November 07, 2011

Soul Butcher meets the Duckhead Buddha

The Duckhead Buddha came into existence in the Fall of 1983 in the following way: walking down the street, looking at my feet as usual so as to avoid eye contact with anyone who might pop up, I happened to catch sight of a small, bulbous, metal object in the gutter. Upon closer inspection, it proved to be the body of a lead-cast Buddha figure. The head had been severed, evidently with some violence, ripped off or cut, leaving only a jagged neck hole in its place. A brief search for the head turned up nothing.

"Still," I said to myself. "A headless Buddha." I paused, then added: "I have a feeling this curious item might prove to be useful in some, as yet unforeseen, way in the future." So I picked it up and thought no more about it, continuing on to the library where I planned to spend most of the day reading Beowulf, which is the sort of thing I spent quite a lot of time doing in the early 80s. Hwæt!

At the library, a frightened-looking bespectacled girl approached my table, handed me a small ball bearing, and asked me if I'd dropped it in the elevator. Without actually lying, I managed to convey the impression that I had, even though I hadn't, because, you know: free ball bearing.

Later that night, returning from the library, I spotted a severed duck decoy head neatly wedged between two slats of a foot bridge. Those readers who have guessed that the next steps were (a) to remove the duck head from its wedge; and (b) to place the duck head on the Buddha body with the beak running down one side have the right idea. The ball bearing went into the little box or basket in the Buddha’s hands. The head and body fit together perfectly, like they were always meant to be that way. I imagined I heard a little click, a kind of snick-snack with a bit of reverb, and the sound of angelic trumpets, and, who knows, maybe I actually did.

Here’s the Duckhead Buddha as he appears today:


The ball bearing is still in the box thing. I don’t know when or by what means that piece of quartz wound up in there as well. I just noticed it was there a few years ago and thought it best not to mess with it.

You’ll also notice some marks on the beak and face. Bite marks. They weren’t there originally. How they got there was, well, I had this heavy metal room mate in the dorms back then. His given name was Jeff, but he was known to me and my little circle of associates as Soul Butcher because a notebook of his heavy metal lyrics contained a song of that title. (“I will come to you in the night and butcher your soul,” it ran. To which we, that is to say this guy Paul, added “hence the name, Soul Butcher.” And we all laughed heartily.) Anyway, one morning, after a night away, I returned to the dorm room I shared with Soul Butcher to find the aftermath of what appeared to have been a big rowdy heavy metal party. Beer cans, liquor bottles, Motley Crue and Fastway records were strewn everywhere, the smell of cannabis hung in the air, a Quiet Riot album still spun on the turntable making that thump-thump sound; and Soul Butcher was passed out on the floor in his underwear. Also, the Duckhead Buddha’s head was missing.

No big mystery there: quite obviously, it seemed to me, the Duckhead Buddha had played bat to some exuberant metalhead’s Ozzy. Or maybe Soul Butcher himself had been the one who had bitten the head off the Duckhead Buddha and tossed it out the window with his teeth. Maybe Soul Butcher had in fact been the only person at the party. That seems quite likely.

At any rate, after a good deal of searching I found the head, bitten but unbowed despite having been chewed and spit out and having fallen seven floors, in the bushes by the Unit II pathway. I resolved to keep a close eye on Soul Butcher from then on, and I made sure to lock the Duckhead Buddha in my desk drawer whenever I left the room. The Duckhead Buddha’s head and body have never been separated since.

I was a weird guy in college, perhaps, though I bet I’m even weirder now maybe.

Posted by Dr. Frank at November 7, 2011 04:00 AM | TrackBack

Very cool story. I will have to share it with my friends.

Posted by: Don at November 7, 2011 10:41 AM


Posted by: Nate Pensky at November 7, 2011 04:33 PM

"You'll be thinking about a plate of shrimp, and all of a sudden someone will say plate, or shrimp, or plate of shrimp." -- Miller, "Repo Man"

Posted by: John at November 8, 2011 05:23 AM

Perhaps the buddha got so bored that he cut off his own head.

Did the duckhead buddha happen to inspire any lyrics?

Posted by: ben at November 8, 2011 02:31 PM