Friday, May 28, 2021

Short Story, Endangered

Standing in front of the work bench in a woodshop that his uncle thought even the most skilled woodworkers would kill for, Brian had just put the finishing strokes of sanding on the Jack Post swing. He enjoyed making Jack Post swings. Even though they were really simple in design, they had this rather complex look to them like the framing of a wooden boat when they were finished, which could make even an amateur woodworker like himself look good.

            Although the woodshop was well-equipped with every machine manageable, he really only used two machines—the table saw and the drill press—the only two machines that he really knew how to use, that, as he progressed from novice to amateur, he thought, he only really needed for his style, straight lines.

            He put the block of spongy sand paper down then rested his hands on the edge of the workbench. If only he could get a couple of Brazilian Cherry boards, enough to build a Jack Post swing for his girlfriend, Sarah.

            Sarah was a fan of wood and woodworking, especially Brian’s woodworking—lucky him—and Brazilian Cherry was her favorite kind of wood. He not only wanted to build a swing for her, but he thought of how romantic it would be to propose to her on it. It wasn’t that Sarah was high end. Brazilian Cherry wasn’t a high-end wood; it was on the list of endangered species.

            Suddenly, Brian’s cell phone rang.

            “Hello?” he answered.

            “Hey, Brian!” the voice, in a wise guy tone, exclaimed on the other end of the phone. “Is that you?”

            “Ah, yes, it is. May I ask who’s calling?”

            “Who’s calling? Who’s calling? Are you kidding me? Dude, it’s me, Brian.”

            “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, Brian,” Brain replied. “What’s up?”

            “I’m in a rental car coming from the airport”

            “From where?” Brian asked.

            “Pittsburgh. I just flew in from New York.”

            “New York,” Brian repeated. “Wow.”

            “Yep, the Big Apple.”

            “What are you doing in New York?” Brian asked.

            “I work there. I’m a taxi driver. Oh, the stories I could tell you.”

            “Did you ever pick up anyone famous?” Brian asked.

            “No, but I can tell you the secrets of a lot of people—people cheating on their spouses—just to name a few. It’s not a boring job at all. It’s entertainment. Live entertainment.”

            “So, what are you coming to New Castle for?” Brian asked.

            “Well, I thought I’d come up to see Sarah.”

            “Sarah?” Brian asked.

            “Yes, Sarah,” he replied. “It’s been a while since she dumped me for you. Well, I think enough time has passed, so I thought I’d try to convinced her that I’ve changed, that I’d like to give it another try.”

            “Ah,” Brian said, “I see.”

            “Have you seen her?” Mike asked.

            “Well, yes, Mike. I have.”

            “Well, how is she?”

            “Well,” Brian said, “she’s doing great.”

            “You see her often?”

            “Well, yes, Mike,” Brian replied. “I’m seeing her.”

            “You’re what?” Mike asked.

            “I’m seeing her. We’re dating.”

            “You are,” Mike said.

            “Yeah, it’s been about a years and a half now.”

            “Wow,” Mike replied, “a whole year and a half. It’s serious, huh?”

            “Yeah, I’d say it’s serious,” Brian answered.

            “And she’s happy, huh?”

            “I’d say she’s pretty happy,” Brian replied.

            “Wow.”

            “She did break up with you, Mike. I mean I didn’t ask her out immediately—she dated a few guys before me—then I asked her out, a few months later.”

            “Hey, you know what, dude? There’s nothing to be sorry about. It’s not like I’m going to propose to her. It would have been more like starting from scratch, with the new me. But, hey, look. Now, I don’t have to worry about that now. I don’t have to put her through the damn past first.”

            “So, we’re good, right?” Brian asked.

            “Hell yeah, we’re good, dude, but hey, look,” Mike added. “It doesn’t mean I can’t see you, right?”

            “I guess,” Brian replied.

            “So, what have you been up to—besides banging Sarah? Fine piece of ass, ain’t she?”

            Brian pulled the phone away from his ear, grimaces, lip syncing, “What?

