RIGHT ANGLE • by Joy Manné

It was like a medley:

Why can’t you scrape even average marks at school? We don’t ask you to be more than ordinary. His mother.

Not even my ugliest friend wants to date you. His sister.

I can’t promote you, Jacob. Your rightful place is the bottom of the pile. His boss

A medley of meddlers.

Only his Gran had seen something special in him.

Because her glasses needed replacing. His father.

She bequeathed him her small house: two up, two down, with an expansive view over the sea in a town no one else wanted to live in. Jacob moved in and commuted.

His gran’s front doorknob was spherical, brass-plated and burnished except on one side where several generations of sweaty hands had rubbed it to a mottled grey. When he stayed with her in school holidays she would show him the continents and limitless oceans that traversed the shiny part through the reflections of sun and sea, and point out the shapes of the galleons and sea monsters that inhabited the mottled part. Every year on his birthday she’d taken him by bus and train to a museum with ancient maps on large globes and shown him continents and oceans, galleons and sea monsters like those on her doorknob.

‘Take care, Jacob dear,’ she’d say when he rotated it. ‘Mind your knuckles. Watch for that scraping screw.’

The scraping screw was proud a quarter-way round. From the time Jacob could use a screwdriver, he had tried to twist it all the way down for his gran or to remove it, but no screwdriver could get a hold and no hardware store had an answer.

His wife, who refused to look into it, used gardening gloves to turn the wretched thing, hoping every time to wrench it off for good. She begged him to replace it with an ordinary door handle, like their friend Harry’s, who lived in the nearby new town, but Jacob couldn’t bear to part with it. Every day on his return from work he would gaze into his grandmother’s doorknob and see again continents and limitless oceans, galleons and sea-monsters, and then he’d put his large hand around it and try to turn it without scraping his knuckles on the proud screw.

Before their first year in the house was over his wife left to live with Harry whose house had brand new door handles from IKEA.

Once again, Jacob scraped the knuckle of his ring-finger. He wished his wife were there to put on his Band-Aid: it was difficult with his left hand.

He pulled several plasters out of their packaging and lined them up on the doorstep. As he lifted the protective wrapping off the first, a drop of blood fell onto it. He sucked his wound and the medley began again.

Just average.

He attacked the second plaster with tears in his eyes.

Not even my ugliest friend.

The two ends clung to each other as if to mock himhe had married his sister’s ugliest friend.

He ripped open the third Band-Aid.

The bottom of the pile.

Biting one end between his teeth, he pressed the other onto the side of his scraped finger. Keeping the rest of the plaster at a right-angle so it couldn’t stick to anything before he was ready, he prepared to swat it down like a man determined to kill a fly

Right angle.

A screwdriver bent at a right angle would do the trick. It would make his round brass doorknob safe.

Jacob’s invention was his love-child. He voyaged forth to present it to the world as if it were a king’s long hoped for son.

He pinned brightly coloured adverts in the tool sections of supermarket notice boards and sold out his first batch.

Not just average.

He starred in his own infomercials and sold out again.

Propositions from pretty women.

His bank offered him a loan to build a factory.

Top of the pile.

His wife asked to come back.

My glasses don’t need repairing.

Jacob designed brass doorknobs that only his screwdriver could attach.

More than ordinary.

Now grey-haired and stocky, Jacob possessed factories on seven continents.

Why don’t you sit back and enjoy the rest of your life? His children.

Buy a house with a gym and a pool. His doctor.

Buy a yacht. His friends.

Jacob sold his patents to a huge corporation and he sold too his grandmother’s small house which had no room for a pool or a gym. He now had billions in the bank, yachts sailing the seven seas, and several houses each with its own expansive view, and as many models and starlets around him as he wished and yet—however hard he gazed into the spherical solid-brass doorknobs he’d had screwed onto every door, he could see neither continents nor limitless oceans nor galleons but only the monsters that surrounded him. He’d given his love child away in marriage, and there was no way he could get it back.

Joy Manné writes in Vaud, Switzerland.

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