Short Stories

Short Story of the Week: “Sandpaper”

By: Corinne Madden

This article is brought to you by: McMorran Place
701 McMorran Blvd, Port Huron, 48060, Tel: 810-985-6166/ http://www.mcmorran.com/

The rain pelted down on the maroon, metal roof as the humid air surround us in the small, dense garage. Even though the giant garage door that took up most of the north wall was open, it did nothing to cool down our soaked bodies from the hours of labor we’ve done. I got up from the front right tire of a 2005 Mustang V6 that I was sitting on and stretched, yawning as I rubbed the back of my neck. The smell of wood, embers, and metal filled the fourteen-by-fourteen-foot lean-too, but the smell of cigarette smoke lingered from the porpoise-colored car, but surprisingly I didn’t mind it too much. What I minded was the loud roar of a steel blade slicing through the top layer of plastic that covered the steel body panels, the only earmuffs we had in the garage covering my friend’s ears as he worked aimlessly on the rear right fender, embers flying around him as he focused on his work. I scowled and walked over to the small white window and pulled it open, a breeze traveling through the small open space as I looked out the window to the sky where seagulls were making their unwanted approach, their cries echoing the sky as I smiled a painful smile. The beach where the seagulls would call to one another came to my mind as I remember two lovers holding each other close in the back of a small SUV, trying to get away from the wretched world around them, the world that threatened to end them all together. The place where they would laugh and joke and share kisses and talk about what they want for their futures. But now, that was gone. Her brown eyes didn’t gaze into the blue ones she loved so much, now they were just covered by tears.

I looked to a black car door that laid on a sawhorse a ways from the window, some sort of rouge colored putty filling where there used to be many major scratches, ready to be sanded. I sighed as I walked towards the door, the heels of my worn out, ebony, biker boots clicked along the cement floor, picking up a quarter sheet of 220 sandpaper along the way. I positioned myself and glided my hand over the rough plastic door and began to sand, rubbing in a circular motion over the putty as the noise ceased to exist and the embers stopped flying.

“Faye, are you almost done with that door?” My friend asked as I watched him get up from a grey, five-gallon bucket, setting his tool to the side as he walked over to me. His white shirt  stained with sweat and grease as his blue jeans hosted dark oil stains. His sunglasses rested on top of his head that was covered with chocolate colored hair as his boots were covered in scratches, oil, dirt, and grease stains. His hazel eyes always seemed to have a fire behind them, the fire of determination, as his white smile cheered anyone up as soon as he would walk in the room.

“No, not yet, Nitis, I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m getting it done, promise.” I watched him as he walked over to me, lightly pushing my arm to give me the signal to move away as he analyzed my work carefully, running his stained fingers over the plastic. “Well? Pretty good, right?”

“No,” he said sternly as I winched, “It’s not. First of all, you’re not using a soap solution to get off any dirt and wax that might be on from the last owner. Second, see how this isn’t blending in with the rest of the plastic here? You want to do it like this, then go back the opposite way to make it blend,” he said as he took the 220 from my hand, rubbing it in short spurts up and down over the putty, then switching it right-to-left as it started to blend in more than what I previously had done with the circular motion. “There, like that. See how it’s blending in more?”

“Yeah,” I mumbled, “It looks better.” I snatched the 220 from his hand and gently pushed him out of the way, wishing my mocha hair wasn’t up in a ponytail so I could cover the sadness and annoyance that showed in my midnight eyes. “Now get back to working on the panel, please.”

“Alright,” he said sighing, “You’re not yourself. Usually you’re this tough girl, the one who’s determined to do anything, and now you’re in a dark place being annoyed by everything. What’s up?” I looked up at him, his hazel eyes now filling with worry instead of the fire I would always see in them. I sighed and gripped the sandpaper in my hands, careful not to let it slip.

“It’s nothing, just leave it,” I said as I started to sand down the putty, just like how Nitis showed me a few seconds ago. I pressed down on the paper hard, rubbing it as far into the plastic as I could. I could feel the pain striding back in my chest, tears starting to brim in my eyes as I gritted my teeth together, moving my hand faster.

