The Screw

The Screw

A Story by Guardian
"

I don't want to give anything away...

"

            A screw is just a harmless little object, don’t you think?  It’s just a scrap of metal, a tool and nothing more. It can’t harm you, not unless you consider a prick in the finger to be dire. A little bleeding, that’s all it’ll cause. I used to think like you. I used to see harmless objects like that and find little of concern. They didn’t use to invoke such a feeling of revulsion, of disgust. But now, even the mention of a screw makes my stomach churn. My entire body protests in whining agony. My head pounds and whispers of thought become a painful cacophony.

            As the shadows close in on me, I have become increasingly retrospective. You cannot possibly understand the torment I am under. My mind and soul cries out for release, but I know that even death will not end my suffering. There is only one place for men like me. Hell, the eternal pit. I never thought that would be my destiny. One never can predict the whims of fate.

            You must be curious. You’re wondering right now why a harmless screw could send me into a cold sweat. That’s why I’m writing this journal. It will live on after my painful penance has begun. I can only hope that future generations will read this and understand. Not love me. No, I wouldn’t expect you to love me. To like me. Someone as innocent as yourself will never be able to look at me without hatred, not after knowing what I have done. But all I can ask is for understanding. I want you to know why I did what I did. That’s all. I will be completely honest with you. It’s the least I could do…

 

          My eardrums threatened to burst. A painful melody erupted from my headphones. My wife would be angry if she saw me here, sitting on the couch, “ruining my hearing.” I don’t really care. There’s something soothing about the harsh grating of heavy metal blasting into the silent air. I closed my eyes, enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun streaming through the window.

          I pushed myself up from the couch, groaning as my sore limbs protested. The living room was filled with the intoxicating smell of fresh paint. I grimaced. Baby blue. Definitely not my color, but whatever made her happy, I guess. My black hair was tangled and encrusted with the sweat that still ran down my brow. I lifted up my shirt and wiped my face. My fingers brushed against my cheek. I could feel the makings of a ragged beard springing up. I need to shave, I thought with a grimace.

          I moved toward the kitchen, dodging the armoire and the armchairs cluttering the center of the room. I had pushed the entertainment center back against the wall and reattached the TV an hour ago. I couldn’t work up the energy to take care of the rest. On the opposite wall was a single screw, waiting for a picture to be hung.

          The day passed without incident and without any work. I didn’t have the motivation. Ever since being laid off, it seemed pointless to get involved in any long-term projects. They’d be calling any day to ask be back anyway, right? It wasn’t until my wife got home that I heard anything other than the drone of the TV. The phone never rang.

          “Hey babe,” Sarah said as she walked through the door. Her long brown hair cascaded across her back and a charcoal suit enclosed her perfect body. She was beautiful and I wondered once more what I did to deserve her. “How was your day?” She placed her briefcase carefully on the kitchen table and sat beside me on the couch.

          “Fine,” I said without meeting her gaze. “How was work?” No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep the bitterness out of my voice. It seemed to boil through my veins like acid, completely consuming me. Work had been my life, my passion. And now it was all taken from me.

          She didn’t notice my tone. “It was hell, John, hell.” She sighed and ran her fingers. “I had to defend another murderer. Killed his wife and three kids in cold blood and without a motive and my boss expects me to win this case? What I wouldn’t give for a break. You’re the lucky one, John. An entire day without that kind of stress?” She smiled and leaned in to kiss me.

          I stood up quickly, the bitterness tasting metallic on my tongue. “You want a drink?”

          She shrugged, still completely oblivious. “Sure, that’d be great.”

          I moved into the kitchen, throwing open the refrigerator with an angry grunt. She wanted a day off? I was the lucky one? B***h. She had no idea what it was like being unemployed. I was bored out of my mind and she envied me? Not to mention she just had to rub it in. Every day for the past three weeks she had come home with a smile on her face, as if relishing my pain. As if she couldn’t see how angry I was, how upset.

          “Heartless,” I whispered. I grabbed a couple of beers and moved back toward the living room. Sarah was running her hands along the newly-painted walls, as if inspecting my work. She smiled when she saw me, her fingers lingering on mine as she reached for her beer.

          “You did a great job,” she said with a wink. “But I noticed you left a screw in the wall. Did you forget it was there?” She laughed, her entire body shaking. “I’m sure you’ll get to it eventually,” she squeezed my forearm lovingly. “But I’d prefer sooner rather than later.”