            “Oh, hey, look, dude,” Mike continued. “I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable. That was rude of me, wasn’t it?”

            “Well, it was.”

            “Back to what have you been up to?” Mike asked.

            “Well, I own a business,” Brian replied.

            “Ah, the entrepreneur,” Mike said.

            “Well, it’s a small business, a very small business,” Brian noted.

            “What do you sell—or service?” Mike asked.

            “I’m a woodworker. Sounds old-fashioned—but in a good way, dude, in only the best of ways.”

            “Yeah,” Brian added, “I own my own woodshop. It’s a small shop. I work from home, out of the garage.”

            “Hey, have you ever brought her in there. You know, Sarah, and banged her on the workbench?”

            Brian went silent.

            “—Just kidding, dude. Just kidding,” Mike replied. “Don’t answer that.”

            “I won’t.”

            “So…are you two in love?” Mike asked.

            “Yeah,” Brian replied, “I’d say we’re in love—very much.”

            “Wow,” Mike replied, “good for the both of you, good for the both of you!”

            “In fact, I’m thinking about asking her to marry me this weekend. I think that after a year and a half, it’s time,” Brian said. “We’re in love with each other, so, why not? It’s the next step. Why wait?”

            “Do you have a ring?” Mike asked.

            “I do, but I can’t give it to her yet?”

            “Why?” Mike asked. “What the hell are you waiting for? You did say it’s time.”

            “I mean I don’t have the right setting yet,” Brian replied.

            “Dude, what are you talking about? I thought you just said you had a ring?”

            “No-no,” Brian replied, “it’s the right setting; not the right place.”

            “Oh, gotcha,” Mike replied. “Where do you want to propose to her?”

            “Well,” Brian answered, “I wanted it to be in front of the orchard on the property. I’d like to hang a swing there, a swing I could make out of wood. Wood’s a favorite thing of hers, you know?”

            “I didn’t know,” Mike replied.

            Brian rolled his eyes.

            “Well,” Brian said, “she likes exotic woods, especially Brazilian Cherry, but all that’s around here is…”

            Brian looked up toward the wood boards he had stacked up in plenty against the wall—oak, maple, cherry.

            “…well, there’s no Brazilian Cherry,” Brian added.

            “Brazilian Cherry, huh?” Mike asked.

            “And I know I definitely can’t get it around here—not to mention from Brazil. It’s an endangered species, you know?”

            “I didn’t know,” Mike answered, “but, what if I told you I could get you some Brazilian Cherry?”

            “Wait. Where exactly would you get it from?” Brian asked.

            “Remember, dude, I’m living in New York; we New Yorkers can get anything.”

            “I suppose you’re right,” Brian added, “but I bet it’s expensive, isn’t it?”

            “It is,” Mike noted, “but I wouldn’t worry about that. It just so happens that I have a woodworker friend, just like you. He’s got a woodshop, right in the tampon of New York.

            Mike paused then spoke, “Kind of weird, isn’t it?”

            “What is?” Brian asked.

            “A woodshop,” Mike added, “right in the middle of Manhattan. You probably would think there’d be a woodshop right smack in the middle of Manhattan, would you?—I man you do see cops on horseback, but you don’t see farmers on tractors.”

            “So, you think you can get me some Brazilian Cherry,” Brian said.

            “I don’t think,” Mike added. “I know.”

            “Well,” Brian continued, “do you think there’s a chance you can get it to me, up here, in a couple of days? Sarah will be away on business.”

            “Shit,, dude,” Mike said. “I can get it for you overnight.”

            “Yeah, but for a price, right?” Brian asked.

            “You know what?” Mike added. “Consider it a wedding gift—delivery and all.”

            “Wow, well, thanks,” Brian said, “but you know what? You don’t have to do that. I’ll pay for it.”

            “Nope, dude,” Mike insisted, “I’ll take care of it, but—”

            Yes?” Brian asked.

            “You ask me to be your best man,” Mike replied.

            “Ah, you know what, Mike? I-I don’t know. Don’t you think that would be a little weird?”

