Prompt Day # 29: Have fun with carpentry accidents
This one is later in the day than I had hoped. It is almost 9pm here. But besides waiting to get out of a fjord where I had no wifi access, I also had to battle a bout of seasickness this evening which postponed my getting to one of the limited spots on the ship where wifi is available. Man, between the last post and this one, I am full of excuses, aren’t I? Bottom line is, I have indeed been writing everyday, whether I can post everyday is sometimes based on things beyond my control. You’ll just have to trust me that I am keeping up with my goal. I have to say, I’m close to the one month mark and I am very proud of myself. I had to work very hard to get through medical school, but I can honestly say I have never wanted anything as bad as I want to write and while it is hard work, it’s hard work I absolutely love. I find myself consumed by it daily. I’m always thinking of my writing, always wishing I could sneak away to write more. Its such a great addiction to have. I really hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and please feel free to comment anytime, even if it is criticism.
0 Days Accident-Free
When we took the renovation job at the old orphanage, we had this sign that said 200 Days Accident-Free. We had it at every job we went to, the boss said it made people trust us more. I thought it probably made people wonder what the accident was 201 days ago. If you’re wondering about it, it was when Phil put a damn nail through his thumb putting up drywall. It missed the bone; now he just has a divot in the skin where it happened. He’s got a wicked looking fingerprint too. I didn’t think that was a big enough deal to change the sign but Boss-man says if it requires medical attention, ya gotta change the sign. Anyhow, the orphanage had been closed down since 1974. It was closed by the state. People ‘round here have all sorts of crazy stories about neglect, abuse and unaccounted for deaths of some of the kids. Then, five years before it closed, I guess some of the staff turned up dead too. So, of course, everyone in town says it’s haunted and everyone knows a friend of a friend who’d once snuck in and had some ghastly experience. I used to laugh at that shit. Yep, I used to.
The thing was an eyesore sittin’ up high on this hill; anyone coming into town from the south east side (where most tourists would be coming from) could easily see it sitting there with its ugly boarded up windows and the porch caved in. Finally, the city planners voted 4-1 that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So we were hired to renovate the outside to appear “glorious and historic” and the inside “just enough to meet safety requirements.” The idea was to start offering haunted tours and if things went well, we’d eventually be contracted again to update the staff wing for overnight stays.
The inside was even worse than the exterior and we spent the first two weeks just clearing out the rubbish. We were told to save any toys, clothing, or equipment that looked salvageable. I was shocked at how much of that sort of stuff had been left behind and made a mental note to do some research on the place. You might think, coming in, that one day, everyone just up and disappeared.
Our group was assigned to the second floor which had two wings of rooms (a boys wing and a girls wing), what appeared to be a classroom, an office, and a room that looked to be a medical exam room in the center between the bedrooms. At the start, there were eight of us; we split up into fours each taking a wing. Me, Harv, Scooter, and Roy took the boys’ side; Jake, Blackie, Phil and Sanders took the girls. We agreed to meet in the middle and take care of the three group rooms together. The newest guy on the job was Jake and he’d been with us for two years so, it wasn’t like any of us was newbies. The first day went ok, the worst thing that happened was Blackie falling off the ladder and me hitting my thumb with a hammer like three times. We didn’t tell the boss. The sign is kind of stupid but we still take a lot of pride in it. That day though, we found a lot of clothes and toys and books. We put them on the beds in the rooms and kept plastic tarps over them to keep the sawdust off. We was in the third room when Scooter found the journal. He flipped through it before throwing it on the bed.
“Hey guys, listen to this” he said and we all stopped and turned around. He started reading “Today I had to see Dr. Franklin. He wanted to look at my scar to see how it was healing up. I told him it hurt and was real itchy. I told him I didn’t like feeling that thing under my skin. He said I would get used to it. Then he looked at the blisters on my head. He said not to worry about them, he said that is normal after getting the treatments. I told him I didn’t think any family was gonna pick me cause of all the blisters and scars on me but he says they would probably want me more since I’ve been getting all these treatments to help me be better and smarter too. I don’t feel much smarter though.” He looked up at us. “Jesus, what were they doing here to these kids?”
“Who knows and who gives a rat’s ass anyhow, Scooter. Those kids are either old and moldy or dead now anyhow. I just want to get our shit done and get out of here. I got vacation coming up when this job is over. The sooner it is, the sooner I’m gone.” Roy told him and I agreed. I wanted to get the job done too, but that’s because I found the whole place a little too creepy.
“Yeah, well, you’re an asshole then. I’m taking this book home. It’s got some good stuff in here and I want to know what happened to the kid.” Scooter said, tucking the book into the pocket of his yellow safety jacket.
“Eh, fuck you. Hand me the nail gun” Roy said. It wasn’t really the last words you’d hope to speak, but the thing is, I guess you never know what words will be your last.
Roy’d been working with nail guns practically his whole life. His daddy was a carpenter and so were all his uncles. There’s really no explanation for what happened next, other than complete lack of attention to the job. He had the damn thing turned around backwards, facing himself. He put it up against the drywall sheet, pulled the handle and put a housing nail through his right eye and into his brain. He dropped dead before any of us even had a chance to say stop.
I ain’t gonna lie to ya. Although I have a feeling I ain’t the only one who ever wondered this, but I have always had this morbid curiosity about eyeball injuries. Like do they pop like a little water balloon or just squish like a grape or what? Trust me when I tell you this: you do not want to ever find out first hand. It popped and oozed, a bloody thick gelatin like stuff and the eye itself turned milky as it sort of deflated.
