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--- J E A N N E T T E H A R R I S
Steven banged his fist down on a disordered table. The clear yellow handle of a screwdriver bounced and cracked, rolled and free-fell to the floor. He threw his saw against the wall with a growling yelp. Its blade splintered a jagged design into old pine panelling. The saw landed, scratched and jarred, on his shag heap.
"Why doesn't anything WORK RIGHT?" Steve screamed. He took a swing into indifferent space. His knuckles landed in a jumbled section of the nail bin.
"Ouch," he muttered, watching a line turn pale, open, bubble and run red from the wide joint of his index finger. His composure fixed on the rusty nail. No tetanus shots. He calculated his odds, head down, walking thoughtfully, scowling at the pulsing digit. Forty-three steps from the workshop to the house.
"MaryEl. MaryEl! Where's the blasted iodine? Peroxide? Something!" Steve shouted. Noisily, he shoved bottles and metal cans around in the medicine cabinet. Steve opened the door under the sink with a force that sent it banging, clattering against the bathroom wall.
"What is it? What are you looking for? What happened?"
Steve held up the dripping finger. "Rusty nail," he explained brusquely.
MaryEllen nudged him aside, knelt and reached in the cupboard for peroxide, cotton swabs and a box of bandaids.
"It won't help for lock jaw," she admonished, dabbing the cut and wrapping it securely. "Do you want to go to the doctor?"
"No," Steve grumbled, mollified by her gentleness, attention.
"Sure?" MaryEl asked brightly. "I'll drive."
"Naw, it'll be fine." Steve was calm now.
"Okay, let me know if you need anything." MaryEllen turned away.
"Thanks." Steve reached for her hand and missed.
Turning round the doorframe, MaryEl disappeared. Steve sat on the toilet seat, staring at his finger. Life? Death? Lockjaw? Hiding, secret from him, in a blind flying jab to the universe and its quarter-inch deep uppercut return, all the questions, paradoxes, mysteries of his existence. Lives and years concentrated, contained, answered within a second and a tiny puncture to one small, point-five percent part of his anatomy. Steve shook his head.
"What was I doing?" he mumbled. "Oh, yeah, building a shelf."
"Dinner'll be ready in half an hour or so," MaryEl called.
"Okay. I'm just out in the shed." Steve pushed the screen behind him.
Evening mists sifted over the mountain riffles. Their peaks arched, crested through smoke-and-white veils. A settling shadowglow of orange winked and teased through wondering, thunderful clouds.
Steve bent toward his broken saw. "Whom the gods would destroy," warned the voice of his father, "they first make mad."
Working quietly at the bench, undoing small screws, removing bent plates, he felt the storm approach. Tree branches scraped on the roof. The wind whined against loose panes. Steve reached to close a window as the workshop door blew shut.
© crossconnect 1995-1998
published in association with the |
university of pennsylvania kelly writers house |