            There was a silence.

            “—I’m fuckin’ with you, dude!” Mike exclaimed. “I’m fuckin’ with you! Just inviting me to your wedding.”

            “Well, I’d have to run it by her first,” Brian said.

            “Wow, you’re not even officially married, and you already hen pecked.”

There was a silence again.

            “—I’m fuckin’ with you, dude!” Mike exclaimed. “I’m fuckin’ with you!”

            “I thought you might be.”

            “I’ll just sit in. you know, in the back of the church during the wedding ceremony. You won’t even notice me. I’ll wear one of those Mardi Gras masks.”

            “Don’t you think that’ll be a little creepy?” Brian asked.

            There was that silence again.

            “—I got you again, dude! I got you again!

            “Just accept the Brazilian Cherry as a wedding gift, from a secret admirer, okay? Can we do that? Do we have a deal?”

            “Okay,” Brian replied, “we have a deal.”

            “Great! Expect the wood to be delivered by tomorrow morning,” Mike said.

            “Well, okay. Thanks.”

            “No problem, dude,” Mike added. “You lucky dog.”

            Brain hung up the phone. He tossed it onto the workbench. Sarah would have been ecstatic if he were able to build her a swing out of Brazilian Cherry, but unfortunately she would have to settle for ordinary pine stained in Brazilian Cherry—if he could even get a Brazilian Cherry stain—because that call, he thought, was just a bunch of bull shit.

He wondered why, after Brian had told Mike that he was dating Sarah, Mike would even want to do something like that for him. I mean he was dating Mike’s ex-girlfriend, for Christ’s sake. He bet Mike didn’t even live in New York—or Manhattan for that matter. He would bet that Mike was just a telemarketer.

            Suddenly, Brian’s cell phone rang. He rolled his eyes, thinking it was Mike again, but when he located the phone, upside down, on the work bench, and looked down toward the screen, realizing it was Sarah, he quickly answered it.

“Hey, Sarah.”

“Hey.” she replied.

“You’ll never believe who just called me,” Brian said.

“Who?”

“Mike.”

“Mike who?” she asked.

“Mike, your ex,” he said.

“Oh, that Mike,” she answered.

“What did that jerk want?” she asked.

“Well, he was coming up to see you,” Brian said. “He just got off a plane in Pittsburgh from New York.”

“What on earth did he want?” she asked.

“Well, he was hoping you’d give him another chance.”

“Another chance. Really,” she answered.

“Yeah,” he said.

“At a relationship?” she asked.

“Yes, that’s what he said.”

“Tell me something,” she said.

“What?”

“Why on earth would I do that?” she asked.

“That’s what I thought.”

“Did you tell him I’m 100% in love with you?” she asked.

“I did. I told him we were pretty serious.”

“Damn straight we are!” she reinforced. “I like a guy who can handle his wood.”

“Did you tell him you can pound me any time you want?” she asked.

“—Oh, god, I’m sorry. That sounded so slutty, didn’t it?

“God, I’m so embarrassed.”

“No, don’t be,” Brian said.

“Well, you don’t deserve to be talked to like that,” she added. “I’d like you to think that I’m a little classier than that.”

“No, you are, really,” he said. Then he spoke like Elvis, “But, hey, anyone who appreciates wood can stroke my hammer, you know what I mean, baby?”

Sarah laughed.

“You know? You always know exactly what to say to make me feel better,” she noted. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” he said.

“So,” he continued, “are you all packed and ready to go?

“I am,” she answered, “but, are you packed and ready to go?”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well,” she explained, “I was thinking, I don’t know, I could come over, we could go upstairs, and, you know—“

“Yes, Ma’am!” he said.

“But,” she said. “now that I know I can be bad around you, do you know that sturdy workbench you’ve got in you woodshop?”

He looked toward the workbench.

“Yes,” he answered.

“Well, I was just hoping, just hoping I could come over there, take off my clothes, and you could send me off properly?”

He looked toward the bench again. He rubs his forehead, he said, “I don’t know. It’s messy.”

