He left work at 5 pm sharp preoccupied with the faulty lock on the laundry room door entering the garage. Last week his wife assigned him an urgent maintenance job.
“The door locked by itself and I had to use my key to get into the house, make sure to fix it,” she said.
“I’ll have to get a new lock for it,” he replied.
And just to be on the safe side, he hung an extra key on a hook in the garage. Every minor repair in house could lead to an argument and potentially a huge headache.
“I was busy this week; I’ll get it done this weekend. In the meantime, if you get locked out, just use the key on the hook high on the wall on the left of the door.”
He arrived home around 6:30. As he pulled into the alley and just before he turned into his own driveway, he waved at his neighbor in the house behind theirs. The neighbor waved back with a friendly smile.
This man was the neighbor who was always working on classic cars and his latest project was rebuilding a red 1965 Ford Mustang in his driveway. Although seeing a dismantled engine, a fallen muffler or loose components of a cylinder scattered around on the floor was not a pretty sight, witnessing a gradual reincarnation of extinct species was truly exhilarating. He’d never developed an interest in working on his car, yet his neighbor’s perseverance and endless patience and expertise in breathing life into a corpse had earned his utmost respect.
As soon as he parked in the garage entered the house, he snatched a cold beer from refrigerator and checked his emails. Then he changed his clothes and put his cell phone in his tee-shirt pocket and walked to the kitchen to prepare dinner. His wife once again had taken refuge in her parent’s house for the weekend to stay away from him after an intense argument. Judging based on the quarrel history and severity of their latest clash; he was certain she wouldn’t be back until Monday and if he was lucky enough maybe even Tuesday. He was looking forward to a relaxing weekend all for himself and determined to make the best of it.
He placed his laptop on the kitchen counter where he could watch the UN general assembly meeting on nuclear proliferation on YouTube while cooking. He was craving for chicken curry tonight. All he needed was chicken breasts, curry paste, garlic, fresh cilantro, onions and coconut milk. His stomach growled just by fantasizing about the aroma of curry stew and lifted his spirit even before he started cooking.
He grabbed the ingredients from the pantry and refrigerator and darted out into the garage to get the chicken breasts from the freezer. As usual instead of walking inside the garage, he stretched half of his body inside and kept his right foot in the door to keep it open and skillfully managed to reach the freezer and grab two pieces of chicken breasts.
As he pivoted to get inside, startled by the ring of his cell phone; he swiftly changed hands and held frozen poultry by the left and fished the phone out of his pocket with the other. The split second before he got a chance to flip it open and as he was still keeping the door ajar with his torso, both birds slipped and flew out of his hand. In an effort to catch them before they hit the dirty garage floor and not losing his phone at the same time, he lost his balance and fell.
Instinctively he grabbed the door frame to regain his balance and reached the hinged side of the doorjamb; but lost his balance completely and fell down and the heavy spring loaded door slammed shut on his right hand locked inside.
For a moment he felt like he’d been electrocuted. An excruciating pain zapped his entire nervous system and knocked him out.
When he gained consciousness in throbbing pain, the garage was darker and his memory of what’d happened to him was lost; he could not at first fathom his situation. Four fingers were crushed inside the jammed shut door and his dark blue thumb was swollen beyond recognition. His body had given out and his brain was not functioning. The incoherent images of the horror flashed through his head and once again he passed out.
Next time he woke, his eyes were filled with tears and his mouth dry. His right hand was swollen all the way up to his arm and the excruciating pain was ravaging his entire being. His hand was morphed into the door as if it’d been sculpted by a surrealist artist with a bizarre imagination. Witnessing the ominous artwork he had become himself made him realize he would never be able to hold a brush to paint anymore; the mere notion was intolerable, he sobbed silently into another coma.
“Cut the chicken breasts in cubes. Add extra virgin olive oil in a wok and sprinkle a pinch of mustard seeds and cumin and turn up the heat. In a few minutes seeds start popping in hot oil unleashing the heavenly aroma…,” the recipe ricocheted in his aching head before the ring of his cell phone jolted his consciousness.
His only hand reached his shirt pocket with a glimpse of hope to grab the phone but the phone was not in his reach; it was tossed underneath the car far from his grasp; the fluorescent light of its panel sparkled in the darkness for a few seconds.
He stretched his neck and scanned the garage from his vantage point and spotted dozens of tools and gadgets hanging on the walls and resting on the shelves among them a medical emergency kit and a stylish oversized red panic button that would call 911 and communicate his exact location by one touch. He saw so many tools and devices mounted on the walls or resting on the bench, available to be used in an emergency all of which were too far to reach and too close to compound his agony.
The very first time he passed by his neighbor’s garage in the alley and as he stretched his hand to push the button on his garage door remote opener, his neighbor thought he was waving at him, so he waved back. This unintentional friendly gesture was repeated several times until he realized he’d inadvertently demonstrated a courteous behavior. Since then, every time he returned home, they waived at one another. Although they never met one another in person and introduced themselves, they managed to establish a remote acquaintance based on a simple misunderstanding.
Blood was crusted on the door frame. As he desperately reached for the doorknob, his wife’s warning pierced his brain and his gaze was drawn to the extra key on the wall. The small red dot on his cell phone was blinking. The caller must’ve left a message. But he knew the message was not from his wife; he knew her too well to expect the call. In a way, he was glad if it wasn’t her call otherwise by not answering her call promptly on a Friday night; he would’ve created a whole new issue in their marriage. His swollen hand was still bleeding.
“Timing is crucial to cooking. Sauté onions and crushed garlic together but separately from the chicken…”
He stretched his neck to see the glowing numbers of the digital clock on the opposite wall. The time now was 1:30 am. Even if he screamed in midnight silence, he could not be heard. His corner lot house was only neighbored by a vacant house for sale. His anemic body was in the throes of collapse. He extended his entire body in every direction yet he reached nowhere but to a higher threshold of pain.
He cried for help, but his muffled squeal tainted with unnerving pain faded in his solitude.
“Add chopped cilantro to the sauce and sprinkle some on the plate to garnish…”