          The next day, too, was uneventful and the phone never rang. I finished the living room, returning all of the furniture to its proper place and even breaking out the vacuum, though the carpet was pristine. The only thing left out of place was the blank space on the wall and the single screw. I had stared at the picture for an hour. The picture had leaned forlornly against the stairwell and I found myself staring at it throughout the day.

          I just couldn’t bring myself to hang it up. Sarah and I gazed serenely, dressed in formal attire. A huge smile lit up both of our faces, my teeth gleaming and my glasses planted firmly on my nose. Dressed in a dark black tuxedo, I looked rather handsome. I seemed happy too, something that I hadn’t felt since losing my job. The man in the picture was radiant, basking in the glow of his success. I wasn’t that man anymore. It wasn’t my life.

          The picture was never hung and the screw stuck forlornly from the unadorned wall. Sarah teased me once more for “forgetting” to finish up and once more I felt a wave of bitterness well up within me.

          Weeks passed and nothing changed. Sarah began calling me throughout the day, asking me to do this and that. She had me running to the store and mopping the kitchen, virtually anything that came to her mind. She would jokingly say she just wanted to keep me busy and I couldn’t help feeling angry.

          I began drinking more often and it seemed like I always had a beer clutched in my left hand and my throat felt dry without that sweet liquid running down it. Alcohol offered a welcome release, an escape from the pain and in those moments I forgot my bitterness. I don’t think Sarah ever knew how much I drank, though. I was careful, taking the bottles directly out to the recycle. For some reason, I didn’t want to share my feelings. I could barely look at her without hurting, without feeling jealousy rearing upward and threatening to tear through my body.

          It was a Friday morning when the phone rang. I rolled my eyes and bit my lip. I considered letting it ring, ignoring it entirely, but I couldn’t. What was left of my hope compelled me to pick up the phone and put it to my ear. “Hello?” I said after clearing my throat. I concentrated on fighting down the drunkenness, making sure my words didn’t slur.

          “Hey babe!” Sarah’s voices sounded bright and excited. “How are you?”

          “Fine,” I said, my stomach twisting.

          “I’m glad,” she said, and even over the phone I could practically see her smile. The smile I despised. The smile of someone worth something. Unlike me. “Listen, babe, I have a favor to ask. I know this is short noticed but I wanted to have a party tonight for some of my friends at work.” My free hand twitched, my fingers curling into a fist. “We won a huge case today and we wanted to celebrate. I just need a little help getting everything ready.”

          “What can I do?” I tried to keep my voice even as I chewed on the inside of my cheek, tasting the sickly sweet flavor of blood flooding my mouth.

          “I’ve already called a caterer. I just need you to let them in, make sure the place is clean and make sure you’re presentable.” I could hear the excitement and hurry in her voice. She couldn’t wait to show off her home to her blood-sucking co-workers. “Do you think you can handle that, babe?” Though I could hear the teasing tone of her words, my fist clenched tighter, my nails digging into my palm until pain stabbed into inward and warm liquid dribbled to the floor.

          “Sure, honey,” I said with mock enthusiasm. “I think I can get dressed at the very least.”

          “Thanks, babe! See you soon!”

          As soon as she hung up, I screamed. Simply screamed, tears streaming down my face. My vision seemed tinted with red as I threw the phone with utter hatred at the wall. I watched with a deep satisfaction as it cracked into the drywall, tumbling to the floor. I sank to my knees and punched the hardwood floor, channeling all of my anger and disappointment in the blow. Pain radiated along my arm, but I didn’t care.

          I pictured my life, shattered and broken, lying across the floor. I was a grown man, nearing forty with each passing second and what did I have to show for it? I was an unemployed alcoholic. No importance, no friends. I had a beautiful wife, but all she did was rub her success in my face with each word, with each elated smile. And now this? I would have to spend the entire evening with a fake smile plastered across my clean-shaven face, putting on a show for every vindictive, b*****d at her law firm.

          I pictured her face as I brought my fist downward. This time, I felt my knuckles split, blood adding satisfying warmth to my chilled and shivering body. I pictured my old boss, his teeth artificially whitened, his eyes mocking and confident, his hair slicked back with hundreds of dollars worth of hair product. I punched again. And again, my tears streaming and a low growl ripping through my throat, firing past my clenched teeth.

          I’m not sure how long I sat there, crying and bleeding on the floor. I didn’t care. I relished the pain, boiling through my veins, literally pulsing in my hand. It was an escape. Something else to concentrate on. It was only my thirst, my need for another drink that pulled me upward. It compelled me to clean up the mess, scrubbing the floor vigorously.

