Nailed in Place

Nailed in Place

by Abha Iyengar

Nabhi is working in the bedroom, putting some screws in place for me to hang my paintings. My attempts at art have been nothing but splashes of colour, but in my eyes, my artwork breathes life. This is a new flat I have moved into, and it has oppressively white walls. It needs my paintings.

I am in the kitchen, placing old paintbrushes in a jar of white vinegar to remove the dead, dry paint, when I hear the hammer drop.

It is obvious that the work now taxes Nabhi. I have never heard him drop a hammer as long as I have known him, which is a long time. He is a carpenter with very steady and able hands.

Hearing the heavy thud, I run into the bedroom. He is standing; legs poised on the stepladder. There is something unnatural in the way he is standing. He is almost falling, his eyes staring at what seems like nothing on the wall in front.

I run up to him, and of course, my voice precedes me, sending out warning as I rush, arms outstretched. He does not hear me, and he is heading backwards, and somehow my outstretched arms meet his small, birdlike body, now heavy against my hands, and then we both fall onto the floor, but I have managed to save him, for his head is on my lap. I gently move his head away, gasping for breath. I have fallen on a bag of nails lying on the floor and they are poking my bottom through the cloth of the bag and my salwar. I get up fast, giving a quick look at my bottom, but I seem to have escaped a laceration by any nail. I look at Nabhi, his eyes and mouth wide open, not blinking, not moving.

Nabhi is still breathing. The ladder is still in place against the wall. Just above it is the hole he has made for putting the rawlplug in. From that little hole drips blood, or what looks like blood. I don’t need colour now, I think stupidly, as I watch the red spread, forming its own pattern. I walk to the kitchen, pick up my mobile, and call the hospital, saying it is an emergency. My voice is quiet and composed.

I go back and sit, staring at the wall of blood, wondering whether I should call the police and tell them what I know.

My lover, sorry, dead lover, will not let me forget that I have his blood on my hands. I put a bullet through the centre of his forehead, making the tiniest of holes.

He sends me the message in different ways. I walk up to the wall and touch it. I trail my fingers along the wall. Then I wipe them against my apron.

I drag Nabhi out to the hallway. The ambulance will be here any minute.

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Abha Iyengar
Abha Iyengar is an internationally published author, poet and British Council certified Creative writing facilitator. Her work has appeared in The Four Quarters Magazine, Muse India, The Asian Writer, Pure Slush, and others.  Her story, “The High Stool”, was nominated for the Story South Million Writers Award. Her poem-film “Parwaaz” won a special jury prize at Patras, Greece. She won the Lavanya Sankaran fellowship 2009-10.  She was a finalist in the FlashMob 2013 Flash Fiction contest. Her published works are Yearnings, Flash Bites, Shrayan, Many Fish to Fry, and The Gourd Seller and Other Stories.

6 thoughts on “Nailed in Place

  1. I like the flow of this story very much. The lack of contractions and the first person narration gives it a distinctive quality that provides the reader with insight into the character’s persona. I am afraid I don’t quite understand what happened to Nabhi. Is the blood on the wall only in the narrator’s mind, symbolizing her guilt? Or is it some strange manifestation that has frightened poor Nabhi to death? Either way, an enjoyable read.

  2. The story does arouse interest, in part because of its cryptic quality, enhanced by unusual (to my eye) word choices: salwar, rawlplug. I would like some hint about the nature of Nabhi’s message.

  3. The writing is skillfully unfussy. The blanks compel the reader to grope for the missing nail in this interesting composition.

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