By Ron Riekki
I had an ex-girlfriend who was into voodoo. When I was dating her, I thought it was really cool. It was when we broke up that I worried. I started thinking I could feel tingling in my arm.
I went to the V.A. doctor and told her I was having voodoo pain. The doctor asked if I was having suicidal thoughts. I said no, just voodoo pain. The doctor asked if I had any PTSD. I told her I was stationed stateside. I was in the military between the first Iraq War and the second Iraq War. If I had any PTSD, it would be horrible memories of Kentucky. Fort Campbell. You can’t have PTSD when you were stationed at a place that’s made up of the words “fort,” “camp,” and “bell.”
The doctor told me it was hypochondriasis. Psychosomatic. The doctor looked like she was a prom queen. She looked like she wrote award-winning villanelles. I wanted to have sex with my V.A. doctor, but I’d asked one out before and I realized that if you’re going to the V.A., you’re a failure. The V.A. is made for veterans who can’t find jobs. And there are a lot of us. In the waiting room, I looked at all of us. The only way the room could look uglier is if it was filled with hobgoblins. Vets are some sorry ass motherfuckers when you see them up close in hospital lighting.
I went home and looked for Wanda’s number. I couldn’t find it. I must have called her a Fish Called Wanda ninety thousand times when we were dating.
I called her a Trout Called Wanda.
A Shark Called Wanda.
A Cod Called Wanda.
Now she was making me pay.
I’d slept with her brother. Not actual sex though, so don’t get angry with me. It was just mutual masturbation. And I was high on disco biscuits, so you have to give me a little leeway. The hug drug gives you the decision-making skills of a crack whore. But here’s the thing – I decided to fight fire with fire. I googled “how to voodoo,” but got nervous the FBI would see my search history, so instead I DuckDuckGoed the same and I found out it’s easy as hell. All you need is a doll and a lock of hair from the person you want to curse.
The doll doesn’t even have to look like the person. I thought it does, but wikiHow said no. Just get a doll and a hair.
So I stole an Elmo doll from my nephew and then I found some hair in the shower. It was long, so I knew it had to be hers. There was a possibility it could have been my mother’s, because she had used my shower once or twice, but odds were pretty good it was from my ex-.
I put the pin right over Elmo’s heart and just held it there. The floor below seemed to hold a lot of hell underneath it. I felt my feet getting hot. I felt my elbow hurting. I tried to think of what would be a good decision in this moment. Good people have such easy lives. They die of cancer at 45. They kiss high school sweethearts.
I was having a train wreck of a life. My dad committed suicide in a Walmart parking lot.
I kept staring at the needle. I thought what Neil Young would do in a moment like this.
I put the needle down, went over to my CD collection, and threw out every cover that had a skull on it, any CD that had songs with “Kill” in the title. I decided from now on I was doing shit like going on more hikes. Even if my elbow fell off. Sooner or later she’d get exhausted with putting the pins in. I went outside, walked into the woods behind my house. The trees were herpes infested, city diseased. I went further inside the branches, convinced if I went deep enough I’d stop hearing horns, stop smelling driveway. It felt good. Like being salutatorian. I kept walking. It was post-midnight. The moon was Texas Chainsaw Massacred down to a little sliver of a C. Beautiful.
– Ron Riekki’s books include U.P: a novel, The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book, Wayne State University Press), and Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (May 2015, Michigan State University Press). He has had seven nominations for the Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions from publications such as Blue Fifth Review, Moonshot Magazine, WSU Press and Verse Wisconsin.