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Trapped in a Hot Shed

The padlock was looking worse for wear, but showing no signs of doing anything but deforming.

Back in the day, it was “yo momma.” Online it became “ur mom.” “yo” + “ur” = “your.” Weird that the whole second-person possessive can’t get it together. I was thinking about that as I hammered away at the padlock. In speech “yo” in typing “ur.” Why? On a regular keyboard the pairs are the same distance, but “yo” is a right-hand operation, where “ur” is both hands.

The padlock wouldn’t open, and my shoulders were getting tired and my nerves were getting rattled from all the sudden impacts. The padlock was looking worse for wear, but showing no signs of doing anything but deforming. I set the hammer down and looked around the old shed for something to get between the lock and the shackle, to put the stress where it belonged.

It was hot in the shed, the sun overhead sending all those fragments of energy into the rusty metal roof, which caused tiny vibrations in the metal, caused heat, and the air next to it would feel that vibe and bounce into neighbor after neighbor, turning the whole space into a big oven. The padlock was hot, too, from all those whacks with the hammer. No photons required.

I found a few bits of wood, but they wouldn’t be strong enough to bust the lock. The shelves were all thin metal: even if I could tear one down, it wouldn’t be enough leverage. And even the vertical members wouldn’t fit, too big. Fuck the lock. Attack the door before I cook. But before the door, find a weak spot. Attack the wall. Attack a corner. Get some fresh air. Attack the ceiling, vent the heat to space.

I was getting overheated. I wasn’t thinking so hot. I picked up the hammer and started banging at the walls. Fucking metal has no soul. It doesn’t care. It’s so hard and not cold right now so hot right now if I touch a wall, don’t even have to touch a wall to feel the heat like off a fire.

I looked for a seam where the metal meets its neighbor. A weak spot. All these shelves get in the way. Has to be somewhere. Some way to break something here.

Floor’s concrete, no hope there. Did I mention it’s dark? No electricity in this little shit shed just cover from the rain. It’s light enough to feel like you’re squinting at dusk, but you can kinda see. If it rained I could wait, it would cool off, but the heat out there, can’t be a cloud above. If it was almost night, I could wait until dawn. Too dark at night.

I can’t wait. Another hour of this and I’ll be memory. I picked up the hammer and tried to put the handle in the shackle. Won’t fit. The hammer was here on a shelf. To let me wear myself out faster, which I almost did with the fit of anger. People always pissed me off with “yo momma” and “ur mom.” Talking like they knew the woman. Intimately. Assholes.

A corner of a shelf maybe could shim between the seam and pry but it wouldn’t be more than an inch or so. Not flat. Can’t get it very far. Not that strong for prying. Made to hold a perpendicular force not to become a lever to save my life.

When I get out I might kill them. I want to, but I know deep down I’ll be so glad to be out that I won’t even remember their names. I won’t waste a second looking over my shoulder. They baited me in, shut the door before I realized. Padlock’s on the inside, with this pair of bars from the wall that were made to close the lock when the door comes closed. How do they get it open again? It was made for this.

If I could apply a twisting force, this shed would fall so fast I’d bust my head. Have to think about it in ways the builder didn’t. Dump all the crap off a shelf. Pull the shelf down with a noise that pushes hot air into my ears. The building has pressure from the heat. The walls are pushing out, even a little. Nothing to do with it.

I push and grind the shelf into a corner, at an angle. I climb on it, get my weight going into one of the walls with it. The metal keeps slipping. Don’t feel it budge. Have to get down: the shelf’s drawing heat from the walls, burns when I touch it too long. How God-damned hot is it out there?

Five shelves. Put one in the corner, leaning. Put another—how? Weigh them on top of each other, somehow. Tear it down. Not on a corner. Flat side. More stress. Door would be better, but the shelves are too wide and sideways would hit the ceiling.

Heavy, lift a second shelf and get the legs stuck into the one against the wall. Doesn’t help. Wants to be a hinge toward the ground, not much against the wall. Better to have a point into the wall. Concentrate force at an arrowhead. Shed is rectangle. Narrower on the door and back wall. Lean two shelves on the side walls, a third to slide between. No point though. Broadside, distributes force too much.

Kick around the crap I dumped off the shelves. Half-bags of concrete, some nails, length of hose, nothing to use. Feeling another wave of the heat. Each one worse. Body dumping so much sweat but no air to evaporate.

