A friend of mine had to take his old cat to the vet. It has to have it’s a-hole cleaned out because it’s getting infections. Apparently he has forgotten to clean himself. Or the cat has made a decision that he no longer wished to lick himself. I told my friend that he could save himself a lot of money with the Vet if he did it himself. He laughed politely then moved on to another topic. I think he was considering it.
TOM PAYNE AND THE HAMMERS
“I just had an encounter with the most vicious woman.” Tom Payne’s teeth were bared. Like he was prepared to go for someone’s throat. He dumped his bags on the counter of Tom and Bob’s Hardware. The store was uncommonly dark, blinds on the front windows shading the store. Bob had sensitive eyes and always kept the lights dimmed when he was working. The glare of sunlight gave him vicious headaches. Tom’s eyes on the other hand were not so sensitive. He craved sunlight. Had a tanning table built in the apartment they shared. Loved to ski, both water and snow. Loved tennis. Anything that got him out into the sunlight. And so Bob waited. Knew that the comment about the place being too dark could not be that far down the tunnel. Bob Williams, a large man with thinning hair, looked up from the papers he was hunched over.
Tom stood in the middle of the shop, breathing heavily. Obviously upset. Bob had decided to ignore Tom’s emotional state. Tom was always in a state. Bob called it, problem du jour.
“Do you remember why we ordered so many hammers last spring?” Bob asked.
“I’m not sure she was a woman,” Tom continued, disregarding Bob’s question. “More like a shrew. Some mythological beast. I thought she was going to devour me. Rip into my chest and pull my freakin’ heart out.”
Tom looked at Bob.
Bob looked at Tom. “The hammers? Do you remember?”
Tom pointed at Bob for a moment as he went over several thoughts in his mind.
“You thought there was going to be a renovation boom in the area,” Tom finally responded.
“A renovation boom?” Bob asked. “You’re saying it was my fault.”
Tom was looking through his grocery bags.
“I forgot to buy toothpaste,” Tom said. He slapped the counter with his open hand.
“Renovation boom?” Bob cried. “What would I know about a renovation boom?”
“You read it in the Star,” Tom muttered then looked up at Bob. “It wasn’t a fault of anyone. You speculated. It was a mistake in judgment.”
“But it was my judgment that was at fault. That’s what you’re saying.”
Tom bit down on his lip. “Does it matter, Bob? They’re only hammers. I was accosted in the drug store. Attacked. Could I get a little attention?”
Bob ground his teeth and nodded.
“I heard you. Some woman looked at you sideways and it upset you. You’re a man, Tom. Go back and beat the shit out of her.”
Tom took a deep breath. “It was a little more than looking at me sideways. She accused me of stealing her cart. I wouldn’t do that. You of all people know that, Bob. And then her reaction when I denied stealing it. She was carnivorous. Went straight for my jugular.”
Bob stared at Tom. “Why would she think that you stole her cart?”
“I don’t know,” Tom responded scratching his head. “I found it in an aisle. But there was no one around it. Nothing inside it. It was just there. Abandoned.”
Bob laughed. “You stole it.”
“I did not,” Tom replied. “I’m telling you it was…”
“You get your carts at the front of the store. If you didn’t pick up a cart there then you must assume it was someone else’s. Now can we get back to the hammers?”
“You’re so cavalier,” Tom said.
Bob took a deep breath. “Who was the woman?”
“I’m not sure,” Tom responded. He described the woman to Bob.
“It’s Mrs. Newton,” Bob responded. “The banker’s wife. You don’t want to get her pissed off at us. We owe the bank a lot of money.”
Tom turned and stepped over to the barrel where a pile of hammers were piled. He picked up one. Bob came from behind the counter and grabbed the hammer out of Tom’s hand.
“Give it back,” Tom cried.
“What do you think you’re going to do with that?”
Tom grabbed the hammer back.
“I’m going to the bank to make a deposit in that woman’s pretty blonde head.”
Bob grabbed Tom around the waist. And nestled his lips in Tom’s neck.
“Come on, Tom. Why waste a hammer on that woman? We can find something more pleasant to spend our time doing.”
Tom gave in. He stepped away from Bob and handed him the hammer.
“Here. You go whack her.”
Bob took the hammer.
“I’m not going to whack someone because they…” Bob replied.
“Why not?” Tom asked.
“Because you don’t do things like…”
“You love me?”
“This is ridiculous,” Bob said placing the hammer back with the others. “Tom, get some perspective. We’re on the verge of bankruptcy and you want to do a lobotomy on some woman who was rude to you?”
Tom put his hands on his hips. He took several deep breaths.
“That’s it, isn’t it?” Tom cried.
“You think,” Tom licked his lips trying to gather his thoughts, “it was my fault that we ordered all these hammers. When it was you that ordered them. You think that all of our financial problems are caused by decisions that I made. You forget the mistakes you’ve made. Everything is my fault. Is that the way it is, Bob?”
“Tom, you’re being ridiculous.”
“Do you think I ordered the hammers or not? Come on. Tell me.”
“Okay, Tom, it was you that told me to order them. I was against it. But no, Tom, you always think you’re some kind of friggen market analyst. And this confrontation with Mrs. Newton is only the latest of your social disasters. You invite trouble, Tom. You’re like a walking talking target for problems. A million little problems. You don’t see it. You’re totally oblivious to your friggen handicap. And I’m getting tired of it, Tom. I can’t take it anymore.”
Tom tried to respond, but he could not get the words out of his mouth. He glared at Bob for a minute, turned, and walked out of the shop. Bob hesitated for a moment before racing to the front of the shop. He opened the door. The white flash of the afternoon sun hit him like a stroke. He sheltered his eyes from the glare and quickly looked up and down the plaza. Tom was nowhere to be seen. Bob turned and closed the door behind him as he reentered the shop. Tom was standing behind it. Smoking a cigarette. His free hand clenching a hammer.