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I'm almost thirty years old, but somehow conversations about Legos seem to attract themselves to me. I haven't touched a brick in at least a decade -- there's a box of them tucked away in my parents' leaky basement somewhere -- but, for some reason, when I'm around, people start unloading their childhood sagas of Lego spacemen and Lego castles, Lego sets that came in Happy Meals, Lego sets that had a piece missing, whatever. I was more of a Ninja Turtle guy myself.
Whether it's some neckbeard telling me about his 3000-piece World War II diorama, or an angry lesbian complaining about how "misogynistic" the new Friends sets are, these conversations always bring my memories back to one person: Jimmy Minors.
It's because of Jimmy Minors that my one contribution to these Lego conversations used to be, "Did you ever get a Lego set with an extra piece? A woman's head with her eyes closed?"
I've gotten enough blank stares and awkward chuckles to learn that it hasn't happened to anyone else.
Jimmy was the fucked-up kid in my grade school. Total spaz, threw tantrums in class, the whole thing. He was in my class in sixth grade. I only went to his house once, and I remember it being weird that his parents weren't there. It was a big house, but there weren't many lights on. It was late afternoon and there wasn't anyone coming home from work, or making dinner, or anything. Anyway, when we went into his room, I couldn't believe how many toys he had. They were new toys too, not hand-me-down He-Men and G.I. Joes like I always had. His true passion was Lego, and he had shelves full of different sets. At the time I thought, "Even though I don't really like him, he must be the luckiest kid in the world."
I only went to his house that one time, but from then on he always brought to school the box or the instructions of whatever new set he got to show me. Now this one time -- this was '98, '99 -- he was practically pissing his pants to show me what he had. He slowly, dramatically zipped open his backpack like he had Nazi gold or something.
I wish I could remember the name of the set, but the box he handed me showed an old-fashioned explorer guy driving a jeep through the desert. An angry skeleton mummy was coming up from behind the jeep, and kinda pushing it over and surprising the explorer.
"Pretty cool," I drawled, letting my growing boredom of these "Lego reveal" sessions show itself just a little bit.
His ratty little face squeezed into a taunting grin. "Only one thing missing, right?" he asked.
I wasn't catching on, so I shrugged.
He pointed at the jeep. "Two seats. One explorer." He brought his open hand up and lifted his elbow, making a sarcastic guessing-game gesture, and asked, wide-eyed, "Where's the other person?"
"I don't know," I answered, impatiently looking at the clock. "Maybe the mummy can go for a ride, too?"
Ignoring my answer, he held my gaze with his maniac eyes while he dug a Ziploc baggie out of his pocket. He got the baggie's solitary item out with his fingers, pinching it like a precious jewel.
He held it in front of my face. It was just a boring, yellow Lego head.
But as I kept looking at it, it really wasn't boring; not at all. It wasn't the same smiley face printed on trillions of other Lego heads. It wasn't even smiling -- or, at least, not really. Its lipstick lips were straight. They were sad, or maybe serene.
But the creepy thing? Its eyes were closed. Instead of two perfect circles, its eyes were tiny "U"s.
Fucking Jimmy Minors was just standing there with that thing in my face, and I couldn't figure out what he wanted from me. Is this a joke? Did he meticulously paint a perfectly creepy face on a blank Lego head?
"This extra head was in the bag," he hoarsely whispered. "Why did they make it? She was supposed to be in the jeep," he answered for himself. "Look at the box -- it says there's supposed to be 74 pieces. The set only has 71. I counted. All the regular pieces, plus this one. She's missing her body and legs and hair, but this head is for me."
I was accustomed to crazy, violent drama from Jimmy, but this creepy part of him was something new, and maybe dangerous. "So they took her out of production?" I asked, trying to steer this conversation back to real-life as I walked us towards the classroom door. "Why didn't they keep her as part of the set?"
"Because," Jimmy said, clamping his talon-fingers onto my arm, "she's dead."
So, fast-forward all these years, with me having it in the back of my head that sometimes Lego sets come with weird, out-of-production extra pieces. I haven't seen or heard from Jimmy Minors at all since seventh grade. Because of where we lived in town, we went to different junior highs, but I'm pretty sure he got kicked out of school. I can ask around, but I think I heard that he tried to attack a teacher.
Now, this gets tricky, because there's this guy at work that has shed some light on all this, but I'm not sure he wants this getting out. Let's call him Craig.
A bunch of us from work were going out for drinks, late on a Friday, and it worked out that I went to Craig's house while we waited for everyone to get their shit together. Craig's a cool guy, kinda quiet, but we've gotten along fine at work. We went into his apartment and I sat on his couch, having a PBR while he was checking his messages or whatever. He had a lot of framed photographs on the wall, some of them pretty old, so I was just asking him about them. They were mostly pictures of family or friends of his family.
There was one photo of Craig, when he was probably about thirteen, and a little kid in a black Power Rangers shirt. They had slung their arms around each others' necks, posing for the camera with huge smiles.