He had leftovers wood screws and pieces of scrap wood strewn across the bench.

“Is that code for ‘I think that’s too slutty’”? she asked.

“No-no,” he replied, “I don’t think that’s slutty at all, not when you’re in a long-lasting, meaningful relationship with someone.”

“Then do you think it’s something we could do?” she asked.

“I think it’s something we could do,” he answered. He pressed down hard on the bench. It was pretty solid.

“Well, do you think it’s something we could do in, say, five minutes?

“Ah, yeah, I’d say it’s something we could do in five minutes,” he answered.

“Good,” she said, “then I’ll see you in five minutes.”

He hung up after her, then he looked down toward the surface of the workbench. He looked up toward the blade-shaped clock on the wall.

He turned around, looking frantically for an empty cardboard box in the woodshop. None was to be found. He quickly turned around looking looked for an empty cardboard box under the workbench. He found one, an empty banana box from Sam’s Club.

He puts the banana box up against the edge of the workbench. With his forearm, he sweeps tools, accessories to tools and pieces of cut wood into the box.

He yanked the box out. He held it up with his knee against the edge of the workbench. With his right arm, he swept the items on surface of the workbench into the box then tucked it amongst others under the bench.

He stood, looking down toward the surface of the workbench. A film of sawdust still lay across it. He reached up and grabbed a full roll of paper towel from a dispenser he had made out of wood just above it. He ripped off several sheets of paper towel then darted toward the side door of the shop outside.

A hose was attached to a spigot on a wooden post next to the garage.

Brian twisted the knob on the spigot as water sprayed out. He soaks the paper towel with it, lightly rung it out then darted back toward the woodshop.

Dodging machinery—almost running into a corner of the table saw—Brian returned to the workbench, quickly wiping away all of the sawdust on it with damp paper towel, turning the towel dark brown.

            He folding the towel and wiped the surface of the workbench again; this time the towel was less brown.

            He folded the paper towel again until he found a somewhat clean side.

            He wiped the bench again.

            He looked down toward the paper towel in his hands. He couldn’t tell whether the dust he saw the towel still came from the workbench, or the dust from the other side of the damp towel, coming through like a wet T-shirt competition.

            He looked down toward the workbench. “It isn’t Pledge, but it will have to do.”

            Then suddenly he paused, thinking. “Shit. What are we going to use for clean up?

He looked up toward up on the wall. He barely had a minute.

He quickly reached up, ripped off several more pieces of paper towel from the roll then darted outside for the side door.

                                

Just as Brian hung the damp paper towel over the handle on a vice attached to the end of the work bench, someone knocked with seven notes against the side door.

            Brian stopped. “Who’s there?”

            Sarah voice muffled on the other side of the door, “Me.

            Brian rushed over to answer the door, and Sarah stepped inside, wearing a beige overcoat.

            Sarah rolled her eyes. “I know. It’s an overcoat. I wish I could have been more creative than that, but, it is behind it that counts.”

            She strutted over toward the workbench, Brian right behind her. When she reached the workbench, she quickly turned around and opened the overcoat, wearing nothing behind it but two pieces of red lingerie against a slender figure whose skin was as smooth as the sands of the Arabian dessert.

            Brian gazed toward her and her body. “Wow!

            She reached toward him, placing her hand against his crotch as if she were a doctor examining it with a stethoscope and caressed it. “Oh, my, let’s get that hammer out, shall we?”

Looking up toward him very promiscuously, she unzipped his blue jeans, hoped up onto the workbench. With her legs spread open, she pulled him toward her.

