The Hammer Falls

Read to you by the author

A clattering batters his head. He spits an expletive as nails scatter like raindrops to the chipped and stained tile below.

Jay squeezes his eyes shut for a few moments and blows out a sharp breath. Resigned, he slowly climbs down from the small ladder. It’s probably the nicest thing he owns.

Leaning down to recover the well worn hammer, he notices the glass shards. He pops up and sees the picture frame knocked over. A web of shattered lines spider out from the face of a little girl.

He sighs as he takes in the smile he may never see again. His chest tightens and he decides it’s time for another drink.

Glass swept. Ladder closed and put away. Jay sits on the bed and opens the drawer of his nightstand. He stares at the picture freed from its frame. He opens the bottle and tilts back his head. The sweet kiss of oblivion washes his mouth in cheap booze strong enough to dull his pain and quiet his memories of the girl. The girl and her mother. He turns the picture over, takes another drink and closes his eyes.

She’s crying. He tries to quiet her. She doesn’t understand, but he tries to show her it’s ok. His pulse is pounding. He whispers to the dark all the things he said to her before. He tells her he is sorry. He tells her her loves her. He tells her it’s ok. He tells her how pretty she looks when she smiles. He tickles her and she laughs. She tries not to, but it helps. Jay turns over.

Shortly after, he rolls back towards the night stand. His face is covered in tears. Feeling sick, he decides to get in the shower. He stops at the dresser and pulls out something clean and another bottle.

The spray from the mildew-covered shower head hisses and sputters. He gets in quickly, letting the water scald him. He braces himself for the cold that will soon come. He gasps at the shock of cold that nearly takes his breath away. The pipes rattle and bang. He takes another drink.

The hammer falls.

He recalls the courtroom. The distant bailiff, the shrill judge, the girl and her mother choking back tears. The sound of the gavel banged in his chest and gut. He felt cold as it all hit him like a wave. Stuck in the pull of this massive wave he felt hollow and powerless.

Back to the bed, he collapses. The trek from bathroom to the mattress wore on him like the years he spent caged. He drifts off to sleep thinking of his little girl.

The hammer falls.

A loud crash shooting through the paper thin walls shocks him awake.

He lays there for hours. Stomach. Back. Side. Covered. Uncovered. Side. Other side. Back. Stomach. Pillow. No pillow. More booze. Low Music. TV. Nothing.

Nothing helps. He can’t find rest. His mind won’t shut off. Thoughts and memories play and replay. Unbidden they come and overstay their welcome. Smiles, tears, sobs, banging, echo and ring in his mind.

He bolts up. Hands on his head. He breathes in deep. He softly tells himself to stop.

He’s crying. He tries to quiet his mind.He doesn’t understand, but he tries to tell himself it’s ok. That it will be ok. His pulse is pounding. He whispers to the dark all the things he’s told himself before. He tells himself he’s sorry. He tells himself it’s over and lays back down.

The hammer falls.

The pain pulses in his head. Memories. Remorse cracks through his mind like the hammer on the glass. Spidery splinters race out from the throbbing hollow in his head

The drawer slides open slowly in the dark. He feels for the bottle and touches something cold.

The hammer falls. Crack. Guilt. Sorrow. Pain. Longing. Emptiness.

He feels for the tip. It’s steel in his grasp, not glass. He pushes it aside and blindly searches for the bottle again.

The hammer falls. Crack. Like lighting in his mind, it blasts and surges, firing up synapses. Forcing him to inescapably feel sharp bursts. Guilt. Sorrow. Pain. Longing. Emptiness.

At last the bottle! He slips the top off with one hand, bringing it to his lips. His head is barely tilted up. Liquor spills and drips around his mouth. He can’t get enough down fast enough. He just wants to take the edge off. Hell, the edges off. The edges of the pounding spikes he feels each time his mind rushes away from this exact moment.

But there isn’t enough and he can’t keep himself in check. Can’t focus on anything but the pain.

The hammer falls. Crack. Guilt. Sorrow. Pain. Longing. Emptiness.

He tosses the empty bottle aside.

The drawer.

The hammer falls. Crack. Guilt. Sorrow. Pain. Longing. Emptiness.

Damn it! Anything to make it stop.

He reaches for it.

The hammer falls. Crack. Guilt. Sorrow. Pain. Longing. Emptiness.

Empty.

He roughly shoves the drawer closed.

A smile briefly touches the corner of his mouth. The rattling fills him with a perverse and fleeting hope.

The hammer falls. Crack. Guilt. Sorrow. Pain. Longing. Emptiness.

He sits up and sets to work. He thinks better than to turn on the lights. He doesn’t need them. He could do this blindfolded. The gun is clear. All the bullets are tucked against the panel of the drawer closest to him. He spins the cylinder. It’s clear. He knows it is clear. He loads two cartridges into the cylinder and closes it.

The hammer falls. Click.

The hammer falls. Click.

The hammer falls. Click.

The hammer falls. Click.

Jay sets the revolver down on the nightstand. He takes a deep breath and grabs for the picture. He cradles it to his breast and strokes the back of it, cold lifeless paper. He chuckles at that fact and his eyes well with tears.

He sets down the picture and picks up the revolver. After a few minutes he pulls the trigger. It feels heavier than before.

The hammer falls. Bang.

The sound is muffled by the pillow he had jammed the barrel into. The force of the shot makes him shiver.

His mind races.

Did anyone hear that?

If they did, what would they do?

I am not going back to prison.

What do I do? I’m not going back.

I want to be free.

Someone might call the cops. Maybe even the paramedics, I can’t have that.

I am running out of time.

The hammer falls. Crack. Guilt. Sorrow. Pain. Longing. Emptiness.

“Come on Jay,” he whispers harshly at himself, “Do ONE damn thing right in your life!”

He takes another deep breath and steels himself. He cocks the gun.

The sweet kiss of oblivion. 

The hammer falls. BANG!


Numbered Days

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