Sledgehammer.

A short story. Apologies to my editor friends for the non-existent indentation. WordPress apparently hates my TAB key. 

It had started to snow again. The radio mentioned something about it not stopping all night. That put Cochrane on course for eight feet or more of the white stuff. That all suited Edgar just fine, snow or no snow, him and John would be working late into the evening, driving around in a beat-up Datsun pick-up, hitting chunks of ice off the crude oil pipeline that ran through town. If the ice collected, and one of the sections of pipe froze and exploded, it would be a cluster-fuck that would make the news, and more importantly, get Edgar and John fired right fucking quick.

In the middle of the front seat of the pick-up was a six pack of Miller High Life, two packs of cheap cigars, and a large and weathered looking sledgehammer.

Edgar, who wasn’t driving, grabbed one of the High Life bottles and popped the top off with his teeth. His wife’s voice echoed in his head, something about, “any one of these days, you’re going to shoot one of those rotted hunks of bone into your coffee cup.”

He stopped thinking about that, and then took a drink of beer. It was warm, but warm beer was okay on a cold night.

“Stop here,” said Edgar, “we haven’t stopped in a while.”

“But you just cracked a beer,” replied John.

“That’s fine; I’m not going to be the one swinging the hammer.”

“But it’s your turn.”

“I’ll do the next two.”

“Whatever man, I’m just saying you’re skipping your turn is all.”

“And I’m saying that I heard you just fine.”

Fuck, could John ever bitch, thought Edgar to himself, still, there were worse people to be stuck out in the snow with. At least John talked, even if all that talk was bitch. There was nothing worse than a 10 hour shift with just the radio, and the snores and awkward of silence of a co-worker who didn’t talk.

Edgar kept looking out the window as John pulled the truck over beside the pipeline they had been driving down. There wasn’t much to look at. Even if the sun had been up, and the weather had been clear, there would have been nothing to see but miles of snow covered farmland. It was usually after a few hours of 4X4 driving that Edgar came to the realization that he had no idea where he was. It was a strange feeling for someone who had lived in the area their entire life.

John swung the door of the truck open, flipped up the hood on his jacket, and grabbed the sledge off the seat.

“You even going to come out and spot?” asked John.

“I guess. Wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself.”

Edgar popped open the glove compartment of the truck and pulled out a wool toque and some gloves. He stepped out of the truck into snow up to the tops of his ankles. The wind hadn’t picked up yet, so the cold didn’t tear him in half like it did on most nights.

Small miracles, he thought.

By the time Edgar made his way around to the other side of the truck, John was already swinging the hammer against the pipe, sending loud pangs of impact out into the night. Edgar sipped his beer and stood far enough back to be out of the range of any pieces of ice that would come flying off.

Within ten minutes, they were back in the truck. John cranked the heat dial on the dash.

“No wind, but it sure is freezing out there,” said John.

“Yeah. Nobody could call it warm.”

Edgar tore the plastic off one of the packs of cigars, pulled one out and lit it with a red bic he carried in his pocket.

“Roll down the window,” said John.

“You just bitched about how cold it was.”

“Just crack it.”

“Why?”

“Boss will bitch if the cab smells like cheap cigar.”

Edgar cracked the window an inch or so, and then exhaled smoke out into the night.

“You want to drive or something?” asked John.

“Nah, I’m okay, just take us to the next spot.”

John put the truck in to gear, and headed forward down the line. Patsy Cline came on the radio, sad and mournful. Edgar turned the volume dial up and crushed the rest of his cigar into the truck’s ashtray.

“You have a day off last week?” asked Edgar.

“Yeah, Thursday.”

“Do anything?”

“Went to the bar.”

“Which one?”

“Rick’s.”

“Everybody goes to Rick’s.”

“What?”

“Never mind. Have a good time?”

“Yeah, met someone, we have kind of a thing going now.”

“Lucky you. She pretty?”

“She is. Red hair, blue eyes, and one of those tramp stamp tattoos on her back of some shit I can’t remember. We only fuck missionary.”

Edgar didn’t say anything for a while. The cab was silent, save for Patsy Cline and the sound of the hot air coming through the vents. It could be some other girl; he thought to himself, there was no guarantee that it was her. Even so, Edgar’s heart was pounding, and he gripped the door handle till his knuckles went white and hurt. It could be just a coincidence, he thought. It couldn’t be her. Then why the fuck won’t be heart stop beating so fast?

It couldn’t have been her. She wouldn’t do that.

There was no fucking way.

No chance.

John kept talking, but Edgar wasn’t listening. He was only wondering if John was or had fucked his wife. What did, “have kind of a thing going now,” mean anyway? Had it happened more than once?

Through gritted teeth: “You going to see her again?

With bravado:  “Oh, we’ve been seeing each other whenever possible.”

Inquisitively: “You know anything about her?”

“Not really. I get the vibe that she’s married, always wants to meet in hotel rooms and shit like that.”

Edgar’s vision blurred. The next couple minutes all smeared together into a grotesque mental buffet of obscene fuck images involving John and his wife.

“What’s her name?” asked Edgar.

The question hung in the air. John put his hand to his forehead and thought.

“Linda, I think.”

Edgar’s mind flashed through images like a slide projector with the button held down; their wedding day, the honeymoon, and all their time together, an entire seven years of marriage screamed through his head.

 Edgar managed to choke out some words, “pull over, we’ll hit here.”

“It hasn’t been far enough yet.

“Whatever. Just pull the fucking truck over.”

“Jesus, what the fuck has gotten into you?”

Edgar said nothing. John pulled the truck over. Edgar grabbed the sledgehammer off the seat.

“Finally, you’re going to actually take a turn?”

“Yeah. Come outside and spot me.”

Edgar got out of the truck and walked out into the snow and headed towards the pipe. His head spun. He could hear John get out of the Datsun behind him. He was standing about a meter away. Edgar swung the hammer into the pipe. Chunks of ice fell from the fringes, and the sound of metal being struck rang loud in his ears. He swung again. Every time the hammer hit, a new image of his wife and John blitzkrieg’d through his mind. He kept swinging. Edgar lifted the hammer for another hit, but paused.

“You okay their buddy?” Asked John as he slowly walked towards where Edgar stood panting heavy, the sledge poised above his head.

Edgar turned and swung the hammer down onto John’s head. A sickening crack accompanied the blow, and a gush of blood and brain matter squirted out of John’s ears. The impact drove John’s body down to the ground and sent a dusting of snow into the air.

There was no need to hit him again.

The noise in Edgar’s head stopped. The roar subsided. He stood over John’s body, watched the blood pool into the snow. It felt like nothing at all. Everything was numb. He couldn’t feel the wind, he couldn’t feel the cold, and the only noise Edgar registered was his heart still pounding, almost in time with the gushes of blood coming from John’s wound.

He didn’t know how long he stood there in the snow with the body. Eventually, Edgar got back into Datsun, and turned on the heat. He laid the bloody sledgehammer on the passenger seat. Then he put the truck into gear and turned the truck around to drive it back along the tracks they had been making all night.

It was at least an hour drive home. His wife would still be up.  

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