There comes a time when you have to ask yourself if the stuffed-and-tied grocery-sack-turned-trash-bag you are about to pick up off the street contains a head.

There are many indications that you can consider, little bits of information you piece together to get a glimpse of the whole picture — like the long, black, curly hair protruding through the knot. But in the end, the only way to be sure is to reach inside and poke around.

It started last weekend after our renter neighbors of about a year decided to move on. I never met the woman, but I had seen her when she would come home from work late at night and back her Chevy HHR into the driveway so her headlights would shine into our living room window. Her teenage son was decent, polite, worked at a Mexican-themed national chain restaurant (a nice, sit-down place, fajitas, margaretas, no drive-through window) and occasionally tried to mooch our wifi password.

They left (or were evicted) without saying goodbye, my only clues to their departure were the lack of midnight headlights and the pile of belongings next to the sidewalk in front of their house. I gave them a day to return and collect their possessions. Then I gave the landlord (who I’ve never met in the 14 years I’ve been here) to figure it out and take care of the mess.

One afternoon, a car stopped next to the mound, and a woman in a red devil-horn headpiece — the kind one might wear to a Halloween party with a matching scarlet-lame tail and a plastic pitchfork — got out and started to rummage. On such occasions, one trends not to ask questions and simply hopes she will take the mattress. After some foraging and discussion with her husband/boyfriend/guy in her car, she decided on the metal bed frame and a few bags of crap.

A few days later, my wife’s patience with my patience with the spectral landlord ran out, and — seeing no further interest from the local scavenger community — I informed the city about the free mattress offer, and the city said they’d notify the landlord and give him a few days to take care of it. The thought did cross my mind to solve it with the magic of marketing — set up a yard sale sign on the corner advertising “lots of free stuff.”

Meanwhile, the winds were starting to scatter the pile. There was a pillow in the street, and cinched grocery bags full of clothing were blowing through the neighborhood like tumbleweeds.

One of the sacks strayed a little too close to our curb, and I decided to return it to the heap. When I spotted the hair peeking through the opening, just as I grasped the tied handles, I became suspicious, and my calculations began.

The bag was about the right size and shape for a human head. And the pile did have a particular odor that I could notice from across the street. Perhaps there was a reason for the sudden departure. On the other hand, the weight of a human head would likely prevent the wind from dislodging and moving the bag, and there were no signs of “animal draggage” to explain its migration. And, well, that’s all I hand on that hand.

I briefly considered stepping back, notifying the police and letting the authorities take care of it. If nothing else, it would put the thrash on code enforcement’s radar. But too often I’ve heard police calls for bodies found in parks or grassy areas that turn out to be people napping. The point being: Poke him with a stick before calling the cops.

My calculations finished running their course as I lifted the sack from the road, adding one more piece of information to consider — the bag and contents were too light to be a head.

Or at least too light to be a complete head.

I peered inside and concluded it was a wig. The wig bag was reunited with the heap.

Now, a week into the matter, the free mattress offer still stands.

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