I opened junk drawer number one: no.
Junk drawer number two: not in here. Maybe I was wrong.
Third and final junk drawer?
There it was.
I thought Elise had been storing our hammer in a new spot, but I couldn’t quite place where. Why did she have so many junk drawers, only to use them for storing things that
a. weren’t junk, and
b. had a clear location elsewhere?
Elise used to give the kids a bath around this time, and I was sick of noting it, day after day. I heaved myself off the couch.
It was time to do something about it.
I ran upstairs to the bathroom. Not as fast as that other day. I slammed open the door, I raised the hammer over my head, and I brought it down on the side of the bathtub
that day the water spilled out over the top and onto the floor, the water and the—
as hard as I could. Nothing happened.
No hairline fracture. Not even a chip.
It was resilient.
I didn’t need this bathtub anymore.
No Elise. No kids. Every night when 7:30 pm rolled around, I came up here. Stared into its depths like I would learn something. And you know what? I never learned anything.
The hammer was worthless. I needed something bigger.
I headed for the garage, paused in the kitchen. I rearranged the magnets that held a fingerpainting on the refrigerator.
James had loved painting but Allison hadn’t quite taken to it yet. She would start out with confidence—get her cute little fingers all painted up, and just stand there. Considering her composition, I suppose. Hell, I don’t know. Then she’d cry when the paint dried on her fingers without making it to the paper.
This one, though. This painting had been a breakthrough. Her first work of art without tears.
I moved on.
She’d just turned three.
I turned my back on the painting, and I moved on.
In the garage, behind Ally’s tricycle, I spotted it: our sledgehammer from the basement finishing fiasco of six years ago.
I raised it up over my head and brought it down hard on that close side, the rim where the water had spilled over that day. It was overflowing when I opened the door. That day.
An eyeball-sized chunk chipped off.
It was a start.
I kept working, kept smashing, kept bringing that sledgehammer down, my arms were on fire, but let’s be honest about who I am, they would have been anyway, from the least little exertion. I kept going until the bathtub broke into three. Three pieces.
I had to keep going, keep smashing. I could hardly breathe after I finished pulverizing the first piece. Bathtub dust all around me. I thought to flick on the fan switch, but it was weak. Barely worked. One more thing I was supposed to fix and didn’t.
I moved through the second piece, then the third, until they were dust. Every bit of that bathtub was destroyed, pipes coming out of the wall that led nowhere now. Dust stuck to every part of me, went in my mouth and I tasted it. The sweat rolled off, white ceramic mixed in, sliding off my face. I dropped the sledgehammer, swept that sweat off my chin.
I sat down on the floor. Rested my back up against the wall. I turned the disembodied faucet on so the water could run out onto the floor. Watched it soak the right leg of my jeans.
But no, I wouldn’t sit around in there again. I’d done enough of that. I turned off the faucet, I left the sledgehammer where it lay, and I closed the door on my way out.
My wife and kids had been dead for three months. Now the bathtub where they’d died was gone, too.
Who could I blame?
Myself? The mesh? Whoever thought it was a great idea to market chicken wire to string up my wife’s collapsed vagina? The company that sold the death of my whole family? The doctor who installed it? The FDA?
Yes, yes, and yes. And yes, yes, yes.
And yes, I still went back. Back to work at the FDA.
Love in the Time of the Improvised Explosive Device is available now on Kindle Unlimited.