Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Day's Work

This is one of my short stories. I hope you enjoy...

By Ernest Maestas (Crime Analyst)

Maximilian wiped the sweat off his brow. His work was harder than he had imagined it would be; but that’s ok, it’s good for the soul. He looked over his table at his project and measured his progress. Can’t take a break yet he told himself. He wiped his hands on his work apron and considered his project with near confusion. He was unsure on just how to proceed from this point- it took all day for him to get his project from its point of origin to his workshop.

He was proud of his workshop. It wasn’t fancy but it was effective. He had ample room to conduct his tasks while still having room to hang all his tools. He even had room for a cleaning station. Here he could, not only wash himself off, but clean his tools and dispose of the left over materials.

He gently stroked the project with his hands; it was more anticipation than anything else. But it was also calculation. What shall I use to begin? While mulling this over his project stirred a little, as if coming to…

Maximilian took back out his ether and his handy-dandy handkerchief (his father always told him to have one) and placed it over the face of his project. The stirring stopped. Can’t have that…no, no, not yet…Max said to himself with a business-like jubilee. He had worked long and hard to get his project to where it is today and he wasn’t going to let things fall apart now.

Maximilian wasn’t using names but his project did in fact have one. The project’s name is Jim. Max fingered his tools and selected a hack saw, a meat cleaver, a knife, and a meat tenderizer as his tools for today. He liked the tenderizer. As he rubbed his hands over the tools with an intimate admiration, he considered Jim.

Jim was an asshole; make that a self-centered, pretentious asshole. Jim had made trouble for Max- he liked being called Max because his friends always called him that- for nothing more than holding him to regulations. These regulations weren’t particularly troubling, they were just fair. And Jim didn’t want to play fair; he just wanted to promote himself.

When Max had blocked Jim from using his volunteer status for the promotion of his personal business, Jim turned the situation around and went to the Mayor’s Office and complained. He stated that Max was making trouble for him because another volunteer owned a business and was trying to squeeze him out through unethical and illegal practices. Max knew this wasn’t true and found this accusation to be the last straw in an ongoing problem with Jim.

Max walked over to his trunk and opened it. Max liked his trunk; it had all kinds of goodies and surprises. Max called it his Community Chest, like the Community Chest in Monopoly. When he was a kid he would play this game with his Mom. He always liked landing on the square marked Community Chest because when it was opened you got something good.

With both hands and wide, excited eyes Max took out a fish bowl. But this was no ordinary fish bowl; it was designed, not for fish, but for humans. Extending from the top of the fish bowl was a hose that ran to a water tank. He then took out a harness that would clamp around the fish bowl and around Jim’s neck. Once the clamp was locked in place it would form a near water-tight seal. It didn’t matter if the seal was less than perfect because the moderate amount of water leaking from the fish bowl made the process more menacing for the project.

He slipped the fish bowl over the head of his project. The clamp was fastened; right side first (doing the left first is bad luck) and then the left side. With everything ready Max was giddy…time to wake up!

Max walked over to his water tank and turned the nozzle. A slow and quiet shuuuuurr emanated from the tank as it transferred air pressure from the fish bowl and replaced it with water. The water was up to the project’s ears when it began to stir. It was trying to move but hadn’t fully comprehended that it was fastened to the work table.

The water had covered the cheeks and was beginning to obstruct the air flow when it would turn its head. It was fully awake now and Max stepped back into the darkness, slipped on his mask, and watched as the project moved from confusion to fear, then to panic as it realized its situation.
This was Max’s favorite part.

This project wasn’t like other projects. Don’t misunderstand, he was still a dirt bag; but he was better dressed, better educated, and had a higher level of motivation than his usual work subjects. This project had an extensive background in the Air Force and spent some time doing disaster planning for the City. Max bet that he would struggle longer than the others, calm down, then try to reason his way out of this trap. Only as a last resort will he call for help. He wouldn’t be like the others…

Jim was screaming…he hadn’t even tried to assess how he was fastened. Pussy, he thought. Max walked over to the little chalk board mounted on the wall. Picked up the pink chalk and placed a single tally mark under “wrong.” It was the third tally here; under “right” there were forty-one. Damn, I owe myself lunch now…Max didn’t like to lose. This made him unhappy.

The project had heard the chalk tally and stopped screaming. He tried to position himself to see but every time he moved his head the water went up his nose and he couldn’t breathe, so he was forced to keep his head straight. Max let the water fill the fish tank only to the point where the project’s nose was protruding. The water was interfering with the project’s vision, and it would also have to be selective about speaking because the water would rush in from the sides of its mouth.

The water was entering the fish bowl at a slow, steady, pace; just enough to replace the water that was leaking from around the seal. The project’s arms and legs were struggling against the restraints in a calm and steady fashion while it waited for its captor to formally announce himself.
Max considered the situation. He decided that the project didn’t yet deserve the honor of meeting his very own, personal craftsman. Max was going to make Jim better; the way he should be that is. Max would create Jim wholly anew, and Jim would be better for it. Well…maybe better is too strong a term. More accurately, Max would create a more correct version of Jim. Of course the old Jim would have to go. That was always messy.

