The Last Nail This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The Last Nail by M. P., Merrimack, NH



Like a rooster to farmers, the pounding of the retired man's hammer awoke the thinning-haired man's understanding wife every morning that summer. She had even grown accustomed to his characteristic three successive thumps, then a short pause, before the next triumvirate. Often he would stay outside all day, hammering boards into his tool shed, with only a pitcher of ice water and an occasional Red Sox game on the radio to keep him company. "I saw more of him when he worked than I do now. When's he gonna finish that damned shed?" she had once written in her diary and then quickly crossed it out. Nevertheless, the man's first few months of retirement seemed like a story that the short gray-haired man's wife had once read to him from Reader's Digest.

By May, the 30 foot by 30-foot outdoor edifice stood almost half-complete. "Can't finish 'til they drop off the lumber," he repeated dogmatically to his wife through the midsummer months, and, although she saw him working daily, in September the wooden tool shed remained incomplete. The impasses he now faced were "the damned warehouse's fault," but, having been a mother for 30 years, and a wife for 35, she knew a Truth and began to pity him, not for the reason he gave her, but for the reasons which he did not.

As the brisk New England autumn began its surrender to the bitterness of the winter, the man, who had once parachuted into North Korea, hammered in the last nail, securing the building's structural soundness, and, with the work complete, walked inside, received by the open arms of his wife for the first time since his retirement.

"You really done?" she asked not expecting the silence with which he responded.

"Wash up. Take me out," she commanded with far less ferocity than she had been practicing all morning.

"No ... no, too tired. I wanna rest on the couch." So, with beer in hand, he fell asleep.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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