NAILGUN

Tim Tucker

On this warm Spring night, a middle aged woman named Norma strolled blissfully down Chicago's 95th Street humming tunelessly to herself. The air was soft and the night sky clear, an almost perfect evening. She had always loved this city, and this was one of the nights that made her appreciate it more. Norma passed by a young couple holding hands and laughing at perhaps some shared secret. She met their eyes and gave them a sweet smile. The couple smiled back and Norma went on her way thinking, that's how me and Jack used to look, so young and in love.

Even at forty five years old Norma still had the look of a fresh faced debutante about her. She was dressed in a light, dark blue blouse and dark gray dress with a large handbag draped across her shoulder. Her hair was blonde and cut in a bob style. Her complexion was fair and her eyes a warm blue. She wasn't extraordinarily beautiful but on this night under the nostalgic air of Spring she was absolutely radiant.

Norma crossed 95th, a bounce in her step and the same smile on her lips. She came to a modest little pawn shop specializing in hardware and gardening supplies and stepped inside. The shelves were stocked with an assortment of power tools and trinkets. A radio at the checkout counter spoke of troubling times in the city; another victim had been found with multiple stab wounds across their body, the perpetrator still at large, the newscaster had reported.

Norma shuddered and pushed the grisly story from her mind as she perused the shelves for a gift for her husband Jack. A carpenter by trade, Jack was always the industrious type who busied himself with projects even when he wasn't on the job, but now as he got older even the most menial of tasks seemed to put a strain on his body. Norma was searching for a gift that was easy to use, that would be less of a hassle on his arthritis afflicted joints, and she found exactly what she was looking for on a shelf next to a row of power drills.

The nailgun was one of the sleek, cordless models which featured a user friendly handle and trigger guard. She picked it up to test its weight and found it to be lightweight yet sturdy in her grip. Norma knew little about carpentry and even less about power tools but she knew that jack would appreciate her gift nonetheless.

She took the nailgun to the checkout counter. The cashier, an overweight, balding man of about forty, whistled emphatically as he rung up her purchase.

"The Dewalt semi automatic cordless," he said lovingly. "This beaut' right here is top of the line stuff. Doing some work around the house?"

"Actually, it's a birthday gift for my husband." Norma gave him her warmest smile. "He's a carpenter."

"Then you picked the perfect tool ma'am. The semi auto makes it more a rooking gun but it'll punch a hole in just about anything; wood, steel, concrete, you name it."

"It's already doing a pretty good job punching a hole in my wallet!"

They both laughed. "Lady, there are two things that you can't put a price on," the cashier said. "One is quality. The other is love."

And he was right. Norma paid for the nailgun with cash and politely declined his offer to have it gift wrapped. She stuffed the gun, charger and all, into her handbag and bid the cashier farewell.

Back out on the street Norma walked with even more pep in her step, eyes wide, not so much in alertness but with an anticipation of giving her husband his gift, of seeing the look on his face when he realized just how much his wife cared for him. She walked past two men outside of a laundromat smoking and talking in hushed tones. She walked on, unaware that the men had stopped talking and were looking after her with sly smirks.

At 95th and Harlem she stopped and looked around. The street was darker and lined with brownstones and shadowy, vague shapes of dumpsters and trash cans. She walked slower and stole a glance at her watch. She was all alone on either side of the street -

- No, not quite.

The wavering shadow of a man lurked in the gloom inbetween brownstones. As she walked closer she could make out his features. He was a young man dressed in a ragged petty coat and stained slacks with a dingy Cubs baseball cap resting on his head. He was most likely homeless. He approached Norma from the shadows – much too close. His hands were shoved deep inside the pockets of his coat.

"Excuse me ma'am," the young man said. "can you spare some change for the homeless? Anything'll be appreciated."

Norma frowned and stared into his face. It was darker now so she just had to be sure, he looked so young. She reached into her handbag and smiled once again. "Of course I can."

The nailgun was in her hand.

"You know I'll do anything for you Jack."

She squeezed the trigger three times and was rewarded by a satisfying triplet of dull THUNKS as the nails slammed into his abdomen. He backed away, his face a dark blur, his mouth agape in horror, and he wasn't jack, because Jack had been dead for the past five years, ever since that warm Spring night when she had struck him in the back of the head with his hammer and then slit his throat from ear to ear with his boxcutter.

The young man tripped over his own feet and crashed to the ground in a screaming heap. Norma remembered what the pawn shop worker had said about the gun being semi auto and she fidgeted with the controls on the side until – ah, there it is.

The scream caught in his throat as he was assaulted by a volley of mortally sharp nails and Norma never knew that a sound so wretched could come from another human being and she kept squeezing the trigger even as his death rattle ceased and his body fell still because she was fucking insane, she was a delusional sociopath hell bent on showing her dead husband just how much she loved him, she was out of her goddamned mind, she was painfully, hopelessly in -

-Love.

After the last nail had been discharged she slipped the gun back into her handbag and backed away from the bloody shadow sprawled on the pavement. She turned and headed back down the street, the bounce once again in her step. She took a deep breath and breathed in the scent of garbage and piss, but to her it was love that was in the Spring air and she knew that Jack was waiting for her in these dark streets and she would find him, hopefully soon.

THE END