Again – as last year – the part in italics was provided to the writers
– and the words in bold were required to be used.
Hair – ‘em Scare – ‘em
So Jolene's acting weird, Billy Ray thought as he slammed the door to his pickup and started the engine. So what? Tell me something new.
Lately, though, things had been different. Like the night he came home late and that strange smell was coming from the back bedroom. It was a pungent odor, kind of like — he thought for a moment — burning hair. And that other smell ... incense?
Then there's poker night. Jolene usually gave him hell when he went over to Tiny's to play cards, but tonight she couldn't wait to get him out the door. Determined to get to the truth, Billy Ray drove around the block and parked, then walked back to his and Jolene's double-wide. The high grass rustled against his boots as he walked to the back of the trailer. He balanced on tiptoes and peered through the bedroom window. His eyes widened and he felt his jaws clench.
"Burning hair and incense," he whispered. "Now it all makes sense."
There on the table beside Jolene was a scale-model replica
of the single-wide trailer they never thought they would be rid of. Billy Ray
remembered the brouhaha that erupted
at the bank when Johnny Boudreaux, the loan officer, told them there was no way
they would get the loan for the new double-wide they wanted. Jolene got so
righteous they almost had to evacuate the bank. She yelled at Boudreaux, "You have no idea what kind of talent my Billy Ray has got! His band has brought in enough money in the past three years to more than cover all our expenses, and with plenty left over to boot!" Her face was less than three inches from Boudreaux's, and everybody
watched him turn three shades of purple, wondering what Jolene might do next. She just grabbed Billy Ray by the arm and stormed out of the bank. Boudreaux took the rest of the day off as a “sick day.”
As Billy Ray continued to try to grasp what he was seeing through the window, he noticed that beside the single-wide was what looked like burned hair in a thimble; next to the thimble was a picture of Boudreaux with a pin stuck through his head. Billy Ray recalled that the next week, Boudreaux died of a mysterious brain tumor and, following that, the loan somehow mysteriously cleared and they moved into the double-wide.
To the right of the single-wide was a replica of their current double-wide. And next to that was a full-length picture of their current loan officer, Patty Bileaux, with a pin stuck through her mid-section; beside that was a thimble of smoldering blonde hair and a cone of incense. Patty also recently had refused to give them a loan to move into the single-family home they had put a contract on. Billy Ray had been so disappointed, because it would have been their first real house.
Oddly enough, the last time Billy Ray had called Patty to ask her to reconsider the loan and to tell her about his two new long-term contracts
for the band, her manager said she had been hospitalized for bleeding ulcers.
She was the only roadblock that
remained between them and getting the loan for their first house.
And for lunch that day, Jolene had fixed Billy Ray’s favorite dish:
falafel. She had done that very same thing right before they were given the loan on the new double-wide. And when he told her that he and Tiny and the gang were going out after poker to play an hour of "night paintball," she didn't even wince; and she hated them playing paintball!
Billy Ray thought to himself, “Well... I never really believed in all that hocus-pocus voodoo stuff, but Jolene is a true Cajun from a long line of Cajuns; and all her people believe in that sort of thing. All I can say is -- I'm open-minded enough to admit there are things that just can't be fully explained; things nobody can completely understand.”
Billy Ray almost jumped out of his skin when he heard the phone ring in the trailer. Jolene didn’t even notice – she just kept staring intently at the picture of Patty and chanting something under her breath. The answering machine picked up and Billy Ray could hear it, “This is Mr. Watson, president of the bank handling your loan. I have some good news and some bad news – the bad news is that your loan officer Patty Bileaux just died; the good news is that, before she died, she called me and told me to approve your loan. I thought you would want to know.” Jolene stopped chanting and a sly, knowing
smile crept across her face. She moistened her thumb and snuffed out the
burning blonde hair in the thimble beside Patty’s picture.
Mr. Watson had not hung up yet and Billy Ray heard him say through the answering machine, “Patty kept ranting about a recurring dream, where she was drowning in falafel and being stabbed in the stomach by a sword. In her dream, approving your loan had caused it all to stop. Anyway, congratulations on the purchase of your new home. Goodbye.”
Billy Ray glanced more closely at the pictures of the two loan officers -- just beneath the pictures, he could see a small pile of falafel, as if it had been dripped down the face of the pictures.
Billy Ray smiled to himself, and thought, “I do know one thing for sure: I’m glad that soon we’ll be moving out of this flimsy double-wide into a real live house!”