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37 The Price of Hammers The apartment manager couldn’t concentrate because of the hammering. He got up from his desk and went to look out his office window at the crew working on the roof of Building Two. Four men in blue jeans and work boots were up there. Their shirtless shoulders burned in the summer sun. Between the hammering, he could hear their voices. The construction area directly below Building Two was roped off for safety reasons. Some black roofing material had fallen near the perimeter of the swimming pool. The night before, his wife had moved her things out of the apartment they had been able to stay in rent free. He had gotten that apartment because of the management position. She had shouted before she left that she wasn’t coming back. Not this time. She had had it. He had tried to call her cell phone that morning. She hadn’t answered. His messages weren’t returned. The manager looked out at the empty pool. He tried to remember the last time the chlorine levels had been checked. He knew exactly how much the pool maintenance cost, the price of pool chairs, even how much the owners had paid for that stupid blue umbrella shading the corner table. One of the marriage counselors had said he knew more about those details than what his wife needed. The manager tried to put a dollar figure on all the items out by the pool. But it wasn’t any good without scratch paper. He couldn’t carry over the numbers in his head. Suddenly, an attractive young woman in a bright orange swimsuit walked up and opened the pool gate. She had a pink towel. He had noticed her before. She was a resident. She had raven-black hair. She looked like she took good care of herself. He watched her walk to the edge of the pool. She tossed the towel on a plastic chair and then tested the water with her toe. His wife used to do that. They had celebrated in that pool after he got the management position. She had held her drink just above the surface of the water and kissed him. She tasted of alcohol and chlorine. They had been happy then. One by one the blows of the hammers stopped. The manager looked up and saw the four workmen standing near the edge of the roof with their faces intently focused on the woman swimming in the pool. Another bare-chested roofer came over the top of the ridge and stared down with his coworkers. All work stopped. The manager went to the back door, which he tried to open. The deadbolt was locked. He tried to flip the lock, but it stuck. He couldn’t budge it. This had happened before. He had been meaning to fix it. He jiggled it furiously. Finally, after three or four tries, he got it to throw. He opened the door and went outside. “Get back to work!” he shouted up at the men on the roof. The sun had climbed in the sky behind them. Their dark faces stared down at him. “You’re behind schedule already!” he barked. The woman swimming in the pool heard the shouting. She stopped near the edge of the pool. She raised a hand to shield her eyes from the glare and looked up to see what was going on. The men went back to their work. One by one, the blows of the hammers resumed. The woman shrugged and started swimming again. The manager turned and walked back into his office. He closed the door behind him and went over to the air conditioning unit. He adjusted the dials to make the room cooler. Then he went and sat behind his desk. He didn’t look out the window again. He had some paperwork inside a desk drawer. He didn’t get it out. He put both his hands flat on the desktop and tried to concentrate. He couldn’t. There wasn’t any rhythm to it. The hard, flat sounds echoed outside.

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Black Words On White Paper is a unique literary journal, publishing poems and flash fiction that fit onto a single page. This is the premier...

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Black Words On White Paper is a unique literary journal, publishing poems and flash fiction that fit onto a single page. This is the premier...

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