"This must be your brother," I said, touching the photo. "He looks a lot like you."
"Yeah," he said, quietly. "Donnie. He was seven years old there. I don't see him much anymore. That picture reminds me of our happier times together."
Like a dick, I asked, "You had a falling out?" He paused, then sucked in air through his lips and ran his fingers through his hair. I knew the answer so I took it back. "Things happen bud, we don't have to go there," I said, or something like that anyway.
Now, for whatever reason -- the universe just works like this, I guess -- but we had the TV on, and a few minutes after this conversation, a commercial for the Lego Movie came on. I don't know specifically how the conversation started, but as I've said, I'm a human beacon for Lego talk. And it turned out that Craig's brother Donnie had been really into Legos when he was a kid. So, I thought, "maybe this is meant to be," because talking about Legos got Craig talking about his brother.
By the time we were in the car, Craig was in full-swing talking about his brother's Lego sets, so I decided to ask.
"Did your brother ever get any extra, weird pieces in his sets? Like heads for figures that didn't exist?"
"Oh," he said, the smile draining from his face. "Yeah, there was the girl's torso."
My heart dropped into my ass.
"Donnie got the set with a desert adventurer, and a car," he continued.
"...a jeep, with a skeleton mummy," I added, all-too-knowingly.
He nodded and smiled, weakly. "Yeah, you know of it, I guess. While he was building it, he took out a piece, and hid it in his fist. He didn't want anyone to see it. That was weird -- he was usually such a bright, open, goofy person. But eventually I got him to show me.
"It was a woman's blouse; white. I remember it being really detailed, especially for how long ago this was. There were little buttons printed up and down the front of her shirt, and they even had wispy, curvy lines to show that the shirt was supposed to be kinda 'poofy.'"
I was about to tell him about Jimmy Minors's Lego head from all those years ago, but Craig wasn't done.
"The fucked-up part, though," he said, forcing himself to go on, "was that there were tiny red lines coming down from the torso's neck. I don't know what they were supposed to be. But they looked exactly like thin rivulets of blood, leaking out from a slit throat."
We had gotten to the bar. Craig threw his car into park and pulled out his keys. Then we just sat there for a minute in silence, him with his forehead in his hands, before he went on.
"My brother was obsessed with that Lego piece. He never used it to make a Lego figure, but he would make it be the centerpiece of his creations. He'd make little shrines for it, pyramid shapes, things like that. He'd put candles around his shrines. He said he never lit the candles, but I could tell by the dripped wax that he did. I think he did it at night. Our parents certainly didn't know anything about this Lego piece.
Well -- one night -- I woke up because I thought I heard Donnie listening to the radio in his room. It was some kind of low, raspy speaking. I quietly got out of my room and walked to his door, and it freaked me out. I could hear that it was actually Donnie making that noise. He was speaking rhythmically, like a chant, or prayers at church, but it was a creepy voice that wasn't quite his. It wasn't English. It sounded like Arabic or something. I could tell from the wavy, dim light coming out from under the door that he had those candles lit.
"When I heard a pause in the chant, I turned the handle on the door and creaked it open. It was hard to tell what was going on because the candlelight was weird on my eyes, but eventually I could see the whole thing.
"Donnie was crouched over the shrine, which he'd obviously spent some time building into a temple. In the center, behind an altar, the mummy skeleton was holding up the girl's torso in its raised arms. The candles were carefully arranged in a circle around the temple. Donnie didn't look at me at first. Donnie almost wasn't there. He was whispering that strange language, and his eyes seemed to be glowing.
"Making another, wider circle around the candles was every toy, stuffed animal, and action figure that he and I ever had in the house. He-Men, Power Rangers, Care Bears, Turtles, wrestling guys, all of them. They were facing the temple.
"And... all their heads had been removed."
We both gulped, paused.
"I tried to whisper his name. 'Donnie, Donnie!' He slowly looked up and began chanting. In English.
"The gods will eat our heads!""
"...over and over. 'The gods will eat our heads.'
"I ran into the room, snatched the bloody fucking torso out of the temple, and threw it out the window. Donnie slumped to the floor and had some kind of episode. Convulsions. Then he was just asleep. I picked him up and put him into his bed. I blew out the candles and put them away. I put all the dead toys in a bag and eventually threw them away. I took apart his temple and removed just enough pieces that he couldn't make it again -- I threw those pieces away, too.
"The next day, well, we didn't talk about what had happened. I went out into the yard to find that torso piece, but I couldn't find it. But basically, the main thing is that things had never really been the same between the two of us since then."
We talked a little more; apparently Donnie just got really withdrawn, started doing poorly in school, and moved out of town as soon as he could when he turned eighteen. I didn't know -- still don't really know -- what else to say to Craig about it.
So, there you go. Stop bringing up your Lego stories around me.
Unless you've found an extra set of legs and hair.