A GOOD USE • by J. Chris Lawrence

“You know,” said William, “I bought this axe years ago from that Mom ‘n Pop store down the road. Ran me about twenty bucks, but it’s eaten its fair share o’ wood, and it still holds an edge.”

He flicked a ruddy, gloved finger across the old blade, offering a pleased purse of his lips. With a sigh, he placed it down by the stairs.

Turning, his shoulder bumped the hanging bulb, sending light dancing across the basement. It rocked to and fro; dousing him in darkness… the worktable in light… back toward the stairs and a huddled mound on the floor…

He halted the bulb.

“But see, now this,” William continued as he stepped over the mound and retrieved a hammer from the worktable, “this was worth every dime we paid. It’s a fine tool. Built this very house with it in fact, back in ’89, back when…back when Kitty and I got married.”

William tapped the hammer in his glove; his eyes dark, locked hard on the slow swinging motion. “You never know the value of a tool until there comes a time to use it.”

Pulling a nail out of a toolbox, he placed it on a loose piece of wood. After a tap to set it, he drove it to the head with a loud clop.

A rasping, muffled sound stirred behind him, bringing him back to the moment.

“Kitty,” William growled, returning the hammer, “She bought me these. She got ‘em for me back when we didn’t have much money. She told me I’d put ‘em to good use someday.”

Still the noise continued. It was persistent, demanding him.

“But she’s dead now, and I guess that don’t matter to you.” He turned, glaring hard into the duct taped man’s bulging eyes.

William felt disconnected; his mind clouded, mesmerized by visions of a life ripped from his hands. The man stared back, his screams stifled by the bindings, his body flopping like a suffocating fish.

“Why, Dr. Jenson?” William suddenly burst as tears spilled over his cheeks. “I just… I don’t understand!”

Wiping his eyes with one gloved hand, he crouched over the bound man, leaning close enough to hear the soft whistle of his rapid, nasal breathing. He could see the duct tape peeling.

Why?” William screamed, spittle flecking the man’s face.

Closing his eyes with a tremulous sigh, he stood and turned back to the table. Behind him, the thrashing continued.

“I want you to think about this, think real hard, ‘cause I’m having a hard time figuring out what to do. I know I should call the cops, but…” William barked a bitter laugh, “but, I’m not really sure that’s good enough for me right now.”

Visions of her body flashed through William’s mind. Her face, the blood…

“Jesus… she’s gone…” he choked, turning suddenly from the table. Without a glance at Jenson, William stepped over the huddled body and reached again for the axe.

Just then, the duct tape ripped loose.

“Wait!” Dr. Jenson screamed. “I need to talk to Billy!”

William stopped. “What?”

“Listen,” said Jenson, struggling with his bindings, “it’s not how it looks! She had an accident, I didn’t kill Katherine. I would never—”

“Don’t lie to me!” William bellowed.

“I…I found her like that,” Jenson sputtered. “She had a fall! I was trying to help when you hit me—”

“Bullshit!” William sneered. “I saw her, I saw what you did!”

“Just please, let me talk to Billy! He knows—”

“Billy has nothing to do with this!”

With a deep, steadying breath, Jenson focused on William’s eyes, a bead of sweat coursing his cheek. “Listen, William. I got the call from Billy. He told me all about the accident. I know you’re scared, you’re hurt, but I can help! We can talk about this, have a session—”

“Shut up!” William burst, silencing his therapist with the blunt facade of the axe. A thick crimson dripped from the steel as he pulled it back from Jenson’s face. He paused, hands shaking; jarred by the glistening liquid.

It was blood, real blood…

“My God…what am I doing?” William stumbled.

Something was wrong. The sight of the blood snagged at him like fish hooks – ripping, pulling him someplace dark. Visions, vivid and fleeting began to blot his eyes. Understanding twisted his stomach as memories not his own flooded his mind: He saw a brown glove clutching a screwdriver; warm fluid gushing, staining everything red. He heard her scream…

Just then a cold, familiar tide began to wash over him, pulling him away…

Dr. Jenson watched as William’s eyes fluttered, as he suddenly stiffened. He seemed to change, seemed stronger, confident; his face contorting from misery into a strange, crooked grin.

“Been a while, Doc.” came a new voice from those twisted lips. “Gotta thank you for comin’. I honestly didn’t think you would.”

“B…Billy?” Jenson coughed.

“And, Willy-Boy,” Billy muttered, “he’s so predictable. I knew he wouldn’t do it. Never could do a damn thing hisself. Ever since Pa left him at that home when we was just kids, it’s always been me there, takin’ care of him.”

“Billy… what… what happened?”

“Well, ain’t it obvious? You talked her into giving him those pills! Ain’t a thing in the world he wouldn’t do for that woman. Guess he’d even ditch me if she asked. But see, I can’t be havin’ that, Doc. Ain’t no way he’d make it without me. So I did what I had to do…”

“Katherine…? You didn’t… Oh God!” Jenson retched.

“She was right though,” said Billy, raising the axe overhead. “I’d say we definitely put these tools to good use.”

Jerking and thrashing, Jenson screamed; his final breath cut short as the blade came down.

Running a ruddy, gloved hand through his hair, Billy staggered back, turning to a dusty mirror on the wall.

“It’s just us now, Willy-Boy,” He smiled softly to the sobbing man reflected.

