens.
“Try Syd Ramona,” suggested Voltaire, a rare but selfish grin on her sickly thin face. She referred to a deranged classmate of hers, the illegitimate only child of an immigrant rodent saleswoman. Syd’s mother carried hundreds of unkempt animals, from the common and legal (guinea pigs) to the common and illegal (ferrets) to the uncommon and probably illegal (pygmy capybaras). While Syd occasionally helped sell these disgusting specimens, he usually spent most of his umpteen hours of free time torturing them.
“Let’s go,” breathed their mother, and the three of them walked to the new Volkswagen outside.
As Reiva Lamarcke drove her two children to the Ramonas’ shack, she was interrupted by no less than nineteen of her friends. Due to her husband’s success in the gelatin business, Reiva was able to gather enough friends to win the position of County Mayor.
Voltaire, in the passenger’s seat, pointed out the way to the shack. In kindergarten, she had attended Syd’s birthday party there, much to the horror of her parents.
* * *
Syd stared out the window, gazing at his cracking dead-end street from the spotted kitchen. A filthy hamster in his hand, he placed the creature in the microwave oven, and began to push random numbers on the machine. An angry silhouette followed him.
“Now what have I always told you?” scolded Syd’s mom. “Hamsters are pets, not pizzas.”
“Awww, Mom! I was only gonna put him in there for one minute, and then I’d cool him off in the freezer.” He wore a dark brown T-shirt, ripped at the right sleeve, reading “Hit N’ Ron Reagan’s Rampage ’84,” and picturing caricatures of Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush clenching a gat and a grenade, respectively.
“The only cooling off that’s gonna happen is your behavior, little man. I’ve been talking to Dr. Dathan, and your prescription is almost ready.” Syd’s mom sighed, having instantly believed that a little blue pill could solve all of her son’s emotional issues.
There was a knock at the door. Syd’s mom ran from her crazy son, who soon incinerated that hamster.
It was the County Mayor. As Syd’s mom was one of Fairview County’s most wanted criminals for spreading disease through rodents, she had experienced a few run-ins with Reiva Lamarcke herself.
“Goldie Ramona? You’re Syd’s mother?” questioned the County Mayor.
“Yes, I’m his guardian.”
“Do you realize that your son placed the disembodied heads of rats in my son’s bedroom?”
“Whoa, he did? I’ll talk to him.” A fat beast made its way across the foyer.
“What was that, anyway?” the County Mayor asked Syd’s mom.
“That was our dog, Woofie!” she nervously chuckled.
“Looked more like an illegal rodent to me,” replied the County Mayor, and interrogated the hideous shack.
* * *
A few minutes later, Reiva returned to the lime Volkswagen, where Omon and Voltaire were still waiting. Voltaire was on the car phone, sending her newly-recorded DAT tape to an executive of Beaver Lunch Records.
“I call it grunge,” laughed Voltaire as Omon dumped the debris on his sock into a wastebasket.
Reiva smiled at the duo. “I’ve got good news and mediocre news.”
“What’s the good news?” wondered Omon.
“The good news: The Ramonas have been evicted. The mediocre news: Syd is coming to our house this evening to properly clean up the rat heads.” Voltaire, who in a period of four years, would evolve from Lamarcke’s little princess to the Queen of Grunge, paid no attention.
But Omon, who had been worried sick, grinned. Sure, he’d have to see a family doctor about his newly-acquired gopher-transmitted illness, but for now, he knew that he was safe.


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