          It was only when I had a cold bottle in my hand that I could think clearly. It wouldn’t do to have her find me, shaken and broken. I had to be strong. I wouldn’t give her heartless friends the satisfaction of seeing her deadbeat husband lunging drunkenly around the room. I put the beer back in the refrigerator with chagrin.

          I straightened up the house in silence. For the first time in months I wasn’t numb. In fact, I was thinking clearer than I ever had in my entire life. It was a strange, almost euphoric kind of strength. I didn’t even pause to stare at the picture leaning against the stairs. I simply walked right past it and when Sarah breezed through the door at six, the screw was still in the wall.

          Soon the house was flooded with people in expensive Armani suits, too much make-up and overpowering cologne. They smiled at me with false friendliness. I could see straight through their fake masks and right into their ugly souls. I wandered through the crowd, answering questions with curt nods or simple sentences, refusing to be assimilated. Before I had lost my job, Sarah would have towed me through the crowed, introducing her friends to her husband, the “powerful executive.” Not anymore. I was there to check on the caterer. That was all.

          Eventually, she caught my arm as I hovered by the stairwell. Excusing herself form a nearby conversation, she tugged me with a forced laugh down the hallway and into the garage. “John, why didn’t you hang that picture up?” She whispered, as if afraid her friends would be listening at the door. “That screw’s been in the wall for a month now.”

          “I just didn’t get around to it, alright?” As hard as I tried to stop it, I snapped at her. “I don’t think it’s fair for you to hound me about a f*****g picture when I’ve busted my a*s all day long to throw together this party for you and you’re friends.” I barked the last word in her face, spit flying.

          Anger clouded her face, her eyebrows curving sharply downward. She looked at me with disgust. “It’s a picture John, not that hard to put up. You’ve been lying around on your a*s for weeks, doing absolutely nothing except sucking on a bottle of beer like a pacifier and waiting for the phone to ring.” She leaned forward, staring up into my face. “I’ve got news for you John, they aren’t going to call. You lost your job. Get over with it. Do something useful with yourself and get another one like a real man. I gave you time to grieve for your loss, but that time is up. I can’t handle this anymore. Either get a job, or get out of my house.”

          My fists curled and my teeth clenched. Once again, my vision seemed tinted in red, like blood seeping across my vision. My head pounded and yet I still had that terrible and invigorating clarity. “You want me to do something useful?” I screamed in her face, stepping forward slowly, backing her against the wall. My throat was burning with the intensity of my scream. “I’ll take down the f*****g screw, you b***h. Will that make you happy? Will that get you off my f*****g back?”

          I didn’t wait for an answer. I threw open the garage door, slamming it behind me. The dull roar of the party cut off abruptly as I stormed through the crowd. I reached the wall and wrenched the screw from the wall, gouging drywall out of it, dust spiraling through the air. I pushed my way through my silent audience, picking up the picture on my way.

          I moved quickly through the hall, my breathing slow and relax despite the adrenaline and pure hatred coursing through my entire body. My teeth ground together and my knuckles turned white as I grasped the screw. I caught Sarah as she came into the hallway, pushing her through the open garage door. I slammed it behind me, locking it with a grunt.

          “What the hell are you doing John?” She tried to push past me, toward the door but I caught her wrist. Twisting it around until she gasped in pain. I pushed her backward and set the picture down gently on the concrete floor. I picked up my power screwdriver which sat forlornly on a dust-covered shelf. Fitting the screw to the drill, I turned on Sarah. “WHERE DO YOU WANT IT?” I screamed in her face.

          She backed up, fear competing with anger on her face. I grabbed her arm violently and pulled her toward me. “WHERE DO YOU WANT THE F*****G SCREW?”

          “John, what are you doing?” her voice shook with fear and it only made me angrier. I could still think clearly. I was painfully aware of each and every action I made, every breath I took. As I stared into her beautiful face, I felt a deep revulsion unlike anything I had ever experienced. I pulled her closer, my hot breath washing over her face.

          “You wanted me to do something other than sit on my a*s, right?”  I whispered quietly, my lips curling back over my teeth like I was some kind of wild animal. “Now I’m doing something you heartless b***h.” I pushed her to the floor and sat on top of her struggling body. She pleaded with me quietly, her eyes wide with terror. I ignored her. I won’t claim that a demon possessed me, that I lost my mind. I was perfectly sane. Perfectly me.