Corner of shelf on the door, on the hinges. Bad angle. Barely stable. Are they outside? Watching? Waiting? Second shelf at the foot of the first, barnraise it up and shove it until it’s hitting the ceiling. Almost vertical. Keep shoving it, wedging it down on the first, on the top hinge. Idiot: door opens in. Try to pull it off, but it’s wedged and the bottom shelf has bent. Door is now a loss.

Another wave from all that exertion. Stupid thing to do. Lay on the ground, coolest part of the shed. Concrete. Still feels warm, but not hot at least.

Concrete. Only the structure is attached, not the sheetmetal walls. They attach to the frame. Three centimeter square tubing. Welded. No nuts and bolts. Welded pins through the walls through the frames. Place built for this.

Cutting the walls. That’s the only real way. Find the nails, take the hammer, pointillism. Find one of the scraps of wood, drive seven nails through, haphazard asterisk. Points to metal wall, hammer away. Too hard, distributes too much force. One nail, hammer, wants to deflect, nearly hit my thumb. Another board, one nail. Punches through, a little star, a beam through the dark and heat and dust.

Move it over, second star. Third, fourth, a minor system, a small galaxy. Enough holes now I can feel the air warm but cooler. Start using the hammer against the perforated area. Fist-sized hole now. Feeling some real relief when I stick my mouth to it and draw some clear breaths. Don’t want to leave it to make it bigger, but after a minute I force myself to get back to puncturing farther down the wall.

Work is slower farther down. Hard to get the angle right, even on my knees. Start filling in between there and the hole. Stopped to look out through it. Empty field, no shadows of my captors visible. No sounds. I spent a few minutes hammering down on the slice of metal at the top of the hole, hoping to tear down faster, but it didn’t really work. Went back to poking holes, hammering the nail in the board. I’m hurting, but no longer gonna die from heat stroke. Dehydration’s a different story. All that sweat, my head feels like it wants to turn inside out.

I finally got a nice long hole, from my chest down to mid-thigh. It’s half as wide as it needs to be, so if I try to squeeze through, I won’t and I’ll cut myself to hell. All the patience I can muster, I widen the hole both ways at the top, poking hole after hole as much as I can. I get started on the middle, too, but I’m so tired and feel so awful. I hammer the holes out as much as I can and then hammer the flaps they make, which is almost wide enough, but has the benefit of being a smooth fold that won’t slice me up.


At this point in the drafting, the United States Supreme Court’s foolhardy majority declined to do their jobs, so I’ve declined to finish this.

Mondays, Inc.

A brief tale of Mondays, Inc., which oversees the brand of the second day of the week, Monday.

“Alright, folks, I know it’s Monday, but this weekend we got new numbers and this requires immediate attention. We’re looking worse and worse as the years roll on, and we need to make a change,” said Alicia Pines, the CEO of Mondays, Incorporated. The staff had gathered out in the parking lot for an all-hands meeting.

“Tuesday, they did that taco tie-in a few years back, and they’re doing great. Wednesday convinced couples to take their ‘hump day’ nickname literally, which has made them quite popular. Thursday isn’t doing great, but it has that ‘at least it’s not Monday’ vibe to it. Which is the problem. We’re the laughingstock of the week. Everyone hates us. Friday was already the most popular of the weekdays, then they got that whole casual thing going, a cherry on top.

“The weekenders, Saturday and Sunday, they could be horrible for all anyone really knows about them, but just by being the weekend they get a huge boost. So I want everyone to come back next Monday with some concrete proposals to turn this day around.”

That gave Janice Mary Ellen Mays a whole week to work on her proposal. What would it be? Better recognition that at least four federal holidays fall on Mondays—the sometimes third-day of a weekend? But that left something like 48 other Mondays that didn’t. It might backfire.

And one of the days had to be the least-liked, didn’t it? There were songs. The Mamas and the Papas, The Bangles [Prince wrote it, though. — Ed.], The Carpenters. Take your pick. And that cat in the comics!

The moon thing. Janice Mary Ellen Mays thought about that satellite. It had a mixed reputation, too. Once it was blamed for insanity, and the connection with Monday, a day of traditionally lower mental health and general malaise and illness. Air pollution surely played a role there. All that extra vehicular activity, industrial plants ramping up production, all of it.

