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by David Cook

“Jack, as you all know, was a man with a curious hobby. Some would call it an obsession.

“His thing with jack-in-the-boxes started when he was six and I was three and Dad got him a rusty, clanky old jack-in-the-box from the dodgy market under the railway bridge. Dad thought it was hilarious to buy Jack a toy called Jack. He was like that. Anyway, when you wound it up, out popped this horrific, snarling old clown with black holes for eyes. Hideous thing. Jack used to wait until I’d dropped off at night, then put it next to my pillow and wet himself laughing when I woke up screaming. I pissed the bed every time. Then he started saving up his pocket money, and next thing I knew our room was full of clanking, gothic monstrosities — not just clowns, but butchers, gnomes, ogres, even a nun. He set one off behind Mum one pancake day. There was still batter on the ceiling the day she died.

“Then he grew up, and started that jack-in-the-box museum on Sheer Street. Dad regretted the monster he’d created then. ‘Jack, why don’t you get a sensible job?’ he’d say. ‘A solid office job would do you good.’ But Jack wouldn’t listen. He loved his toys too much, even though he barely scraped a living out of that museum. Mind you, that sexual harassment business didn’t help. He stuck a fireman jack-in-the-box down the front of his baggy pants and asked the vicar’s wife to pull his finger. The police were called and the museum hardly got any custom after that. But that was Jack’s sense of humour, see. A bit on the dark side. That’s why he never got married. And that’s why he’s left my grandson the damn museum. Bet he thought that was a hilarious idea, the senile old sod. I’d kill him if it wasn’t too late for that.

“So, ladies and gentlemen, that’s Jack. There’s not many of you here today — he didn’t know a lot of people, of course — but thank you again for taking the time to come and pay your respects. So now there’s just one more thing I need to do, one final request of Jack’s that he asked me to take care of.”

I pull a little lever at the back of the coffin and listen to the screams.

David Cook’s stories have been published in a number of places, including the National Flash Fiction Anthology, Spelk, The Fiction Pool and Sick Lit Magazine, which nominated him for the Pushcart Prize. You can find more of his work at www.davewritesfiction.wordpress.com and say hello on Twitter at www.twitter.com/davidcook100. He lives in Bridgend, Wales, with his wife and daughter, and has never owned a jack-in-the-box.