“Just us against the world.”

Born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia, J. Chris Lawrence spent much of his life traveling. With a love for fiction, he fancies himself a writer, and hopes to convince others of the same. He currently lives in Georgia with his wife and two sons.

This story is sponsored by
the psychic archaeologists at The Morpheus Initiative — Check out author David Sakmyster’s first two books in a trilogy about remote-viewers, ancient mysteries, lost tombs, and exciting adventure! At Amazon.com or visit www.sakmyster.com.

Rate this story:
 average 0 stars • 0 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • A well-written, well told story.

    My only gripes would be the profusion of dialogue tags such as ‘burst'(twice), ‘sneered’, ‘bellowed’, ‘stumbled’, ‘retched’, ‘coughed’, ‘muttered’, ‘screamed’, ‘growled’, ‘continued’, etc. (what’s wrong with a few saids?), and the need for a final edit.

    But as I said, the story itself is excellent.

  • ajcap

    Good build of suspense. Kept me on edge. Creepy and dark and all the good things a horror story should be. Feel sorry for William and hate Billy all at the same time. Good writing.

    Could use one more edit. Reader doesn’t need to be told five times William/Billy had gloves on. A second set of eyes is always a good idea. Nitpicky but it may be the difference between a good writer and a great writer.

  • Just a continuity question: In graph 4 you say “He halted the bulb.” But then in graph 6 you describe “his eyes dark, locked hard on the slow swinging motion.” If he already stopped the bulb from swinging, then what motion is he watching in graph 6?

  • Pingback: A New Story | J. Chris Lawrence()

  • Thanks for the comments!

    @ 1 and 2: I appreciate the suggestions. I will definitely keep these ideas in mind for future projects.

    @ 3: I intended the swinging motion to be the hammer tapping in the glove, but I can see where a different choice of words may have better delivered that line.

  • Oh, I see (about the swinging motion). Thanks. I thought I might be missing something.

  • Haven’t read a good multiple personality story for a while, and I liked this one, although one part of the doctor’s reasoning felt a bit mixed up.

    If I were the bound and about to be executed psychiatrist, I don’t think I’d be begging with William to talk to Billy (since Billy by all accounts is the insane one). How did he think he could reason with Billy? I guess he thought he could — until the axe fell. Just felt odd that he didn’t try to work his release through William instead.

    Anyway, nicely written and I particularly liked the line: “The sight of the blood snagged at him like fish hooks – ripping, pulling him someplace dark.” Evocative.

    One side of me want this to be a four star tale, the other a big three, but who wins? I think the four….

  • I could guess from the similarity of first names that it was going to develop as it did. Although the motivation for the killer was a new take on the subject.

    I was confused how a reflection can sob and smile
    “He smiled softly to the sobbing man reflected.”

    I don’t beleive people can change that fast in split personality state.

    I liked the lightbulb.

    I enjoyed reading it.

  • Jess Rios

    I love the story, however, I do not understand why it is not saving my score for you. Perhaps the rating system needs to be looked at.

  • Jasmyn

    Great story Chris! (If you ever need help with editing let me know…I’ve had a lot of experience, Ron can vouch for that)

  • Dalthrope

    Excellent story. One of my favorites so far. I think the rating system is a bit wonky tho…

  • Dalthrope

    Yeah, Ron needs mad help in the editing dept. Congrats on your publishing another fine story.

  • I found this account of a murder-suicide pact a bit too hard to follow. There was no mention of the original cause of these end-life decisions. There were some strong positives to the story, though. I too enjoyed the swinging light scene. I think the repetition of “brown glove” is not an oversight in editing but an attempt to emphasize some meaning behind it’s use. Whether verbal (go love) or racial or some other besides the indication of premeditation of the murder, I don’t know, not being able to fully keep up with the story. Perhaps the writer has some misgivings about handling the topic. Anyway, despite these quarrels, there are indications of excellent story-telling ability evidenced in the story.

  • Gretchen Bassier

    Creepy and horrifying, with nice reveals. Also, I really like multiple personality stories. Great job!

  • fishlovesca

    Didn’t work for me on any level. Writing was sketchy, plot was difficult to follow, characters were cliche, and ending was predictable. This is the typical mistake of a writer who’s research of clinical disorders is based on what is depicted in movies. Shallow knowledge makes for gimmick stories.

  • Thanks for reading, and again for all the comments! Critiques are an invaluable tool for improving myself as a writer.

    That said, I should probably note that this is something of an older piece. A more modern example of my work can be found in the recent “The Widow’s Tale” for example, and I encourage everyone to drop by my page where you can learn more about how this story came to be.

  • Maralisa Sachs

    I enjoyed this.

  • Edgy and and interesting!

  • Allison Light

    I really liked the idea, but I think I could’ve followed it a lot better if it were longer with more background information. I see this working really well with a flashback, maybe, or just some sort of fleshing out of these character’s histories. And I agree that the Doc begging to see the crazy one (although they both seem a little crazy to me!) wasn’t completely believable. All in all, though, it hooked me and kept me engaged.

  • Good premise, nice suspense– I think this work a tad better as a longer piece with more back-story.

  • I agree that the story begs for more. Good suspense!

  • Pingback: Podcast EDF118: A Good Use • by J. Chris Lawrence • read by Folly Blaine | Every Day Fiction - The once a day flash fiction magazine.()