Tuesday, December 27, 2011


On January 8, 2011, a gunman fired one shot into Congresswoman Gabrielle

Giffords’ left hemisphere, from back to front, giving me confidence that I could kill Dil

Hickendooper, Mayor of Arkada, my brother, with a portable, compressed air, roofing

nail gun. I had a record: assault and battery, drunk and disorderly, sentenced to hit and

run, plus jail time for non-payment of alimony checks to my ex-wife. I could not buy a

gun. I would wait for the upcoming election, duplicating in my way what the shooter

wanted to do, kill her, only I would succeed in murdering my brother.

    Dil lived with his wife, Blodge, and their seventeen-year old son, Slaterly, in a seven

room house, built by Dil and myself. Dil owned Hickendooper Construction, I, a Jack of

all trades carpenter and sometime roofer, worked for him fourteen years. My house,

where Kirby, my fifteen-year old son, a child having had tense relations with my ex-

wife, Cataline, lived in six rooms and a basement.

    In the basement, I had thick four-foot by eight-foot pieces of plywood, a poor

substitute for Dil, snuck in while Cat held a part-time night job, took the nail gun holding

120 black nails, and systematically squeezed off hundreds of one and three-quarter inch

nails, a poor substitute for Dil. I worked compulsively, feverishly, my muscles aching,
my heart pumping faster and faster, sometimes passing out, laying on top of Dil’s

“corpse.” The entire board looked like something out of dystopian movies, production

designers and art directors snapping up my boards, not only for the intense labor I put

into them, but for countless blood spots dripping on the boards from my sore fingers.

Either an idiot or genius could do what I did. If I played in a death metal band, I would

not mind having my studded boards serve as a stage set at our concerts.

    I bet I could make ten boards, each totally covered on both sides with black nails, and

take them to an art museum, having the curator accept them for exhibition. Titled “Black

Nail Death,” I bet buyers would pay good bucks to put one or more in their posh living

rooms. Even Dil might buy one standing on a plinth in front of Hickendooper

Construction, but utilitarian motives were stronger than artistic impulses.  

    “Well, well, come in, Addle. It’s been too long since your last visit,” Blodge said,

gesturing me into the living room. Slaterly played a video game, with lots of electronic

music and shooter’s noise. Blodge had been watching a Dexter rerun on a large TV


    “Dil’s on a conference call with a councilor. The election is getting closer,” Blodge

said, half looking toward me, the other half zoned in to the serial killer.

    “I don’t vote. I’m strictly independent,” I said, my eyes averted, watching the screen.

    “You mean you won’t vote for Dil,” she said, drinking a Heineken from the bottle.

“Want one to go along with your meth?”

    “I gave that up. I looked like shit, old, wasted, and ugly behind it. Anyway, I can’t

afford another parole violation,” I said. “They criminalized me, just because Cat ran
away. How could I make monthly payments with all my bills? I couldn’t comply with the

court order.”

    Dil came back from his office, sipping red wine from a glass, and then buried his eyes

in a printout. “Addle? What are you doing here? I’ve told you never come over, we’re

strictly on an employer-employee basis.”

    “Just a friendly chat with Blodge and Slaterly, what’s wrong with that?”

    “We’ve heard strange things about you, Addle. Has Blodge told you we know why

Cat ran away from you in fright. The basement business,” Dil said.

     “She never walked down those steps, even before I renovated the basement, saying

she was afraid of rats, the damp making her asthma worse, and she’d read an article

describing radon gas leakage from the concrete in basements.” I was pleased with that

explanation, fluent and factual. “Kirby feared for his life. Cat whipped him with a riding

crop. Must’ve enjoyed reading about Iranians, seeing them lash kids on YouTube.” I

frowned as I spoke.

     “Cat informed me about the basement, noises sounding like bullets from a pistol,

sometimes for hours, you telling her to ‘Stay out down there if you know what’s good for

you,’” Blodge said, downing another beer.

    “It was early winter when Blodge told me about it, that Cat wanted to check what went

on ‘beneath the house’, as she put it, but by then you installed an electronic lock,

requiring swiping a card with a code, and you never gave her the code,” Dil said.

    “Since when had Cat been that sensitive? Radon?” Blodge’s face reddened.  

    “The truth was I’d been staying out drinking, sleeping with my biological mother’s
adopted daughter. That’s why she packed suitcases and a large duffel bag full of clothes.”    

    “Aren’t some Greek plays about incest,” Blodge said, getting up, bringing back two

Heinekens. “Cat had good years with you till you spent ungodly time in the basement. Dil

and Skaterly heard Cat describe your ‘hobby’. Your affair she could accept, as I accept


    “Why does everything come down to blood? People are too damn close to one another,

that six degrees of separation means we’re all related as far as I’m concerned.”

    “That’s not true, you’re absolving yourself of guilt. Dil hasn’t any. That’s why he’s

successful. I like men with gump.” Blodge guzzled beers, green Heineken bottles at her

feet. “You fear people, don’t you, Addle.”

    Slaterly, in faded jeans, sat on the couch, eating a slice of pizza. I saw his strong right

hand and arm.

    “I’m a social animal, aren’t we all. Maybe Slaterly isn’t ‘cause he doesn’t feel guilty

about Bengalese sandblasting his jeans, workers getting silicosis.”
    “But I don’t have any guilt about working at construction sites, getting paid in cash,”

Slaterly said. “Dad wants to shit-can you, but you might do something else that harms our


    “Dil will get his books examined by the IRS. Can’t always get away with murder.”

Words like murder made my brain explode in anticipation.