Project (Jim): Hey!

Max: (silence)

Project: Hey...w-what are you doing?!?

Max: (silence)

Project: Why aren’t you talking to me? What are you doing? Why am I here?

This last question got Max’s attention. Does this idiot really not get why he’s here? He’s strapped to a table with a fish tank full of water over his head, and he’s confused? The project kept trying to talk while looking for Max. The result was always the same: he would try to talk and begin choking from the water. Max made another bet with himself and began counting how many times the project would choke and nearly drown before figuring out he should shut up and be still.

Twenty seven times later the idiot finally stopped. Max got up and went over to his tool bench drawer and pulled out a pencil and a pad. He made a note to himself, “lost again.” Max thought it would take less than twenty attempts before the project realized he was drowning. Apparently this project was thick skulled. A well applied grinder could fix that.

Max looked at the note on his paper…the words “lost again” rolled around in his mind. He looked up from his pad at the chalk board with the new tally under the “wrong” column. He lost twice today- in one session with this pathetic project; one the most pathetic projects ever to have the pleasure of being in his workshop. This was intolerable.

Max walked over to the table grabbed the project's right hand, and pushed the pencil through the back of the project’s hand, not stopping until the pencil completely penetrated the hand and broke its lead on the table. Of course, the project was screaming.

Again, this idiot wanted to know why he is in his current location and wanted to know what he had done.

Max: You are here to be tortured and killed.

Project: (exasperated whisper) What???!

Max: Yes Jim- You think that you are strong. So I’m going to remove much of your muscle tissue to demonstrate that you are weak. You think that you have vision, so I am going to remove your eyes. You think that you have command presence, so I am going to carve out you spine to prove you’re- well, do I need to explain that one? And finally, you think that you are smart- so I am going to cut a hole in your head and scramble your brains with a cake mixer.

Project: (weeping) I’m sorry…

Max: For?


Max: We’ll discuss it while I cut off your legs…

The project started to scream and protest but Max put on his Bose personal sound system headphones and returned to his bench to talk with his tools. So, which of you desires to go first? In his mind all his tools began jumping saying Pick me! Pick me! He would tell them what he needed- some heavy cutting. And while he loved all his tools, the first up would be his hack-saw. The other tools would sound in disappointment, but he would assure them that they would get to play.

Now, for the music. Max chose an array of music including Black Sabbath- with Ozzy, Jimmi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and ZZ Top. That should keep Max happy.

Max approached the project’s right leg and gently squeezed it, as if he was squeezing fruit at the store to see if it’s fresh. He then squeezed the left. He stepped back and with one hand to his mouth he studied both legs until he reached a decision. He walked over to the left leg and grabbed just above the knee and pressed down with his weight. With his saw in his left hand- he could work well with his left hand even though he is right handed- and began to saw.

The leg of the project began to tremble and shake. He was trying hard to get free, but the moving would cease in a few moments when he cut deep enough. He had difficulty getting started because the project’s knee cap kept sliding. Finally, he got a rhythm going and with enough force and enough tissue damage the knee cap flew onto the floor anyway.

As expected the moving of the leg subsided. He was always surprised at how hard it was to cut through live bone because the bones were wet and somewhat spongy making it tough to get through.

There was a lot of blood. Luckily for the project Max had a soldering gun, and in no time his wounds would be cauterized. Max took the project’s leg and placed it in his cleaning drain. He would dispose of it tomorrow.

Max then went to work on the project’s muscle tissue. With the project still attempting to resist Max wasn’t able to be as precise as he would like. It was going to take some real concentration to get the muscle tissue without severing the arteries. Max made a quick, deep slice across the project’s right arm. Unlike the movies which show a neat cut, real flesh flays open when such wounds are made…as if the skin wanted to cooperate by pulling itself apart.

So far Max had spent five hours on his project. It took such careful work to extract the muscle in the thigh region and then cauterize the wounds that he hadn’t noticed how silent it had become. He again wiped his brow. Max looked at the project only to see that his eyes were wide open and his breathing was very rapid. He was in shock.

Max had tuned out the screaming, literally and figuratively, so he couldn’t be sure as to when his project psychologically imploded. Max pulled up a chair next to the project and began to speak to him very gently.

Max: Jim, you don’t know how important it is for you to live.

Project (Jim): (swift, labored breathing)

Max: I guess I should tell you a few details since this was so important to you when we started our work. (Removing mask) It’s me Jim, Max. I know you’re surprised but you should know that I have never forgotten your behavior. You left an impression on me, and I came to realize that you were not in your correct state. You should be honored…I am correcting you.

Project: (breathing slowing)


Project: (breathing stops)

Max threw his tools across the room. He was really looking forward to grinding his skull while he was alive. Jim should have lived. He did far worse to the last low-life he brought into his workshop. He actually had to drown that person.

Max very frustratingly began his dismemberment and clean-up procedures. This was very anticlimactic for him…it was like getting a really pretty woman in bed only to find out she can’t get you to orgasm to save her life (that’s why she died). As Max finished and turned out the lights he wondered what the world was coming to.

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