If you think the job was shut down for this, you’ve never worked on a timed contract. The sign was flipped back to 0 days Accident-Free, Roy’s body was carted off, we were given the rest of the day off with expectations that we return bright and early tomorrow. We did. We all had families, we had no choice. We were still expected to get the same amount of work done though. So there we all were the next day; a new start: 1 Day Accident-Free Scooter was the least affected, he went right back to talking about this kid’s journal. You’d think Scooter had adopted him the way he went on. It seemed the Dr. Franklin was using experimental medicine on the boys from what Scooter figured. Each kid got paired up, one got treatment and the other didn’t (lucky little bastard), Scooter’s boy—his name turned out to be Walt—was the treatment kid, his partner, Frank, was free and clear. Harv, already a little pissed to have to work harder to make up for Roy’s loss, had had about enough of Scooter’s jabbering and by lunch time, he pulled him aside. Scooter said Harv told him he knew what happened to poor old Roy. He figured Roy could hardly concentrate with Scooter runnin’ his mouth non-stop. He said something like “I’ll be damned if I’m gonna get distracted listening to your history lesson.” Scooter just took it, eating his bologna and cheese. He said he figured everyone was just a bit shook up over Roy’s accident so he nodded and kept quiet.
After lunch, we all headed back to our stations. Harv couldn’t find his circular saw. He was in the middle of bitching out Scooter for puttin’ it somewhere in retaliation when it came on all by itself just above him on the ladder. He looked up, mouth open like a carp when the thing fell, splitting his face in two.
The sign was set back to zero again.
The next day, everyone listened to Scooter’s update, even poor Phil who got moved over to our crew since it was down to me and Scooter. His boy, Walt, had started having seizures and the blisters on his head had turned into ulcers. Scooter said his writing was getting worse too. Phil joked that a couple more treatments and Walt would be as smart as Scooter. Later that day, Phil’s watch band got caught in the power drill, and his hand was ripped off. He bled out before help could get to him. I did my best to stop the bleeding, but it was no use. The sign was turned to zero yet again. We couldn’t seem to get past one day.
The guys from the girls’ wing managed to finish up. And somehow we managed to get through two days accident free. Scooter stayed quiet. I think we all had started to wonder if there was some paranormal connection between Scooter’s boy, Walt and the accidents. With the extra help we finished up the boys wing and all went out to celebrate when the sign turned to 7 Days Accident-Free. We tackled the classroom with only a minor incident when Sanders ripped a nail off with the electric screwdriver. We clocked eight days and things started to feel normal again.
When we got to the office, we found old medical charts in the filing cabinet. Scooter sat down and went through every one until he found Walt’s. We all kept working, pretending it didn’t bother us at all as he sat, chain smoking, eating his Combos (Scooter always had a bag of Combos on him, always). He kept blurting out “Oh no!’ and “Oh Christ” and “That’s fucked up”. Sanders, who was working with his finger all bandaged up, had had enough.
“Jesus Christ, Scooter! You know, we’ve all had enough of this hell hole, and I for one would like to get out of here. Maybe if you got your ass up and helped us, we might actually accomplish it.” He stood, hands on his hips, glaring at Scooter, who at this point had tears streaming down his face.
“I’m sorry, Man, this poor kid, I mean, the stuff this guy did to him. You have no idea.” Scooter said, completely nonplussed by Sanders’ anger. He put the folder down on the desk and got up to help.
“Ok, Ok. I get it, I feel for the kid too, but he’s gone. So, if you could put your little history project on the backburner, we’d all appreciate it.” And then, you could tell he was thinking about Phil and Roy and Harv, he added: “I mean, yeah, that poor kid. We just, I mean, maybe if we can restore the place, it’ll set his spirit free or something.”
He climbed up the ladder and asked Scooter to hand him the nail gun attached to the air compressor. Scooter did and then spotted the ladder for him. Sanders got the first nail in no problem, then the compressor hose broke, flew up and smacked Sanders in the face, he jerked back instinctively and lost his balance. His neck broke instantly on impact. Scooter grabbed the plug and immediately pulled it. Blackie had him by the collar shaking him violently. He was screaming at him about how it was all his fault.
I don’t remember any of us having the belt sander up in the rafters but it fell on Blackie who lost his balance. He fell and the sander landed on his face. It was clearly unplugged. We saw it, but it was running anyways. Blackie’s face was gone by the time we got it off him; his lips, his eye lids, his nose and chin, all gone. I’ve never seen a skull on a living person, and I hope I never see it again. Sometimes late at night, I close my eyes and that image is just there, waiting for me. Those nights, I don’t sleep.
Blackie survived the accident, but shot himself the day he was released from the hospital. The job was shut down and the city abandoned the whole idea. No other company would touch it anyways. Scooter took all the files from the office home with him. No one tried to stop him. Jake rode the ambulance with Blackie that last day. He went back a week or so later to get his tool belt. He was found dead after he fell through the floor of the second floor medical office.
The sign still stands at 0 Accident-Free Days, and my guess is, it will never be updated. The company went out of business shortly after the orphanage job. Scooter ended up writing a book on the orphanage and specifically Walter’s story. He used the proceeds to purchase the orphanage and had it condemned. In the process, multiple children’s remains were found in the basement. Scooter purchased cemetery plots for each and every one of them including grave stones. Walter’s was identified by the medical records Scooter had kept, and his stone was elaborate and included a statue of a small boy angel.
That’s all I know to tell you. I haven’t touched a tool again since that day. I won’t even go into houses older than forty years. I’m the only one left besides Scooter and I feel like Walt won’t truly rest until everyone who didn’t care enough about him to listen to Scooter is dead. I never said too much one way or the other, I just did my work. I hope it’s enough. I bought Scooter’s book, and I visited Walt’s grave. I’ve been 1,825 days accident-free and counting.