Friday, March 12, 2010

Mary in the Bag by Dietrich Kalteis


A workbench in a cluttered garage.
Henry stands cramped beside the rusting Dart,
driving a nail with his hammer.
Venting the slow burn cloaked by years of gloom,
he reaches for another nail, then he stops.
His features contort, his forehead furrows.
Laughter rises from inside the
Ace Hardware bag.
Eyes saucer-wide, he draws out a nail.
Mary’s mocking face is planted on the nickle-plated head, laughing at him, eyes blinking.
A moment’s hesitation is followed by a heavy swing.
The Mary nail is driven halfway into the wood.
Unaffected, she laughs on.
His temples throb and his eyes cloud.
He smacks the nail deep into the wood.
Her face disappears.
Fingers grasp another nail – another mocking Mary, this one cursing him, her words coming from Henry's own lips.
There will be no debate.
He’s light years beyond talk, talk that never served him against that iron-vault recollection and her ceaseless salvo of words.
He strikes blindly.
This Mary pings across the room, end over end.
The next nailhead bears Pimms’ face.
Henry brings the hammer down harder.
Once, twice, the third blow glances off; the hammer strikes his thumbnail.
His thumbnail splits and blood spurts.
The madman’s dance of pain atop the Dart’s near-dried oil pool.
Profuse cursing echoes.
His faculties unleash and he hastens through the house, hammer in hand, his thumb turning blue.
Ferreting through the medicine chest, he flings a dozen pill bottles onto the ceramic tiles, still cursing.
He gapes at his mirror image, not sure which of him rips the medicine chest from the wall.
It shatters against sink, then the floor.
Glass, pills, toothpaste, chunks of drywall, gel, blood, floss and twisted metal.
Halos of intense color swirl before his eyes.
His temples throb.
Mummifying his thumb in toilet tissue, oblivious of the broken glass under his bare feet.
According to his wrist watch it’s nearly six, minutes till Ace Hardware closes.
He must have more nails.
The engine fires on the first crank, not bad for the old Dart.
The race to town against the minute hand, speed limit forgotten.
Halos of intense color orbit his head.
With one eye closed, he snipes across his wrapped thumb; it serves as a rifle sight over the
steering wheel.
Mary’s face on the ‘curve ahead’ sign.
Pimms’, on the stop sign.
The old shocks hop the Dart across the narrow corduroy bridge.
Henry’s teeth rattle.
Barefoot and bleeding, he storms into the Ace, slipping down Aisle 6.
Nails by the pound, he grabs two fistfulls.
Dusk is falling as he gets back behind the wheel.
Driving home, he sights Marys over his thumb.
A yield sign.
He reaches and curls the bag closed, blocking her laughter.
The Dart drifts across the white lane.
The blast of a car horn snaps him alert.
It’s Pimm –
angry face from the car drawing alongside.
Snow-haired Pimms in his burled walnut and cashmere seats.
Mary beside him, beautiful, unfaithful Mary.
The single-lane bridge arch looms ahead.
Henry drops his foot on the gas.
He won’t give way, not anymore.
Pimms races him and swerves.
The Jag slams into the light-weight Dart.
Losing control, Henry vaults the curb.
Mocking Marys spill from the bag.
Bulldozing through the bridge rail, the Dart teeters.
The halos of intense colors still him, then a moment of clarity.
Frantic thumping at the seatbelt release, but Henry’s wrapped thumb is broken and useless.
Mary’s laughter rises like weeds all around him.
Pimms’ tail lamps fade.
Henry looks at the black below him.


Dietrich Kalteis is a writer living in West Vancouver. Twenty-two of his short stories have been published over the past year. His screenplay ‘Milkin’ Dillard’ has been optioned to Bella Fe Films, and his short story collection ‘Big Fat Love’ (Cantarabooks) is due out Spring, 2010.

Photo by Adam Lawrence.
Sticker art by Zato.

Filled with lush strings, improvised vocals, and a chamber-folk core, the latest album from Chicago's Pillars and Tongues, Lay of Pilgrim Park is impressively beautiful.

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