Snatch and the Hiding Hammer
The dead mouse turned its cold black eyes up to Snatch. “Think hard, Edgar. Normal people lose their car keys. You’ve misplaced your hammer. Where is it?”
Snatch ran his dried, cracked fingers through his greasy hair and rubbed the grit from his scalp between his fingers. He reached up to his mouth in thought and scratched the crust of dried saliva off of his face.
The dead mouse stayed silent. With Snatch’s thoughts on the sledgehammer, the mouse had no thoughts or voice of its own.
“I left it in the forest. The treeline.”
He looked down at the dead mouse on his floor. Dirt surround the mouse, as if the creature dragged itself into his room, straight from its hastily-dug grave.
“Laura arrived. I leaned it against a tree.” Snatch’s stomach lurched.
The mouse stared up at him and said, “You know that’s not right, don’t you?”
“It’s right,” Snatch said. “It’s got to be there. That’s where I left it.”
“Funny,” the dead rodent said. “I seem to remember you losing all of last night. Think harder, Snatch.”
“I moved it last night?”
“I never said that,” the mouse said. “I’m only letting you know that the hammer has a mind of its own.”
“It’s my hammer,” Snatch said.
He stood up from the bed and jerked his dirty coveralls on. He stomped both feet down into his unlaced work boots. His bedroom shifted under him and he swayed to keep his balance.
The room darkened for a moment and Snatch fell forward. His hands stretched out and gripped the doorframe. He turned to look outside, through his bedroom window and staggered away from the door.
The sun had set. Night fell over the farm outside.
“How?” Snatch asked.
He looked down to the floor to ask the dead mouse, but saw nothing there. No dirt, no stench of the small corpse.
Just a hole in the floor from the floorboards.
Snatch took a deep breath and stumbled through the farmhouse, and outside.
He squinted through the dark and began the trek across the field to the treeline. Soft drops of rain fell and the humidity blanketed him like a thick, wet sweater.
Sweat dripped from the tip of his nose.
The smell of rotten meat, a dead animal, floated by his nose. He turned and called through the night. “Mouse?”
Snatch got no answer in return.
He stumbled onward, toward the treeline. His head pounded. He felt the ground move under him, and the treeline walked away from him.
He stopped and leaned back against the farmhouse. His sweaty palms scraped against the chipped paint from the wood siding.
He turned and bit his lip. The forest seemed miles away from him, and the farmhouse was right there, within reach.
How long had he walked to get nowhere?
The humidity of the night threatened to strangle him, with each breath feeling like a damp sock shoved down into his throat. He growled and wheezed.
“Where is my hammer?”
He looked at the treeline, highlighted by soft, pale flashes of lightning bugs in their dance to have sex and continue providing the night lights of nature.
His head pounded.
Sweat pooled in the small of his back and began to seep through the thick fabric of his gray, dirty coveralls.
“Hot night,” said the Reaper, in his usual guise as the old farmer.
Hot breath caught in Snatch’s throat and he blurted, “Where is my hammer?”
“Well, hello to you too,” said the Reaper. He lifted his left hand to point a finger knotted with arthritis at the treeline. “You just have to make it.”
“It’s not that far,” Snatch said.
“But you don’t feel very well, do you? Neither do I, so I know.”
Snatch took a step toward the treeline and away from the farmhouse. His head pounded and a flash of light shook his eyes in their sockets. He staggered left to right and caught his footing just before he fell face first to the ground.
He looked at the Reaper. “What’s wrong with me?”
“It’s in here,” the Reaper said. He tapped his temple with his knobby finger. “It’s all in here, Edgar Snatch.”
Snatch turned and pointed at the treeline on the other side of the field. “I have to go get my hammer. It’s lonely out there without me.”
“Go,” the Reaper urged, “but don’t be surprised when it’s not there.”
“It is there. Against the tree.” Snatch nodded and squeezed his eyes shut to clear his thoughts.
When he opened his eyes, the Reaper was gone and he could see the stars shining in the sky. The rain moved on, but the humidity stayed.
Snatch took a deep breath, and stepped toward the treeline.