          I put the screw to her temple, set up the drill and pulled the trigger, watching as the life left her eyes and her body went limp. I pushed myself upward, perfectly calm and composed, though the anger and bitterness still burned through my body like an ever-hungry fire. I walked over to the picture which lay on the garage floor, Sarah’s face smiling up at me. I lowered the drill and watched with satisfaction as the glass splintered.

          Without a pause I unlocked the garage door and walked calmly through the hallway. The guests reacted with shocked gasps when I walked in the room. Blood dripped from the drill and stained my clothes. I didn’t care. “Get out of my house,” I said quietly. “Leave. Now.” They practically ran for the door, scooping up purses and coats on the way, the catering staff following. I saw one man dial quickly and put a small phone to his ear just as he left the house. I didn’t care. Let the police come.

          I threw the drill down and walked toward the kitchen with a small smile. I was enjoying the quiet. I grabbed a beer from the fridge, perhaps the very same one that I had replaced the previous day and moved to the living room couch. I sank down on the soft cushions and put the bottle to my lips. As the cool amber liquid ran down my throat, I couldn’t help but smile as my senses gradually began to dull.

          For the first time in months, I wasn’t waiting for the phone to call and could care less if it did. I had just finished my beer when I heard the sirens, screaming onto the street and pulling up in front of the house. I glanced absentmindedly at the hole in the wall where the screw once was…

© 2009 Guardian


Author's Note

Guardian
I want honest feedback and criticism. Let me know how you felt and what you thought of the character development.

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Featured Review

Starting with Grammar and Presentation
1. "They'd be calling any day to ask be back anyway, right?" does not make any sense, but I assume you meant "They'd be calling any day to as ME back anyway, right?". Otherwise, nothing jumped out at me on the first read through, so I assume you already edited it.

Review:
An amazing story! The writing was more refined and the story seemed more...real, than some of your other stories. The experience was visceral, but predictable, you could tell where it was going just by how you set it up. Now that is sometimes a bad thing, but in this case I wouldn't say it was, kinda like in Indiana Jones 4 (lets not get started on the Aliens argument...). It was like reading a book you've read over and over, but every time you notice different things, that keep you reading.

The story was a little bit on the short side however (yeah, yeah, I know....), and I think it could have been really improved by some added detail and exposition. The story would be great if you expanded it to include a few other characters, started it a little earlier and included the initial shock of John losing his job , more details about John and Sarah, and some more details about the interaction between John and Sarah, specifically with details on Sarah, she's very two dimensional.

Posted 10 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Delightfully twisted, well done.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Oh. My. God. I have chills running down my back, and goosebumps. That was really creepy, and yet I love it. Good, no AMAZING JOB.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Amazing. I have chills... it was very vivid, being his mind, understanding his feeilngs. I enjoyed it very much, thanks for the read request.

BTW - Your friends, not you're friends.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Hello!
Well, this was very good. John and Sarah could have a bit more development with their characters, but overall this was amazing.

I just realized something. I have never read much of your writing, except for the Lit Mag stuff. Goodbye!

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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DF
I thought this was quite good, especially once the story began. The intro, while interesting at first, seemed to get a little redundant, but I'm glad I continued on.

I thought the character development was actually pretty good for a short story. If this were a longer piece, sure, we would like to know more about the wife, but in a short story like this one, more background would have disrupted the pace. I like the way you dropped tidbits of background throughout instead of laying it all on the reader at once. Again, this allowed the the story to move along.

I did have a little problem with the ending. Would the guests have simply walked out the door? Would his wife not have screamed? Was the killing absolutely necessary to demonstrate his fall? It's not the "shocking" ending that will make me remember the story - it's the image and metaphor of the screw stuck in the wall that sticks in my head.

Nevertheless, this was a captivating write.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I felt increasing horror (I mean this as a complement) as I read this story! I had a strong inkling of how the story would end, yet still found John's thinking and behavior shocking. I would like to know more about Sarah, though. Your descriptions are very effective; I especially liked the description of the party guests, with their "Armani suits" and "overpowering cologne". I also sensed a dark humor. Good job!

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Starting with Grammar and Presentation
1. "They'd be calling any day to ask be back anyway, right?" does not make any sense, but I assume you meant "They'd be calling any day to as ME back anyway, right?". Otherwise, nothing jumped out at me on the first read through, so I assume you already edited it.

