Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Test (Blogophilia 25.7)

A flash of lightning notwithstanding, it was a beautiful day for science. Rain pelted the roof and buckets caught the drips off the brown stained ceiling, but that didn’t matter.  Plastic, metal and wires in neat stacks on the side table waited their turn and it was a thrilling sight.  The radio was set to that WOFT-oldies station and they were doing a Motown retrospective.

            ‘…My guy. Talking about my guy…”

Mary Wells, sweet voice soothed him as he picked the piece of pipe. Inspecting the inside for flaws, he found none. Good. Placing it securely in the bench vise, he made sure threaded ends were accessible on both sides. He slowly twisted a cap on one end, working it back and forth until he was comfortable with the fit. Can’t be too careful, you know. He rubbed the threads gently, the emery cloth sweeping the last burrs on the table. The fumes from the nasty cement made him dizzy. He turned his head a bit and held his breath. Applying to pipe with quick strokes, he screwed the cap on for the final time.

A clap of thunder shook him from the reverie. Maybe he should patch the roof?  Nah.  I’m running out of time here.  

After letting the cement set, a drill placed a simple 1/8” hole  down part ways from  the open end of the pipe. Slipping a piece of detonation cord through the hole, he used a piece of duct tape to hold it place. This was fun. 

The gunpowder canister stared at him and he stared back. Was he ready to cross this line?  Ready to take the next step in vengeful notoriety?  Yes. Yes, he was. He loosened the vise and stood the pipe vertical to accept the magic mixture, making sure the fuse was set in deep. Gluing the other cap in place, he sat back and looked at his handiwork.  Capped pipes, fuses and wiring stacked haphazardly on the table next to him. It won’t be long now. Someone he hadn’t thought of in a long time came to his mind.

The sea hag face of Mother’s piano teacher. And she had the steel ruler held out from her side. The one used to beat him when he missed a note. Atonal chords rang in his ear. The ones played just to set the bitch off. His hands shook at the memory as Jeremy absently fingered a scar. Another discipline lesson.

At the end of the lesson, there would be the report to Mother was what a useless worm he was. Then Mother would have her turn with the ruler, across both hands and back until blood would flow. Sarah would look from the top of the stairs with tears on her face at the humiliation. It couldn’t go on.

“….R.E.S.P.E.C.T. That is what it means to me.”….”

A baseball bat swinging and screams made the bitch go away. There were muffled voices and the smell of the gasoline around him.  Why they came with SWAT squad, he had no idea.  Everything else was a blur.  The leather restraints smelled like oil, and the drugs used to calm him were bitter.  The electrodes as they hooked them on his head and the pain of the shock. They would never give him anything for the pain.  
When it was over, he was released.  But there was nowhere to go, just a revolving door between the street and jail.  It was all a big bullying game to teach him RESPECT.  The judges reminded him of clowns from a Mexican Circus. They would stare at the back wall of the courtroom as they would make their pronouncements, never looking him in the eye. Sometimes jail was involved, other times not. 

Planning was over and now it was primetime. Turning off the radio, He packed the devices carefully into a box and walked out on the porch. The rain had stopped, leaving small puddles at random intervals. He looked down at his shoes. Boots were better for this mud. He quickly changed and stepped out into the back pasture.  

There had been rumors saying the farm had been used as a toxic waste site after Mother and Sarah died.  Given the brown weed patches scattered in the fields, he didn’t doubt it.  Maybe he should blow up the house when he was finished?  Eh, not ready for that step yet. Need to take advantage of the isolation as long as possible.

From of the dead zones, he scanned the area. Where he stood was hidden from the road and didn’t seem to be within earshot of the neighbors. Fifteen feet from the tree line was a fairly large hickory stump he had decided to use for a first test.  The wood was fresh and would splinter well.

Pacing straight lines away from the stump, he sees how far he can cover in 90 seconds. At each of the stop points, He turns and crouches low, making note of whether he is higher or lower than the stump. The average of the lines is 500 feet. It should be far enough. He’ll know for sure soon enough. 

As he walks, a metronome began to click in his head.  Step…Step...Step... Every Good Boy Does Fine.  Click. Click. Click. Every Good Boy Does Fine. Every Good… E.G B. D. F.  His pulse began to keep time. Whack…Whack…Whack… The ruler beating him time was interspersed with the timer. The scars on his back of his hands began to sting again with the memory. It was like a pile of quicksand he was trying to escape.  And the fucking Cops with their tear gas and tasers, making him leave the house.  Who cared if the taxes hadn’t been paid?  That was the dead bitch’s job, not his. Her face began to glow in the stump.  It was the right target.  

The pipe slid in a gap the base of the stump.  He didn’t bother to cover it, since he really just wanted to see how far the debris would go. The lighter flashed and flicked the 120 seconds of fuse to life. Moving back toward the farmhouse, he stopped about half way and turned watch. Time was caught in the quicksand now. Very slowly the spark came closer to its target. 

It sounded like a shotgun he once fired.  He could see the smoke rise and drift in the early evening breeze. The rain of debris lasts a few seconds.  Then it is quiet.  Not even the crickets sounded.   

There was a hole four feet across and eight feet deep where the wood had been. He was all smiles. The pieces lay on the ground in an oblong pattern, with the narrow side corresponding to the ends of the device. Using orange cardboard markers, he marks all the fragments. The farthest piece had landed almost 100 feet away.


Packing his gear, he returns to the porch and locks up. He starts the beige Toyota and heads back to Atlanta analyze the results. 


Topic Deborah Truitt

Pic-Sallon Newlove

Pic Guesses-Trio, Jazz club, Bebop, Cool, Paris, Downtown, Miles, Bird, Birdland, Weather Report, Coltraine.   


  1. Wow!!! This was riveting -- kept me on the edge of my seat. A beautiful day for science indeed! Fabulous write -- you write suspense so well. :)

    1. Thanks. This project has been more rewarding than I expected.

  2. I really thought he was going to blow himself up, but no... Oh, and thanks for reminding me how much I did not enjoy piano lessons are a waif. Uhnn...

    1. Yeah. I have nightmares about metronomes, too.

  3. Great story! You do these so well...


  4. BOOM! Now this is my kind of guy! We share a love for all things explosive, and science experiments. 8 points, Earthling!

  5. wow, this is a riveting story, hanging on seat for next episode

  6. Was he ready to cross that line? The addition of that insight is very telling. I just sat through a training with a man who wrote a book on the psychology and prevention of mass killings, the psychology of it all is fascinating and you reveal a very realistic character here. Of course it is a sad day when Violence begets violence. I'm always hoping for peaceful solutions. Intriguing write, Christopher!

    1. Everyone I think gets there. Once the barrier is crossed, nothing is ever the same.