LJ Idol Exhibit B | week nine | 1107 words
Ordinary Wear and Tear
Yeah, I'm a tool, I don't deny it. So sue me. But hey, I'm sure as hell not the only one.
Life can get stressful. My place is small, and it's dark and crowded in here. Can't pretend it doesn't get to me from time to time. There's a bunch of us in this jam, each trying to find a little room to breathe. The damn hammer takes up half the box and weighs more than any four of us put together. Heavy guys belong at the bottom, Bub—show a little consideration! But no, he just falls in wherever he wants, poking and shoving us with his giant mutant head. Guy's got an attitude, that's for sure. He's not the strangest thing in here, though—a compass joined us a couple of years back. Man, I have no idea what anybody would want with one of those, but it's not for me to decide.
Me? I'm a slotted screwdriver, medium width, your basic all-purpose guy. Some people call me a flat-head screwdriver, but some people are idiots. Don't do it. Old Stubby's our widest slotted screwdriver, but he doesn't get out much. Same for Elise, the narrowest of us all. She's not what she used to be—the Hand mostly does random electrical work with her, and he's not very good at it. Hey, those plastic handles don't protect us, you know, and a jolt of current can be murder. Elise's brain is kind of fried by now, and let's face it, she's a dingbat. Still, good kid, though.
For years, I thought this was all life could be—hanging out in the dark inside a box under the laundry room sink, and catching a glimpse of daylight once in a while for some passing home repair. Months or years would go by, and then suddenly the Hand would open up the box and snatch you up. You'd help remove a light-switch plate or something, and a couple of other guys would get their turn before the plate went back on again, screw-screw-screw, and then Bam—right back into the box again for another stretch of dull, black forever.
But then one day we went on a trip—all the way out of the house. There was the Whoosh of the box being picked up, then a Thunk, and then a lot of rattling around for a while. (The compass told us later that we'd been in a car, which was news to me). Things finally quieted down, and then another Whoosh and Thunk later, the top of the box cracked open and light poured in. We were someplace wonderful and new.
It was like nothing I'd ever seen.
Even wedged between the monkey wrench and Stumpy, I could still make out what was above us. There on the wall, each in its own bracket and arranged by size from smallest to largest, was a gleaming display of other tools. Tools that were living the high life, like none of us ever had.
Damn, but I wanted to be one of them. To have my own spot, to be kept clean and shown off like I was important…
I would gladly have fought one of those tools for his position, if only I could've pulled it off. But I was nothing like them, with my dull blade and cheap green handle. I'd never fit in with their custom red-and-black bases and clean, shiny metal. Hell, I'd probably wind up getting tossed in the trash. I decided to focus on our current job, instead.
We worked long and hard that day, both my buddies and that other set of tools. We mounted things on walls and assembled furniture, feeling needed and useful like never before. Best day I ever spent.
Then we were dumped back in the box with the lid snapped shut over our heads. After some rough movement and more rattling around, the adventure was over. Back to our forgotten lives under that damned laundry room sink.
Things have been a lot harder since then. Now that I know how good some tools have it, I can't help noticing how badly our own situation measures up. A few days after we get back, the Hand uses me to pry up some deep-set nails, scraping up the edges of my blade. Then I get jammed up under the edge of a bicycle tire—feels like I'm gonna suffocate in there! What the hell is he thinking? The medium-sized Phillips-head doesn't it have it much better. The Hand is prone to stripping screwheads, and a lot of times old Phil winds up with a mouth full of metal. Boy, I couldn't do it.
I keep thinking about the tools at that other place. I'll bet they never get smashed and trashed the way we do.
Long, dull periods of crowded blackness pass by. Every now and then I feel something pricking me, which could be the awl or a loose nail or—aw hell, am I actually starting to rust? A guy can only put up with so much.
The lid cracks open who-knows-how-long since last time, and this horrible stench fills the air. What in the—
Glagh! The Hand is using me to poke at some sludge inside a pipe. Talk about disgusting. Man, the nerve of that guy, I oughta—augh, he's doing it again! Why not just toss me back in the forge while he's at it and let me die in peace?
He yanks me out of the gunk and swipes something across my head, then turns me upside down and Wham-wham-wham!
Unbelievable. The Hand is using my butt like a mallet. What does he think that damn hammer's for, anyway?
Well, that's it, I've had enough. I don’t care if I have to roll under a car seat and work my way out later. I'll spend the rest of my life in a clump of weeds at the edge of a parking lot if I have to, but I am not settling for more of this.
It might take a while to find my chance, I know that, but if there's one thing I know how to do, it's wait. Ninety-nine percent of my life is waiting, might as well make it worthwhile. The next trip we take will be my last.
So long Stubby, Elise, and Phil. Take good care of each other. I'd say don't forget your old pal Mel, but Nah, what the hell's the point? You can just call me Gone now instead, 'cause that is the shape of the future, my friends.
I am outta here.
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