Nail That Gift

This one has absolutely no redeeming value and will attack your sensibilities. It is callous and gratuitous and just downright wrong. You should not read it. The main character is a snake in the grass, a modern psychopath in bloom.

There; you have been warned. If you do go on and read this—and I beg you not to—do not come crying to me about all the “how could you’s” that spring into your cranial wadding.

All I want to know is if I put you there…

Not enough people are passionate about the coffee they drink. Instead they settle for the crap the chains serve up. They hide the vileness of the brew with creams—both real and non-fat, and with a battery of sweetener choices. Half the coffees sold by the chains are made with syrups. Yet the mindless herd return, day after mundane day, for more of the same; paying top dollar for bottom shelf because that is what the herd does.

Far from the food court, at the Barnes and Noble end of the Pekinocginot Mall, there is a barista—his name is Angelo—who presses the finest coffee beverages. Outside the shop, cross-corner from the pet store, are a bench and a planter. This is my favorite place to sit and people-watch while sipping what Angelo has concocted exclusively for me.

Today, he put together a latte, made from Brazilian beans; along with an espresso made with a Moroccan selection and three large grains of Aegean Sea salt. He tossed the latte into the espresso and back again so they were lightly mixed. Then he plunged a Reddi-whip nozzle down into the cup and fired away because, well, it doesn’t get any better than Reddi-whip.

My dad hasn’t built anything as ambitious as a garden shed in quite some time. So when he mentioned it in our last talk, I envisioned him hammering away at nails until his heart gave out.

Luckily for him, his birthday is coming up. Shortly after Christmas. His is a rip-off birthday, coinciding with the holidays and offering gift givers the opportunity to gang events with a single gift.

I make up for it whenever I can.

This year I am giving him a Paslode 9020 Cordless Framing Nailer. The first thing I took out of the box was the battery charger; plugging it into the outlet next to the planter by the bench where I sit.

The Paslode is bright orange with black accents and takes a butane fuel cell which is sold separately, as are the nails. I read about each of these things and load the gun as a way of practicing.

The bench I am on is long enough for two complete strangers—or four friends. The mall traffic increases as I sit, sipping the fine coffee Angelo has prepared for me and learning about the gift I will invariably have to teach my father how to operate.

I get envious looks from passers-by, my packages taking up all available bench space. I am a bench hog—not willing to play roulette with my seating arrangement. I recently had a pair of True Religion Brand Bootcut Jeans (which cost me nearly three hundred dollars) soiled by a hotdog wielding four year old. The mustard wouldn’t come out and I can only hope it is viewed as a character defect when and if I can muster the courage to wear them again, stain and all.

Across the mall intersection from me, separated by a portable holiday railroad, nine feet in diameter and sporting three cars of exaggerated dimensions, is a pet store. They have a puppy playpen set up just outside the doorway to entice customers. A girl has picked one up and hugs it like a new doll, the legs running in midair.

Her mom sits nearby, inattentive, on a cellphone. The girl sees she has gone unnoticed, puts the puppy down to reach for another and the first one bounds away. The girl gives chase; both curiously heading in my direction.

The mother is oblivious. Just as surprising, the pet store employees are equally unobservant.

The girl catches the puppy just as they reach my bench. She is on her knees, holding the puppy close, twisting to and fro as if that will settle the energetic puppy, feet still running.

It won’t.

By now, my bags are gathered and I am ready to go.

I say to the girl, “You two look as though you belong together.” I smile warmly.

The battery was only on a forty-five minute charge but it should be fine for what I have in mind. I reach out to the puppy’s ribcage with the nail gun, pressing firmly enough to depress the nose of the gun.

I pull the trigger. The gun barely recoils for the noise, which is drowned out by the mall traffic—or ignored. Whichever is immaterial.

The nail seats effortlessly and the puppy yips once; a noise which is also ignored by passersby.

The girl stares, wide-eyed, as the puppy squirms.

Looking around surreptitiously, my suspicions that no one will notice are realized. This is the herd mentality in action.

I reposition the nail gun to the girl’s hand cradling the puppy’s hind quarter and pull the trigger again, and again, and again. They are now attached.

As if to add insult to injury, I then rest the gun to the puppy’s temple and fire off five more rounds.

The girl remains kneeling throughout the interaction, shocked into silence. I put the nail gun in one of my bags, scoop up my packages, and briskly walk toward the doors leading to the parking lot.

Just as I hit the release bar for the exit door, I hear the girl scream. It is amazing how long it takes for the shock to give way to pain. Whether it was from the physical pain of having nails driven into a hand, or from having nailed that perfect gift only to have it yanked away by violent death is a moot point.

“Have a Merry Christmas,” I say, holding the door for a woman with a hideous Coach handbag—C’s all over it in mockery of good fashion. I imagine the C’s standing for the word cow, hold my smile long enough for her to move past me.

I whistle a whimsical rendition of Jingle Bells while walking to my car thinking that Dad’ll love his gift.

So there it is and I did warn you.

Next month I have to put something together for the prompt, ‘the kids’, which could go anywhere. Farewell until next time and have a nice holiday weekend.


9 thoughts on “Nail That Gift

  1. Deanna Schrayer

    Wow Donald! You did warn us, so I was prepared, but still I didn’t expect this at all. This is so very well written, you put us (or at least me) right in his mind, and boy is it a scary place!

    Great job!

    P.S. I try never to comment or critique on the story material itself, only the writing. If I feel I can’t do that, then I just don’t comment at all. This is, (in my humble opinion), as it should be for all us writers.

    1. donaldconrad Post author

      Deanna, you are wonderful. For admitting you read it, and for commenting. Two thumbs up and a hearty Merry Christmas to ya. I’m am grateful you found entertainment in it.

  2. John Wiswell

    Interesting you threw up such a disclaimer. I didn’t find it much more violent or disturbing than other Horror stories in #fridayflash, and think no less of you. If anything it’s one of the better written bits of darkness I’ve consumed in a while.

  3. Colin James I-10 Blog

    Got to love a macabre Christmas. I thought our hero was going to cull the herd and nail some of the pseudo coffee drinkers.
    I loved the brashness of the attack. You have to love life’s bastards.

  4. Stephen

    My goodness. Pathological is framing this guy with too nice of a word. A truly twisted character, indeed, and one that I’ll have to forget by finding something else to do today.


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