 

Brian awoke in sweat pants and a badly worn T-shirt in his bed. He sat up on the edge of it, pausing for a moment. He and Sarah had made love hard in the woodshop the day before, tried every position there was—even invented some of their own—and now, his body ached. At first they had made love. They had looked into each other’s eyes and onto each other’s lips, held each other, caressed each other, and kissed each other, enjoying the scenery of each other’s body. Then they found themselves fucking each other, looking down toward each other’s completely exposed, most secrets parts and enjoying it, selfishly, as if it were pornography or they were porn stars. Then they found themselves just going through the motions of sex, thrusting very hard, where sex, the orgasm, had become something they both had to work hard for, cramp up for, but in the end, even after a sputter of an orgasm, it was all worth it. They loved each other, and didn’t need pornography. They had each other. They could do it. They could make love, and they could just have sex for the sake of sex, too feel good, yet collapse in complete exhaustion into each other’s arms and just hold each other. It was only them, for only them, for only each other.

            “Well,” Brian said to himself, “your orders in the woodshop aren’t going to build themselves.

            He placed both hands on his knees then hoisted himself up from the bed. On the back of his desk chair hung a pair of blue jeans, and a dark T-shirt. He put them on then exited the room.

Brian entered the kitchen. He took the empty kettle from a burner on the stove, filled it partially with water then set the kettle back on the stove, turning on a burner. Minutes later, steam shot up from the spout of the whistling kettle.

The steaming water from the kettle, as it poured it into a coffee cup, felt soothing against his hand. He went over to a cabinet, reached for a jar of instant coffee, spilled two spoonfuls into the cup, and then stirred it.

With the steamy cup of coffee in his hand, he walked over to the back door. As he lifted the cup up to his mouth he paused, looking out through the window in the door toward the woodshop.  

            There under a blue tarp looked like a stack of boards on the cement sidewalk in front of the woodshop. He didn’t remember ordering any wood—he hardly ever ordered any wood, living less than two miles from the lumber yard.

            Then he thought: Was there a stack of Brazilian Cherry sitting in front of his woodshop? Could Mike have really gotten him some Brazilian Cherry?

            Brian set the cup of coffee on the kitchen table, then, with his eyes on the blue tarp, he exited the house, walking toward the woodshop.

            When he reached the stack of wood, he squatted, lifting up part of the blue tarp and looked underneath it, revealing a stack of hard dark reddish boards—Brazilian Cherry.

            “Oh, my goodness,” Brian said, “the son of a bitch came through. The son of a bitch actually came through.”

He didn’t know where or who Mike had managed to get it from, or how he got it here, but he didn’t care, but he had better get the wood inside the shop.

He quickly closed the tarp as if he were covering a corpse and looked around. He seemed to be alone—but then again, it was 7:30 in the morning—who could have possibly been up?

            Brian quickly went around to the side of the garage to unlock the side shop door, and then he went inside the shop.         

Moments later, a garage door to the woodshop opened with Brian standing behind it.

He quickly carried the wood—the tarp still on it—into the woodshop and closed the garage door.

Brian removed the tarp from the wood. Then he squatted, grazing the wood with his fingers. The wood was absolutely gorgeous, and its natural dark-red grain looked like it had already been sanded. It was a shame, however, that it had to be planed down to a thickness of three quarters of an inch; all the boards on the swings that he had built were strips one and a half inches and three quarters of an in thick—that was standard.

He set the planer to three quarters of an inch, put on a pair of headphones, turned on the machine, and as the planer made a sound as loud as a siren he began carefully guiding the Brazilian Cherry wood through it.

 

Brian had planed the Brazilian Cherry boards to precisely three quarters of an inch thick. He shut off the power to the planer as the siren sound it made faded. He carried the boards over to the table saw. He set the table saw fence to a parallel distance of one and a half inches from the blade with a tape measure, checking the distance with the tape measure several times like a golfer measuring several times before he had put, settling for nothing less than an inch and a half.

He turned on the table saw, guiding each Brazilian Cherry board between the table saw

fence and the blade until he had as many one-and-a-half-inch strips as he could get out of the

boards. then one strip at a time, he trimmed both ends for a clean, fresh edge.

            Now, it was time to cut the strips into pieces for the swing’s framing, armrests, and the pieces to lie across the framing for the back and sitting surface.

            After measuring each piece twice and cutting once—actually, he liked each measuring each piece three times—in thirty minutes he had the pieces for the swing stacked as neatly and as organized as surgical utensils.

