Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By Eric Burbridge

            Harris kicked up mosquitoes and rabbits scattered on his way through the high weeds on the side of the shed. He should be ashamed for such neglect. Marilyn mentioned it, but he ignored her. High winds over time had shifted it on its base. The paint peeled on the combo wood and wrinkled sheet metal. The entrance faced the alley, not convenient, but the previous owner thought so. Weeds were everywhere, an obvious disadvantage of an unpaved alley. The property behind had a large garage for small construction equipment. Harris sprayed penetrating oil in the rusted padlock, inserted the key and waited a few minutes. If that did not do the trick he had a screwdriver. It popped, but the latch bent. He grabbed the door handles and tried to push them apart. They were stuck; the guides on the bottom were rusted and full of weeds, another push and they only separated slightly; another and they opened wide enough to get his overweight frame through. What was that smell? The sunlight revealed cobwebs that looked straight out of the movies hanging from the rafters and overhead beams. He brushed them aside, plastic containers lined the walls and rodent droppings were everywhere. Unused pipes and tubing dangled overhead from makeshift hooks and the rafters. He shoved folded lawn furniture to the side. Crickets chirped like mad, he hated that noise. It came from the same corner as that smell. Old musty smelling drop clothes covered what he hoped would be the charcoal he bought God knows how long ago. Was it worth the effort when he could go to the store instead? Yes. His mouth watered for the rib eye steaks he promised Marilyn. He yanked the cloth; dust and mouse droppings flew everywhere. Dammit! He forgot about his son’s wheels and expensive tire set he stored. Fifteen hundred a wheel…ridiculous. Children’s laughter and commotion spilled on to the neighbors back porch. He needed to shut the doors quickly. They could see directly in there. He slammed the rickety doors shut, but there was a small gap between the doors. Did the latch pop? He tried to separate the doors. Oh, no…please no! He pulled the doors; he was locked in. He kicked the cloth and boxes out the way and felt for the light switch. Thank God, it worked. Whoever was outside had left. He rattled the doors harder, “Help! Help! Can anybody hear me?” Calm down, take a deep breath, don’t panic, Harris, don’t. Wait a minute…think and make a systematic search for a thin piece of wood or metal; shove it in, pull it up and that will do the trick. Simple. Sweat poured down his face. He moved stuff on the work bench and checked the drawers. Nothing but useless tools, droppings and nuts and bolts. His screwdriver was too thick. Check the mini shelf overhead. He stepped on a small stool and reached for what appeared to be a tool box. Something furry jumped and hit him in the face. He fell back on the floor. His heart raced. What was that? A raccoon landed on the covered wheels…it sat there, showed its teeth then ran toward the corner behind the lawn furniture. He sprang to his feet and bumped his head on an overhead beam. Jesus! He rubbed his head and checked for blood. None. He clutched the screwdriver. He moved damp cardboard boxes by the table revealing a black and grey stripped tail. That death smell got stronger. The raccoon munched on something. A closer look; it was a pregnant garter snake. The coon turned and look up with bloody baby snakes wiggling hopelessly from its mouth. It sickened him; then the animal slipped out the hole in the base of the shed wall. Kick those damn doors you got to get out of here, Harris! Wait…is that a car coming down the alley? He peeked through the crack as the vehicle passed. It parked and he heard the door shut. Dammit, he forgot the guy’s name. “Hey, hey, neighbor come here. Help me…help me.” Silence. Did he hear him? Harris sweat like mad. The walls were closing in.

            “I thought I heard a cry for help, honey.” A male voice said, obviously on his cell.

            Harris banged again. “Help…can you hear me?”

            “There it is again. Sounds like it’s coming from that raggedy shed. Sounds like that guy who wouldn’t let me use his snow thrower. Remember that? Yeah, me too. It stopped must be my imagination.”

            The neighbor’s voice faded as he started laughing. “I know you hear me you son of a bitch!” He banged on the door and continued to try to pull the doors apart. Leave it before you break the thing. For a second he regretted his decision, but those people kept a new car. Buy your own equipment. He remembered the time he loaned out his lawn mower. The guy broke it and never spoke to him again. Dirty bastard.

            The heat, humidity and smell were killing him. His cell beeped; low battery and then rang. He forgot about that thing. “Where are you?” He shouted.

            “Why are you yelling at me? I’m at the store, what’s wrong?” Marilyn asked.

            “I’m locked in the shed! Can you believe it, the latch popped shut?”

            “Ok, back in five, relax, don’t panic.”

            “Five…five what? Five minutes, five hours.”

            “Five minutes.”

            “Relax, don’t panic my ass…you should be here.” Harris snapped. “Sorry, it’s not your fault.” He swore as soon as his son moved those damn wheels this shed was dead. He sat on the step stool and waited to be rescued.

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