Jacob brooded over the old wooden jack-in-the-box. His stare was fixed. His breathing was deep and slow while grinding his teeth. His father walked into his son’s bedroom and stared at him leaning against the door of his walk-in closet.
“It’s broke again, Dad. Fix it.”
“Son, you’re obsessed. Get out and play instead of secluding yourself inside. You’re eight years old. Besides, that’s an antique. It’s not really a toy.”
The aged jack-in-the-box was made of strong, treated mahogany edged in metal and covered by obscure, multidimensional faces with offset eyes.
Jacob screamed and threw the jack-in-the-box across the room, “Fix it!”
John picked up the box and attempted to turn the crank. It wouldn’t budge. He sat it on the floor in front of Jacob and gently took hold of his son’s shoulder. “Learn to think outside the box.”
“I don’t want to! I want to think inside the box! Mom wouldn’t fix it! You do it!”
“I fixed it once. You’re too rough. No wonder it’s damaged.”
“Where’s Mommy?” John said.
“She’s gone!” Jacob replied.
“It’s my fault. It should be in a museum. It’s time to grow up, Jacob.”
“I don’t want to! Fix it!”
“Son, you could fix it. It’s not broken. Look closely. The crank is bent. I’ll tell you what – show some initiative and fix it – and I’ll let you keep it.”
The boy nodded and picked up a hammer.
“No. You need a pair of pliers,” John said.
Jacob struck his father in the head several times.
“I wanted you to fix it!”
He searched for the pliers, but to no avail.
He removed the hammer buried deep in his father’s head and began beating the jack-in-the-box.
He dented the top corner and grazed the side of the crank straightening it back into its original position. But the dented metal edge over the top blocked the door from springing open. The faces on the box changed.
The boy turned the crank. Pop! Goes the Weasel played frantically as Jacob feverishly chanted. He turned the crank faster and faster. Every time it reached the point when the top should spring open, it didn’t. He screamed and threw it across the room again, slamming it into the wall.
Jacob stood over the jack-in-the-box – hammer dripping in blood – and began to sob. “I want to be with you! I kept my promise!”
He opened the door to his closet. “I killed them all!”
A butcher knife glistened beside his mother’s stiff body. She was in a pile of dirty laundry, head on a pillow.
“You’re not finished, Jacob. There’s one left. If you really want to be with me, do it. Do it now.”
Jacob began pummeling his head with the claw end of the hammer.
The crank began turning on its own. The old nursery rhyme filled the room.
Jacob lay still beside the box, his vision fading.
Pop! Goes the Weasel – and the top of the box sprang open.
Jacob stopped breathing.
The jack-in-the-box fell over beside the boy’s head, allowing his blood to creep into the box.