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  • Marie Smysor Watson

Just as Useful as a Gun

A hammer is just as useful as a gun. For killing things, that is. I killed Gerald with a hammer, not a gun. It's the story I’ll be telling today, but one that needs telling eventually. Must confess if I want to live, so I’m told.


Nothing special about the hammer in question. Rusted around the striking portion, the claw has a chip off of one of its points. The shaft is made of blonde wood, speckled with droplets of white and blue paint. And now blood. I did not wash it off; it dried and is now darker, richer in color than it was to begin with. A bright crimson, like the cherries that ripened near the cabin I grew up in, like the fire I set to cover up the crime, like the fire trucks that arrived to wash it all away. I did not run. I stayed to watch. I was not afraid then. I am not afraid now. I have no reason to be - I did nothing wrong.


The jail cell they keep me in is separated from the larger one. There are actual bars on that one, like an old-time prison. There is a door on my room, no bars. For my safety, they tell me. For their safety, they think. But a door is never as useful as frightened people think. It can be breached with little fuss.


The deaths began four days ago. Each night, a man has died. One ripped out his own throat. One killed another with his bare knuckles. One drowned in his own vomit, choking, sputtering. No one saw anything, they said, pleading with the guards, with the policemen that came by to investigate. Please, please, take us out of here, they cried, one by one, like those men with badges and guns were their mothers who used to care for them long ago. Not one of them has been moved.


Cunt. I told her I’d slit her throat if she said one more thing. Bitch. I told her that I if wanted her opinion, I’d fuck it out of her. Then I did. I heard their whispers, their laughs; now I hear their moans, their torment. They will not sleep tonight. I will, for the most part.


Bunch of pussies next door, said the guard who dropped off last night’s meal. No offense.


None taken, I assured him. Nothing he could say would alter his fate one way or another. I already knew what he was, what he’d done, what he was capable of doing. I’d already smelled it on him. The eagerness with which he presented my tray was also a tell - the flick of his eyes to the left and then slowly to the right, as if disarming the shadows standing watch in the corners.


He choked on his turkey and mayonnaise sandwich that evening. No one was around to save him. The guards who came in after were perplexed. They raised their hands as if to ask what happened? I smiled, shrugged, which made them shrink back. Then they became angry, as men do when they’re afraid.


Now they advance on me, guns drawn. Hands behind your back, they shout. I’m not worried. I am a woman. I have plans for each of them. The hammer presses into the small of my back, an immovable tail. I may not need it, but its presence comforts me, a talisman of safety for a small woman in this big, ghostly world.


I won’t be here long. But then, neither will they.



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