    “Speak to me, not the floor when you say that,” Dil responded.

    “I stood next to an underage guy named Slaterly, putting in a hardwood floor,

accidentally nail-gunning his hand, crippling his left hand, causing painful nerve
damage,” I said.

    “Dil should’ve canned your butt. Instead, he only hates you more.” Slaterly waved his

damaged hand at me, the only finger working was his middle one, wiggling it at me as if

invisible nails shot my heart.

    “I tried to have you arrested for injuring my son’s hand. He sticks to his statement, that

you aimed the gun at his hand, and for that you should be legally punished.”

    “Punished?  Why flog me? Cat and I were nice-and-cozy-like living together. Later,

my only problem was failing to pay alimony.”

    “You’re not drunk, are you? What about all those other times in prison? You’re a

pathological liar. Either that or you have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease,” Blodge said.

    I wanted to rebuke her, saying before I paid them a call, I razor-cut in half a ten-

milligram Oxycontin tablet, then took a few bennies before driving over there. A small

dose of Oxy and speed for work: roof or wall framing, finding the rise and run of

each step, nailing the bottom board to the floor and the studs against the exterior wall,

hammering, pounding, and I always came home with stabs of pain. 

    “I’m a insomniac, didn’t I tell you. Hard to keep things straight without at least four

hours of sleep.”

    “I’ve seen you sleep nine hours on your days off,” Kirby said. “Your right eye

twitches right now.” Cat’s beating left scars on his back, chest, and legs, showing no

mercy to a child born by a girlfriend before I settled in with Cat.”

    Dusk, and the house was dark except the TV, its sound off, lights bubbling in a large

fish tank, occasional headlights on the quieter street, deep barking of a big dog, Kirby
making noises with his mouth, popping his lips together, lips not touching teeth,

mimicking the sound of bubbles from the fish tank. He does that when Uncle Dil got

overbearing. I should not have brought him with me. Poor judgment got me in shitloads

of trouble. Dil’s iPhone rang, he answering immediately.

    “Ok. I’ll speak to people in the councilwoman’s district. When, where and what time?”

    A real trouper, Dil. Where had he gotten that energy, that force, that commitment? I

guess from the same place as mine, all those nailed boards, a force of nature.

    “Fine, the community center, this coming Monday at seven o’clock. See you then.”

    “How in hell can you hold two jobs? The Mayor’s salary is nothing compared to what

you rake in from your business.” Bating him, I knew some secrets.   

    “My knowledge of real estate and housing are in play here, and they’re always

kickbacks, perks, you might say.”

    “I know that, Dil. Brother Addle knows that. Giant sinkholes will choose the houses,

developments, and office buildings you constructed, plunging everything you’ve done

into oblivion,” Blodge said, drinking brandy from a snifter.

    At six a.m., Election Day, Dil and Slaterly came to my door. I was up, drinking my

third cup of cola nut tea, getting high. Each carried a canvas bag. I brushed away suspect

thoughts, having just swallowed a Dexamyl Spansule. Slaterly pulled a knife with his

good hand, Dil pushing me back, then shutting and triple-locking my front door.

    “Get that damn card and open the basement door,” said Dil, his voice gruffer than ever.

    “I lost it,” I said, knowing how false that sounded. “I could contact the firm that I

bought it from, though.” I felt sad. If an earthquake would now shake this house into
shards, the three of us miraculously unharmed, I would start again on those boards. 

    “Get it now or we’ll take turns slitting your throat,” said Slaterly.

     I obeyed, pulled the card from my wallet, Dil snatching it out of my hand. We walked

downstairs, and Dil switched on the lights. Two-dozen boards, stacked in six different

piles, a 25th one set aside. I heard Dil grunt, the big-bladed knife still held at my throat.

    One board had not been consummated with nails, only one side solidly packed with my

unfinished handiwork. Dil drew a .22 revolver good for certain types of hit-man killings.

My heart knocked fiercely; the drugs could not account for it. I sweated, perspiration

slithering down my face, getting into my eyes. My legs trembled, fearing Dil would pull

the trigger. Elected or not for a second term this would not save him from prosecution.

    Dil handed the gun to Slaterly, he pointing it at my heart. Dil flipped the board over,

finding a clean side of plywood. He slid down the board leaning against a workbench,

placing its uncreated surface right-side up on the basement floor.

    “Turn around,” barked Dil. His son jammed the barrel into my ear. I would rather take

my chances with the board.

    Dil opened the bag, pulling out duct tape, then reached behind me, wrapping the tape

around my eyes, nose, and hard around my mouth. He hit me on the head with something

blunt, and I conked out a while, then opened my eyes. He bashed me again, a sliver of

consciousness remained, but a dark kind.

    He kicked my arms so each laid on either sides of the board. Weak and motionless, I

heard the nail gun as he triggered large nails into my forearms, allowing me to feel the

awful pain, how it inflicted more pain than bullets would. The speed intensified the
pain; it never solved anything. After three nails entered my forehead, the next rounds into

all parts of my face, then the crucial three nails into the back of my head killed me.

George Sparling

George Sparling has been published in many literary magazines including Underground Voices, Thieves Jargon, Unlikely Stories, nthposition, Rattle, Word Riot, Slow Trains, and Zygote in my Coffee. He has a story in the current issue of Crack the Spine magazine and one due out in the next issue of Ascent Aspirations.

"Best job: Times Square bookstore. I could be as psychotic as possible and it blending in perfectly with New York City at that time. Worst job: Payless. I sat atop a huge pile of heavy boxes and could have toppled them down upon the head of that damn shipping boss; he was that vile."

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