What the heck was Alicia thinking? Not every day could be beloved. Some days had to be the awkward and the lesser, didn’t they? What could Monday offer the world that it wasn’t already offering? Mangoes? Mushrooms? Marmalade? Couldn’t be food. That would be seen as derivative of Tuesday’s brilliant play.

Tuesday. All those albums with the anti-Monday songs were released on Tuesdays. Coincidence? Mays wondered. Maybe the whole problem with Mondays was really Tuesday. They hated those few days after long weekends that Tuesday started the week. Tuesday hated being Mondayed. But that wasn’t going to be worth much on Monday, if she got up and told everyone, “We’re the victim of a vast calendar conspiracy by our neighbor.”

There had to be something that Monday could do, some way to shine itself up and get people to proclaim “Thank God it’s Monday.”

Next Monday came along, with a variety of proposals offered. Chuck Bora presented on Mondays getting a mascot. “What, like a bear? ‘Only you can prevent Mondays?'” someone joked.

Betsy Kemp proposed lobbying for more three-day weekends, so that half of Mondays would be covered. She had charts showing that the increased animosity to Tuesdays, tacos or no, plus the increased affiliation of Mondays as a partial weekend-day would make relatively strong gains for the brand. Consensus was, however, that the business lobby would not spring for more days off.

Finally it was Janice Mary Ellen Mays’ turn. She said Monday should own its reputation. Adopt an intentionally antagonistic attitude. “Yeah, it’s Monday. What’re you gonna do about it?!” Let people know they spend a seventh of their lives struggling through Mondays, and tough shit, they should be glad there aren’t two Mondays every week.

Out came her big guns. Let people proclaim themselves the Mondays of society. “I’m a Monday Person and Proud of it,” a T-shirt design offered. “Monday person? Like morning people?” Alicia seemed intrigued.

And that’s how Janice Mary Ellen Mays got fired—on a Monday.

Maggie’s Magic Toothbrush

The origin story of Maggie’s Magic Toothbrush.

Just an idea I’ve been toying with. First draft quality.

(Origin story.)

Maggie smiled at herself in the mirror of the old dental sales display. She was at the “Tooth Museum” as her cousin called it, where her mother, a dentist, would take her every year on the anniversary of losing her first tooth nine years ago. Officially it was the Museum of Dental Art and Science.

She’d seen the evolution of dentures, from animal teeth and wood all the way to the 3D printed ones that had embedded microcontrollers. She’d seen the exhibit on tooth fashion—braces and whitening and capping, the money makers. Funny how fashion always made someone rich. But today she was let in to the junkyard—”excess archives” they called it.

The archives were all the stuff they didn’t show you. Like her girlfriend’s comic books—she’d show off her #1 Vegetable Massacre, but her frickin’ mattress was propped up by all those boxes full of books she never saw. The excess archives were all the things they didn’t even want, but hadn’t gotten rid of. And that’s how Maggie found this old salespiece, from when dentists went from town to town.

It had a mirror, because even then sales was everything. Make the customer open their mouth and point out what needs fixing, what you can do for them. Let them see for themselves. Everyone likes to smile, and who doesn’t want everyone to like to see them smile?

Maggie wondered if it was real mercury on the mirror, that maybe they couldn’t put it out on that account. The regular archives might have better version already: more complete, better condition, or more definitive. Or maybe it just didn’t fit with enough of the exhibits to really sell itself as part of a package of curiosities to discover.

It had all these pull-out trays with little stickers to cross reference their belongings in some cabinet somewhere. The teeth on offer, the soaps and brushes and picks, those were all cataloged and kept separately.

Maggie pondered the modern version, figuring it would have a digital display where you could zoom in on the teeth. It would outline them and label them and probably report the albedo and all sorts of junk. It would have a built-in scanner, for capturing the full shape information.

She idly pulled out an empty tray, long thin slots for brushes she guessed. Horse hair? Wooden handles, surely, just like the cabinet. Straight ones, though. Harder to angle them and get a good bristle-surface contact. Still, better than just chewing on sticks. And better for the environment than all that plast—it wouldn’t slide all the way in.

She pulled it back out a bit and slowly pushed it back in, but it butted up against something on the right side. She could feel the tray want to go on the left, but the right—something was behind it. She pulled it out all the way and took a look.

Metal handle for something, she thought, reaching her arm in the hole where the tray went. Her fingertips brushed it, but couldn’t quite get there. She pulled out the tray above, and this time she got it.