A Box of Nails

Martin borrowed a box of nails from a neighbor who moved away after the loan.  He promised to replace the nails, “as soon as possible.”  Martin’s roommate, Jack, said, “don’t worry about it.  A box of nails isn’t worth much.  Besides, they moved away and have probably forgotten all about the nails.”  

Martin’s mind sped around his head worrying about his nail-debt.  Martin was a man of his word.  At night, he tossed and turned in bed assuming that his old neighbor regarded him as a thief, a good-for-nothing moocher, and a liar. 

I have to replace the nails, I must replace the nails, was a never-ending nag in Martin’s psyche.  He heard it while he sipped his morning coffee, as he listened to music on the way to work, riding in elevators, shopping at the grocery store, shaving, bathing, everywhere he went his consciousness nagged him to replace the nails.  

If Martin gave himself a mental break it was only to google possibilities of where his neighbors may have moved, or to stalk Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter looking for any clue of where a person who once lived at 4782 Wilshire Way, #4 Edmonton, NV, might have relocated.

Martin white-knuckled his car steering wheel as he drove up and down every road, complex parking lot and subdivision within hundreds of miles looking for the car that used to park in #4, beside his car.  He asked strangers if they knew of anyone who recently moved in.  He always carried the nails in case he got lucky.  Martin placed an ad on Craig’s List: Desperate to repay a box of nails to a former neighbor: 4782… Sarcastic responses poured: “I’ll nail you down,” “You nailed it, call Trixie for a good time,” “I got your nails.”

Martin stopped going out with friends.  He spent most of his time alone in his room.  His roommate, Jack, moved out and would check in with him through texts and phone calls but Martin ignored them.  Martin expanded his geographical search but it didn’t do him much good because there was only a scattering of farm houses beyond the hundreds of miles he searched.  He checked out every farm house to no avail.

Martin stopped looking.

Eighteen months later, after a sleepless night of tossing, turning and nagging himself, Martin awoke defeated.  As he sipped coffee on his sofa he heard light, fingernail taps on his aluminum door.  Jack was the only person who ever stopped by but Martin was certain the light taps weren’t coming from him.  Jack always banged with his whole arm.  Martin decided not to answer the door.  His disheveled, unruly hair, worn boxers, and whitish-gray t-shirt was too alarming, even for a stranger.

Tap, tap, TAP, tap, tap, TAP, turned urgent, as though the tapper knew Martin was inside.  Whoever it was persisted.  Running his fingers through his hair, pulling his t-shirt down to shade his shorts he peered through the peephole.  The tapper was Martin’s old neighbor, the one he owed the nails to.

“I want my nails.  Jack says you’re trying to replace the nails you borrowed from me.  Martin?  It’s me, Nell.  I know you’re in there.  I can see your car down below.”  Tap, tap, TAP.  Martin tore off his shirt and ran to the bedroom to put on clean clothes. 

He opened the door with the box of small nails in his hand.  She was even more beautiful than he remembered.

Martin handed her the box of nails.  “I was hoping you’d be home,” she said.

The end.

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