Review:
An amazing story! The writing was more refined and the story seemed more...real, than some of your other stories. The experience was visceral, but predictable, you could tell where it was going just by how you set it up. Now that is sometimes a bad thing, but in this case I wouldn't say it was, kinda like in Indiana Jones 4 (lets not get started on the Aliens argument...). It was like reading a book you've read over and over, but every time you notice different things, that keep you reading.

The story was a little bit on the short side however (yeah, yeah, I know....), and I think it could have been really improved by some added detail and exposition. The story would be great if you expanded it to include a few other characters, started it a little earlier and included the initial shock of John losing his job , more details about John and Sarah, and some more details about the interaction between John and Sarah, specifically with details on Sarah, she's very two dimensional.

Posted 10 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

I was a little disgusted by the murder, which might not be a bad thing. (Note: it takes a lot to disgust me.) As for characterization, I wanted to know a little more about both John and Sarah. Regarding John, I want to know a little more about his job and why he was fired. I would also like to know more about the relationship with Sarah. This leads me to my next point, as for Sarah I want to know more about her and the type of person she is, after all she is a criminal defense attorney and most attorneys have peculiar personalities or abnormalities. I think knowing more about both characters would increase the interplay between them and make the ending even more plausible and powerful.

I like the fact the guests did nothing in this story. I think in reality, most guests would feel uncomfortable and refrain from involving themselves in a marital fight, however once they heard a power drill they may have reacted...

Overall, great story...just add a little more about the characters and their relationship.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I saw this on Pay It Forward and thought it looked familiar... and as soon as I saw the introduction I realized that I read this piece earlier in the week =P

I agree with Queen of wands, I found a certain degree of humour here... but I may just be a very morbid person. I found myself both chuckling and feeling horrified at the same time, so I applaud you. John was very well developed - you could feel his bitterness practically oozing out of the page (or screen). He was so bitter about losing his job and the fact that his wife was more successful that his entire view of her was tainted. I felt that she wasn't being overly unkind, but it was his own bitterness and self-pitying that made him think she was, which of course led to the, er, rather dramatic end. John feels like one of those characters who you think is absolutely deplorable, and yet you feel for him at the same time. Or at least, I did.

I did find it the tiniest bit predictable; the end, that is. The title, how you set up John's character and relationship with his wife, the foreshadowing of the screw in the wall, the build up of his resentment and frustration... but don't take that as a bad thing. The element of surprise is good, but so is the element of effective foreshadowing. I feel that if you made the ending - John's murder via screwdriver - surprising or unexpected, it would be too much of a shock to the reader and instead of coming away with a slightly amused, slightly horrified, and overall satisfied feeling, the reader would feel more of the horror, and disturbed and unsettled. From the piece, I don't get the feel that this is the effect you wanted.

So, well done =)

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Damn, when that guy screws someone over, he doesn't hold back. You kept John's character pretty steady through the whole story, other than just revealing more sides to him as the story went on. Which was good; no dramatic changes in personality without reason. Impressive. :P We could tell in the beginning that he was easily angered, but we necessarily guess that he would go to such extremes, especially not those as gruesome as this. Very creative, by the way.
Sarah said babe alot. @[email protected] Which is nothing wrong with the writing, that would just annoy me if I actually knew her. XD I have a friend who went through a 'babe' phase. She would call everyone babe, and it was annoying to me. Which makes the Sarah character a bit more real for me.
LOL. 'I was perfectly sane.' And then he drills a screw into her head. Very nice irony.
It's also ironic that she was defending a murderer at her job, and then her husband turns out to be one.
You used irony very well in this piece.
In the beginning, he says screws disgust him. But right after he killed her he was perfectly fine. Was that because of the time spent in jail changing his perspective? In the beginning, he doesn't sound quite as insane as he does later. I would think the insanity would increase over time?
He says he wants us to understand him, but honestly I don't understand what could drive him to do that other than anger-issues.
Also, he says 'It's the least I could do...'
Is he guilty about what he did now? Is he trying to make up for killing her? Or just for becoming a bad person? He doesn't seem like the type to feel guilty due to the end of the story. So looking back at the beginning, it feels like he's writing this after he's spent some time in anger-management classes. :P The beginning was very mysterious, which was good, though you might have overdone the whole screws are harmless thing. But perhaps he's prone to rant due to his condition? Who knows. :p
Just throwing some thoughts out there, overall, good story. [:
Keep up the good work. ^_^

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on January 8, 2009
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Author

Guardian
Guardian

AZ



About
I live in Arizona where the sun is always shining. Writing has always been my passion. I love to read and write. I'm also involved in drama and music. I write a variety of things. Everything from poet.. more..

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