Fiction: The Escape Hammer

By Jeff Burd

I’m sitting at the kitchen table in my flannel nightgown and wool socks, a hot cup of coffee in my hands, when you come in from the garage dressed for the hunt in your camouflage coat and pants. You’re puffing your chest the way you do when you remember flowers for my birthday or are sure you got me the perfect Christmas gift. You have a FedEx overnight box in your hands that you slice open with your buck knife. You pull out a hand-sized orange object shaped like a letter T. You cut it out of its plastic shell, slide it across the table to me, and check the expression on my face.

I glance at the packaging and see the device is called The Escape Hammer. The “escape” part keeps my attention, printed there in large white font on orange cardboard. Is this finally my way out of this cycle of bruises and apologies? All this time–did I just need the right tool? If only it was so laughably easy. A wry smile creeps across my lips.

For car emergencies, you say.

I nod.

You point to the handle and say there’s a blade notched in there’ll cut through an unretractable seat belt.

You keep checking my face, but only see the slight curls at the corners of my mouth. You say a stuck seatbelt, like if it’s jammed.

You say something about escaping from a car, but your voice trails off. And then you say something about how the pointed tips on the hammer part will smash right through glass.

I look at the China cabinet and imagine jagged chunks of glass stuck in the door frames. Generations of porcelain in glistening shards on the floor.

You say it’s easy to use, even with my twiggy wrists and tiny hands.

You say it like an accusation, like my petite frame is my fault. You don’t mind it so much when your huge gut pins me to the mattress.

I pick up the hammer and tell you thanks.

I drop my hand to my side and feel the weight of the device sway my arm like a pendulum. I look at your pale, bald skull. Where am I supposed to aim? How hard do I have to swing it?

You say keep it in the glove box. Because shit happens this time of year. Jackasses end up as human popsicles in a lake or a river after they drive their cars off icy bridges.

There’s a thought. Just let go of the steering wheel.

Foot off the brakes. My car finds its way through the guardrail and splashes down. Slips below the surface. Freezing water trickles in as the car settles to the bottom. Numbness creeps upward. Feet. Legs. Stomach. Chest.

You say something about watching out for my safety, but your voice trails off again.

Jeff Burd is a graduate of the Northwestern University writing program. He spends a lot of time writing and thinking about writing, and worrying about not writing and thinking about writing.