Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 39

Photo by HalGatewood.com on Unsplash

I loved Tae Kwon Do from the start. It was the discipline I needed as a pudgy, soft teenager. I only reached the level of green belt, but I always preferred the flashy kicks so commonplace in TKD. The back kick, the spinning wheel kick, the hook kick, and most of all the sturdy, all-purpose side-kick. I never had the form of Chuck Norris, but I fantasized one day I might. If I practiced enough, that I might, in time, reach his level of mastery. That’s the beauty of martial arts; it’s a study that can last forever. The more advanced one becomes in martial arts, the more subtle and nuanced the lessons become. It’s an asymptotic progression. Small gradual increments of progression interspersed with occasional quantum leaps.

Dwight and I worked for the one store in our little town that sold new and used TVs, furniture, rugs, lamps, and appliances. We did janitorial services, mopped, washed windows, made furniture deliveries, cleaned newly purchased used appliances so we might resell them.

Dwight was the son of a preacher and had an odd sense of humor that bordered on the sadistic. Once, because he was bored or perhaps because he was truly a psychopath, Dwight had stuck several cockroaches to a strip of masking tape. He left the strip hanging somewhere. When the store owner came across it, he thought the cockroaches had gotten themselves stuck. Soon thereafter, we were tasked with covering all the nooks and crannies in all the warehouses with masking tape, to help eradicate the cockroach problem. He was a very twisted kid.

The store had several furniture warehouses, with display cases so shoppers could see how their furniture mixed and matched with end tables, coffee tables, lamps, rugs, etc. Looking back, it seemed we were forever gaining new warehouses.

One of our rented warehouse spaces was an upstairs area. There were stairs in the front for the shoppers to enter. In the back, there was a narrower, creaky staircase for moving furniture in and out. The long, dark staircase descended to a landing that was an eight-foot by eight-foot square.

The boss’s wife had tasked Dwight and me with cleaning the additional space and doing whatever was needed to prep it for use. When we descended the back staircase, we realized some previous tenants had securely boarded and nailed the door leading to the outside shut.

They had done an excellent job of ensuring it would stay shut. There were 2×4’s nailed across the door frame with what seemed like thousands of nails into the door itself.

Dwight and I began pulling nails. We extracted hundreds. Our hammers and pry bars were a blur for what felt like hours. We would occasionally stop and see if we had freed the door enough from the nails for it to open. Time after time, we learned it was still quite firmly secured shut. So we would pick our hammers and crowbars back up and continue pulling nails.

Eventually, my adolescent brain grew bored with the menial task and sought a more exciting way to open the back door. Remembering my martial arts ambitions, I threw down my hammer and pry-bar in disgust. I stood facing the door, squared off to deliver my most powerful side-kick.


Nothing. The door was still stuck shut.

So I tried again with the same nothing as fruit for my efforts.

Then came a series of three quick kicks delivered in rapid succession.

Still, the door refused to open.

I need to describe the landing area. It was loosely square, and the walls were ancient and brick. The plaster between was dusty, crumbly, and desiccated, but the bricks had done an admirable job of holding the door frame and door in place for centuries for all I knew.

I kicked and kicked and kicked at the door. In my mind, I had pulled enough nails. The door should be open by now. So I continued raining down kicks upon it.

Eventually, the brick wall to the right of the door frame surrendered its one job of remaining upright. It collapsed in a rather slow-motion sequence of crumbling. Bricks tumbled out of the wall, onto the pavement outside. Some fell inward, to where Dwight and I had been standing. Once I had begun my Karate-Kid act, he stood up and to the side so that I could kick the door to my heart’s content. The door never fell, but the wall on both sides did.

Dwight began laughing hard. And, perhaps sensing that we might be in some peril, what with the bricks tumbling out of the ancient wall, he fled. The only route open to him was back up the stairs. But he was laughing too hard to negotiate stairs. So he fell several times. He would manage three stairs, then collapse onto the bare wooden steps, laughing like he’d lost his damn mind.

The crumpled wall paralyzed me with guilt and fear! What had I done!? I just stared as the brick wall slowly collapsed.

I thought someone would surely fire me, but my father, a carpenter, was summoned and asked to submit a bid for repairing the wall. That was the beginning of a working arrangement that lasted for several years. My father was still doing carpentry work for him three years later when I left to attend college at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

I was lucky I wasn’t seriously hurt that day. And I never understood how I could keep my job either.

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