“Stop it, now!” Nitis said, placing his hand on mine, “That’s enough, otherwise you’ll wreck it. Now, tell me what’s wrong.”

“It’s none of your business, lay off!” I screamed, trying to move my hand from under his, “Go work on your part!”

“Is this about Beor?” he asked as I stopped, looking up at him with wide eyes. A small tear ran down my cheek as his face stayed stern, his eyes gazing at me as we stared at each other, my hand frozen still. How did he know, was it that obvious? Did I make it that obvious?

“How do you know?” I asked, my voice barely audible, “Why? Why would you say that?” I said as I tried my best to hold the access of tears that had been held in my eyes the past few weeks.

“Because you have been discreetly focused on something else and not the door you’re supposed to be sanding down. I knew about Beor from your grandmother when I went to visit her three weeks ago.” He picked my hand up and forced my fingers to let go of the 220, taking it in his hands, “I know you’re not okay.”

“I’m fine, see? Now give me back the sandpaper so I can get this done!” I screamed at him, trying my best to grab the paper from his hands.

“No, you’re not,” he said, putting it over his head like he would when we were young children, “I can tell that you’re not fine, so quit acting like this. If you want to talk about it, go ahead, I’ll listen.”

“I’m okay,” I said as I grabbed two fistfuls of his shirt, “I’m… fine.” The tears fell endlessly as I placed my forehead on his chest, “He’s in love with someone else, he doesn’t love me anymore. I was an idiot to think that something perfect like that would last, to think that one day we would try again! He keeps telling me that I’ll find someone else but he’s wrong, I won’t! I won’t find anyone else because I’m the hardest person to love, nobody wants to be with a screw-up who has a mental disorder, whose family will get in the way! I’m not okay, I’m far from it!” I felt Nitis’ strong arms wrap around me, the comfort trying to enter my mind, “I don’t want to be alone anymore, I’m sick and tired of being alone!”

We stayed there for a few moments as Nitis let me release all my emotions that I’d bottled up inside. The seagulls were still calling to one another as they flew over the lean-too, the rain still pelting down on the roof as my mind started to slow down. Nitis released me from his hug as I looked up at him. He smiled softly, lightly pushing the sandpaper back into my hand, as I clasped my fist around it. His rough hands moved to my cheeks, wiping away my tears just like Beor used to do a time ago.

“Look, you’re going to be okay, you know why?” he asked me as I shook my head. He backed up a few steps and set his hand on the unfinished door, looking at it. “Right now, you are this door. This door had a lot of scratches in it so we filled it with putty to hide them, then we’re sanding it down. You’re going to get hurt from all the bad stuff in your life, but you’re eventually going to be smooth and part of a bigger part of something great. You can do this, I know things are bad right now,” he said while pulling me close again, “But they eventually get better, okay?”

“Alright,” I said as I used the sleeves of my grey sweatshirt to wipe my eyes.

“Good, now get back to work, okay?” He said handing me the 220. I smiled at him and watched as he went back to the rear panel to finish up his cut. Looking at the sandpaper in my hand, I walked towards the window and looked up. I knew that I wasn’t going to get better right away, I know there won’t be any more days where Beor and I will be at the beach, where we kiss and talk about our futures and laugh and joke, where I will tell him how much I love him and him telling me how much he loves me. I know that the chance of that happening is slim to none, but I know that eventually I’ll be okay. I walk away smooth and part of something bigger, like Nitis said I would. It’s just going to take time.  

Healing always takes time.

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About the author

Corinne Madden

Corinne Madden is currently attending St. Clair County Community College pursuing a degree in Secondary Education, specializing in English Literature and Theory. She loves to read, write, and research. Her focus currently is with short story fiction and occasionally non-fiction- specifically the real-world challenges people face daily: the impacts of losing a loved one, depression, and the wiliness and drive that occurs when someone feels it necessary to protect their loved ones.
Her mentor authors are endless: Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allen Poe, George Orwell, J.K Rowling, Stephan King, Jane Austen, J.R.R Tolkien, to name a few. In her spare time she also likes to do landscape photography, often going out on shoots once or twice a week. Corinne is also a member of Holy Family church in Memphis, Michigan.

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