© 2009 Jennifer Finney Boylan
The weather in Maine for the last two weeks has been a little schizophrenic, gorgeous autumn sunshine alternating with grey, cold days that prefigure the darkness ahead. Still, there are times when that’s just the way we like it—too much beautiful weather tends to make people a little full of themselves, a little too blissful, and the next thing you know you have a whole state full of people acting like Californians.
Speaking of schizophrenia, I guess it’s fair to say we’re all a little worried about Mrs. Vespucci, who lives down on Maine Street by what’s left of the Venetian pulp mill. Until about twenty years ago– I think it was about the time of the Clarence Thomas hearings on TV– Mrs. V. was known for her florid complexion, a color you might call purple.
It was 1991 or 2, though, when the second head appeared. It looked just like her other one, except for the fact that it was blue. Her original head, for its part, turned bright red.
To be honest we were all kind of freaked out the first couple of times we laid eyes on it, but then after a while we realized that we’d seen worse things over the course of our long lives, and this was just one more.
The thing is, though, it’s not the fact that Mrs. Vespucci has two heads, one red, one blue, that worries her friends. It’s the fact that the heads don’t get along, and in fact, for the last year or so, they won’t even speak to each other.
For a while—this was back when Ross Perot was running, a third head—a tiny green one– started sprouting, and from time to time you could hear its annoying little voice saying things like, “Here’s the deal, see,” but then the green head fell off and we haven’t seen it again, except for four years ago, briefly, when Ralph Nader came through town.
The blue head, if you ask it, says that there wouldn’t even be a red head, if not for that occasional green one, but to me this is just the kind of doom and gloom we’ve come to expect from the blue head. The red head, on the other hand, says that the blue head is a socialist, and that if the blue head got its way, the red head would be hauled in front of a “death squad” and forced to speak French. Sometimes the red head head claims the blue one wasn’t even born here.
In our town we tend to respect people’s privacy, but quite honestly, we all liked it better when the two heads talked to each other, when they treated each other with respect. I didn’t even mind it when the heads fought with each other, going at it tooth and nail. But now that they’re giving each other the silent treatment, or worse, one head shouting “you lie!” when the other one is talking—it’s depressing. I liked it better when Mrs. Vespucci had talking heads.
I liked it better still when she just had one head, back when the woman got along with herself. Maybe I’m old fashioned. But if you ask me, two heads are worse than one.