THE OFF-CENT
ER

VIEWPOINT

by JOE NAPOLITANO

The Alien Heads Mystery

     I saw an interesting sign in a store just a few days ago. It says “heads sold separately”, written in red letters. The sign was on a shelf and could be seen from the sidewalk where I first noticed it while I was passing by. I stopped. The store doors were locked and the place wasn’t open for business. There is no explanation of what the sign was referring to. The surrounding store shelves have no heads on them as far as I could see, but I am assuming the store was referring to something that resembled a human head. Obviously there was no way to ask the owner or employees since none could be seen on the inside. Looking in through the window shows the store sells for the most part groceries. There was other merchandise being sold like cheap tools and pet food. But if those items have anything to do with the sign there does not seem to be any connection, or any that was apparent.
     The very idea that a store would sell “heads” seems unbelievable and weird to begin with. Lots of things crossed my mind including shrunken heads. But no. It’s a certainty the government would never give them a license to sell shrunken heads, assuming of course that’s what they meant. But could that explain why the business was closed? They were selling contraband and the government shut them down? Again very unlikely since it probably would have been all over the internet if true.
     Could it be that the sign referred to some kind of vegetable? Was the sign referring to heads of lettuce or maybe cabbage? But how could that be? Because even if that was true then why would the store need to advertise that they were sold separately? Isn’t that the way those items are sold? So why would they need a sign for that? If that wasn’t it then what else could it mean? Well, lots of things came to mind, such as dolls and statues. But there weren’t any in the store that I could see and why would they be selling them without heads? How about a pin? Same thing with the statues and dolls. So that didn’t add up.
     Obviously the sign means something, but what was it? Since the store wasn’t open and I had other things to do I decided to find the answer to this question some other time. But my curiosity wouldn’t let it go on so on the following day I walked by the store again and as luck would have it the place was open. I went straight inside and to the cashier, an elderly woman, and asked about the sign. She laughed. She said she wasn’t sure because it was the owner who put up the sign, and I would have to wait until he arrived and ask him. I decided to wait. But after five minutes I decided to leave—but at least I got the store’s phone number.
     On the way out something got my attention. Not too far from the cash register was a plastic replica of a guillotine that seemed to be a novelty item. It was a while later that I put two and two together, or so I thought. Maybe the plastic guillotine had little heads that went with it? A guillotine and heads seems to go together like a horse and carriage, right? But I quickly rejected the idea. I’d have to wonder how the store owner could sell them that way. Despite all this I still didn’t have a clue as to what the sign meant. Then something occurred to me. Suppose the store was selling fake coins that always landed heads up? Given the fact that the people who worked there spoke broken English, maybe they thought that was the right way to advertise coins of that kind. But that didn’t seem to make sense either. True, the store was in the business of selling some novelty items, as far as I know. But there was no indication they were also selling those other types.
     Because it appeared that I had exhausted every possible commonplace explanation, what then was left?
     Maybe they were part of an alien vanguard? The aliens invade, kill a lot of people, and then sell their heads to pay for their invasion? But while that might sound like the plot of a bad s-f movie, it bears no relation to reality, for why would they bother? That’s what happens when you let your imagination run wild.
     I am tempted to say there’s not much chance I will ever shop in a store run like this regardless of prices or selection, which seems to be in this case a hodgepodge of unwanted merchandise coupled with incomprehensible advertising. But then the store belongs to the owner and this is L.A. so maybe everything fits in? Could it be I’m the one out of step?
     The next day I decided to end this great mystery by talking to the owner over the phone, since he didn’t seem to have regular hours, and going down there would probably result in missing him again. After a number of calls I got him on the phone and asked what was meant by the sign. The answer came back, printer heads.

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