            Now, it was time to pre-drill holes in some of the pieces for the swing, and to make sure he had the exact center for each hole he penciled in an x from the corners of a perfect square. Then he went over to the drill press, drilling out the holes, following the perfectly vertical holes with a counter sink bit. This process took thirty minutes.

            It was time to assemble the swing. He carried the pieces over to the workbench, laying them on it carefully as it he had just delivered a baby, and cradling it, handing it over to its mother.

            On a shelf above the workbench, he had a plastic, see-through container looked like a piece of Tupperware that contained shiny wood screws; next to it was bottle of Elmore’s Wood Glue, which he swore by.

            One by one, with the wood glue and screws and a corded hand drill, he took each piece and assembled the framing of the swing, making sure the framing of the bottom of the swing as he went laid perfectly flat without even the slightest amount of wobble against the table, and then  he attached the posts of the back framing to the bottom, making sure each post stood perfectly perpendicular to the bottom.

            He had finished assembling the framing of the swing. It lay on the workbench still with no traces of even the slightest of a wobble, and the posts stood slightly angled back, all to a perfect fifteen degree. Assembling the framing was an exercise in text book synchronized woodworking

            Now, it was time to attach the slats that went across the bottom and back. He attached them with wood glue and finishing nails and spread the pieces equally apart. He added the armrest, and by the end of the afternoon, he had finished the swing. Now, after he had let the glue set overnight, it was ready for Sarah to sit on and for him to propose to her.

            He was now covered in a film of Brazilian Cherry sawdust. He turned off the shop lights and exited the shop to the house.

 

It was late into the evening now. In the same sweatpants and T-shirt he had worn the night before, Brian entered his bedroom. He turned out the light, and as he turned in front of a window toward the bed, he suddenly stopped, noticing what looked like someone snooping around with a flashlight in the woodshop.

He darted from the bedroom out into the hall, danced like Fred Astaire down the staircase. With his hand around the Newel Post, he swung around into the hall, across the tile floor and into the kitchen where he snatched a set of keys from a hook on the wall then unlocked the lever on the back door with a fast, hard twist, swung open the door and darted outside toward the garage.

As Brian darted across the asphalt to the woodshop, he paused, hearing the side door to the woodshop open and close with a slam.

Brian darted toward the side door, but when he had gotten there it was too late. He looked around frantically into the dark backyard. He could not see or hear a thing, just the next-door neighbor’s dog barking in the distance

Brian unlocked the side door then entered the woodshop, flicking on the switches of the four-switch panel. One by one, the fluorescent shop lights flickered and came on.

Brian looked directly toward the workbench. The swing was still there. He went over to it. It looked like it hadn’t been moved or even touched—no scratches or scrapes. He sighed in relief.

He looked around the shop. None of the tools or machines appeared to have been stolen, moved, or even touched. Perhaps, Brian thought, they hadn’t had enough time through the maze of machines and tools and with a flashlight alone.

He turns out the shop lights then exited the shop, locking the side door behind him.

The inside of the shop was dark.

A car motored down the road, its headlights beaming through the garage door windows, revealing a box in place of the banana box beneath the workbench.

 

The next morning in the shop, Brian put the final sanding strokes on the finished swing on the workbench.

He took a step back, looking proudly at the swing.

“Okay, it’s out to the orchard we go,” he said.

Brian opened the garage door then, just as he was about to lift the swing from the workbench, his cell phone rang.

He looked down toward the phone. He smiled, seeing that Sarah had called.

“Hey, Sarah,” he answered.

“Don’t hey, Sarah me,” she answered. “Brian, are you in the woodshop?”

He covered the phone with his hand. He whispers with anger, “Damn it! This was supposed to be a surprise!”

He darted over to the side door. He waited a moment. He opened it. The coast was clear.

“Brian!” Sarah exclaimed, her voice muffled by his hand.

“Yes, I’m in the woodshop,” he answered. “Why?”

“You tell me, Brian,” she answered.

“Damn it, Sarah, it was supposed to be a surprise,” he said.

“A surprise?” she asked. “Do you call that a surprise?”

“Well, it was supposed to be,” he said.

“Are you kidding me, right?” she asked.

“No,” he answered, “I’m quite serious.”

“Well, guess who I got a call from?” she asked.

He asked, “I don’t know. Who?”

“Mike.”

“Mike, your ex?” he asked.

“Yes, Brian. Mike.

“He said that you’re building me a swing,” she added.

“Yes,” Brian answered, “that was supposed to be the surprises.”

“Wait. You were going to surprise me with a stolen cross,” she asked.

“I don’t understand. What do you mean stolen cross?” Brian asked.

“Ugh,” Sarah said to herself, “and you think you know them.

“You’ve stolen a cross, from a church, didn’t you?”

“Sarah,” Brian replied, “I swear to you—I do not know what you’re talking about. I did not steal a cross from a church.”

“Come on, Brian. That swing you’re making me—it’s wood from a cross from St. Andre’s Church.”

He paused then said to himself, “That son of a bitch!”

“Brian, tell me,” Sarah asked, “what would possess you do such a thing?”

He rolled his eyes. “Sarah, listen to me.”

“Listen to you?” she asked.

“Yes, listen to me,” he pleaded. “Will you please?”

“Ugh, make it quick.”

“Sarah,” Brian explained, “I didn’t steal the cross. Mike did.

“Yes, I wanted to make you a swing out of exotic wood, and he claimed he could get me some Brazilian Pine from New York.”

“From New York, huh?

“Brian, tell me something.... Where the hell would you get Brazilian Pine in New York, unless it’s smuggled in? It’s bad enough it’s an endangered species, but stealing it from a church…

“Do you know how fucked up that is?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Don’t dig yourself a bigger whole than you’re already in,” Sarah added.

“Look,” Sarah. “I bet he did it to get you back.”

“Why the hell would I take him back?” she asked.

“Look. You stole the cross from St. Andre's, and to make matters even worse, you’ve smashed up the Christ that was on it, into little pieces, put them in a box, and hid them in your woodshop.

“Do you know how sick that is?” she asked.

“Sarah, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I did not know the wood came from St. Andre’s,” Brian said.

“Yeah, well, try telling that to the police—

“And please, do me a favor. When they ask you how you know me, tell them I’m your ex-girlfriend.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re through. I don’t want anything to do with you. Anything!

“I can’t believe I wanted you to fuck me on your workbench. To think it’s the same workbench you’ve built a swing from a cross you’ve stolen from a church!

“Ugh!”

She hung up the phone, slamming it down in his ear, Brian grimacing.

“That son of a bitch!” Brian said with a scowl.

He speed dialed Mike’s number, but after several rings, Mike didn’t answer.

“No surprise,” Brian said.

He put the cell phone down on the workbench, careful not to slam it.

“Where is that box? I’ve got to find that box,” he said.

Turning one way and then another, he looked frantically around the woodshop. He looked in every corner, behind every machine.

“Fuck! Where is it?” he asked.

Finally, he turned, zeroing in on a box underneath the workbench, noticing it wasn’t the banana box.

He bolted over to the workbench. He pulled the box out as what sounded like broken pieces of porcelain clanged inside it.

He opened the box.

Inside the box lay the pieces of broken porcelain of Christ from the cross.

Brian was about to reach in the box for the broken pieces but stopped himself inches from them.

“Wait. I bet he broke the Christ with rubber gloves on.

“Shit!”

Just as he was about to close the box, he noticed a red mark on a piece. Initially, he thought it was just paint, Christ’s blood, but when he peered toward it, he discovered that it was a bloody finger print.

Brain paused. In the distance he heard a parade of sirens racing toward the woodshop.

He turned back toward it. Then he looked down toward the fingerprint.        

“Ugh, thank god,” he said, signing with relief. “I can explain all this to Sarah.”

Short Story, Endangered

Standing in front of the work bench in a woodshop that his uncle thought even the most skilled woodworkers would kill for, Brian had just pu...